Lavishly described meandering adventures of the mild nature The Wind in the Willows has an intrinsically English flavor The characters are happy to live their ordinary lives with only a hint of interest in the wider world Too strong of an adventurous spiritedness is considered uncouth Such hearty frivolity as Toad s is frowned upon to the utmost Unfortunately this goes for the author, too Kenneth Grahame s plots are not terribly gripping due to their lack of depth He seems pleased rather to spend the time describing a pleasant boating holiday down the river If it wasn t for the scenes with the Wonderful Toad, the Fantastic Toad there would be very little excitement indeed.However, it is the bond of friendship and the love of homely pleasures that entices us to read on I gave it 3 stars, because I liked The Wind in the Willows No and no less, and let s keep it as nice and cozily close to uncontroversial as that, shall we Some of the best children s classics have started with an adult inventing stories to tell to a childAlice s Adventures in Wonderland , Winnie the Pooh , Peter Panand evenWatership Downall began this way, as did many others The Wind in the Willows is another such Like them, it is a novel which can be read on many levels, and arguably has a hidden subtext And like some others, its writing was prompted by a family tragedy.Kenneth Grahame had already established himself as a talented writer, and had considerable literary success in the 1890s He regularly published stories in literary magazines These stories about a family of parentless children, were collected in one volume calledThe Golden Agein 1895 He followed this up in 1898 withDream Days , a sequel, which was even successful, and established him as a writer with a special insight into childhoodDream Daysitself included another children s story,The Reluctant DragonThroughout his career, he had published children s books and a memoir of childhood He was successful and well known, well before The Wind In The Willows was even thought of.Kenneth Grahame had a child of his own, Alastair, to whom he felt very close He used to tell his son fanciful stories about wild animals who lived by the nearby river, and in theWild WoodWhen Alastair was about four years old, Kenneth Grahame would tellMousehis nickname for Alastair bedtime stories about a toad And whenever the two were apart, his father would write tales about Toad, Mole, Ratty and Badger in letters to his young son Alastair.Kenneth Grahame s own childhood at this age however, was far from rosy He had been born in 1859, in Edinburgh His father was aristocratic a failed lawyer, who loved poetry but who loved vintage claret even The drinking became worse when Kenneth Grahame s mother, Bessie, died soon after she had given birth to his brother, Roland Kenneth was just 5, when he and his three siblings went to live with their grandmother There they lived in a spacious but dilapidated home with huge grounds, by the river Thames, and were introduced to the riverside and boating by their uncle, who was a curate.We can clearly see echoes of his childhood in The Wind in the Willows His grandmother s decrepit house,The Mounthas transmogrified into the huge mansion,Toad Hall , and the book is redolent with riverside and boating scenes Kenneth Grahame was forced to move to and fro between the two adults, when the chimney of the house collapsed one Christmas, and shortly afterwards their father tried to overcome his drinking problem and took the children back to live with him in Argyll, Scotland This brief sojourn only lasted a year before they all returned to their grandmother, where Kenneth lived until he went to an Independent school in Oxford Whilst there he had the freedom to explore the old city as well as the upper reaches of the River Thames, and the nearby countryside All this comes into The Wind in the Willows.The young Kenneth did well at school, and dreamed of going to university He was actually offered a place at the prestigious Oxford University, and was set for high academic honours, but it was not to be The family finances had dwindled so much that his father wanted him go into a profession straight from school Kenneth Grahame was therefore forced straight into work at the Bank of England, and duly worked there for thirty years, gradually rising through the ranks to become its Secretary In 1908, the year The Wind in the Willows was published, he took early retirement.As a young man in his 20s, Kenneth Grahame was a contemporary and friend of Oscar Wilde Although married, and having a home in Berkshire, during the week he shared a London home with the painter and theatre set designer, Walford Graham Robertson Both were very involved with the gay community, whose leading light at the time was Oscar Wilde Another connection with the gay community was through Constance Smedley, a family friend who helped with the publication of The Wind in the Willows A year later she was to marry the artist Maxwell Armfield, who himself was gay.It seems very possible that Kenneth Grahame was gay, despite having a wife and child This was a time when homosexual acts were still illegal The novel can be read as having a gay subtext, and passages such as the description of the ancient Greek god of the wild, Pan, are quite sensuous, with descriptions of hisrippling musclesOne academic, Professor Hunt, the emeritus professor in English and children s literature at Cardiff University, suggests that the works were manifestations of a life which Kenneth Grahame longed for Whether this is conscious or not, it is noticeablya story of maleness and male companionship , with hardly a female in sight The only exceptions are the washerwoman, the barge woman and the jailer s daughter All of these are secondary characters, and perhaps even significantly, they are human, not animal.It is the animals in this story who are the well nuanced, fully developed characters the humans are merely stock types, who fill some of the minor roles Yes, Badger is the wise teacher, mentor or parent figure, and one who is looked to for leadership, but he has his own quirky faults His speech is described ascommonhe excitedly want to get hisgrubfood And amusingly, both Rat and Mole end up very confused as Badger insists,I want to learn em, not teach emwhen they are discussing teaching view spoiler the stoats and weasels hide spoiler An Edwardian children s book that ends with the reimposition by force of the traditional squirearchical social order on the upstart lower orders as represented by Weasels, Stoats and Ferrets.It is a through introduction to traditional British conservatism, of the Country Life rather than the Economist variety, for children with a side order of mild paganism As such is an unwitting counterpoint to The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists.As with How to Read Donald Duck, once you look at it and shrug off the view that it is just a children s book then the values on show are not so nice What is it that readers are asked to feel nostalgia for This was published in 1908, before Lloyd George prepared his The People s Budget in 1909 10, before The Parliament Act of 1911 and at the same time as women were agitating for the vote There are the book s Weasels, Stoats and Ferrets so take up your cudgel to uphold Merrie Olde England and our ancestral rights to under occupied manor houses and the freedom to behave with some reckless abandon Alternatively we have the nostalgia of The Leisure Class, our heroes are people who don t have to work, who are so different from ordinary people that they don t even have to be human any and who can indulge themselves as they see fit save for the inexplicable unreasonableness of the law.Ultimately it is what is, as we all are, in this particular case a homoerotic fantasy in which all the men and boys can go off and live an upper middle class life as animals by the river banks without having to deal with the consequences of that decision, the women will still be prepared to do the washing and the ironing apparently, and indeed woe betide the creature that tries to interrupt this way of life The only duty is to one another, infringement of privilege punishable by violence For all its emphasis on nature and the river, it is a very inward looking book It is a closed off world, the industrial, urban society with a market economy is literally populated by a different species There are few things quite as curious and peculiar as the stories people would like children to delight in. This book was written in 1908, when the world was being shaken by the newly self confident masses Women were propagandising for the vote the Irish were demanding Home Rule the Trade Unions were showing their strength Socialism theatened A spectre was haunting Europe, and particularly England Wind in the Willows is an elegant parable about class struggle, about the dangers of decadant country house living in the face of powerful revolutionary forces There are maybe four generations in the story There is the young man Ratty, a gentle sort of chap who spends his time messing about in boats He is joined by the younger, less experienced Mole Mole may even be petty bourgeois, but he proves himself to be stout hearted for all that Mr Toad, however, has come into his inheritance, and lives in his country house Toad is an irresponsible figure, taking up foolish hobbies of which, in the story, the most fateful is the motor car The older man is Badger, and it is he that casts cold water on this irresponsibility But where is all this irresponsiblity going to lead Outside this cosy comfortable setting, lie the dangerous forces in the Wild Wood Mr Toad, besotted by his motor car, is arrested and sent to gaol His defences down, his house is quickly occupied by the weasles and stoats who live in the Wild Wood To the rescue comes Mr Badger, who is wise enough to see that if Toad is to regain his valuable property, he must forsake idleness and frivolity and stand up to the people of the Wild Wood So the band of gentlemanly heroes take up arms and re establish the shaken social orderWe shall creep out quietly into the butler s pantry , cried the Toad, with our pistols and swords and sticks , shouted the Rat, and rush in upon them , said the Badger, and whack em and whack em and whack em , cried the Toad in ecstasy. This is, then, a cautionary tale, a warning to the propertied classes to take up, if necessary, arms against the lower classes and to stop living lives of decadent indolence. A genuinely refreshing little romp through tunnels pastures Zen is something that s somehow very surprisingly reached This is the ultimate impression the reader is left with.Outstanding, engaging and fun than Aesop s menagerie, it moralizes vaguely on fidelity, the value of friendships associations The final sentence even addresses finally the main target audience the lil tykes and treasured ones and even sustains with the theory that looks may be deceiving the Badger is ultimately not the savage beast you may ve erroneously predicted.Sure, it is rife with discrepancies a world where humans speak animal animals speak human The aid of humans is, I will admit KAhYYute There is wisdom in this, far surpassing anything in Disney s imaginarium The animals begin to hear a single string, a musical undertone, this drives their natures and certainly seals their fates Which are you Adventurous Toad Impressionable Mole Generous Badger otter fox washer woman little girl remember, womenfolk don t enter the tale until half way the story or do you simply presume to know it all, omnipresent, and wise as the wind okay, so obviously the Disney version DOES exist although, did the ride outright disappear from the Anaheim theme park I m not stupid But really the book is a longer journey, in the literary tradition of Thoreau, and not instantaneous and vapid and bumpy, like the ride But, DID YOU KNOW You CAN read Kenneth Grahame s entire novel waiting in line for Mr Toad s Wild Ride If it still exists. PART TWO OF PETER JACKSON S THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS CONCLUSIONNight Toad Hall, interior STEPHEN FRY as TOAD and ORLANDO BLOOM as BADGER are in the middle of a wild mel e with numerous STOATS and WEASELS BADGER It s no good, Toad There s too many of themWith a blow of his cudgel, he knocks a WEASEL into the open fire TOAD We can hold them off, Badger old chapEVANGELINE LILLY as a HOT BADGER BABE crashes through the window and lands next to them BADGERChoked with emotionYou came back.HOT BADGER BABE BadgerFor a moment, they just look at each other A STOAT tries to take advantage of their inattention to sneak up on them from behind, but TOAD grabs a carving knife from the dining table and wittily disembowels him BADGER Thanks, ToadTWO MORE STOATS have meanwhile advanced on TOAD BADGER amusingly decapitates them with a single blow of his cudgel TOAD Nice work, BadgerDissolve to the pantry, where MARTIN FREEMAN as MOLE is frantically mixing something in a large bowl, assisted by ELIJAH WOOD as RATTY MOLE Okay, that s the sugar Now we need some fertilizer.RATTY Will this horse shit do MOLE It ll have toHe dumps it into the bowl, pours in the contents of a bottle, then accidentally drops everything on the floor RATTY Oh dearA deafening explosion Clouds of smoke cover everything, then we see letters superimposed on them saying PART THREE COMING NEXT CHRISTMAS A REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF KENNETH GRAHAME What have we done I feel like I am the only person in the universe to not get this book Perhaps I am not really human, but rather a troll or some other such hard hearted creature I suppose my main issue with this book is that I couldn t quite understand the world that Mr Grahame created Pithy words of wisdom on What It Means To Be A Child tell us that children don t have preconceptions and thus accept things readily, being shaped only by the prejudices of adults I assume most people would use that argument against what I am about to say, to wit, that this book makes no sense The Wind in the Willows wobbles along the line between fantasy and realistic fable On one hand, there are talking animals On the other hand, there are humans, railroads, motor cars, and jails Sometimes the animals just live their lives along the riverbank or in the woods, doing very animalish things like migrating and storing up food for the winter and so forth, and sometimes they steal motorcars and insult the police and get tossed in the clink for 20 years That last one is Toad, by the way, whom I found to be absolutely insufferable Also, somehow Toad has hair, which I don t understand at all IS HE A TOAD OR A MAN Are humans and animals the same size in this universe Toad somehow manages to sneak around disguised as a human washerwoman, but is manhandled as if he were toad sized My head hurts from all the contradictions.This is where everyone who read and loved this rushes in and shouts But it s fantasy Where is your imagination What s wrong with you Ahem Are you done now I mean, really, though I read a lot of fantasy, and I m quite prepared to suspend my disbelief or belief in order to go along with a story I love the absurd But I also like my stories to have continuity, and to make some sort of sense in the universe they inhabit I honestly have no other words to express my befuddlement after finishing this. This is one of those books I want to love I REALLY, really want to love this book I ve read so many essays by book lovers who have fond, childhood memories of being read this by their father, or who ushered in spring each year by taking this book to a grassy field and reading this in the first warm breezes of May I want to find the tea and boating and wooded English countryside to be slow yet sonoriously comforting, like a Bach cello suite or a warm cup of cider on a cool April night But I just find it tediously boring I ve tried it three times, and after about twelve pages I sigh, put it down, and pick up something else Perhaps my father needed to have read it to me when I was young. So fun and whimsical One Of The Most Celebrated Works Of Classic Literature For ChildrenMeet Little Mole, Willful Ratty, Badger The Perennial Bachelor, And Petulant Toad Over One Hundred Years Since Their First Appearance In , They Ve Become Emblematic Archetypes Of Eccentricity, Folly, And Friendship And Their Misadventures In Gypsy Caravans, Stolen Sports Cars, And Their Wild Wood Continue To Capture Readers Imaginations And Warm Their Hearts Long After They Grow Up Begun As A Series Of Letters From Kenneth Grahame To His Son, The Wind In The Willows Is A Timeless Tale Of Animal Cunning And Human Camaraderie This Penguin Classics Edition Features An Appendix Of The Letters In Which Grahame First Related The Exploits Of Toad
Kenneth Grahame was a British writer, most famous for The Wind in the Willows 1908 , one of the classics of children s literature He also wrote The Reluctant Dragon both books were later adapted into Disney films.
- 256 pages
- The Wind in the Willows
- Kenneth Grahame
- 23 September 2019 Kenneth Grahame