I have hazy recollection of onscreen adaptations of The Wind in the Willows where furry rodents in warm fuzzy coats sat on wicker chairs in open grassy river banks. Kenneth Grahame’s book featuring talking animals, their friendships and a cozy natural habitat is a children’s classic. I read and found out why this straightforward story continues to remain a favourite.
The simple storytelling, pristine wilderness and beautifully thought out characters prepare us for what’s to come in life. Here are my favourite stories from The Wind in the Willows ~
1. The character of Toad was infuriating and has a perfect moral for children and grown up alike.
Toad was rich. He had whimsical ideas ( like steering boats and driving motor cars though he was terrible at both) and an inflated ego. Toad did as he pleased and refused to heed words of caution. His best friends tried their best to save him from his own follies, but Toad landed in jail. The worst was he managed to get away, dupe well-intentioned folks along his escape and sing songs about his victory. Such a conceited obnoxious character who was not a clear villain in a book for children was a surprise and that makes for memorable writing.
2. Rat was the stable levelheaded one in the group of friends; except for his penchant for poetry. He looked down at the other animals getting ready to travel south during the winters. Happy in his cozy home and stable life until he met another rat who had led a life of adventures. Sailed on ships, dined on coasts. The exotic holiday life called to Rat and he was ready to give up comfort and security he had in pursuit of everything new.
Who else would stop him than meek old Mole! In a scene, perhaps, as poignant as Neville standing up to Harry Potter and friends in order to save them. The longing for dastardly exploits and thrill is identified by most of us. But why this is my favourite moment is that Rat himself had left his home because he was sick of it and moved above the ground making new friends and finding a new life for himself. He chose the new and knew to stop Rat from rushing off to finding something new. Life is strange… It’s nice for us to get to know that early..
3. I mentioned above, Mole left his humble home underground. He found a dear friend in Rat who welcomed him. Rat was knowledgeable about the bucolic river community. Just what Mole needed! Mole was happy. Unlike Hobits who don’t want to venture out, Mole wanted adventure. He made new friends, saw new things, faced hardship and enjoyed himself thoroughly.
On one such trip during a snowstorm, he whiffed his old hole calling to him. It took all of Mole’s self-restraint to not find his old home, but walk with Rat forward so they get to someplace warm and safe. Rat sensed how bereft Mole was. When Rat understood where they were, he didn’t care about the weather or his comfort but took his friend to his old home. Like Anne of Green Gables, Mole realised what it feels to have that special place lovingly laying in wait for its owner to come back. Mole’s house might be small and suffocating at times, but it was home. His home. And when you venture forth to discover all the wonders of the world, sometimes, you want a safe warm familiar dining room, bed, nook, corner and wine cellar to come back to.
Read any childhood favourites recently? Reminisce with me..