Book Review: The Wind In The Willows | Grub StreetI f the Edwardian age is not remembered as a decade of social discontent and growing international tension when the cracks in the British empire began to show, but as an idyllic last summer bathed in golden sunshine, the reason is largely to be found in children's literature. Most of what became the canon of English writing for children appeared in a mere nine years. The Tale of Peter Rabbit, the first of the stories that Beatrix Potter modestly referred to as her "little books", came out in and was rapidly followed by six more. Peter Pan was first staged in , E Nesbit's The Railway Children was published two years later, and then, in , came Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, soon to become one of the best loved of them all. The riverbank adventures of Mole, Ratty and Badger have now taken their place among the earliest memories of four generations and seem timeless, while the impossible, irrepressible Mr Toad got his own stage show, written by AA Milne, as early as and is still going strong. Yet Grahame's story and indeed the whole Edwardian renaissance of books for and about children were peculiarly the products of their own uneasy time.
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
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The Wind in the Willows , book of linked animal tales by British writer Kenneth Grahame that began as a series of bedtime stories for his son and was published in
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I t turns out that being a juvenile muse is no guarantee of a happy ending. Alice Liddell of Wonderland fame seems to have been permanently cross. Twelve years later, and still in his teens, he stumbled out of his Oxford college, lay down on the railway line and waited for a train. The Wind in the Willows grew out of bedtime stories that the banker Kenneth Grahame, his father, told him about a quartet of anthropomorphised animals who lived by the rural Thames. The adventures of Toad, Mole, Ratty and Badger are those of grown men sufficiently rich and leisured to spend their days messing about in boats and their evenings muttering darkly about the scoundrels in the Wild Wood. Scholars have long speculated about the identity of those scoundrels. The fact that the would-be assassin identified himself as a socialist placed him firmly on the side of chaos, along with the anarchists, suffragettes and the increasingly belligerent Kaiser.
Famous, it certainly is. It is currently available in well over 50 editions in English: there are versions in verse, graded readers for learning English as a foreign language, audio and video adaptations, plays notably by A. Milne and Alan Bennett , films, picture books with or without stickers , pop-up books, knitting patterns, graphic novels and scholarly annotated editions. Mole and his Mates. If so, then these are animals who drink and smoke, own houses, drive and steal cars, row boats, escape from jail, yearn for gastronomic nights in Italy, eat ham and eggs for breakfast and write poetry—while Toad combs his hair, and the Mole has a black velvet smoking-jacket.
The Wind in the Willows is a children's story that lives in the hearts and minds of its readers well into adulthood. With its subtle blend of anthropomorphism and very-British humor, the book is a classic tale of river life and friendship. The Wind in the Willows is surprisingly dark and thrilling in places--particularly in the later chapters and the battle of Toad Hall. The book provides something that few novels of its time can claim: all-round entertainment for all ages. The story confirms the power of close friends and courage to make a difference in the lives of others. The novel begins with Mole, a peace-loving little animal, doing some spring cleaning. He soon meets another of the people who live by the river, Ratty, who enjoys nothing more than "messing about in boats.