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ClassicsOnline Home » GRAHAME, K.: Wind in the Willows (The) (Abridged)
First published in 1908, The Wind in the Willows belongs to a golden age of children’s books.These charming tales of the riverbank, describing the adventures of Ratty, Mole, Badger and their irrepressible but conceited friend,Toad of Toad Hall, have become classics loved as much, perhaps, by adults as by children.
By Michelle Kerns
THE WIND IN
Read by Martin Jarvis
Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows (1908), a
collection of tales
first told to his son, was not originally intended for
publication, and was slow
to achieve the extraordinary popularity it enjoys today. A.
A. Milne’s dramatization, Toad of Toad Hall (1929), did much to enhance
interest in the original text.
Like many of the best children’s books, The Wind in the
Willows is deeply appealing to adults, too: quite simply, it is beautifully
written, in a style which makes few concessions to its supposed audience,
especially in those lyrical passages intended to evoke an English pastoral
ideal. And that ideal lies at the heart of the novel: Grahame, writing in the
comfortable, prosperous safety of an Edwardian England that seemed destined to
last forever, promotes a vision of domestic security perfectly tempered by
adventures which are themselves kept within bounds by the reassuring figures of
Badger and Otter. These animals are the protectors of Ratty and, above all, of
the vulnerable yet brave and sensitive Mole. The boastful Toad threatens to
upset the idyll but, again, it is Badger who leads the campaign to bring Toad
to his senses and to drive out the presumptuous creatures of the Wild Wood who
have taken over Toad Hall.
The novel – if it can be so described – consists of a number
of loosely linked tales, which are at first centered on the Mole and his new
friend the Water Rat. The circle of friends expands to include, chiefly, Toad
and Badger. Mole has to
be taught the ways of the riverbank, but also the limits of
the animals’ world:
as Ratty says, ‘beyond the Wild Wood comes the Wide
World…and that’s something that doesn’t matter, either to you or to me.’ Toad,
in turn, must be taught to understand his own limits, and it is the education
of Toad which becomes the main narrative thread of The Wind in the Willows.
Drama and excitement are provided by the bombastic,
headstrong Toad, whose adventures with motor cars provide some of the best
comedy of the book as well as (perhaps) developing Grahame’s bias against a
modern, mechanized world which is just beginning to encroach on the pastoral
idyll so lovingly brought to life in these enchanting tales.
Notes by Perry Keenlyside
MARTIN JARVIS starred as Jeeves in By Jeeves on Broadway in
2001. His films include the Oscar-winning Titanic and Mrs. Caldicot’s Cabbage
War. Countless television appearances in Britain and America include The
Inspector Lynley Mysteries, Lorna Doone, A Touch of Frost, Murder She Wrote,
Space, Inspector Morse and David Copperfield. He is, uniquely, recipient of the
British Talkie award and the U.S. Audie award. His continuing series of BBC Just
William recordings are audio classics. He received the OBE in 2000 for his
services to drama.
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GRAHAME, K.: Wind in the Willows (The) (Abridged)