Kenneth Grahame (1859-1932)

Kenneth Grahame was born in Edinburgh in 1859. His mother died when he was little, and the boy was sent to live in Berkshire. There were four children in the family, and their father couldn’t cope with them. That’s why they were brought up by their grandmother, and although they were growing in love and kindness, the children depended on each other and supported each other. Grahame’s memories of his childhood are reflected in the book “The Wind in the Willows”. The stories were originally told to Grahame’s only child, Alastair. It is a series of bedtime stories. They were published only in 1908.

The Wind in the Willows” attracts both children and adults. All the stories are connected with each other. There are the same characters taking part in the adventures: the Mole, the Toad, the Rat and the Badger. All of them possess the human qualities. The first story is called “The River Bank” where the author introduces his main personages to the reader. The scenes of rural life have enchanted not only children but also grown-ups. They enjoy the surprising adventures of the Water Rat and the Mole and their friend Mr. Toad. The action takes place on the River Bank, the idyllic riverside settlement of the heroes. The river is colourfully described by the author.

But the Mole, sitting on the grass and looking across the river, has little idea of the wonderful adventures ahead of him. Meanwhile, the Rat was sitting on the river bank, singing a little song:

Ducks Ditty

All along the backwater,

Through the rushes tall,

Ducks are a-dabbling,

Up tails all!


In the second chapter, called “The Open Road”, we come to know that the Mole wants to call on Mr. Toad whom he has never seen before, and he wants to make his acquaintance. Mr. Toad lives in Toad Hall, the nicest house in those parts. Mr. Toad is good-tempered, good-natured, simple, affectionate, “always glad to see you, always sorry when you go!” (“The Open Road”). Mr. Toad is quite a personality. He is energetic and inventive. He gives up boating when he is interested in a canary-coloured cart promising travel, interest, change and excitement.

So the Toad, the Mole and the Rat start their travelling along the open road in the wonderful cart. They are happy, they enjoy everything: “…the dust they kicked up was rich and satisfying; out of thick orchards on either side the road birds called and whistled to them cheerily; good-natured wayfarers, passing them, gave them ‘Good Day’, or stopped to say nice things about their beautiful cart…” (“The Open Road”).

But the Toad gives up the yellow cart as soon as he meets a magnificent motor­car, “immense and passionate”. “The poetry of motion” enchants him and he buys a large and very expensive motorcar. In the story, named “Mr. Badger”, the Rat, the Mole and the Badger are talking about the news and Mr. Toad’s passion for motorcars. Mr. Toad is going “from bad to worse”, his house “is piled up to the roof with fragments of motorcars”, and he has been in hospital three times. Later on, we come to know that Mr. Toad is too proud of himself, too self-confident. His love for fast motorcars brings him into prison: “Lie has been found guilty … first, of stealing a valuable motorcar, secondly, of driving to the public danger, and, thirdly, of gross impertinence to the rural police.” (“Mr. Toad”). But his friends love him. They are faithful and devoted to the Toad. It is a hard battle for them to teach him even a little sense. The Rat says reproachfully: “While you were riding about in expensive motorcars… those two poor devoted animals have been camping out in the open, … watching over your house, … planning … how to get your property back for you. You don’t deserve to have such, true and loyal friends…” (“Like Summer Tempests Came His Tears”). Nevertheless, the friends manage to alter Mr. Toad. He has admitted his errors and “wrongheadedness”. In the final story “The Return of Ulysses” the author says that “the four animals continued to live their lives”, and “sometimes, … the friends would take a stroll together in the Wild Wood.”

The book “The Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame has a great educa­tional value, because it is an example of true friendship, and it proves a well-known proverb: “A friend in need is a friend indeed.” It makes this book worth reading.

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