The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame

May 15, 2011 at 12:10 (Book Reviews, Children's Books, Classic Literature, Fiction, Highly Rated Books) (, , , , , , , , )


This might stand as one of the best examples of children’s literature yet written. Quite beside the elegant beauty and whimsical purity of  Grahame’s writing style, and quite besides his incomparable ability in weaving a truly brilliant adventure story together. E. H. Shepard’s magical illustrations are, of course, as much a part of the book as any character, and any edition which omits them is by definition an incomplete creation.

One of Grahame’s most resounding triumphs is his careful treatment of his four key characters, and the versatility and depth with which he imbues them. Badger is the wise sage; but he has his crotchety moments, and is often dozy or dull. Mole is Grahame’s young and uncultured innocent; but he has moments of brilliant courage and wit. Ratty is the pragmatic and infallible dynamo around which the story and aura of immutable comfort is wound; but he considers leaving both story and comfort entirely to head off on an entirely toadlike adventure: and the Toad himself is the mad and immature charlatan, romantic and cad; who nevertheless shows real courage and nobility, especially in the book’s closing scene.

“He saw clearly how plain and simple–how narrow, even–it all was; but clearly, too, how much it all meant to him, and the special value of some such anchorage in one’s existence.”

-The Wind in the Willows

The four of them together coalesce as Grahame’s everyman, but nowhere do we find the Utter Tyrant, or the Pure Innocent, or the Immortal Hero. Therein lies the breathtaking humanity of the story, and its success. One can fall in love with the Rat in either the chapter Dulce Domum or in Wayfarers All, and find two different animals described; or with Mole in The River Bank and the final pages of Wayfarers, again finding an incredible breadth of expression. The magnificent mixture of the heroic and the cowardly, the lofty and the comfortable, the leader and the follower, combine to form a story of growth and maturity the likes of which is seldom seen. Any childhood that does not include this book is the poorer for having missed a true and almost faultless classic.

1 Comment

  1. thiskidreviews said,

    This is a great book! I just read it after so many people told me I should! I am so happy I listened to them!

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