“Rouse thee, old loon, and take over from us this vile Toad, a criminal of deepest guilt and matchless artfulness and resource. Watch and ward him with all thy skill; and mark thee well, grey beard, should aught untoward befall, thy old head shall answer for his—and a murrain on both of them.” (Ch.6, p.81)
Deemed a children’s classic, The Wind in the Willows has more far-reaching meanings relevant to the adult society. The animal-populated village is a microcasm of our society. It’s springtime and curious Mole, bored with housework, leaves his molehill to explore. At the riverbank he meets the laid-back Water Rat, with whom he cultivates a firm friendship. Water Rat shows Mole only kindness and loyalty and introduces him to the mysteries of life on the river and in the Wild Wood. The Mole meets the exuberant, speed-crazed Toad, who lives in the most resplendent house overlooking the river. But Toad has a penchant for all things luxurious and drives recklessly. He ignores the friends’ advisory against boasting and vanity. His theft of a car lends him in court and he is sent to jail. His irresponsible living and extravagance lead to the loss of his home to the barbaric stouts and weasels.
Under the surface of a charming story with its lovable characters, The Wind in the Willows is a story with strong moral. It celebrates friendships, capturing the meaning of true friendship. Badger reprimands Toad’s foolishness but Toad doesn’t take critique well. His conceit totally blinds him and that brings disaster. The evergreen tale deserves recognition as a novel in which readers will find wisdom, humor, entertainment, and meaning, as well as many passages of great literary power.
180 pp. Barnes & Noble Classics. Trade Paper. [Read|Skim|Toss] [Buy|Borrow]