“When the girl returned, some hours later, she carried a tray, with a cup of fragrant tea steaming on it; and a plate piled up with very hot buttered toast, cut thick, very brown on both sides, with the butter running through the holes in great golden drops, like honey from the honeycomb. The smell of that buttered toast simply talked to Toad, and with no uncertain voice; talked of warm kitchens, of breakfasts on bright frosty mornings, of cosy parlour firesides on winter evenings, when one’s ramble was over and slippered feet were propped on the fender, of the purring of contented cats, and the twitter of sleepy canaries.”
― Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows
I am feeling a little aimless today and thought I would dig through my small collection of classic children’s books (read years ago and/or recently because I am a kid at heart!)… and I found this beautiful copy of The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (Illustrated by Helen Ward <<< needs to be acknowledged because her illustrations are STUNNING!) In fact, I’m taking Ward out of the parenthesis to discuss something interesting I found last week that fits nicely with an illustration in this book.
Last week, I was walking through a cemetery and saw this >>>
I was totally creeped OUT!
To be clear, the bark is lifted and it looks like a snake is inside, which didn’t help, and also, I figured it was fungi and killing the tree, which it still might be, but I digress.
The thing is, in deep forests and/or humid ones, these things grow everywhere and are quite normal to see. I didn’t know that, having not been in the deep forest recently (or at any time in my life, though I totally WANT to be. But yes, I once again digress).
When I opened the book to share an illustration, I saw this one… and look at that! There they are!!! Just interesting, eh?
Here’s a quote to go with the illustration:
“But Mole stood still a moment, held in thought. As one wakened suddenly from a beautiful dream, who struggles to recall it, but can recapture nothing but a dim sense of the beauty in it, the beauty! ”
First published in 1908, The Wind in the Willows is the kind of book that reads like poetry in motion, and it should, as it is a book about the adventure of four friends in the English countryside who just happen to be animals.
In my research today, I found this:
The novel actually developed from a series of letters that Grahame wrote to his son, and perhaps the escapism that the novel provides explains Grahame’s own attempts to distract himself from the harsh reality of his complicated relationship with his son. Link
Hoo boy! I wasn’t planning to get that deep today!
*shake it off, Sher!*
Okay… back to the basics…
Rather than do a character analysis of Mole, Rat, Toad and Badger, I’d like to keep things simple and say that this book stands in good company with The Secret Garden, A Grain of Sand, Kinship with All Life, and A Walk in the Wood as books that I pull out when I want an infusion of light, beauty, and storytelling. Others on my shelf that fill the need are the works of James Herriot and a.a. milne. I would – of course – be remiss not to include The Little Prince to the list… except… well… it’s not a book I go to for lightness, although maybe it should be! Again, it is a day to digress.
The Wind in the Willows has depth… if you’re looking for it. Symbology too, if you’re noticing. Me? I just liked the story. You may want to dig a little… there is plenty to go through. Let’s see, there are:
- Upper-class life
- The Age of Technology
- Culinary delights that wouldn’t necessarily appeal to children, along with smoking and drinking, stealing and jail, for crying out loud, which points to the fact that this really IS an adult book that children can read, unlike Alice in Wonderland, which is a children’s book that adults can read. (from The Making of The Wind in the Willows by Peter Hunt).
Oh my goodness, I could go on and on and on…
Here’s what know…
It makes me feel good to read it every once-in-a-while. I love to look at the illustrations, like this:
Yeah, it has depth, symbolism and morals…
There is a TON online if you want to do some research of your own.
Me? I just like to hold it in my lap, read the story and look at the pretty pictures. Sometimes, it is as simple as that.