Wind In The Willows Summary

E.H. Shepard

Wind In The Willows

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Wind In The Willows Summary

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The Wind in the Willows is a children’s novel by Scottish author Kenneth Grahame and illustrated by British illustrator Ernest H. Shepard. First published in 1908, it focuses on four anthropomorphized animals in a pastoral village meant to represent Edwardian England. These four animals are Mole or “Moly,” an altruistic homebody; Rat or “Ratty,” a cultured and adventurous poet; Mr. Toad or “Toady,” a wealthy heir who is kind but often falls prey to his arrogant and impulsive nature; and Mr. Badger, a wise old friend of Toad’s father. Exploring themes of friendship, honesty, and the importance of home and neighbors, The Wind in the Willows is one of the most enduring classics of British children’s literature. Although it was initially rejected by publishers, it has been reissued dozens of times since, and has been adapted into plays and musicals (including a 1929 adaptation by Winnie the Pooh creator A. A. Milne), radio, television, and movies (most famously the 1949 Disney animated adaptation The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, which packaged it with an adaptation of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow). It also inspired attractions at Disneyland and Walt Disney World and has had several sequels produced by other writers, telling future adventures of Grahame’s characters.

The Wind in the Willows begins as spring arrives, and the good-natured Mole loses patience with his spring cleaning. Leaving his underground home, he heads to the river and meets Rat, who spends all his time by the river in spring. Rat offers Mole a ride in his rowing boat, and the two become fast friends, with Rat teaching Mole all about the ways of the river. One day, they disembark near the famous Toad Hall and pay a visit to their friend Mr. Toad. Mr. Toad is a wealthy, jovial, and kind heir to Toad Hall, but he is also aimless and cocky, often becoming obsessed with the latest fads and abandoning them as quickly as they came. Having grown bored with boating, he is now fixated on his new horse-drawn caravan. He convinces a reluctant Rat and Mole to join him on a ride, and they then go camping. However, Toad soon becomes bored with camp life and sleeps in to avoid the camp chores. On their way back, a passing motorcar startles their horse, and their caravan overturns. Rat threatens to call the police on the driver, but all Toad cares about is the motorcar. He decides he must have one of his own.

Mole asks Rat to introduce him to the reclusive, wise old Badger, who lives in the Wild Wood. Knowing that Badger does not like visitors, Rat tries to convince Mole to wait until Badger visits them. However, that winter, while Rat sleeps, Mole goes to the Wild Wood and gets lost. He sees many scary things in the wood, tries to hide under a tree, and gets lost. Rat finds that Mole is gone and goes after him. After finding Mole in the woods, they make their way home only to run into Badger’s home. Although Badger is startled to see them and is getting ready for bed, he warmly welcomes them to his underground home, giving them food and dry clothes. Mr. Toad, meanwhile, has taken his obsession with motorcars to the extreme. Mole and Rat tell Badger that Mr. Toad has crashed seven cars, been in the hospital three times, and is constantly being fined. They make a plan to protect Toad from himself once winter is over because they are worried about him. They go to Toad Hall to talk Toad out of his behavior and try to put him under house arrest. However, Toad tricks Rat into letting him go by feigning illness. Although Badger and Mole are annoyed with Rat’s gullibility, they are glad they no longer need to waste their summer guarding him. They live in Toad Hall, waiting for him to return. Toad goes to the Red Lion Inn, but when he sees a motorcar pull in, he steals it and drives it recklessly. Caught by the police, he is sent to prison for twenty years.

In prison, Toad befriends the gaoler’s (or jailer’s) daughter, who helps him to escape by disguising him as a washerwoman. Although free, he is still broke and has nothing but the clothes on his back. He is able to catch a ride on a train with a sympathetic driver, but the police and prison wardens are hot on his trail. Still in disguise, he jumps on a horse-drawn barge and gets a ride in exchange for his service as a washerwoman. He is kicked off by the barge-woman when he botches the wash but steals the barge horse, which he sells to a traveler. He is then able to catch a ride in the same car he stole earlier when the owner does not recognize him. As soon as he is behind the wheel, he is obsessed again and steals the car from its driver. Chased by the police, he crashes the car and falls into a river, which carries him to Rat’s house. Toad then hears that Toad Hall has been taken over by weasels and stoats from the Wild Wood, who threw Mole and Badger out. They form a plan to take it back, and Toad realizes that his friends are the most valuable things he has. Using a secret tunnel under Toad Hall, they arm up and sneak into Toad Hall, where they drive off the intruders during their party. Newly humbled and grateful, Toad holds a banquet to celebrate his return and sets out to compensate those he has wronged in the past. The four friends happily live out their lives in the woods. The book also contains several short stories focusing on Rat, Mole, and Badger separate from the main narrative.

Kenneth Graham was a Scottish writer of children’s books, best known for his classics The Wind in the Willows and The Reluctant Dragon, both adapted into Disney films. In all, he wrote six books including a collection of childhood remembrances.

Ernest Howard Shepard was an English artist and book illustrator best known for his illustrations in The Wind in the Willows and Winnie the Pooh.