Saturday, July 17, 2021

Back to the Classics Challenge 2021 - The Wind in the Willows

I need to get crackin' if I am going to successfully complete the Back to the Challenge this year. I am reading the books just fine. But when it comes to actually blogging about them, I am challenged.

Apparently in a different edition from the one I read, the intro/afterword by Jane Yolen points out that The Wind in the Willows is really three distinct sets of stories: (1) Mole and Ratty, (2) the Adventures of Mr. Toad and (3) the Pan interlude.  I found this break down to be completely accurate and as an adult, I much preferred the snuggly comforts of Mole and Ratty. There’s lots of eating and being cozy and warm by the fire in their chapters. Mr. Toad, while amusing, is likely going to appeal more to readers who are children.  Toad is very naughty and usually gets away with whatever he gets up to, despite his occasional attempts at repentance.  The Pan chapter reminded me of C.S. Lewis in its religious overtones and it is actually the part that gives rise to the title of the book.  

According to the introduction by Margaret Hodges in the edition pictured above that I read (with absolutely stunning illustrations by Ernest H. Shepard), the book was written for Kenneth Graham’s son and was based on bedtime stories he made up for the boy.  Mr. Toad, is in fact based on the young Alistair Graham as a small child, which accounts for much of Toad’s petulant and impulsive behavior…if you have ever met a four year old human, you will know what I mean.  And I did like Mr. Toad’s adventures and found them occasionally laugh-out-loud funny – particularly when his mansion is overrun by piratical stoats and weasels. 

I can also understand why, when this book has been adapted for stage and screen, that only the Mr. Toad parts are included in the adaptation. Mole and Ratty’s tales are really just a succession of meals and naps. But that isn’t to down play them at all. They were absolutely my favorite part and I spent a lot of time thinking about just how I would arrange my cozy den if I were an anthropomorphized mole, water rat or badger. As someone who falls somewhere on the very introverted side of humankind, good friends, delicious meals and a comfortable bed are paradise –just add books to make it perfect. It is interesting that Mr. Toad is the only character who actually gets a proper, human like house, which is spacious, multi-storied and rambling, not close and warm. It also helps that I read this back in February. It doesn’t get that cold in my part of Southern California, but February is typically rainy and, in the evenings at least, chilly. This is a wonderful book to snuggle up to.

I read this for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2021 Children’s Classic category. Many thanks to Cleo at  for giving this book such a glowing treatment last year. It totally lived up to that post and my expectations.

22 comments:

  1. I read this for the first time pretty recently. Such fun. Interesting about the three parts--that does seem right, but I hadn't really thought about it. The Pan episode stuck out a bit, but the rest felt pretty integrated. I thought about rereading it for this year in this category, but read Men of Iron first.

    Blogging about things is the challenge isn't it? I never have any problem reading books...

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    1. Blogging was less a challenge pre-pandemic when I worked in an office. But yeah, reading is not the problem at all. I did not read this book as a child and loved being introduced to it as an adult. I will definitely re-read it...maybe next winter?

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  2. I need to reread this! Even seeing illustrations take me to a "homely" place of comfort.

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    1. I believe it! The illustrations are so gorgeous in this edition.

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  3. Hi Ruthiella, Never read Wind in the Willows but it is certainly a Children's Classic and I am with you, the Mole and Ratty section of the book would be my favorite as well. It's tricky about children's literature. Sometimes you can read the Little House series which in my opinion is wonderful for all ages but other children's classics you really do have to be a kid to enjoy them.

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    1. Hi Kathy! I agree, some kid lit is better read as a child. But it is fantastic to find those works that can be appreciated at any age. I loved Laura Ingalls Wilder as a child and have since re-read The Little House in the Big Woods as an adult and really loved it. I want to re-read the whole series one of these days. I've also reread Anne of Green Gables and really loved it as a grown up.

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  4. We owned a copy of this book when I was a kid, only I never read it. Then, when I was an adult and really wanted to read it, I couldn't find our copy. Isn't that the way it goes? I've almost read this a couple of times for Karen's Back to the Classics Challenge, but then went with other books instead. But I need to move this book higher up on my TBR list. Great review! :)

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    1. I hope your childhood copy found a good home. I only knew "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" at Disneyland. I'm not even sure I was aware it was an actual book as a child. So Ratty and Mole were a delightful discovery for me. I hope you do give it a whirl one of these days (and be sure to read an illustrated version!). :D

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  5. The Wind in the Willows is one of my all-time favorite books. My dad read it to me several times when I was little, and I've read it a few times as an adult. I like the notion of it really three distinct sets of stories. Like you, I love the Mole/Ratty stories the best, even as a child. I always found Mr Toad to be too naughty for my taste, and picnics and rambles and naps have always been more to my liking.

    So glad you got to read this marvelous book...and enjoyed it!

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    1. I really wish now I had read it as a kid so I could know if Mr. Toad would have appealed or if he would have been too unrepentant and naughty for me too. I know I was charmed as a child by beings (animals or otherwise) living in small places with tiny furniture...I loved The Borrowers, for example.

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  6. Yay!! I'm so happy that you read it. I'm glad to see that I inspired so many people to become acquainted (or reacquainted) with Ratty, Mole, Mr. Toad and the rest of the Willows inhabitants. It truly is a memorable book. I might just read it again, sooner than I planned!

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    1. Thanks so much Cleo for encouraging your followers to read this book! I do think I might just re-read it every winter from now on - maybe around Christmas since I usually have time off then anyway. The beauty of many books for children is they don't take very long to read as an adult!

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  7. I never read W in the W as a child but have read them aloud to all my kids. They think Toad is a hoot!

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    1. Toads antics definitely provide the laughs in the books. He is incorrigible! :D

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  8. This is a childhood classic that I missed, so i particularly enjoyed your great review. I'm with the majority of your readers regarding their preference for the Mole-Ratty sections; particularly as I'm at that point in life where it's hard to beat a good meal, followed by a nice refreshing nap! (on the other hand, it would be a little difficult to have a cold day in which to snuggle in with the book; I suspect west central Florida is probably even hotter than southern California!)
    Your words about the difficulty of blogging really resonated with me, as this is an issue I've struggled with from the beginning. No problem reading the books, it's the reviewing them that's the challenge (I've actually done pretty well in reading my challenge books but I'm close to zero for the reviews). Still, without the reviews, we wouldn't be having a conversation, would we? Speaking of which, I see I have a comment from you on my blog! What a nice treat, particularly as our conversation will continue . . . .

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  9. Nice! I remember enjoying this one, a few decades ago...

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    1. Thanks! I was unfortunately unaware of this as a child, but am glad to have finally read it. šŸ˜ƒ

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  10. This has been on my TBR forever. Nice review...it really makes me want to get to this one soon.

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    1. Maybe see if your grandkids would be interested? I'd like to get a kid's opinion on it too!

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  11. I really didn't like this book at all as a child, but curiously as an adult reading it to my son I had different and more positive reaction to it. I still find Toad tedious, much preferring Mole and Ratty and the gruff Badger. I liked the quite subtle exploration of friendships and especially the poignant chapter in which Ratty is very nearly persuaded by the Wayfarer to leave. As a child I was always confused by the strange Pantheistic chapter "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn". As an adult reader I got a lot more from that and understood (I think) why it is in the book.

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