In the third part of the series, we look at Kenneth Grahame’s children’s book The Wind in the Willows.
Grahame was a retired bank worker, who used to live by the River Thames. He originally thought up the stories to read to his son at bed-time, before writing them down in 1908.
The story covers the adventures of Mole, Rat, Toad, Badger and their friends. Emerging from his home, Mole meets Ratty, a water rat, who rowed Mole along the river where they eventually disembarked near Toad Hall, home of Toad – a conceited but cheerful amphibian.
Toad convinces his two new friends to join him on a trip, during which time Toad crashes seven cars. Mole, Rat and Badger hatch a plan to save Toad from himself, putting him under house arrest – but Toad escapes and steals a car, earning himself a twenty year prison sentence. Toad manages to escape dressed as a washerwoman and embezzles further methods of transport while chased by the police.
The rest of the story entails Toad, Rat and Badger successfully recapturing Toad Hall which has been invaded by weasels. A humble Toad realises the error of his earlier ways, and finally comes to appreciate the love of his friends. He seeks out those he has wronged, compensating them, and the four friends live the rest of their lives contentedly.
The book has been hugely popular over the past one hundred years. Mapledurham House in South Oxfordshire (see photo) claims to have been the inspiration for Toad Hall (though some dispute this!).
Photo by Motmit (CC BY-SA 3.0)