The Wind in the Willows

The Wind in the Willows

Kenneth Grahame: The Wind in the Willows (first published in 1908)

British writer Kenneth Grahame was born in Scotland, but spent most of his childhood in England with his grandmother. He went to school in Oxford, but unfortunately could not go to university for financial reasons, so he ended up becoming a banking officer at the Bank of England. As Milne writes, it is strange how a man who writes such fragile and beautiful things can have anything to do with something as factual and prosaic as a bank. But the bank might also have found it interesting what a responsible official had to do with such an intangible thing as beauty. Some of his books have been published before, but his most famous work is The Wind in the Willows, published in 1908, which has such supporters as Milne, the author of Winnie the Pooh, and Theodore Roosevelt, the president of the United States.

The protagonists of the story, Water Rat, Mole, Badger and Toad, represent different human qualities, but all of them are good-natured: Rat is cheerful, a true free spirit, a poet and a leader. Mole is a kind and loyal friend. Badger is thoughtful and reserved, and his friends can always turn to him for advice. Toad is a big liar, vain and irresponsible, but when he does something wrong, he sincerely repents, and always takes his friends who criticize him off their feet.

The characters are so human that sometimes we don’t even know if they are animals or rather people. They live their lives along the river, and their stories meander and flow like the river itself. The book, like good children’s books usually, is not only enjoyable for children, in fact, although children can really love the colorful and principled characters, only adults can really understand what it’s true essence is.

The story has been published with many different illustrations in the more than 100 years since its first publication. My editions were illustrated by Partick Benson and E.H. Shepard (the illustrator of Winnie the Pooh – by the way, he is the father of Mary Shepard, the illustrator of Mary Poppins).