The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Kenneth Grahame
The Wind in the Willows

I’ve recently listened to this wonderful story on audio book, having not read it for years and years and years, and I was completely enchanted by it, I had forgotten just how wonderful it was so I felt I had to re-read it in order to savour every word.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame available on Amazon
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I’ve recently listened to this wonderful story on audio book, having not read it for years and years and years, and I was completely enchanted by it, I had forgotten just how wonderful it was so I felt I had to re-read it in order to savour every word.

Mole is spring-cleaning and suddenly feels the need to escape his burrow under the earth and step outside into springtime itself, which is sending its ‘spirit of divine discontent and longing’. He finally reaches the outer world after he’s ‘scraped and scratched and scrabbled and scrooged’ up the tunnel, which is his equivalent of a ‘gravelled carriage-drive’. A group of rabbits remind him that he should pay a toll to pass along the private road, but Mole, ‘impatient and contemptuous’, ignores them and then mocks them with the words ‘onion-sauce’! He notices that everyone and everything is busy, ‘birds building, flowers budding, leaves thrusting’. He reaches the river and gazes upon it in amazement, watching it ‘chasing and chuckling, gripping things with a gurgle and leaving them with a laugh…glints and gleams and sparkles, rustle and swirl, chatter and bubble…a babbling procession of the best stories in the world’. He then sees the Water Rat in his home on the opposite bank, who unfastens a little boat ‘painted blue outside and white within, and was just the size for two animals’. Rat invites Mole to join him, to Mole’s amazement as he has never been in a boat before. Rat states that there is ‘nothing half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats…nothing seems really to matter, that’s the charm of it’. He suggests that Mole accompanies him for a day on the river, complete with a huge luncheon basket. Mole is delighted with the whole experience, ‘intoxicated with the sparkle, the ripple, the scents and the sounds and the sunlight’, and on the way Rat points out the Wild Wood, though cautions Mole against the untrustworthiness of the weasels and stoats and foxes who live there, and also points out the Wide World which he advises is ‘something that doesn’t matter’. While having lunch, Mole is introduced to Otter and Badger, but Badger doesn’t stay for long as he doesn’t like company and society, and Mole also hears about Toad and his latest craze for boats. On the way home, Mole gets overly confident and takes the oars, though Rat advises him not to, resulting in the boat tipping over and both animals falling into the water, along with the luncheon basket, Rat having to rescue both Mole and the basket, as well as the boat. Mole is very apologetic afterwards, but Rat isn’t annoyed and helps Mole dry off infront of his fire, and suggests Mole stays at his house for a while so he can learn to row and swim. Mole is extremely touched by this offer and quite emotional, and Rat ‘kindly looked in another direction’ while Mole gathered himself. Awwww, I love love love it all! I love the human elements given to the animals, it’s just so charming, Mole with ladders and steps and chairs and whitewash, and Rat with his boat and luncheon basket. And oh wow, the food contained in the luncheon basket too! It reminds me of an Enid Blyton book with all the detail of each dish, and their enthusiasm for it, and how it is revered and the event built around it, how idyllic it seems going for a picnic like that and unpacking such a luncheon basket! And I did chuckle later, when the lunch was finished and the crockery was packed away again, and then a rogue plate and then fork and then mustard pot was discovered on the side and everything needed to be repacked, how typical that is, it’s just so beautifully written. And I love how the rabbits, after being mocked by Mole, chastise each other for not thinking of a suitable response swiftly enough, again how true to life that is. I also love how Mole thoroughly enjoyed being idle whilst everyone else was busy, and the immortal words of, ‘the best part of a holiday is perhaps not so much to be resting yourself, as to see all the other fellows busy working’, how true that is! And finally in a long list of observations on just the first chapter (!), I love the image of the ‘sniggling’ moorhens laughing at Mole’s bedraggled appearance after getting wet, it’s just such wonderful charming writing, and such lovely gentle humour. Mole’s enthusiasm is wonderful too, his amazement and admiration and immediate love for the new things he sees, like the river and Rat’s boat, and his eagerness to wholeheartedly try them, bless him. And Rat’s love of his own life is very touching too, with his passionate feelings for the river and being in a boat and that nothing can better it, and his willingness to just let life take him where it will rather than trying to control everything, ‘whether you get away or whether you don’t, whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all’, what suitable attitudes for us to aim to follow in life. I also love the animal etiquette rules which are abided by, such as not dwelling on possible trouble ahead, and not commenting on a fellow creature’s sudden disappearance for whatever reason. And obviously the descriptions of nature and of the river are beautiful too, making it sound like the river is a live creature and one devoted to laughter and stories (I wonder if this is what influenced Diane Settlefield with her descriptions of the river like a living breathing soul in her book Once Upon a River), there really are too many descriptions to mention really but I particularly loved ‘brown snaky tree-roots gleamed below the surface of the quiet water’ and ‘the silvery shoulder and foamy tumble of a weir’ and ‘a restless dripping water-mill’, it’s written so well that I can picture it so clearly in my mind, and can feel myself relaxing just at the thought of it, in fact I feel like Mole does, gasping, “Oh my! Oh my! Oh my!”. The glimpse we get of Mole and Rat’s characters is interesting too. I like Rat’s laidback attitude to life, and also his readiness to forgive and to display patience with others’ mistakes and find humour in adversity such as when they went into the water after Mole grabbed the oars, and his sensitivity to others’ feelings when he looked away when Mole was feeling emotional, and his kindness and generosity in sharing his home, and indeed sharing his love of the river with Mole. I think I tend to forget Rat within the other characters featured, but I’m thinking now that I should pay more attention to him and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he became the character I like best. I tend to think of Mole as being quite timid and easily influenced and impressed by others, but I am reminded here that he can be quite impulsive such as when he suddenly abandoned his spring-cleaning, and that he can also act foolishly without thinking things through and without listening to others such as when he grabbed the oars, and that he can also be susceptible to jealousy and false pride, though he is also quick to admit his errors and apologise and is very willing to learn and always ready to praise others. I can’t help wondering why Grahame chose the particular creatures that he did, I wonder if there was a presumption of a mole’s character for instance that he felt suited the story, but I’m not aware myself of particular characteristics associated with the chosen creatures, apart from the wiliness of weasels, I don’t particularly think of toads as boastful for instance. They seem quite random choices, not particularly people’s popular choices of favourite animals or ones known for cuteness, for example.

Rat is teasing the ducks by tickling them when they stick their heads under water, making them ‘spluttering and angry and shaking their feathers at him, for it is impossible to say quite all you feel when your head is under water’. Then Rat ‘sat on the riverbank in the sun’ singing a song he’d made up called Ducks Ditty which details the ducks with their ‘heads down, tails up, dabbling free’. Mole asks if they can visit Toad, and Rat agrees. Mole paddles the boat, now he is more skilled and confident, while Rat tells him about Toad, describing him as ‘so simple, so good-natured, and so affectionate…it may be that he is both boastful and conceited’, and adds that he takes up fads, being enthusiastic about a new hobby and then dropping it. Toad Hall is quite grand, ‘a dignified old house of mellow red brick’, with stables and a boat-house and a banqueting hall and ‘gay flower-decked lawns’. Toad belittles Rat’s love of boating, saying that he no longer likes boating himself now, and his new love is his gipsy caravan, which is well-stocked with provisions and comfort and even has a canary. He talks Rat and Mole into accompanying him on a trip in the caravan, Rat is reluctant but Mole is very excited. They first have to capture the horse who is to pull the caravan and who is not keen on doing this as he hadn’t ‘been consulted’ and ‘frankly preferred the paddock’. They set off and have a lovely day travelling, and enjoy their tea and night‘s sleep, though Toad sleeps in late the following morning so avoids all the tidying up of last night’s meal and the preparations for breakfast. As they travel along the next day, a car roars past them, terrifying Rat and Mole and the horse and the canary, and overturning the caravan and damaging it. Toad though is completely enamoured of the car with its speed and power, and is determined to get one for himself and is no longer at all interested in the caravan. Rat recognises that this is Toad now obsessed with a new craze and that he will be of no help to them in sorting out the damaged caravan. Rat gets them to a train station and then home to Toad Hall, having also dealt with the horse and arranged for the caravan to be pulled out of the ditch. He and Mole then go home to Rat’s house, to Rat’s great relief. The following morning they hear the news that Toad has bought a large and expensive car. Tee hee, I love the line about the ducks spluttering at Rat and not being able to say all they wanted to say as their heads were under water! And I love the blissful image of Rat sitting on the riverbank in the sun singing his song, it just sounds idyllic. And we learn more about Rat’s character here too, his poetic side and his ability to be mischievous, but also later his generous side in halting his singing when Mole asks to be taken to meet Toad, and also by agreeing to go on the caravan outing (against his better judgement) because he could see that Mole really wanted to go, and also how responsible he is in trying to take care of Toad and keep him safe and then in dealing with the aftermath of the broken caravan. And more adventures for Mole with the caravan trip, he is certainly living life!! And we meet Toad, who I struggle to like really, with his selfishness and laziness and feeling of entitlement and the way he shows off. I do like the sound of his caravan though, ‘canary yellow picked out with green, and red wheels’, and I love how well-stocked it is, both with food and facilities, having bookshelves and cards and dominoes, a cooking-stove, a table that folds up, beds, etc, etc, it sounds adorably cosy and yet also giving the opportunity of adventure and to just go where you like. And I chuckled at the horse feeling aggrieved as he’d not been consulted about pulling the caravan, and later on in the journey complaining ‘that he was being frightfully left out of it, and nobody considered him in the least’. And I’m interested that Toad seems to straddle the division between animal and human, by living in a house (rather than a burrow) and having a horse and a canary in a cage, etc. And when Rat and Mole are with him, the division between animal and human seems to be crossed by them too, with Mole going into the village to buy milk and eggs, and later Rat suggesting they report the incident of the motorcar to a police station and them all getting on a train home, whereas before Rat had said that the Wide World was ‘something that doesn’t matter’ implying they avoided mixing with it. It is amusing to see them behaving as humans, such as having the canary in a cage and them catching the horse, but I kind of like it better when they are just in their own animal world, it just seems to jar a little when the Wide World intrudes as I can’t imagine in my head quite how the animals fit in and it doesn’t seem natural for the humans to treat them as equals, for example for Rat and Mole and Toad to be sat on a train with humans. Or maybe there aren’t any humans and the Wide World consists of just other animals, though with police stations and cars and trains, etc?

Mole and Rat have enjoyed the summer time with ‘the pageant of the river bank’ and all the different flowers appearing in turn, and the ‘languorous siesta of hot midday, deep in green undergrowth, the sun striking through in tiny golden shafts’. But it is now winter time and all the riverbank animals are now mostly indoors, around their fires and ‘snug in their holes while wind and rain were battering at their doors’. Mole has requested a few times over the last few months that Rat take him to meet Badger, but Rat had always put the visit off, saying that Badger would doubtless drop by at some point and that Badger didn’t like visitors at his home in the Wild Wood and wouldn’t accept an invitation to dine at Rat’s home as he doesn’t like social engagements. Therefore while Rat is dozing one afternoon infront of the fire, Mole decides to venture to the Wild Wood by himself and seek out Badger. He notes how differently the trees look in the winter, ‘bare and entirely leafless’ and that they ‘exposed themselves and their secrets pathetically’, and he imagined they were waiting for summertime when they could again ‘riot in rich masquerade’. He enters the Wild Wood confidently, but then begins to see ‘evil wedge-shaped’ faces looking at him with ‘glances of malice and hatred’ from holes and which instantly vanish when he looks towards them, then he hears whistling, and then pattering feet which ‘seemed to be closing in on him’. A passing rabbit warns him to get out, before he shoots down his own burrow. Mole begins to run in panic, falling over and with no idea of which direction he is heading, until finally he takes shelter in the hollow of an old beech tree, and as he lay ‘panting and trembling’ he feels the Terror of the Wild Wood. Meanwhile Rat has woken up and realised that Mole isn’t there and sees that his cap and galoshes are gone, he then looks for tracks and sees that Mole has headed towards the Wild Wood. He arms himself with pistols and a cudgel, and sets off following Mole. He hears the whistling and pattering as he enters the wood, and sees the wicked faces, but these all soon stop once he has been spotted striding with determination and carrying his weapons. ‘Valourous’ Rat begins searching the wood, calling out Mole’s name cheerfully, and eventually, after over an hour’s searching, he hears Mole’s voice and finds him in the tree hollow he has hidden in. Rat gently tells Mole he really shouldn’t have gone to the Wild Wood on his own, that small animals always go there in twos and there are passwords and signs that need to be learnt and used. He suggests heading for home but Mole states he is too exhausted to walk just yet, so Rat agrees that he rests for a while and they will then set off. However, when Mole feels fit enough to leave, they realise it has been snowing and there is now ‘a gleaming carpet of faery’. They stumble through the snow for a couple of hours, often falling over and struggling to walk in its depth, and getting completely lost and thoroughly wet. Rat then suggests entering a little dell nearby in order to look for a cave or dry hole to rest in, and hoping that the snow may ease in time. In searching for a cave, Mole trips over something and cuts his shin. Rat attends to Mole’s wound but notes that it is a very clean cut and investigates what it was that he tripped over, and Rat then discovers that it was a door scraper and then searches further and finds a doormat. Mole doesn’t understand what Rat is doing and is getting quite impatient with him, but they then find a dark green door with the name Mr Badger on it! They determinedly and relentlessly knock on the door and ring the bell-pull, until Badger answers it. Oh dear, at the first mention of Mole going into the Wild Wood by himself, I felt this wouldn’t go well, Mole is again displaying his impetuous side, as he did in the early days by abandoning his spring-cleaning and by grabbing the oars of Rat’s boat. It’s really quite sinister when poor Mole is in the Wild Wood on his own with the faces and whistling and pattering feet. I love wonderful Rat coming to his rescue though, so brave and so determined, and so loyal to his friend, and how kind he is gently admonishing Mole for going there, and so patient letting him rest before they head home, and also staying so positive and trying to lift Mole’s spirits when they are stumbling around lost in the snow, he really is such a wonderful creature, quite the hero! He did snap a little at Mole, when he was desperately searching for Badger’s door and Mole not realising what he was doing and mocking him, but I think this was understandable for Rat to snap, the situation had become dire and he was exhausted, bless him. I so love the human aspect again of Mole’s cap and galoshes by the umbrella stand in Rat’s home, as well as Rat tying a handkerchief around Mole’s wound, and Badger having a door scraper and a doormat! And Badger seems a bit of a surly and determinedly solitary character, are badgers in the wild naturally solitary, I wonder? And I love the beautiful descriptions of the summer flowers now gone, many of whose names I don’t recognise and intend to look up, such as loosestrife ‘shaking luxuriant tangled locks’, willow-herb ‘like a pink sunset cloud’, and there is comfrey, and the ‘diffident’ dog-rose, and meadow-sweet ‘debonair and odorous’, I love the tender descriptions of them and also love how they are described like characters in the theatre/pageant of summer. I also love the cosy image of both summertime with the siestas and wintertime with the snugness and fires in the hearths, it all just sounds so wonderful and idyllic! 

Badger brings them inside and makes them welcome, taking them into his kitchen where he has a fire, and after providing them with warm and dry dressing gowns and slippers and tending to Mole’s wound, there is a ‘suggestive clink of plates’ and then a huge and delicious supper is served for them during which ‘conversation was impossible for a long time’. After eating their full and then explaining their adventure to Badger, they then move on to discussing Toad who has had many crashes in his cars, resulting in ruined vehicles and several fines and a few stays in hospital. They explain to Badger that Toad insists on driving the cars himself but is a very poor driver and is ‘quite regardless of law and order’, and they fear that he will either end up financially ruined due to the fines he has to pay, or killed. Badger says that after the winter is over, as nothing can be done in winter time when animals rest or hibernate, they will ‘take Toad seriously in hand’. They then all head off to bed, Rat and Mole sleeping in a couple of beds with linen which was ‘clean and smelt beautifully of lavender’. After a good night’s sleep, they go to the kitchen for breakfast and find two young hedgehogs sitting there eating porridge, having got lost and wet in the snow on their way to school and welcomed inside by Badger, the ‘kind-hearted gentleman’, when they knocked on his door. Rat and Mole proceed to eat breakfast themselves, consisting of eggs and bacon and buttered toast. Otter comes to Badger’s and joins them for breakfast, one of the hedgehogs having to open the door to him as Badger is resting in his study after breakfast and Rat is ‘very greasy with buttered toast’, Otter explaining that he had come looking for Rat and Mole as the River Bank residents were aware they hadn’t been at home last night and were worried about them. Otter said he headed straight for Badger’s, as he knew it was a likely place to either find them or to hear news of them. He says it was quite exciting coming through the snow with how the scenery had altered, the snow having built snow-castles and snow-bridges and snow-terraces and snow-ramparts, he also describes the creatures he saw along the way, ‘perky conceited’ robins, and rooks wearing a ‘disgusted expression’. Mole asks if he was nervous coming through the Wild Wood on his own, but Otter declares not and that the weasels wouldn’t dare try to intimidate him. Badger appears and sends the hedgehogs home, with someone to safely guide them, after giving them sixpence each, and invites Otter to stay for lunch. Otter and Rat talk about the river during lunch, which is ‘talk that is endless, running on like the babbling river’, and Mole and Badger talk of life underground, Mole full of admiration for the safety and security and comfort and adaptability of Badger’s underground home, with no influences from the changeable weather or draughts or nosy neighbours. Badger shows him around and Mole is surprised at the size of the place, with all its corridors and rooms, and particularly the pillars and arches and pavements. Badger explains that long ago, before the Wild Wood grew, there was a city there built by rich and skilled people who eventually left, ‘people come…and they go’, then nature gradually took over the abandoned city and it became buried under the wood, and the animals, including Badger, took it over. When they return to the kitchen, Rat is ready to go home so Badger leads them all down a long tunnel that takes them right out of the Wild Wood. As they approach home, Mole vows ‘he must be wise, must keep to the pleasant places in which his lines were laid and which held adventure enough, in their way, to last for a lifetime’. Awww, that sounds very good advice for anyone to follow. I really enjoyed that chapter. I was interested in the description of Badger’s home, with the central hall and long passages and rooms leading out from there. And I especially love the kitchen with its red brick floor, the wide hearth containing the fire between two chimney corners, the high-backed settles on either side of the fire, and a long table with benches down each side, an armchair at the head of the table for Badger, and a dresser containing plates and shelves containing pots, with hams and dried herbs and nets of onions and baskets of eggs hung from the ceiling. It all just sounds so idyllic and cosy and self-sufficient, particularly to be sitting there infront of the fire in dressing gown and slippers, just heavenly! I think Badger’s kitchen may well be one of my happy places that I bring to mind if I’m struggling to sleep! I also liked hearing about Badger’s storeroom of winter stores, containing ‘piles of apples, turnips, and potatoes, baskets full of nuts, and jars of honey’, omg, I just want to live there myself! And I was fascinated with the old city that the people built and which was abandoned and fell into ruin, to be taken over by the animals and now forming part of Badger’s home, I guess this was the Romans? But what a comforting image of change always going on and being accepted and endured, both by people and by animals. And how lovely Badger is, so capable and reliable, helping and feeding not only Rat and Mole but also the two young hedgehogs, and as Otter says ‘when people were in any fix they mostly went to Badger, or else Badger got to know of it somehow’. Badger is just wonderful really! And I was intrigued again with the human element of the hedgehogs going to school. And I love Otter’s description of how the snow had altered the scenery and built snow-castles and snow-bridges and snow-terraces and snow-ramparts, and I chuckled at his description of the robins and rooks, and I also love how Rat was unable to open the door to Otter as he was covered in greasy toast, bless him!

It is towards the end of December and Rat and Mole are heading home after a long day’s exploring ‘where certain streams tributary to their own river had their small beginnings’. They come to a village and Mole is cautious about passing through it, but Rat assures him that everyone will be tucked up indoors infront of the fire, and that they can also take the chance to look in at the windows and observe them. As they pass out the other side of the village and again walk alongside fields, Mole suddenly gets a ‘summons’, an instinctive feeling, a smell, a pull on his emotions, a ‘telegraphic current’, one of the ‘mysterious fairy calls from out the void’ which animals are attune to, telling him that his own home is nearby. He is very excited, thinking fondly of the home he left so long ago, and calls to Rat, eager to follow the summons and see his home once more. But Rat is far ahead and determinedly marching for their River Bank home, as it is dark and beginning to snow and they still have a way to go, so he doesn’t listen properly to Mole’s shouts and just tells him to hurry up. Mole is very upset at having to choose between following Rat or following the summons of his home but though he felt ‘his heart torn asunder’ he loyally follows Rat. When they stop to rest a little later however, Mole can’t help being subdued and then crying, to Rat’s surprise. Mole then explains, at Rat’s prompting, about them passing near to his home, and Rat immediately then turns them around and heads back the way they have come, saying they must find Mole’s home. They do find ‘Mole End’, the name written in gothic lettering, with its plants and statues, and a skittle alley and benches, and a goldfish pond with a monument covered with cockle-shells and a silvered glass ball on top that reflects the light. Mole is very excited and proud to show Rat his home, but then despairs to see the dust and recalls that he has no food in the cupboards, which sets him off crying again. However, Rat busies about lighting candles and making a fire in the hearth and praising Mole’s home decorations, then encourages Mole to begin cleaning while he makes a meal of sardines and a box of Captain’s biscuits and a German sausage and some bottles of beer which he has found in the cupboards, whilst drawing Mole out to explain about where he found the pieces that he has decorated his home with. As they begin to eat, they hear a group of mice carol-singing outside, Mole explains that they come every year and always visit his house last as he invites them in for hot drinks and some supper. Rat sends a mouse off to the shops to buy supplies, being specific as to brand and to make sure that things are home-made rather than tinned, and supplying him with money, while he begins to make mulled ale for everyone from Mole’s supplies. As they eat, the mice give Mole all the local gossip, and when Mole and Rat go to bed, Mole looks around his home very pleased with all he sees and pleased that he will always have his home to return to, though also looking forward to continuing his larger life with Mole on the River Bank. I got slightly distracted with what the title of this chapter meant, Dulce Domum, thinking that ‘dulce’ is Spanish for ‘sweet’ and wondering what ‘domum’ meant, but I see with a bit of googling that it means ‘homeward’, so the title is ‘sweetly homeward’, which sounds very nice. And I love the idea of exploring the higher streams that lead to their river, this just seems quite a touching keenness to learn more and to further value and respect their own beloved river, I do like the sentiments which I imagine were behind this. And my previous queries about whether humans live alongside animals, or if the trains and police stations, etc, mentioned were run by animals, is answered here with Rat mentioning ‘men, women, and children, dogs and cats and all’ in the village they pass through. And I did chuckle at the idea of Rat and Mole taking the opportunity to peek at these humans in their homes, just as we might peek at animals in their own environment, fascinated to learn more about them. Awww, and lovely Rat so keen to help Mole when he is upset, and angry at himself for not realising sooner that he was upset (though Rat was just being responsible and keeping them both safe, not wanting to be caught out late in the snow (I will always defend Rat!)), and then immediately insisting they head to find Mole’s home, and then being such a good true friend and bolstering Mole’s spirits when he is despondent at the dustiness and smallness of his home and the lack of food, praising all he sees and coming up with a good way to use the food there to make a snack and preparing this himself as Mole keeps feeling despondent, and making it all seems cosy with candles and a fire, and then later organising a proper meal for themselves and the carol-singers, and ‘taking care that each guest had what he wanted, and plenty of it, and that Mole had no trouble or anxiety about anything’. Bless him, Rat is so wonderful! But by comparison I’m not very impressed with Mole’s behaviour really in this chapter, making Rat feel guilty when Rat was only trying to keep them safe, and being a bit of a martyr saying he knows his home is only shabby and dingy and not grand like Toad’s or Badger’s and implying that this is why Rat didn’t stop and visit it, whereas this wasn’t the reason at all (it was just that, as usual, Rat was being the sensible and responsible one and keeping them safe), and then all the crying and feeling sorry for himself and making quite a drama out of things and being generally helpless. Perhaps I’m being harsh, but Mole did seem a bit like an annoying child in this bit, I think, especially in comparison to Rat. And Mole’s home is interesting too in what it reveals about him, he is obviously sociable with the skittle alley and benches and table, but I’d say also perhaps a hint of grandiose and a wish to impress with the statues and the silvered glass ball? I think I prefer Rat’s homely home, which feels more genuine and less showy, and of course I am very attracted to Badger’s kitchen (my happy place!). But I did chuckle at Mole having a roller in order to flatten the earth outside his door. And awww, was there anything as charming as those mice carol-singing outside ‘bashful but smiling’, and later in Mole’s home ‘perched in a row on the settle, their small legs swinging’, it just warmed my heart! And obviously Mole absolutely has to be in his home next winter for their arrival, it would never do to miss their visit! 

It is early summer and Rat and Mole are busy with breakfast and Rat is ‘all over egg’, when Badger arrives at their house, telling them that it is now the time to deal with Toad and his obsession with cars. They go to Toad Hall in time to see his latest car arrive, and Toad emerge from his house dressed in his driving clothes of ‘goggles, cap, gaiters, and enormous overcoat…(and) gauntleted gloves’, or what Badger calls his ‘hideous habiliments’ and ‘ridiculous things’. Badger sends the chauffeur of the car away, and forces Toad inside Toad Hall, ordering Rat and Mole to take the driving clothes off Toad when he refuses to remove them himself, this involves Rat sitting on Toad while Mole pulls the clothes off him while Toad kicks out and calls them names. Badger then takes Toad into the smoking-room and speaks sternly to him, telling him that he is giving animals a bad name with his poor driving, is making a fool of himself, and squandering his father’s money, resulting in Toad sobbing and saying he’s sorry and promising to give up cars ‘entirely and for good’. Rat is doubtful that Toad truly means this, thinking that Toad will say anything in the moment. And he is proved correct as Toad then retracts what he has previously promised and declares that he’s not sorry and that driving is ‘glorious’ and he intends to keep doing it. Badger then says that Toad will be locked in his bedroom and the three of them will stay at Toad Hall taking it in turns to guard him through the days and nights until he sees sense and promises to give up cars. After several days, Toad seems quieter and less distressed, and it is Rat’s turn to guard him while Badger and Mole go out. Toad is very subdued during Rat’s shift, making Rat concerned for him, and Toad then plays on Rat’s kindness and pretends to be seriously weak and unwell, asking Rat to send for a doctor and also his lawyer, implying that he thinks he will soon die and needs to put his affairs in order. Rat is unsure what to do and initially tries to distract Toad and occupy his thoughts with something else, but when Toad begins to sound weaker and weaker, Rat genuinely feels alarmed that something is very wrong with Toad, and he doesn’t have the others there to consult with so decides to leave Toad alone in order to get the doctor, ensuring he is locked in his bedroom, at which point Toad ties his bedclothes together and climbs out of his bedroom window. When he is discovered to have escaped, Badger and Mole both criticise Rat for being taken in by Toad. They decide to continue to stay at Toad Hall while they wait for Toad to be brought home, presuming this will be soon and either by police or on a stretcher. Meanwhile Toad is congratulating himself on his ingenuity in escaping, seeing himself as much more intelligent than Rat. He stops at the Red Lion pub for a hearty lunch, and then hears a car park up outside the pub. When the occupants of the car enter the coffee-room, he goes out to look at the car. Looking at the car turns into sitting in the car then starting the car, and then driving off in it. He is later caught and brought to court and found guilty of stealing a car, dangerous driving, and ‘gross impertinence to the police’ and is sentenced to 20 years in jail. Grrrr, nasty selfish Toad to trick Rat like that, to take advantage of Rat’s loyal friendship and caring nature, and to gloat too on how he thinks he is cleverer than Rat. I really do feel for Rat, and I’m annoyed at Badger and Mole for having a go at him too, they had both swanned off and left Rat on his own with Toad with no-one to consult with, and I don’t think Rat was being exceptionally gullible, he was just genuinely concerned for Toad’s welfare, and he had ensured the bedroom was locked when he left Toad so he was alert to the possibility of a trick. I know I’m biased but I can’t have any criticism of the lovely Rat, he being my favourite and an all-round perfect creature! And I found it interesting and ironic that Rat read Toad’s character more correctly than the others, predicting that his promises to Badger were just empty words. As I say, grrrr to selfish inconsiderate ungrateful Toad, and I firmly dislike him now, and I heartily feel he deserves being thrown in jail, although maybe 20 years is a bit harsh, and the jail itself sounds very harsh as he is put in the ‘grimmest…remotest dungeon…that lay in the heart of the innermost…best-guarded keep of the stoutest castle in all the length and breadth of Merry England’! And I do puzzle about just when and where this jail is, the language being used between the guards sounds almost Shakespearian and it sounds like conditions in the Tower of London! And I know this is really boring of me and it’s extremely silly to try and apply logical facts to a fictional book, particularly a book about animals in which so many aspects of it are complete and utter (and lovely) fantasy, but I can’t help wondering how Toad drives the cars, how do his feet reach the pedals? I think I’d kind of assumed that the cars he had bought and driven before were much smaller than ordinary cars for humans, but the car that he steals from the pub is obviously a car for humans, so the practicalities of it puzzled me (pointlessly, I know!). And awww, lovely Rat does seem to be a messy eater, bless him, as in this chapter he was ‘all over egg’, and at Badger’s home he was ‘very greasy with buttered toast’. He obviously enjoys his food, but it often seems to be on the outside of him rather than the inside! 

Rat has spent the evening with the Otter family and when he returns home late he explains to Mole that Otter’s son Portly has been missing for several days, and, although Otter had tried to appear unworried, it was obvious to Rat that he was very concerned and was planning to stay out all night watching at one of Portly’s favourite spots in the hope he might return there. Both animals feel very much for Otter and what he is going through, so Mole suggests that they also search for Portly that night. They haven’t found him as dawn approaches, but then Rat is transfixed by the sound of pipes being played from a distance away, he feels that the music is calling him and he tells Mole to row towards it, and eventually Mole hears it too. The ‘heavenly music…intoxicating melody’ makes Rat cry with its beauty, and they both experience the colour and smell of the plants as much more vivid and pronounced than usual. They follow the sound of the pipes to a small island by the weir. They feel overawed at the creature they see there, with his ‘curved horns…kindly eyes…bearded mouth…broad chest’. Rat calls the creature ‘Him’, and they both feel at peace and happy in its presence, though a little afraid, and they bow their heads and worship love to it. Portly is sleeping inbetween the creature’s hooves. Then the sun breaks across the horizon dazzling them and a little breeze blows in their faces, and they seem to almost wake up and collect themselves and forget what they’d seen there, and the creature is now gone. They then notice Portly, who wakes up and ‘wriggled with pleasure at the sight of his father’s friends’ but then whines and cries, looking around as if searching for someone. Rat notices hoof-marks on the ground and says some large animal must have been there, he puzzles over this but doesn’t recollect what they’ve just seen. They take Portly in the boat back to his father, and then head home, both feeling exhausted but unable to think why, Mole says he feels as if they had ‘been through something very exciting and rather terrible…and yet nothing particular has happened’, and Rat says it feels like to him like they’ve been through something ‘very surprising and splendid and beautiful’. Rat then hears the music again formed into words saying that the creature they saw is a ‘helper and healer’ and that he rescues animals from traps and snares and finds animals when they are lost and heals their wounds, but that ‘then you shall forget’. Hmmm, I was really quite confused with this chapter and what exactly this creature was supposed to be or to represent, it seemed a God-like creature with Rat calling it ‘Him’ with a capital H as God is called. It’s a lovely comforting thought that He keeps animals safe and heals and helps them, and I was delighted that he’d kept Portly safe. And the forgetfulness after seeing Him was odd too, it seemed to be for the reason that seeing something so wonderful would spoil the future for them, would ‘overshadow mirth and pleasure’ and make them view life by comparison as ‘hard, cold’. I spent some time googling about what the creature could be and I read on Wikipedia that it was Pan, who is from Greek mythology, a half human half goat, like a faun, and who is a gentle god of wild creatures. I’d not heard of this creature before and was quite fascinated to read about him. I wondered too why Rat heard the pipe music more distinctly than Mole did and why it seemed to affect him more than it did Mole (although it also affected Mole), was that because Rat is more attune to the subtleties of nature due to living along the river, or that Rat is more in touch with his own feelings? I also again like the descriptive phrases of nature, such as ‘the dispersing touch of the cool fingers of the short midsummer night’, and ‘the moon lifted with slow majesty till it swung clear of the horizon and rode off free of moorings’. And I also love Mole quietly reflecting on ‘the past day and its doings, and how very good they all had been’. And bless both Rat and Mole, feeling so much for Otter and his worries and spending the night searching for Portly. And Portly was so cute too, waddling and wriggling, though very naughty for running away and worrying his lovely father!

Toad is very miserable in jail and feeling very sorry for himself, reflecting on his loss of freedom and also missing his friends, and he refuses food and any comforts. The guard quickly gets fed up with him, but his daughter loves all animals (though views them as pets rather than equals) so suggests to her father that she take over the care of Toad. She brings him bubble and squeak ‘and its fragrance filled the narrow cell’, a cup of tea, and hot buttered toast ‘cut thick, very brown on both sides, with the butter running through the holes in it in great golden drops’. Toad cheers up and begins to imagine there may be a way out of this if he employs lawyers and asks his friends to help him. He talks to the guard’s daughter about Toad Hall and his friends, and they soon chat every day. She begins to feel sorry for him and eventually suggests a way for him to escape, saying he could dress as her aunt, who is a washer-woman who comes into the prison to deliver the prisoners’ laundry and then leaves again, if he was to pay her aunt sufficient money. The aunt agrees to the plan, but asks to be bound and gagged so it will look like she was overpowered by Toad and therefore innocent of aiding his escape. It all works as planned and Toad escapes the jail. He then goes to the train station to buy a ticket to the closest station to Toad Hall but realises that he has left his money in the waistcoat he left in the jail, so can’t buy a ticket. He appeals to the engine driver, who agrees to let the ‘washerwoman’ travel in his van providing ‘she’ agrees to take some of his dirty shirts, as they frequently get very dirty in his work, and send them back to him cleaned, which Toad quickly agrees to, though telling himself he will buy the driver some new shirts rather than wash the dirty ones. After travelling for a while, the driver realises that their train is being followed by one containing police and guards from the jail, which fills Toad with horror and he pleads with the driver to help him, explaining who he really is and what he has done. The driver decides to help him, saying he doesn’t like the police telling him what to do, and he also doesn’t like motor-cars, so devises the plan that he will slow down their train at the end of the approaching long tunnel, knowing their pursuers’ train will have to keep a safe distance from them in the tunnel, so Toad can then jump from the train and hide himself in the woods beside the line without the pursuers seeing him. This goes as planned, and Toad escapes the train undetected, though he is scared of the noises in the wood and exhausted from all the drama, so settles down to sleep in the hollow of a tree. Hmmm, I find I’m really not as interested in the chapters with Toad as I am in the chapters with Rat and Mole, but I am slightly heartened to see Toad beginning to be more self-aware of his faults, recognising while in jail that he had been acting as if he had ‘bought up every road in England’, and that he had ‘been imprisoned so justly’ and that he was a ‘stupid animal’. And I like that he also recognises the qualities of the others, ‘wise old Badger, clever intelligent Rat and sensible Mole’. Although I note the conceited side of him emerged again when he was boasting to the guard’s daughter about Toad Hall, and later when he appealed to the train driver to save him and referred to himself as ‘well-known and popular’ and declaring that he had demonstrated ‘great daring and cleverness’. Sigh, he just can’t stop himself from boasting! But he can also admit his own faults when these are pointed out to him, such as in the caravan episode with Rat and Mole, and when the guard’s daughter at the jail tells him he is proud and ungrateful and he then calls himself ‘a proud and stupid toad’, so perhaps there is hope for him…?! And also in his favour, he does have the ability to cheer up extremely quickly, though he may have been feeling low only a short time before, so I do admire his ability to shake off the lowness and quickly focus on the positives in the situation. And I was interested in the guard’s daughter identifying what she felt his greatest fault was, being ‘you talk too much, that’s your chief fault’, this made me wonder if that is actually his main fault and that then leads to his other faults of conceitedness and lying and selfishness. And I thought it seemed foolish of Toad to aim for Toad Hall after his escape from jail, as surely the authorities are likely to look for him there. And it was interesting in this chapter to have a bit more of a confirmation on the relationship between animals and humans, with the thoughts of the guard’s daughter about animals as she speaks to Toad as if he’s an equal and human-like, but is actually viewing him like a pet and planning to train him to ‘eat from my hand, and sit up, and do all sorts of things’, and she questions Toad about his animal friends, ‘how they lived and what they did to pass their time’ which kind of implies that this information is new to her. I still would like a bit of clarification on how an animal can be jailed and can travel by train like a human, but I’m aware I should let go of logic and stop questioning and just enjoy the fantasy! And I love the description of the food the daughter brought to Toad in order to entice him to eat!

Rat is aware that all the migratory and hibernating animals and birds are beginning to think about making plans to journey away for winter. He wanders through the wheat fields and sees the mice discussing where they will go, before it’s time for the farmer to cut the wheat. He also sees swallows chatting about their route, and he suggests to them that they stay here this year instead of going away, saying he will do his best to make them feel at home, but one swallow tells him that it is like a stirring within them, the recollections and scents and sounds of long-forgotten places beckon them, and that he had tried staying in England one year but the weather was too cold and dark and there were no insects to eat, but he also tells Rat that they get homesick for England too and look forward to returning. When Rat listens to them talking of the sunny South, he can feel a stirring and restlessness within himself too, and he thinks about exploring new places and of the sea and sun and adventures. As he lays thinking under a hedge beside a path, a rat comes along who is clearly a traveller, tired and weary, with his belongings tied in a blue cotton handkerchief. He rests a while beside Rat and praises the surrounding countryside, saying he has lived this country life for six months and is sad to now leave it but the old life that he knows is calling him. Over a picnic lunch of French bread and garlic sausage and cheese and red wine, provided by Rat, he describes his seafaring life, saying he comes originally from Constantinople and then lists some of the places and ports and quays and little towns and ancient cities that he has visited, particularly his favourites of Venice and Sicily, with sun and songs and friends and feasting on delicious food where ‘the air is full of music and the sky full of stars’. Rat is ‘spellbound and quivering with excitement’ imagining all the scenes before him like a dream. When it is time for the travelling rat to leave, he suggests that Rat comes too, saying ‘the South still waits for you’, and advises Rat to gather up some essentials and catch him up on the road. Rat, in a dreamlike state, returns home and gathers some things together and steps out of his front door as Mole enters, and with glazed eyes and a murmuring tone he tells Mole that he is ‘Going South, with the rest of them’. Mole is alarmed and drags him indoors and holds him, Rat firstly struggles but then lays down trembling and exhausted and is then shivering and sobbing. Mole waits patiently beside Rat while the seizure passes and Rat eventually falls to sleep. Rat wakes after a time but is silent and despondent and uninterested in all around him, and he tries to relate to Mole what happened but cannot sufficiently put it into words. Mole casually talks of the harvest and the moon, of ‘reddening apples…browning nuts…jams and preserves…hearty joys…snug home life’, and Rat slowly comes back to himself, especially when Mole brings paper and a pencil and suggests he write some poetry. I felt a bit sad in this chapter that Rat wasn’t happy and was wishing for more experiences and excitement in his life, although I suppose it shows that he can readily empathise with the feelings of others, and he did agree to stay at home after Mole spoke with him. I like the description of Rat as ‘ever observant of all winged movement’, as I feel that shows how attentive he is to other species and to the environment around him. I also like the analogy of Nature’s Grand Hotel, with the guests packing for departure, their bus waiting outside, rooms being closed up, the waiters being sent away, and also the boarders that stay on throughout the year and the fun they have there out of season. And I chuckled at the mice seeming like people at an estate agent’s window, examining ‘plans and drawings of small flats, stated to be desirable and compact and situated conveniently’ and talking about properties which needed doing up, and planning how they’ll move their furniture and stores of food, including the hat box which Rat trips over, tee hee! And also the swallow saying they’re discussing which route they will take and where they will stop. It’s all so charming and human-like. And obviously I was impressed with the picnic lunch that Rat provided to the travelling rat, it sounded yummy! The descriptions of the journeys of the travelling rat did sound exciting and magical though. And, bless him, lovely caring and loyal Mole, patiently helping Rat recover and pointing out all the wonderful everyday things of home. This chapter seems a very good lesson in appreciating what we have and not getting too caught up in drama and excitement and adventure. There were some nice descriptions of nature again in this chapter too, ‘the rowans were reddening’, and ‘the robin was beginning to assert himself once more’, and the fields of yellow wheat ‘full of quiet motion and small whisperings…dancing, shimmering, softly talking…swaying strongly to the passing wind and recovering itself with a toss and a merry laugh’, all so beautifully written.

Meanwhile, Toad wakes up in the hollow of the tree, cold and hungry and wondering where he is, and then remembers that he is free, and ‘marched forth into the comfortable morning sun, cold but confident, hungry but hopeful’. He follows a canal and presently sees a barge being pulled by a horse and steered by a woman. Toad appeals to her for help, in his disguise as a washerwoman, and she offers him a lift saying she is going near Toad Hall, which is where Toad (as the washerwoman) says his daughter lives close to. Toad then begins boasting of his fine laundry business and his skill at washing clothes, resulting in the woman asking him to do some laundry for her. He doesn’t know how to do the laundry, and the woman laughs at his efforts saying she thought from the start that he was lying due to ‘the conceited way you talked’, resulting in Toad losing his temper and calling her names and demanding respect from her as he is the ‘well-known, respected, distinguished Toad’, at which she hurls him off the barge. He angrily and revengefully steals her horse and gallops off on it. The horse goes some way but then stops to eat grass. Toad then sees a gipsy by a caravan cooking a deliciously smelling meal in a pot and he begins planning how he can get some of the food, when the gipsy asks if he can buy the horse. After some wrangling, Toad agrees to a price which includes as much as he can eat of ‘the most beautiful stew in the world’. Toad eventually leaves feeling much more positive, now he has eaten and he has some money and his clothes are now dry from sitting in the sun and he has directions from the gipsy on the route home, he feels ‘big, and strong, and careless, and self-confident…and his pride and self-conceit began to swell within him’ as he considers how clever he has been so far, which results in him devising a song praising himself. He sees a car approaching along the road behind him which he decides to hail, hoping he can arrive in style at Toad Hall, which he feels would ‘be one in the eye for Badger’. But he realises too late that the approaching car is the one which he had stolen before, and he collapses in terror thinking he will be dragged back to prison, berating himself for being so conceited and over-confident to be outside in the daytime when he can be discovered. The occupants of the car stop and carry Toad inside, thinking she is a washerwoman who has fainted and planning to take her to the next village. Toad begins to feel more courageous when he realises that he hasn’t been recognised so begins to talk to them, then asks if he can sit in the front of the car, then asks if he can have a go at driving the car, all of which the men agree to, being amused at the ‘washerwoman’s’ interest and guiding ‘her’ on how to drive a car. Toad then drives faster and faster, ‘the old cravings…took possession of him entirely’. He gets so confident that he shouts out that he is ‘the famous, the skilful, the entirely fearless Toad’, and the occupants of the car immediately recognise him as the earlier thief and try to grab him, resulting in the car crashing into a pond. Toad is thrown from the car to safety, and then runs away from the scene. He eventually stops running, exhausted and congratulating himself again on his cleverness, until he spots one of the drivers and two policemen chasing after him. He tries to outrun them but they gain on him, and as he looks behind at his pursuers he falls into the river which bears him along swiftly, while he promises himself he will never steal a car or sing a conceited song ever again. He reaches out desperately at a hole in the bank, and it is Rat’s hole and Rat pulls him to safety. I like the description of the canal running alongside the road, like ‘a shy little brother…which took its hand and ambled along by its side in perfect confidence’. But why oh why can’t Toad ever learn not to boast?! I quite despaired with him in this chapter as he seems to be safe and then can’t help boasting and getting himself into danger again, I actually found it quite stressful seeing it all unfold, I felt I couldn’t relax with Toad’s seeming good fortune in being helped, as I ended up feeling sure that he would shortly mess it up in some way! And what wonderful luck that he ends up at Rat’s home. I just hope he will remember his final vows of not being boastful any more…!

Toad is safe in Rat’s hall and immediately begins boasting of his ‘escapes, such disguises, such subterfuges, and all so cleverly planned and carried out’, but Rat interrupts him telling him to ‘stop swaggering and arguing’ and to get dry and clean and put on some of Rat’s clothes and then sit down for something to eat. Toad again tries to tell Rat of his escapades whilst they eat their meal, but Rat tells him he’s been ‘an awful ass’, and points out all the difficult things that Toad has had to go through which have all been caused by him stupidly stealing a motor-car, and tells him he should try to be a credit to his friends. Toad is humbled and admits he’s been conceited, and that he will aim to be good and quiet and respectable from now and states that he is finished with motor-cars. Rat then breaks the news to him that in his absence Toad Hall has been taken over by the weasels and stoats and ferrets of the Wild Wood, he explains that Badger and Mole had at the start been sleeping at Toad Hall in order to look after the place for Toad’s return (they being convinced that Toad would find a way to return), but that hundreds of armed Wild Wooders stormed the Hall one evening and threw out Badger and Mole, after beating them with sticks, and these Wild Wooders have lived there ever since. Toad angrily marches off to Toad Hall but is shot at and Rat’s boat (which he has travelled there in) is smashed and sunk. Rat is annoyed at the loss of his boat and also the loss of the clothes which he had lent to Toad, as these have now been ruined by the river water when Toad sank with the boat. Rat tells Toad that Badger and Mole have since been camping out near Toad Hall trying to watch over Toad’s property and to devise a plan to get it back for him. Later that evening, Badger and Mole return, looking tired and muddy but both of them greeting Toad with pleasure. They all eat dinner at Rat’s, consisting of cold pie and cold beef and cheese and pickles. Mole praises Toad, asking him for details of his escape, but Rat tells Mole not to encourage Toad. Badger tells Toad off, saying he should be ashamed of himself and that his father would be ashamed of him. Discussion then turns to Toad Hall, and Rat and Mole and Toad all begin to say they each have a plan to deal with the Wild Wooders, but Badger interrupts them saying he has the best plan to be followed, and the others instantly stop and listen to him. Badger explains that he was great friends with Toad’s father, who told him about a secret underground passage he’d discovered and repaired which runs from the river bank to under the butler’s pantry at Toad’s Hall, adding that he had begged Badger not to tell Toad of this as Toad is ‘light and volatile in character, and simply cannot hold his tongue’. Badger adds that he has learnt that it is the Chief Weasel’s birthday tomorrow night so all the weasels will be inside the Hall eating and drinking and celebrating, so he suggests that they take them by surprise by coming up the secret passage. The following morning, Rat collects together swords and pistols and other weapons for each of them, though Badger says they will only need sticks as they have the element  of surprise and he believes they will be able to clear the weasels out in five minutes. Mole also goes over to Toad Hall dressed in Toad’s washerwoman outfit, telling the guarding stoats that her daughter does Mr Badger’s laundry and has heard of a plan that hundreds of heavily armed animals will attack Toad Hall that night, which causes chaos and panic in the stoats. Rat and Toad can’t see Mole’s reasoning for doing this and are critical of him for warning the stoats ahead of their real plan, but Badger praises Mole wholeheartedly. They have lunch of bacon and broad-beans followed by macaroni pudding, then Badger rests while Rat continues stockpiling weapons and Mole listens to Toad’s stories. Oh, so my hope of Toad remembering his final vow of not boasting any more really didn’t last long at all! And good old Rat bringing him down to size. And I like that Toad’s father had a poor opinion of him too, hopefully this realisation and the hurt that it caused may stay with Toad. But poor Badger and Mole being beaten by the Wild Wooders, bless them. And poor Rat’s boat is destroyed too, that did make me sad thinking of the time he spent working on it and the excursions (and picnics!) he and Mole had had in it. But I love their yummy sounding supper and lunch! And good old commanding and calm Badger with his plan of using the secret underground passage to access Toad Hall, and I love that he found out the information about the Chief Weasel’s birthday by getting lovely Otter to disguise himself as a sweep and go there asking for work, bless him. And I did chuckle at Rat trying to correct Toad’s speech, and then Badger placidly stating that he speaks that way and there is nothing wrong with it. I have to admit, I did get a bit tired of Toad’s promises to behave better and then a few minutes later acting selfishly or boastfully again and then promising to be good again, etc, etc, I can imagine little kids are delighted with him but I just find him a bit wearying after a time, especially in comparison with the other worthwhile and steady characters.

Rat hands out all their weapons, being ‘very earnest and thoroughgoing about it’, along with a flask and a sandwich-case. They head down the secret passage, though Toad annoys Badger by firstly falling in the river at the entrance and then lagging behind and then running to catch them up and knocking into them in the dark, so Badger threatens Toad that he will be left behind but Rat promises to take charge of him. They can hear the weasels and ferrets partying loudly, as they approach the trap-door in the floor of the butler’s pantry, including singing mocking songs of Toad, so they are able to lift the trap-door without any fear of being heard. The four animals leap out shouting fiercely and waving their weapons, and it seems to the surprised weasels and ferrets that there are many more than four of them so they all flee within five minutes, as Badger had foreseen. At Badger’s request, Mole goes outside to check on the guarding stoats, but they had all fled as soon as they heard the noise inside due to already being apprehensive after Mole’s stories (as the washerwoman) of the expected attack from hundreds of animals, and Mole then takes a few of the prisoners upstairs and supervises them making up four bedrooms tidily and cleanly, Badger saying he can trust Mole to ensure that this task is done properly, adding that he can’t trust Toad to do this task and that he would have considered giving the task to Rat ‘if he wasn’t a poet’. Mole reports that the prisoners willingly did what was asked of them without any need for him to be violent towards them as the prisoners had ‘said they wouldn’t think of troubling me’ to be violent, and the prisoners were also very apologetic and blamed everything on the Chief Weasel and the stoats, and promised to help in the future if needed. Rat and Toad gather food from the weasels’ feast, and they all have a meal of guava jelly, cold chicken, tongue, lobster salad, French rolls, cheese, butter, and celery, followed by trifle. Toad thanks and praises Mole for his cleverness with the stoats that morning and for his hard work that evening, and Badger is pleased with Toad for saying this. The following morning, Badger tells Toad that he will have to hold a banquet at Toad Hall, to let everyone know of the victory. Toad writes out all the invitations stating on them that he will be giving speeches and singing songs regarding his bravery, but Badger and Rat tell him that there will be no songs or speeches from him as he always acts conceitedly and boastfully when he speaks or sings to a crowd and that he needs to be turning over a new leaf and aiming to be respected in the neighbourhood rather than being regarded as a laughing stock. Rat had already suspected Toad of being determined to mention speeches and songs on the invitations so he intercepts Toad’s fancifully written invitations and replaces them with more sensibly-worded invitations. Toad is sad at this but promises them that ‘henceforth I will be a very different Toad’. He sings one song to himself in the privacy of his bedroom but at the banquet he conducts himself as Badger and Rat had requested him to and refrains from boasting or telling stories, informing everyone that Badger was the brains and that Rat and Mole did most of the fighting. He is proud to see Badger and Rat looking pleased at him, though astonished to see ‘he was indeed an altered toad’. In the next few days, Toad sends a gift and a thankful letter to the prison guard’s daughter and the train engine driver, and even sends the value of the horse to the barge-woman. The book ends with the summary that the four friends often walk in the Wild Wood, now it is tamed, and are pointed out and praised by the residents. Hmmm, I was a bit surprised with Rat’s enthusiasm for violence with all the weaponry he gathered together, but I guess we had seen an example of this when he went into the Wild Wood to rescue Mole. And I love that Rat added a flask and a sandwich-case to everyone’s supplies! And Toad being annoying to the last, sigh, with him causing bother in the secret passage, I guess he was scared at what lay ahead but being conceited (again) he didn’t want to admit that, whereas I think he’d have done better to just be honest and say he was scared, I certainly would have liked him more for that. And wise of Badger not to praise Toad for his actions in the battle, knowing that Toad was expecting praise and that it would only play to his boastful side, even though Toad was brave in the fight, seeing off the Chief Weasel. But good that Badger later praises Toad, when Toad thanks Mole, and this action of Toad’s in thanking Mole almost gives me hope that Toad could have finally learnt his lesson (though I’ve had that thought before!). And obviously I love the sound of their feast taken from the weasels, all that wonderful food, and finishing with trifle, tee hee! Mole really comes out of it all looking pretty wonderful, with him scaring away the guarding stoats with his stories, and controlling the prisoners to clean and tidy the bedrooms. Though I’m a bit puzzled at Badger’s comment about Rat being a poet so not capable of dealing with the prisoners, what does he mean by that?! Admittedly Rat doesn’t seem to be offended but I’m slightly offended for him, it was Rat who had them all armed with weapons so he’s clearly able to be intimidating, or was it the potential beating of the prisoners that Badger thought Rat would be uncomfortable with, but that Mole wouldn’t? And we have Toad being his usual boastful self one more time with the invitations, but I am heartened to see that this time he seemed to take Badger’s and Rat’s advice on board and to have finally (?!) changed, hurrah!

Awww, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it was as relaxing and comforting and nostalgic and charming as I expected it to be and beautifully written, yet was also poetic and with some interesting characterisations and some humour. I still stick with Rat as the best character, though Mole does credit to himself as the book goes on. I see Kenneth Grahame has also written some other books, The Golden Age sounds particularly beautiful, and also the sequel to it, Dream Days, so I will look for those books as I am keen to read them. And I also thought often of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books whilst reading this book, with all the emphasis on food and picnics (!), so I’ll start those at the beginning again, the first two books being Five on a Treasure Island and Five Go Adventuring Again, and I will enjoy re-reading those. And reading The Wind in the Willows also reminded me fondly of Beatrix Potter’s books and made me wish those had been longer and in more depth, like this book, I always loved best The Tale of Samuel Whiskers, The Tailor of Gloucester, The Tale of Benjamin Bunny, and The Tale of Two Bad Mice, which then makes me think I am overdue a re-read of those lovely books too. I was also reminded of Diane Setterfield’s lovely book Once Upon a River with all the beautiful descriptions of the river, and I’ve been meaning to re-read that book for ages as well.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame available on Amazon
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Latest Book Reviews

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Nella Last’s Peace, edited by Patricia Malcolmson and Robert Malcolmson
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
Melmoth The Wanderer by Charles Maturin
Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy L Sayers
The Christmas Egg by Mary Kelly
The Hollow Hills by Mary Stewart
Bedknobs and Broomsticks by Mary Norton
Melmoth by Sarah Perry
The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim
It Walks By Night by John Dickson Carr
The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels by Janice Hallett
Twenty Years After by Alexandre Dumas
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy
The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The Bible in Spain by George Borrow
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Singing Sands by Josephine Tey
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