It’s taken me a few days longer than I thought it would because I didn’t have the energy to read, but I finally finished The Wind in the Willows (Fantasy 210 pages) by Kenneth Grahame today.
I guess this is usually listed as a children’s book and I think that would mostly be because of the mostly simple nature of the story. None of the characters are particularly young, but it’s possible that the book was written with a younger audience in mind.
I really enjoyed the descriptions of the various aspects of adventures and life. There were definitely a lot of times when I could almost feel the rush of the river or the call of an almost-forgotten home. I enjoyed how the winter in the Wilds Woods went from being dark and frightening to wonderous, or how the simple comforts of home could seem so inviting.
I found the characters a little bit confusing. Not the characters themselves, as they were very nicely described and stayed very easily within their actual lives, but rather the way I couldn’t exactly tell if the animals like Mole and Water Rat and Toad were actually animals. There were times when I thought the entire adventure was taking place on a miniscule level and times when I thought that the animals had somehow grown to be normal human-sized. It kind of made my imagination jump all over the place, which wasn’t really conducive to keeping me entrenched within the story. The dystopian future idea my brain came up with about how this was a time in the distant future where some animals had grown to be normal human-sized and they lived in their own communities neighboring the human ones or even interacting with them was kind of a fun place for my brain to hang out for a while. But my brain also enjoyed the idea of tiny animal communities and how their society mirrored ours. I mean, I used to build Lego houses and pray for some sort of magic that could make me the proper size to live in the house I built. So I like the idea of tiny cities and societies 🙂
I really liked the characters of the Mole and the Water Rat and even the Badger, but I never liked Toad. The Mole and the Water Rat were good friends and took great care of each other. They had adventures and helped each other out with taking care of the house or the boat or getting things done that needed to be done. I liked seeing the Mole’s confidence grow as he went out into the world and experienced so many things and I liked how the Mole the Water Rat and the Badger took care of Toad’s affairs and did everything they could to help him out, even though Toad absolutely never deserved their loyalty or their friendship. Even at the end, I still didn’t like Toad. He was ungrateful for everything and thought that he was the most clever and wonderful person around when he really was the worst sort of person. I’m sure there are people out there that will say that he reformed, but I don’t think so. I think he’ll eventually go back to hurting people and causing hardships for his friends.
Normally, there is at least one character that I relate to or see a bit of myself in, but that didn’t really happen this time. While I enjoyed the different characters greatly, I didn’t see too many attributes that I find in myself. I’d like to think that I could be as loyal as the Mole, the Water Rat, and the Badger with my friends, but I don’t think that I am. I think that in the case of my interpersonal relationships and my friendships that I accept that if no one talks to me that means that I am forgotten and no one cares and that they are all busy living their own lives and are better off without me pestering them. So while I could wish and hope that I would be a solid friend like the Mole, the Water Rat, and the Badger, I don’t know that I actually would be just because I don’t feel like I am fulfilling that role right now.
There was the tiny voice that whispered in my head that maybe I am Toad. Maybe I am the one that is only causing hurt and frustration to the people around me. Maybe I get so wrapped up in an idea that I never stop to consider the ramifications of my actions towards the people around me. But this is a pretty silly train for my brain to jump on, since I really do try pretty hard to be considerate of others. At least, I’d like to pretend that I do. But if nothing else, reading about all the damage that Toad did will make me maybe pause a little bit longer to make sure that I am not actually causing hurt and damage to my surroundings.
About midway through the story, the Mole and the Water Rat meet the Friend and Helper. It’s such a powerful and moving experience for them that once the Friend and Helper has disappeared, the Mole and the Water Rat are filled with such a sense of loss, sorrow, and regret for all they had seen and all they had lost that it almost makes it impossible for them to live their lives again. Where I’m at in my life right now really made this a powerful section for me because of the memory of time and adventures shared. Memories of random drives through the countryside or along the ocean or even just through the local area. Memories of rain and floods and hurricanes. Memories of rock climbing and working out. Memories of watching movies on the couch and laughing at everything. Memories of such beauty and wonder that it makes my heart ache. So when the Friend and Helper gives the Mole and the Water Rat one last gift, I found myself moved with longing. On page 111: “For this is the last best gift that the kindly demi-god is careful to bestow on those to whom he has revealed himself in their helping: the gift of forgetfulness. Lest the awful remembrance should remain and grow, and over-shadow mirth and pleasure, and the great haunting memory should spoil all the after-lives of little animals helped out of difficulties, in order that they should be happy and light-hearted as before.”
Overall, I liked the book. I would probably rate it about a three, as it’s not something that is screaming to me about how wonderful it was, but it’s something that I probably wouldn’t mind reading again. I suspect the next time I read this book, though, that I will just skip over the sections that deal with Toad, as I really didn’t like him.