The Wind in the Willows

The Wind in the Willows Summary and Analysis of Chapters 11 and 12


Chapter 11 - "Like Summer Tempests Came His Tears"

Now that Toad is back at the river, he wants to return immediately to Toad Hall. However, Rat has bad news: weasels and stoats (creatures from the Wild Wood) moved into the property when they learned about Toad's sentence, and are now squatting there. Badger and Mole had tried to save the house, but were chased away by the weasels and stoats.

Angry, Toad rushes to Toad Hall to reclaim his property. However, the interlopers fire at him, and he retreats back to Rat's home.

There, Badger and Mole are waiting with Rat. Toad wants to tell everyone about his post-jail adventure, but Badger chastises him for treating his shameful escape from justice like an epic story. The other animals argue over the best plan to break into the hall, but Badger interrupts with inside knowledge: he had once learned from Toad's father about a secret passageway.

Badger proposes a plan: they will break into Toad Hall during Chief Weasel’s birthday party, during which time the Wild Wood creatures will be taken by surprise. The animals agree.

The next day, Mole returns to tell of a reconnaissance mission that he operated on his own. Dressed in Toad's washerwoman clothing, he warned the Wild Wood guards outside Toad Hall that a huge surge of animals would arrive during the birthday party to defend Toad's honor. Rat and Otter are shocked at Mole's folly, but Badger praises him for his ingenuity; Mole's warning will ensure that more of the weasels and stoats will be outside the house, rather than inside. Toad, meanwhile, is jealous that Badger compliments Mole but pays no attention to him.

Chapter 12 - "The Return of Ulysses"

Later that day, the group collects their weapons and sets out through the tunnels. Once they arrive, they are easily able to surprise and ambush the weasels and stoats in the house. When those Wild Wood guards outside hear the commotion inside, the run away immediately.

Thus, the animals have retaken Toad Hall. Excited to be back, Toad plans secretly to compile a story that begins with his jailbreak and ends with this success. When Badger insists Toad throw a party to celebrate his return, Toad sees the perfect opportunity to tell that story.

At first, Toad imagines an entire event planned around telling his adventure. On the invitations - which he tries to hide since he knows his friends will find the event too self-involved - he prepares a schedule that mostly offers him occasion to talk and sing. Toad was always mocked gently for parties of this sort in the past.

However, the other animals intercept the invitations, and stage an intervention. There, Badger and Rat force Toad to abandon his plan, since such bragging could backfire.

Once the party starts, Toad is angry and humiliated, so he delivers the speech he was preparing, but only to himself in his room. He recites it over and over, then bows to make himself look respectable.

He then joins the other animals downstairs at the party; they are surprised by his behavior, which is entirely gentlemanly. He sings no songs and delivers no speeches. Instead, he is humble and pleasant, a perfect host.

After the party, Badger convinces Toad to reimburse everyone who helped him on his journey from jail.


Chapter 11 is entitled “Like Summer Tempests Came His Tears.” This is an allusion to the Alfred, Lord Tennyson poem “Home they brought her warrior dead.” In the short poem, a warrior's body is brought home to his wife. Though she does not cry during his funeral, she breaks down when her nurse brings her child to her, realizing that her son is now her purpose for living.

The allusion helps to understand how Grahame wishes us to read the final leg of Toad's journey. While Toad's situation is nowhere near as dire as that of the warrior's wife, he realizes at this point that Toad Hall is his own reason for living. While Toad is certainly a ridiculous character, he does have a true passion for his home, not just because it is nice but also because it speaks to his family's legacy. This love of home also resonates with the novel's primary themes, which all center around the value of domesticity.

However, Toad’s personal transformation is not quite complete. As noted in previous Analyses, he continually has occasion to learn lessons, but usually misses those opportunities. Upon returning to relative safety, his first instinct is to gain attention by bragging about his adventure. His pride almost defeated him time and again on his journey, but like the manipulative child he represents, he is too self-involved to improve himself. Instead, he dreams of singing and speechifying, comparing himself to epic heroes. He is oblivious to how manipulative and cruel he was on his trip (sinking the barge and trying to cheat the peddler), because all he cares about is the attention he might receive.

Mole, on the other hand, has clearly changed throughout the novel. Whereas he was was once frightened by or unable to complete adventurous exploits, he now maturely concocts and carries out his own plan to divert the Wild Wood guards. Further, he is able to join his elders - Rat and Badger - in organizing both Toad's intervention and the plan to retake Toad Hall. This could offer another opportunity for Toad's growth - he could notice how Mole has changed through self-analysis. Instead, he merely grows jealous that Mole is getting attention for his new talents.

Similar to that of the previous chapter, Chapter 12’s title also contains an allusion which provides insight into Grahame's purpose. “The Return of Ulysses” alludes to Homer's The Odyssey, the story of the Greek king who was away from his home for twenty years after fighting the Trojan War. The title both comments ironically on Toad's journey - which he sees as grand and epic - and helps to understand how Toad changes in the course of the chapter.

In The Odyssey, Odysseus comes home to find impostors trying to take over his kingdom. Together with a small group of people, he kills the entire group in a well-timed coup. In one way, Grahame is making a comical comparison. The animals here kill nobody and have very little trouble, but they use their ingenuity (a trait for which Odysseus was renowned) to accomplish their purpose. Time and again, Grahame has had fun treating these animal adventures with comically high stakes, and he repeats that approach here by comparing the victory to that which Odysseus enjoys.

However, the title also emphasizes what Toad learns in this final chapter: the value of home. Odysseus struggled for 20 years to return to home, knowing its emotional value, and Toad learns here that Toad Hall is at the core of his being. However, what he discovers through this final chapter is that home is more than a place; it is also a community.

At the top of the chapter, Toad would only be interested in the first reason for this allusion. He sees himself as the hero of an epic journey, and imagines inviting friends over solely to brag about his heroism. In other words, his community matters only as a mean by which he can praise himself. However, once Badger and Rat end his schemes, Toad is forced to confront his feelings about himself, his home, and his community. In his room alone, he performs a strange ritual, performing before an invisible crowd. Basically, he is working his pride out of his system, trying to access the core of his being, his inherent kindness. It is a monumental moment for Toad, because he is finally maturing. With his gentlemanly appearance at the party, he reveals a new personality, one which delights in serving others as host, rather than demanding attention of others. Like Odysseus, he knows the true value of being home - his community.

Then again, Grahame knew he had a delightfully difficult character in Toad, and therefore did not create a solely moral lesson. Toad's transformation is actually not complete at the end of the novel, evidenced by his initial refusal to compensate the barge woman for her horse. Still influenced by class resentments, he feels slighted by the woman, and only Badger can broker a deal for her.

This final point is important for more than just Toad's character, however. It is a final reminder of Grahame's ability as a storyteller. Despite the silly and cute nature of his story, Grahame endeavored to create complex animal characters, none of whom were perfect, just as no human in the world is perfect. All four animals have their faults and vices, and though they all change, they will continue to battle themselves as humans do, providing occasion for us to continue their adventures in our imaginations even after we have finished the final page.