The Wind in the Willows

The Wind in the Willows Summary and Analysis of Chapters 9 and 10


Chapter 9 - "Wayfarers All"

Late in the summer, Rat becomes restless. He can feel the seasons changing and the birds preparing for their impending move South. Feeling betrayed because everyone leaves after summer ends, he wanders the area until he encounters some mice building their homes for the winter. The mice ask him to lend a hand; he declines, instead asking them to walk or row with him for a while. They in turn decline his offer in order to focus on their work.

Next, Rat encounters a group of swallows who are planning their trip South. Upset, Rat asks them to stay, and one swallow explains that he once tried. Staying during winter was fun at first, but the weather got too cold, and he ran out of insects to eat. The other birds discuss the joys of warm weather during winter, and Rat angrily asks why they bother returning to the river at all. Another swallow explains that returning is a natural calling, much like leaving is.

Rat leaves the swallows to their planning, but feels restless to know that so many animals are preparing. Down the road, he sees a foreign-looking animal approaching. Rat introduces himself and invites the animal to his home.

There, he learns that this creature is Sea Rat, who had tried living on a small farm but was now returning to sea after the call got too strong. He explains that he is from Constantinople, but had left there long before in order to explore the world. He loves sailing more than anything else, and invites Rat to join him.

However, Rat hangs back, watching Sea Rat leave. A few minutes later, he gets up in a daze, and starts gathering his things. At that moment, Mole returns to the house. Concerned at Rat's strange mood and his packing, Mole physically stops Rat from leaving.

Realizing he cannot get past Mole, Rat begins to cry. Mole puts him to bed, where he sobs for a while before growing quiet. Then, Mole talks about pleasant things - the weather and the harvest - and Rat slowly pulls himself from his depression. Capitalizing on Rat's changed mood, Mole gives him some paper and pen, so he can write poetry and hopefully feel better.

Chapter 10 - "The Further Adventures of Toad"

Back in the woods, Toad is still working his way back to Toad Hall. Eventually, he finds a horse walking along a riverbank, pulling a barge downriver through a harness. The bargewoman greets Toad, who then cons her into giving him a road to Toad Hall. In exchange, he promises to wash her clothing while they float.

Thinking the job must be easy, he scrubs the fabric for a half-hour, to no avail. Finally, the woman cannot hold her laughter, and calls him out. She never believed he was actually a washerwoman. Humiliated and angry, he accosts the bargewoman until she throws him into the river. In retaliation, he cuts the horse from the barge and rides it down the road as the barge sinks into the water.

Eventually, Toad comes across a traveling peddler, cooking food. Toad strikes a bargain with the peddler, trading the horse for food and some cash. Though he initially works hard to swindle the man, he eventually gives up the attempt from hunger.

After eating, he hits the road again. Soon, he hears a motorcar approaching, and then realizes it is the same car that he had stolen before. He falls down into a heap, terrified that the drivers will recognize him. However, they take pity on him, thinking him a washerwoman, and give him a ride. In the car, Toad soon cannot help himself, and asks if he might drive, pretending it would be his first time. They consent.

At first, Toad’s drives safely, but his returning confidence soon leads him back to reckless speeding. Eventually, he removes his washerwoman clothes and reveals himself. When the car crashes (almost inevitable considering his problems), he runs away. He notices police officers on his tail, and in a panic falls into the river.

He is the midst of drowning when he is fortuitously saved by Rat, who pulls him from the water.


Chapter 9 is the only time that we see Rat falter in his perspective on life. For most of the novel, he is firmly at home on the river, enjoying the carefree life of boating and picnics. However, with the changing seasons, he grows restless by comparing himself to other animals.

By nature, Rat is a sedentary creature, so he cannot understand why other animals are drawn to wander. His conversations (with the mice and sparrows) display instances of reverse anthropomorphism, wherein animals with human characteristics also show themselves to be defined by their animal characteristics. The mice instinctively prepare their homes for winter, while the sparrows travel South only to return again later. Grahame subtly suggests through this reverse anthropomorphism that humans are equally creatures of habit and instinct, even though we do not always acknowledge that part of ourselves.

However, Rat's problem is more akin to a human problem: the midlife crisis. He has lived his whole life by the water, and now yearns, almost irrationally, for something different. This is where Sea Rat comes in. The new animal acts as a foil to Rat: they are both rats, but their lives could not be any more different. Rat has enjoyed stability while Sea Rat needs to keep traveling. Rat likes to be surrounded by his belongings, while Sea Rat carries everything he needs in a small blue handkerchief. It is easy to imagine an older, settled man suddenly doubting his choices when confronted by a younger fellow who is easy to romanticize.

At the same time, Sea Rat sees a protégé in Rat. Recognizing the itch of adventure in Rat’s eyes, he wants to act as mentor. He calls Rat “young brother” and encourages him to seek adventure away from home (120). Sea Rat warns him that he will have to sit around once old age hits, suggesting that he is squandering his life on domesticity. The argument offers a classic dichotomy, between home and adventure, and Rat is restless enough to choose adventure. He yearns for something different than he has, and in the process becomes blind to the virtues of his own life.

Ironically, Rat is saved by Mole, to whom he was previously mentor. Realizing that Rat does not see what is beautiful in his own home and life, Mole first physically restrains the animal and then encourages him to reassess his perspective. First, he focuses on the virtues of river life, and then he forces Rat to write poetry. In effect, he has become the mentor for a moment, by pointing out what Rat was missing.

In Chapter 10, Toad's adventures continues. Though he is shamed to be dressed as a lower-class washerwoman, Toad's mischievous side is excited by the ruse. He remains a complete trickster, clearly blind to the limits of such behavior. In fact, he believes himself capable of anything, including washing clothes, and as a result is more quickly revealed to be a fraud. Grahame reminds us time and again through Toad that the truth comes out, but Toad is slow to learn this lesson.

Similarly, Toad gains no insight from his failure here. Instead of gaining appreciation for how hard people work, Toad lashes out at the bargewoman, shocked that she could ever think the great Toad would wash clothing. Interestingly, the woman never threatens to throw Toad off until he attacks her. Yet again, Toad proves his own worst antagonist.

Two symbols soon make their way back into Toad’s life: the caravan and the car. Both could serve as benchmarks for Toad to measure himself against. He could show his maturity by treating them differently than he did before, but he instead reacts predictably to both. When he first bought a caravan, he did not anticipate how much work life on the road would be. And yet he remains oblivious to how hard the peddler's life must be, trying to swindle the man. He has no empathy for what the swindle might cost the man. Grahame clearly does not appreciate Toad's selfish outlook.

However, Grahame does seem to enjoy a good yarn, evidenced by Toad's inability to control his urges once he returns to the car. While it is easy to attack Toad for his foolishness here, he also keeps the story exciting. Finally, it is no mistake that Rat saves him from his folly. Ultimately, Toad is doomed to destroy himself, except for his one saving grace: his friends.