The Wind in the Willows

The Wind in the Willows Study Guide

Though published over 100 years ago, The Wind the Willows has survived as a classic children's novel, one which has been in print since initial publication and continues to delight children even today.

Kenneth Grahame created the characters of Toad, Mole, Rat, and Badger through bedtime stories told to his son Alastair around 1904. Even while Alastair was away at school, Grahame’s letters continued the animals’ adventures. However, it was not until Grahame moved to the country in 1908 that he found the tranquility to compile these stories together into the novel The Wind in the Willows.

Grahame’s first two novels, The Golden Age and Dreamy Days, had been received with great acclaim by the critics, so he was shocked when The Wind in the Willows had trouble finding a publisher. It was not until American President Theodore Roosevelt lobbied for the book’s publication that Methuen and Co. decided to print the work. Critics were initially harsh, since Grahame's first books had followed an orphan family named the Olympians, and they expected a continuation of that story. And yet these negative reviews did not deter the public from devouring the book; it was an instant success.

Despite the novel's very British veneer, readers of all generations and nationalities have fallen in love with the four animal characters, their friendship, and their adventures. As the story was written during the golden era of children’s literature, it contains quaint, moralistic themes that most parents want their children to follow. And yet it is not just a collection of moral tales, but also an exciting adventure. To keep children interested in the story, Grahame included Toad’s wild ride which moved the plot forward and provided a cohesion that the otherwise disconnected tales might lack.

The novel is so popular that it has inspired several adaptations and reprintings. Over the years, illustrators and filmmakers have created their own versions of these iconic characters, and many editions features different artistic styles in the illustrations. The Wind in the Willows remains a fixture on children's literature lists, and will most assuredly remain a classic for many generations to come.