The Wind in the Willows
Cover of the first edition (with illustration by W. Graham Robertson)
AuthorKenneth Grahame
Original titleWillows whistle
IllustratorErnest H. Shepard (1931)
Arthur Rackham (1940)
Charles van Sandwyk (2007)
GenreChildren's novel
Publication date
8 October 1908[1]
Publication placeUnited Kingdom
TextThe Wind in the Willows at Wikisource

The Wind in the Willows is a classic children's novel by the British novelist Kenneth Grahame, first published in 1908. It details the story of Mole, Ratty, and Badger as they try to help Mr. Toad, after he becomes obsessed with motorcars and gets into trouble. It also details short stories about them that are disconnected from the main narrative. The novel was based on bedtime stories Grahame told his son Alastair. It has been adapted numerous times for both stage and screen.

The Wind in the Willows received negative reviews upon its initial release, but it has since become a classic of British literature. It was listed at No. 16 in the BBC's survey The Big Read[2] and has been adapted multiple times in different media.


Main article: Kenneth Grahame

In 1899, at age 40, Kenneth Grahame married Elspeth Thomson, the daughter of Robert William Thomson. The next year they had their only child, a boy named Alastair (nicknamed "Mouse"). He was born premature, blind in one eye, and plagued by health problems throughout his life.[3] When Alastair was about four years old, Grahame would tell him bedtime stories, some of which were about a toad, and on his frequent boating holidays without his family he would write further tales of Toad, Mole, Ratty, and Badger in letters to Alastair.[4]

In 1908, Grahame took early retirement from his position as secretary of the Bank of England. He moved with his wife and son to an old farmhouse in Blewbury, Berkshire. There, he used the bedtime stories he had told Alastair as a basis for the manuscript of The Wind in the Willows.

Plot summary

With the arrival of spring and fine weather outside, the good-natured Mole loses patience with spring cleaning, exclaiming, "Hang spring cleaning!" He leaves behind his underground home and comes up at the bank of the river, which he has never seen before. Here he meets Rat, a water vole, who takes Mole for a ride in his rowing boat. They get along well and spend many more days boating, with "Ratty" teaching Mole the ways of the river, with the two friends living together in Ratty's riverside home.

One summer day, Rat and Mole disembark near the grand Toad Hall and pay a visit to Toad. Toad is rich, jovial, friendly, and kindhearted, but sometimes arrogant and rash; he regularly becomes obsessed with current fads, only to abandon them abruptly. His current craze is his horse-drawn caravan. When a passing car scares his horse and causes the caravan to overturn into a ditch, Toad's craze for caravan travel is immediately replaced by an obsession with motorcars.

Mole goes to the Wild Wood on a snowy winter's day, hoping to meet the elusive but virtuous and wise Badger. He gets lost in the woods, succumbs to fright, and hides among the sheltering roots of a tree. Rat finds him as snow begins to fall in earnest. Attempting to find their way home, Mole barks his shin on the boot scraper on Badger's doorstep. Badger welcomes Rat and Mole to his large, cosy underground home, providing them with hot food, dry clothes, and reassuring conversation. Badger learns from his visitors that Toad has crashed seven cars, has been in hospital three times, and has spent a fortune on fines.

With the arrival of spring, the three of them put Toad under house arrest with themselves as the guards, but Toad pretends to be sick and tricks Ratty to leave so he can escape. Badger and Mole continue to live in Toad Hall in the hope that Toad may return. Toad orders lunch at The Red Lion Inn and then sees a motorcar pull into the courtyard. Taking the car, he drives it recklessly, is caught by the police, and is sent to prison for 20 years.

In prison, Toad gains the sympathy of the gaoler's daughter, who helps him to escape disguised as a washerwoman. After a long series of misadventures, he returns to the hole of the Water Rat. Rat hauls Toad inside and informs him that Toad Hall has been taken over by weasels, stoats, and ferrets from the Wild Wood, who have driven out Mole and Badger. Armed to the teeth, Badger, Rat, Mole, and Toad enter through the tunnel and pounce upon the unsuspecting Wild-Wooders who are holding a celebratory party. Having driven away the intruders, Toad holds a banquet to mark his return, during which he behaves both quietly and humbly. He makes up for his earlier excesses by seeking out and compensating those he has wronged, and the four friends live happily ever after.

In addition to the main narrative, the book contains several independent short stories featuring Rat and Mole, such as an encounter with the wild god Pan while searching for Otter's son Portly, and Ratty's meeting with a Sea Rat. These appear for the most part between the chapters chronicling Toad's adventures, and they are often omitted from abridgements and dramatisations.

Main characters

Supporting characters


This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources in this section. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (September 2017) (Learn how and when to remove this message)
The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, frontispiece to a 1913 edition by Paul Bransom

The original publication of the book was plain text, with a frontispiece illustrated by Graham Robertson, but many illustrated, comic, and annotated versions have been published over the years. Notable illustrators include Paul Bransom (1913), Nancy Barnhart (1922), Wyndham Payne (1927), Ernest H. Shepard (1931), Arthur Rackham (1940), Richard Cuffari (1966), Tasha Tudor (1966), Michael Hague (1980), Scott McKowen (2005), and Robert Ingpen (2007).


A number of publishers rejected the manuscript. It was published in the UK by Methuen and Co., and later in the US by Scribner. The critics, who were hoping for a third volume in the style of Grahame's earlier works, The Golden Age and Dream Days, generally gave negative reviews.[4] The public loved it, however, and within a few years it sold in such numbers that many reprints were required, with 100 editions reached in Britain alone by 1951.[11] In 1909, then US President Theodore Roosevelt wrote to Grahame to tell that he had "read it and reread it, and have come to accept the characters as old friends".[12]

In The Enchanted Places, Christopher Robin Milne wrote of The Wind in the Willows:

A book that we all greatly loved and admired and read aloud or alone, over and over and over: The Wind in the Willows. This book is, in a way, two separate books put into one. There are, on the one hand, those chapters concerned with the adventures of Toad; and on the other hand there are those chapters that explore human emotions – the emotions of fear, nostalgia, awe, wanderlust. My mother was drawn to the second group, of which "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn" was her favourite, read to me again and again with always, towards the end, the catch in the voice and the long pause to find her handkerchief and blow her nose. My father, on his side, was so captivated by the first group that he turned these chapters into the children's play, Toad of Toad Hall. In this play one emotion only is allowed to creep in: nostalgia.



Theatrical films



Web series


The BBC has broadcast a number of radio productions of the story. Dramatisations include:

Abridged readings:

Other presentation formats:

Sequels and alternative versions



Mapledurham House in Oxfordshire was an inspiration for Toad Hall,[26] although Hardwick House and Fawley Court also make this claim.[27]

The village of Lerryn in Cornwall claims to be the setting for the book.[28]

Simon Winchester suggested that the character of Ratty was based on Frederick Furnivall, a keen oarsman and acquaintance of Grahame.[29] However, Grahame himself said that this character was inspired by his good friend, the writer Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch. Grahame wrote this in a signed copy he gave to Quiller-Couch's daughter, Foy Felicia.[30]

The Scotsman[31] and Oban Times[32] suggested The Wind in the Willows was inspired by the Crinan Canal, because Grahame spent some of his childhood in Ardrishaig.

There is a proposal that the idea for the story arose when its author saw a water vole beside the River Pang in Berkshire, southern England. A 29 hectare extension to the nature reserve at Moor Copse, near Tidmarsh Berkshire, was acquired in January 2007 by the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust.[33]

Peter Ackroyd in his book, Thames: sacred river, asserts that "Quarry Wood, bordering on the river [Thames] at Cookham Dean, is the original of [the] 'Wild Wood'..."[34]

In popular culture


Adventure rides


See also


  1. ^ "Classic Willows story turns 100". BBC News. 2008. Retrieved 5 September 2022.
  2. ^ "The Big Read top 200". BBC. April 2003. Retrieved 17 January 2013.
  3. ^ Bootle, Robin; Bootle, Valerie (1990). The Story of Cookham. Privately published. p. 188. ISBN 0-9516276-0-0.
  4. ^ a b "Biography". Kenneth Grahame Society. Archived from the original on 14 February 2015. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  5. ^ E. H. Shepard ill. ed, Charles Scribner's Sons, US, introduction.
  6. ^ Grahame, Kenneth (2009), Lerer, Seth (ed.), The Wind in the Willows (annotated ed.), Belknap Press / Harvard University Press, ISBN 978-0-674-03447-1
  7. ^ Grahame, Kenneth (2009), Gauger, Annie; Jacques, Brian (eds.), The Annotated Wind in the Willows, Norton Annotated Series, Norton, ISBN 978-0-393-05774-4
  8. ^ "Wind in the Willows musical set for world premiere". BBC News.
  9. ^ "The Wind in the Willows (Illustrated by David Petersen)". IDW Publishing. Archived from the original on 2 October 2017. Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  10. ^ "The Wind in the Willows". Simon & Schuster, Inc.
  11. ^ Galvin, Elizabeth (2021). The Real Kenneth Grahame. Barnsley, South Yorkshire: Pen and Sword Books. p. 131. ISBN 978-1-52674-880-5.
  12. ^ "First edition of The Wind in the Willows sells for £32,400". The Guardian. 24 March 2010. Retrieved 4 November 2014..
  13. ^ "The Wind in the Willows: short play or musical adaptation for children". 30 July 2005. Archived from the original on 1 July 2013. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
  14. ^ "The Wind in the Willows (Musical, Copeland)". Dramatic Publishing Company. Retrieved 1 March 2017.
  15. ^ "Julian Fellowes to write Wind in the Willows Musical".
  16. ^ "The Wind in the Willows/Der Wind in den Weiden work page at Boosey & Hawkes music publisher". Retrieved 7 June 2020.
  17. ^ Gordon, Andrew; Whitney, Bruce (12 September 2013). The Wind in the Willows: A Musical in Two Acts. ISBN 978-0985239350.
  18. ^ Post, Douglas. Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows: A Musical. Dramatic Publishing Company. ISBN 9780871291721.
  19. ^ "Douglas Post - Published Works". Retrieved 4 September 2023.
  20. ^ "The Wind in the Willows (1987) (TV)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 16 February 2009.
  21. ^ "IMDb". IMDb..
  22. ^ "Rotten Tomatoes: del Toro on why Wind in the Willows went away". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on 5 February 2009. Retrieved 9 May 2009.
  23. ^ The Wind in the Willows.
  24. ^ "Audible: The Wind in the Willows". Retrieved 14 August 2021.
  25. ^ Paik, Christine (19 March 2002). "NPR report". NPR. Archived from the original on 28 January 2012. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  26. ^ West, Mark (2003). A Children's Literature Tour of Great Britain. Scarecrow Press Inc. pp. 49–51. Archived from the original on 14 January 2015. Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  27. ^ Winn, Christopher (2010). I Never Knew That about the River Thames. Ebury Publishing. pp. 84–85. ISBN 9781407080604. Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  28. ^ "The animals of Wind in the Willows". Inside Out. BBC. 10 January 2005. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  29. ^ Winchester, Simon (2003). The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  30. ^ The copy with Grahame's inscribed identification of Arthur Quiller-Couch as an inspiration for Ratty was auctioned by Bonhams on Tuesday 23 March 2010 for £32,400.Flood, Alison (24 March 2010). "First edition of The Wind in the Willows sells for £32,400". The Guardian.
  31. ^ "Wind whispered in the Scottish willows first". The Scotsman. 16 April 2005. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  32. ^ "Was Crinan the seed for Wind in the Willows?". Oban Times. 11 January 2008. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  33. ^ "Ratty's paradise joins eight new reserves". Natural World. Spring 2007. p. 10..
  34. ^ Ackroyd, Peter (2007). Thames: sacred river. London, UK: Chatto & Windus.
  35. ^ Andrews, Travis M. (5 October 2016). "Historian tortured, killed for first edition of Wind in the Willows, prosecutor tells British jury". The Washington Post. Retrieved 5 October 2016.
  36. ^ "Wind in the Willows murder case a 'vicious' attack". BBC News. 10 July 2017. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  37. ^ "Downton Abbey -- Critical Contexts -- Toad of Toad Hall". Kansas State University. Retrieved 12 August 2021.

Further reading

Online editions