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The Wind in the Willows
Illustrated by Paul Bransom
Mole thought his happiness was complete when, as he meandered aimlessly along, suddenly he stood by the edge of a full-fed river. Never in his life had he seen a river before--this sleek, sinuous, full-bodied animal, chasing and chuckling, gripping things with a gurgle and leaving them with a laugh, to fling itself on fresh playmates that shook themselves free, and were caught and held again." Such is the cautious, agreeable Mole's first introduction to the river and the Life Adventurous. Emerging from his home at Mole End one spring, his whole world changes when he hooks up with the good-natured, boat-loving Water Rat, the boastful Toad of Toad Hall, the society- hating Badger who lives in the frightening Wild Wood, and countless other mostly well-meaning creatures.
In the early stages of this story, the spirited and intelligent Water Rat is talking to his best friend, the emotional but easy to please Mr Mole, about his most loved activity. “Nothing seems to matter, that’s the charm of it”, he says. “Whether you get away, or whether you don’t; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you never get anywhere at all, you’re always busy…” When Kenneth Grahame sat down to write his timeless novel he subtly expressed that same viewpoint that the Water Rat had. So at times we begin to wonder whether the events are leading to anything, but one that knows the novel through and through can tell you that that is the charm of it. While the lenient Mr Badger explores his enormous underground residence, Rat and Mole drift down the river in rowing boats, the Otter teaches his son Portly how to swim and Mr Toad discovers a new craze. So by intertwining the quiet, composed life of the “riverbank residents” with the fast-paced action of worldly living, Kenneth Grahame keeps us enthralled. As you embark on this new literature journey, let the spectacular imagery, unique characters and thought-provoking life principles of The Wind in the Willows inspire and uplift your imagination. --Submitted by Joshua D
It is spring, the weather is fine, and good-natured Mole loses patience with his spring cleaning and dares to leave his underground home, heading up to take the air. He ends up at the river, which he has never seen before. Here he meets Ratty (a water vole), who spends all his days in and around the river. Rat takes Mole for a ride in his rowing boat. They get along well and the two of them spend many more days on the river, with Rat teaching Mole the ways of the river. Some time later, one summer day, Rat and Mole find themselves near Toad Hall and pay a visit to Toad. Toad is rich, jovial and friendly, but conceited, and tends to become obsessed about things, only to dismiss them later. Having given up boating, Toad's current craze is his horse-drawn caravan. In fact, he is about to go on a trip, and persuades Rat and Mole to join him. A few days later, a passing motor car scares their horse, causing the caravan to crash. This marks the end of Toad's craze for caravan travel, to be replaced with an obsession for motor cars. Mole wants to meet Badger, who lives in the Wild Wood, but Rat knows that Badger does not appreciate visits. On a winter's day, Mole goes to the Wild Wood to explore, hoping to meet Badger. He gets lost in the woods, succumbs to fright and panic and hides among the roots of a sheltering tree. Rat goes looking for Mole, and finds him, but it starts to snow and even Rat no longer knows the way home. By chance they arrive at Badger's home. Badger welcomes Rat and Mole to his large and very cosy home, and gives them food and dry clothes. Badger learns from Rat and Mole that Toad has crashed six cars and has been hospitalized three times, and has had to spend a fortune on fines. They decide they should do something to protect Toad from himself, since they are, after all, his friends. Some months later, Badger visits Mole and Rat to do something about Toad's self-destructive obsession. The three of them go to visit Toad, and Badger tries talking him out of his behaviour, to no avail. They decide to put Toad under house arrest, with themselves as the guards, until Toad changes his mind. Feigning illness, Toad manages to escape and steals a car. He is caught and sent to prison on a twenty-year sentence.
Rat visits his old friend Otter and finds out that Otter's son is missing. Rat and Mole set out to find him. They receive help from the god Pan who leads them to the location of the missing child. Pan removes their memories of this meeting "lest the awful remembrance should remain and grow, and overshadow mirth and pleasure". In prison, Toad gains the sympathy of the jailor's daughter, who helps him to escape. This involves disguising Toad as a washerwoman. Having escaped, Toad is without possessions and pursued by the police, but he shakes off his pursuers with the help of the driver of a steam train. Still disguised as a washerwoman, Toad comes across a horse-drawn boat. After lying about being a capable washerwoman to the owner of the boat, who offers him a lift in exchange for his laundry services, he gets into a fight with her, steals her horse and sells it to a traveller. He stops a passing car, which happens to be one he stole earlier. However, the owners don't recognize him in disguise, and give him a lift. Toad asks if he can drive, which of course quickly leads to an accident. He flees and by chance arrives at Rat's house. Toad hears from Rat that Toad Hall has been taken over by weasels, stoats and ferrets from the Wild Wood, despite attempts to protect and recover it by Mole and Badger. Although upset at the loss of his house, Toad realizes what good friends he has, and how badly he has behaved. Badger, Rat, Mole and Toad enter Toad Hall via a secret entrance and drive away the intruders. Toad makes up for his earlier wrongdoings by seeking out those he wronged and compensating them. The four friends live out their lives happily ever after.--Submitted by Deep Grade 8B The Millennium School, Dubai, U.A.E.
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