The Wind in the Willows is a 1908 children's novel of twelve chapters by Kenneth Grahame. The novel tells the adventures of the animals Mole, Ratty, Badger and Mr. Toad. It has been read and re-read with pleasure by children and their parents for multiple generations.
Mole is spring cleaning but gets fed up with the work he is doing. He decides to leave his underground home and take a walk in the fresh air. He eventually finds himself at the river, which he has never seen before, and meets the water rat Ratty who takes him for a boat ride. Mole and ratty quickly become friends. Ratty invites Mole to stay with him and teaches him how to row a boat, how to swim and the ways of the river.
In the summer Ratty takes Mole to Toad Hall, the home of the wealthy Mr. Toad. Mr.Toad is a cheerful and friendly character but is also vain and boastful. He becomes completely obsessed with one hobby for a short while before completely losing interest in it and moving on to something else. Before the start of the novel, Toad had been keen on boating but he has given that up and bought a horse-drawn caravan. Toad persuades the reluctant Ratty and Mole to join him on a journey in the caravan. The journey is cut short when the caravan crashes because a car frightens the horse. However, the crash leads to Toad's new obsession with cars.
Mole wants to visit Ratty's friend Badger who lives in the Wild Wood. Ratty does not want to take him there because he knows that Badger does not like visitors. Mole decides to go to the Wild Wood by himself in the hope of meeting Badger but gets hopelessly lost. Ratty goes out looking for Mole but he becomes lost in the snowy Wild Wood too. By chance, the two friends end up at Badger's house. Badger invites them in and gives them warm clothes. Badger tells the two friends that Toad has already crashed six cars and been to hospital three times. Mole, Ratty and Badger agree that Toad has to be saved from himself.
In the spring Badger, Ratty and Mole go to Toad Hall. They try to persuade Toad to give up his obsession with cars but do not have any success. They decide instead to prevent Toad from leaving his own house. However, Toad pretends to be sick and escapes when Mole goes to fetch a doctor. He steals a car, is caught and sentenced to twenty years in prison.
The jailer's daughter befriends Toad and helps him to escape dressed as an old washerwoman. Toad is helped in his escape by a train driver who takes pity on him and, still disguised as an old washerwoman, he is able to bluff his way on board a canal boat and into a car. He insists on driving the car, which he crashes, but is able to make his way back to Ratty's home.
Toad learns that while he has been away the weasels, stoats and ferrets from the Wild Wood have taken over Toad Hall. Toad, Ratty and Badger sneak into Toad Hall through a secret entrance. Fight off the ferrets, stoats and weasels and take back Toad's ancestral home.
Toad sends money to all those who helped him and all those who he wronged. He promises to change his ways and never cause any trouble again.
The first 1908 edition of The Wind in the Willows had no illustrations but many illustrated editions have been published since. Those who have illustrayed the novel include Paul Branson (1913), Arthur Rackham (1940), Tasha Tudor (1966), Michael Hague (1980), Scott McKowen (2005) and Robert Ingpen (2007).
Illustrations by E.H. Shepard, who also illustrated the Winnie-the-Pooh books, were approved by Kenneth Grahame, although he did not live to see them published in 1931.
Toad of Toad Hall, written in 1929 by A.A. Milne, best known as the author of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories, was the first stage adaptation of the The Wind in the Willows. There have been several others, both musicals and straight plays. There have also been numerous radio plays based on the story and readings of the novel on the radio.
The first animated adaptation of the novel was the 1949 Walt Disney film The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. The story of The Wind in the Willows makes up the first half of the film, the second half is based on the unrelated short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving. The Disney adaptation of the novel is brief, centering on the adventures of Mr. Toad. It also differs from the novel in making the horse that pulls Toad's caravan a major character, having the weasels from the Wild Wood being led by a human called Winky and turning Badger into the Scottish Angus MacBadger. The cartoon ends with Mr. Toad flying a plane, which he crashes into Toad Hall, indicating that he has not changed his ways after all. A Disneyland ride, "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride", was inspired by the cartoon.
A stop-motion animated film of The Wind in the Willows was made for British television. It first aired in the United Kingdom on the ITV network on December 27, 1983. The film follows the novel closely, although it also ends with Toad crashing a plane into Toad Hall. The film spawned a stop-motion animated TV series of fifty-two episodes that originally ran on ITV in the UK between 1984 and 1990. Some of the episodes of the series are based on material from the novel which was left out of the 1983 film.
Other adaptations include an American animated version from 1987, a British animated version from 1995, a 1996 live action movie, released as The Wind in the Willows in Britain and as Mr. Toad's Wild Ride in the United States, which starred former Monty Python members Terry Jones, John Cleese and Eric Idle and a 2006 live action TV movie jointly produced by the British BBC and the Canadian CBC.
- Sound files of public domain audiobook of The Wind in the Willows from LibriVox; Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9, Chapter 10, Chapter 11, Chapter 12