Where is the setting of The Wind in the Willows?
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame was first published in 1908. It does not have an explicit, real location but rather is set in an idealized world populated with talking animals. The basis of this world is the southeastern part of England or "home counties," with the flora, fauna, and terrain all being recognizable as belonging to this area. It is a pastoral environment of farms, villages, forests, and rivers.
Grahame wrote this novel after he retired from his job at the Bank of England. Although Grahame was originally Scottish, after his mother's death, he was raised by his grandmother in Cookham in Berkshire, England and he returned to that area after retirement, enjoying "messing about in boats" and observing local flora and fauna. The River Thames very much influenced the river of the novel and the setting is mainly derived from the area.
In terms of period, the setting is contemporary with the date of publication, as evidenced by the way that cars are presented as a dangerous novelty.
Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows is set in the "old England" of Grahame's Victorian youth. This is a mythic, pastoral space also explored by E.M. Forster in the early years of the twentieth century, when it seemed urbanization, industrialization, population growth, and new money were obliterating the old, slow, traditional rural England of yesteryear.
More specifically, the setting of the novel takes strong inspiration from Grahame's childhood home in Cookham Dean, in the south of England, not too far from London. In 1906, two years before The Wind in the Willows was published, Grahame moved with his family back to Cookham Dean to try to restore his nerves after an attempt on his life. Cookham Dean was his "happy place." But, while much of the setting of the novel is based on this idyllic rural England, with its ponds, isles, waterways, and gentle woods, the Wild Woods in the novel are said to represent the anarchy of the new, unsettled England of modernity.
The novel The Wind In the Willows is a story of several anthropomorphic animals who travel on small adventures. The story is set in a fictitious countryside, but it is reminiscent of the countryside that the author, Kenneth Grahame, would play in as a boy, as well as the places he frequented as a young man.
Grahame would play near the Thames River and would spend a great deal of time, as he says, “messing about in a boat." Additionally, as a boy, he lived briefly in Argyll, Scotland, near which he would play in the countryside. These locations heavily influenced his writing, and the story shows just as much. The novel is set in an idyllic, peaceful yet adventurous countryside, which is a fictional location somewhere in England.
The Wind in the Willows is set in an idealized version of the English countryside. It has no relationship to an actual place in England; rather, the action takes place in and around the types of areas that would be frequented by the characters portrayed by Toad, Mole, Badger and the others. Kenneth Grahame retired from working at The Bank of England in 1908, the year of The Wind in the Willows first publishing, and moved to the English countryside. There he delighted in spending time on and near the River Thames.