The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

The Wind in the Willows book cover
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What happens in The Wind in the Willows?

One spring day, Mole decides to leave home and walk through a meadow. He marvels at the beauty of nature, having never ventured out of his neighborhood before. On a riverbank, he meets Rat, who invites him to a picnic on the other side of the river. Otter joins them, but the antisocial Badger decides not to.

  • Rat invites Mole to live with him as his guest. One day, the two friends decide to visit Toad at Toad Hall despite Toad's reputation as a wealthy playboy. When Rat and Mole arrive, Toad is putting together a gypsy caravan. He convinces Rat and Mole to join them, but their adventure is cut short by a speeding car that cuts off the caravan.
  • Spring turns into summer, and summer into fall. Mole gets lost in the Wild Wood one winter afternoon after leaving the house alone. Rat finds him, and the two take shelter with Badger, who tells him that Toad has bought seven cars and crashed every single one of them. Badger plans to deal with Toad in due time.
  • That summer, Badger confronts Toad about his reckless ways. Badger locks Toad in his room, but Toad escapes and steals a car. He's later caught and sentenced to twenty years in jail, but he bribes a prison guard and escapes. That fall, Toad is very nearly captured, but Rat and Mole help him reclaim Toad Hall. At last, the friends live in peace, listening to the wind in the willows. 

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Summary

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Mole has spring fever, for he has been busy with his cleaning and his repairing for too long. Because the new spring smells and the sight of budding green are everywhere about him, he cannot resist them. Throwing aside his tools and his mops, together with his ambition for cleaning, he leaves his little home under the ground and travels up to a lovely meadow. There he wanders through the grass and along the river. He never saw a river before, and he is bewitched by its chuckling and its glimmering in the sunlight.

As he watches, Mole sees a dark hole in the bank. From it protrudes the bewhiskered face of Water Rat, who promptly invites Mole to visit him. Mole, of course, cannot swim, and so Rat takes his little boat and rows across to get him. Such enchantment is almost too much for quiet Mole. As they glide across the gurgling water, he thinks this is the best day of his entire life. After a little accident, they reach Rat’s house. There they pack a picnic basket and set out on a real excursion. They stay carefully away from the Wild Wood, for fierce animals live there. Badger keeps his home there, but nobody will dare bother Badger.

As they float down the river, Rat tells Mole about other animals and about the Wide World. Rat never saw the Wide World and never wanted to see it, and he warns Mole against it. It is no place for respectable animals. When they stop for their picnic lunch, they are joined by Otter. Badger looks in on them but will not join them. Badger hates society. He likes people all right, but he hates society. Rat promises that they will meet Badger later, for Mole...

(The entire section is 2,880 words.)