The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Wind in the Willows relates the adventures of four characters in a series of chapters, each of which forms a complete story focusing on one or more of the four. Together, the chapters, whose plot lines sometimes intermix, follow the adventures of Toad.

Mole, a main character, abandons spring cleaning to stroll along the riverbank, where he meets the friendly Water Rat, who shows him the joys of “messing about in boats.” After some time, the two friends become involved with the third character, Toad, the rich owner of the palatial Toad Hall.

The eccentric Toad persuades Mole and Rat to accompany him on a journey in his well-appointed gypsy caravan. This, however, is overturned when the horse pulling it bolts at the sight and sound of a motorcar. Mole and Rat are happy to return home safely; Toad, though, has acquired a fixation with motorcars.

Across the river is the Wild Wood, inhabited by creatures that are vicious, except for the gruff, reclusive Badger, who lives underground in this area. Mole, exploring the Wood, gets lost, but he and his rescuer, Rat, find shelter with Badger.

Toad’s adventures begin to appear in alternating chapters, forming a complete story of their own. Enamored of expensive motorcars, he wrecks one after another until his friends lock him in his bedroom to cure him of his mania. Through trickery, he escapes; he then steals a car and drives it off.

Toad is...

(The entire section is 502 words.)

Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


River. Fictional river in England that flows to the sea past meadows, woods, and towns and which serves as the focus of the novel. The river, never named in the story, is modeled after the rivers of southern England well known to Kenneth Grahame throughout his life. It gurgles along its course between banks covered with rushes, flowers, reeds, and trees—silver birch, alder, and willow trees. As the novel progresses, it is the setting for Rat’s patient tutelage of Mole, Mole’s growing skill as a boatman, Otter’s despair over the disappearance of his son, Toad’s near-drowning following his escape from prison, and Rat and Mole’s mystical encounter with Pan.


Riverbank. Rat’s home, a multichambered hole in the muddy riverbank just above the water line. It is a marvel of cozy domesticity with its parlor where armchairs are pulled close to the fireside, its kitchen which supplies the food for the table and picnic baskets, and its bedrooms offering rest in their soft sheets and blankets.

Toad Hall

Toad Hall. Toad’s home, a large English country house with lawns sloping down to the river. In keeping with his bombastic character, Toad’s home is a grandiose establishment. In addition to an imposing brick manor house it includes a banqueting hall, a coach house and stable-yard, and a boathouse. Toad, careless in so many ways, is equally careless in appreciating all...

(The entire section is 412 words.)

Historical Context

(Novels for Students)

Grahame was born during the Victorian Era, when the British Empire was at its peak. Its financial institutions were strong and stable. Their...

(The entire section is 660 words.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The Wind in the Willows is set in the English countryside along the banks of the River in a locale similar to that of Cookham Dene....

(The entire section is 144 words.)

Literary Style

(Novels for Students)

Golden Age of Children’s Literature
The Golden Age of children’s literature has been defined as lasting from the...

(The entire section is 334 words.)

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The Wind in the Willows is told in the style of many children's bedtime stories. The tales can function as separate stories or be read...

(The entire section is 490 words.)

Social Sensitivity

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

There is very little in The Wind in the Willows that could cause even the youngest reader difficulties. What little violence there is...

(The entire section is 202 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Novels for Students)

1908: The speed limit for automobiles is 20 miles per hour (mph) in England. Automobiles are found mostly in Western Europe...

(The entire section is 192 words.)

Topics for Discussion

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. In "The River Bank" what was it that enticed Mole into the open air? Why was he so enchanted by the outdoors?

2. What kind of...

(The entire section is 225 words.)

Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Grahame seems to believe that the countryside is a better place to be than the city. How do the stories in The Wind in the Willows...

(The entire section is 317 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Novels for Students)

Grahame focuses on the mammals, and one amphibian, that live in and around a river. What else can be found in a riverbank ecosystem? Write a...

(The entire section is 168 words.)

Related Titles / Adaptations

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Although Kenneth Grahame wrote only one novel, The Wind in the Willows, he published three collections of his essays: Pagan Papers,...

(The entire section is 215 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Novels for Students)

1996 film portrayal Published by Gale Cengage

In 1930, A. A. Milne wrote a successful musical stage version called Toad of Toad Hall, which focuses on the adventures of Toad. A....

(The entire section is 106 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Novels for Students)

Grahame’s The Golden Age (1895) is a collection of stories about five imaginative children retreating from...

(The entire section is 212 words.)

For Further Reference

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Chalmers, Patrick. Kenneth Grahame: Life, Letters, and Unpublished Work. London: Methuen, 1933. Early account of Grahame's life and...

(The entire section is 74 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Novels for Students)

Gaarden, Bonnie, “The Inner Family of The Wind in the Willows,” in Children’s Literature:...

(The entire section is 339 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Carpenter, Humphrey. “The Wind in the Willows.” In Secret Gardens: A Study of the Golden Age of Children’s Literature. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1985. Carpenter, coauthor of The Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature, concludes that, of all the subjects in his study, only Grahame managed to create a utopian world. For Carpenter, it is the level at which The Wind in the Willows explores the artistic imagination that gives it coherence.

Chalmers, Patrick R. Kenneth Grahame: Life, Letters, and Unpublished Work. London: Methuen, 1933. This biography, appearing a year after Grahame’s death, sentimentalizes...

(The entire section is 258 words.)