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...

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The Wind in the Willows 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...

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The Wind in the Willows Historical Context

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

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The Wind in the Willows Setting

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....

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The Wind in the Willows Literary Style

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

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The Wind in the Willows Literary Qualities

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...

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The Wind in the Willows Social Sensitivity

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

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The Wind in the Willows Compare and Contrast

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

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The Wind in the Willows Topics for Discussion

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...

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The Wind in the Willows Ideas for Reports and Papers

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...

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The Wind in the Willows Topics for Further Study

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...

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The Wind in the Willows Related Titles / Adaptations

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

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The Wind in the Willows Media Adaptations

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....

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The Wind in the Willows What Do I Read Next?

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

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The Wind in the Willows For Further Reference

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

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The Wind in the Willows Bibliography and Further Reading

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

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The Wind in the Willows Bibliography

(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...

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