The Wind in the Willows Summary
by Kenneth Grahame

The Wind in the Willows book cover
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The Wind in the Willows Summary

The Wind in the Willows follows the adventures of Mole after he ventures out of his neighborhood and meets his neighbors. 

  • One spring, Mole decides to leave home and walk through a meadow. He meets Rat, who invites him to live with him.
  • The two friends visit Toad at Toad Hall, despite Toad's reputation for recklessness. Toad convinces Rat and Mole to join him on an adventure that is cut short by a speeding car.
  • Badger confronts Toad about his recklessness and locks him in his room, but Toad escapes, steals a car, and goes to jail.
  • Toad escapes from jail and is nearly captured, but Rat and Mole help him reclaim Toad Hall.


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

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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 can learn much valuable knowledge from Badger.

After another accident, which is Mole’s fault, the two new friends go to Rat’s home and eat supper. Following the meal, Rat entertains Mole with many wonderful tales. It is a sleepy but happy Mole who is helped into bed by the kind Rat that night. From then on, the two remain friends. Rat teaches Mole to swim and to row, to listen to the music of the running water, and to catch a little of the meaning of the song the wind sings as it whispers in the willows.

One day, the two go to visit Toad at Toad Hall. It is the most beautiful residence in animal land, for Toad is wealthy. He is also a playboy. Every new fad that comes along attracts him. When Rat and Mole arrive, Toad is busy getting together a gypsy caravan. He persuades the others to join him on the open road. Although the venture is against Rat’s better judgment, poor Mole is so desirous of joining Toad that Rat finally submits.

Their adventure is short-lived. When the wagon is upset by a racing motorcar, Rat is so furious that he wants to prosecute the owners of the car to the limit. Toad has other ideas; he must have the biggest, fastest, gaudiest car that money can buy.

Spring, summer, and fall pass—days filled with pleasure for Mole and Rat. Then, one cold winter day, Mole goes out alone and gets lost. He finds himself in the Wild Wood and is terrified by the strange noises and evil faces he sees around him. Rat finally finds him, but before they can reach Rat’s home, snow begins to fall. By luck, they stumble upon Badger’s home, where the old philosopher welcomes them, although he hates being disturbed from his winter’s sleep. Badger asks for news of the other animals, particularly of...

(The entire section is 2,880 words.)