Wednesday, March 16, 2011
I Finally Caught Wind of This...
Yes, folks, somehow The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame escaped me before. Other than a few bits and pieces I’d gathered over the years and what little I knew of it from the Disney cartoon, I’d never been formally introduced.
I took to it immediately. For Grahame brings us delightful characters, full of life and bearing both a severity and a cuteness. As I went along, though, I started to think it would be nothing more than a few random escapades strung together. I don’t mean that as a bad-mouthing, far from it. For there are plenty of marvelous ‘nothing but strung vignettes’ out there, such as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. But two-thirds of the way through or so, The Wind in the Willows starts to come together. Without the separate scenes, we’d never get the sense of who these charming critters are, the depth of their relationships nor even necessarily care about what happens to the ancestral home of Toad.
I found a couple of bits curious, though. The horse doesn’t seem to mind being, well, a horse. In a world of suited critters who drink tea and own books, he seems to be just a cart horse. At first I thought he wouldn’t even be given the opportunity to speak. Mole, however, does talk to him (though we are given no dialogue.) There are other horses as well, but they, too, are just cart-pullers. There’as a line in the book that sort of sums it up. ...since the horse had complained that he was being frightfully left out of it, and nobody considered him in the least. It’s not a flaw, per se, just a “hmm.” The fact that Toad has hair to comb also jarred me.
One vignette that I’d been looking forward to and which did not disappoint is the Piper at the Gates of Dawn. I absolutely love his mysterious nature. The whole chapter is compelling and really gives a sense of the sheer magical presence of this character.
As I’ve said, the novel culminates in a grand scheme and daring adventure. It ranks up there among the best laid plans of...er, well, moles and men. Just the sort that one can easily bring to the mind’s eye.