by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame. Frontispiece by Graham Robertson.
London, Methuen & Company, October 1908, hardcover 6/- ([vi] + 302 + [ii] pages).
The Wind in the Willows is world-famous today. It was almost immediately world-famous. President Theodore Roosevelt praised it in 1909. Yet until Grahame died in 1932, he did not think that the entire book could be illustrated. The sole illustrations published during Grahame’s lifetime were of the famous “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” chapter featuring the god Pan. Paul Bramson illustrated the 1913 edition showing Rat and Mole gazing at Pan as natural unclothed small animals, even though they get to him by rowboat and by implication have been of human size and wearing clothes just before that. Ernest Shepard’s illustrations in 1933, Arthur Rackham’s in 1940, and the Walt Disney animated feature The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad in 1949 made it “illustratable” – but usually by omitting the Pan scene.
The reason is because the narrative segues so often between Mole, Rat, Otter, Badger, the weasels and field-mice and hedgehogs and rabbits as natural English riverbank and woodland animals, and their being imitation humans – not just Toad in stately Toad Hall, but each having a small, furnished home – sometimes tiny, sometimes of human size; rowing a boat, presumably wearing clothes (Toad certainly wears clothes and is of human size when he disguises himself as a washerwoman, yet is of toad size when he enters Rat’s riverbank hole), capable of driving a motor-car and of being tried in court. Everyone was aware of the disparity, but because Grahame’s writing was so lyrical, everyone was willing to gloss over the disparity.
Natural woodland animals? The book begins with a blending of the animal and human worlds: