There's a homebound joy wanderers can't know, and a glory in the road those who never leave their garden can't fathom. The Wind in the Willows celebrates both. Mole begins a little too attached to his hole, and Mr. Toad is overly addicted to fast machines, but their friendships do what friendships ought—offer balance where there is none.
Kenneth Grahame's talking animal story of rural England began the way all talking animal stories begin, as tales for his son. The novel, however, grows with readers. Children love the Battle of Toad Hall, Ratty's gypsy caravan, Mole's timidity, and Badger's gruffness. Teens like Toad's songs and absurdity. Adults appreciate Toad's (often forgotten) heartfelt change.
All readers can appreciate Grahame's rambling poetic style. We smell the river, hear Mole clattering around his hole, taste Rat's food, see Toad crashing cars, feel Badger's mighty club smacking weasels in the head. You don't have to be an Englishman to appreciate his caricatures of British country types, or to instantly recognize them.
When Ratty and Mole meet the Piper at the Gates of Dawn we realize this isn't simply a bucolic adventure story. Ratty, Mole, Badger and Toad are real people, animals only in name, who can be afraid, comfortable, enraged, silly and curious just as we can. The wanderlust that overcomes Ratty (in "Wayfarers All") isn't just a desire to cover more terrain, it's a mystical urge to expand the soul.
Toad's exploits, by contrast, are mere indulgence—except that even his seemingly swampy soul is cleared, drained and replanted amid all his zaniness. Grahame doesn't beat us with an Aesop-like moral, however; The Wind in the Willows is and shall remain a mature work of literary art fit to delight and instruct for generations to come.
We're working on a comparison of numerous editions of Wind in the Willows. Below, we've compiled a list of illustrators that we know of, but we understand there were about 90 major and minor illustrators between its first publishing and 2008, so we know we're missing a few! Since there are so many, we've tried to limit the editions reviewed to only unabridged hardcover options with at least occasional color illustrations, but there were a few versions not quite meeting these requirements that were too good not to mention.
Published 1908 simultaneously in America by Scribners and Britain by Methuen. The original Methuen edition included three illustrations by Graham Robertson, and these were used in the three reprints until 1913.
- 1918, Paul Bransom illustrated 8th edition (8 total plates, later released for the Children's Classics library and currently available in the paperback Seawolf Press collection)
- 1922, Nancy Barnhart (Barnes & Noble reprint)
- 1927, Wyndham Payne (most illustrations contained in the Annotated Wind in the Willows)
- 1931, 33, Ernest Shepard (Scribner originally published only in B&W, republished in the US with 8 color plates in 1953, repeated for the 75th and 100th anniversary editions; Methuen offered a fully colorized edition--but without the plates--by 1971)
- 1940, Arthur Rackham (Heritage Press or Everyman's Library Children's Classics)
- 1966, Dick Cuffari (Illustrated Junior Library Series 1, Series 2, Series 3, Series 4)
- 1966, Tasha Tudor (original Collins Edition was released with fewer pictures for the Junior Deluxe Edition series)
- 1966, Roberta Carter Clark (Companion Library) **
- 1968, David K. Stone (Golden Press)
- 1969, Alex Tsao
- 1980, Michael Hague (Holt, Rinehart & Winston)
- 1982, John Worsley (Lemon Tree Press missing Wayfarers All chapter)
- 1983, John Burningham (Viking Kestrel)
- 1985, Rene Cloke (Crescent Books, adapted by Michael Bishop) **
- 1986, Johnathan Langley **
- 1989, Eric Kincaid (adapted) **
- 1993, Don Daily (retold, Courage Books)
- 1993, Paul Cox (Readers Digest)
- 1994, Patrick Benson (St. Martin's Press; he also illustrated the four sequels by William Horwood (in order): Willows in Winter, Toad Triumphant, Willows and Beyond, Willows at Christmas)
- 1995, James Lynch (Folio #1)
- 1996, Inga Moore (abridged, Candlewick, hardcover or softcover)
- 2000, Helen Ward (Borders Press)
- 2000, Joanne Moss (Breslich & Foss)
- 2001, Michael Foreman (Harcourt)
- 2004, Anna Leplar (Parragon Publishing)
- 2005, Charles van Sandwyk (Folio #2)
- 2005, Scott McKowen (Sterling)
- 2007, Robert Ingpen (Sterling)
- 2012, Ross MacDonald **
- 2012, David Roberts (slightly abridged) **
- 2013, Justin Todd (Calla edition) **
- 2017, Sebastian Meschemmoser **
** haven't seen these--would love to get a peek at sample illustrations!
Did you find this review helpful?