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 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!
Published 1908 simultaneously in America by Scribners and Britain by Methuen. The Methuen edition includes three illustrations by Graham Robertson, and these were used in the three reprints until 1913.
- 1918, Paul Branson illustrated 8th edition
- 1922, Nancy Barnhart
- 1927, Wyndham Payne
- 1931, 33, Ernest Shepard (republished with color plates in 1953 and fully colorized by 1971)
- 1940, Arthur Rackham
- 1966, Dick Cuffari (IJL)
- 1966, Tasha Tudor
- 1966, Roberta Carter Clark (Companion Library) **
- 1968, David K. Stone (Golden Press)
- 1980, Michael Hague
- 1982, John Worsley
- 1983, John Burningham
- 1985, Rene Cloke (adapted) **
- 1986, Johnathan Langley **
- 1988 Steven Smallman (Apple Classics) **
- 1989, Eric Kincaid (adapted) **
- 1993, Don Daily (adapted)
- 1993, Paul Cox (Readers Digest)
- 1994, Patrick Benson
- 1995, James Lynch (Folio #1)
- 1996, Inga Moore (abridged)
- 2000, Helen Ward
- 2001, Michael Foreman
- 2004, Anna Leplar
- 2005, Charles van Sandwyk (Folio #2)
- 2005, Scott McKowen (Sterling)
- 2007, Robert Ingpen
- 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!
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