By Chet Yarbrough
Narrated by Ralph Cosham
“Wind in the Willows” charms its audience with animal characters that live near a river, probably the Thames, in London, England. Rat is the brains; Badger is the brawn; Mole is the anti-hero, and Toad is the fool; the fool that learns an important life lesson. “You are a Toad” is not what one wants to be called; Kenneth Grahame’s 1908 anthropomorphized animal tale tells why.
Grahame cleverly endears Rat and Mole to its audience with nicknames; i.e. Rat-tee for Rat and Mo-lee for Mole. Badger is self-descriptive, no nickname is given but a fearsome and grumpy personality brands his mien. Toad is a wealthy, foppish character that brags about his “accomplishments” and bounds about the country in motor cars. Toad’s reckless driving becomes the source of Rat’s, Mole’s, and Badger’s great intervention.
Moral meta-messages weasel into young and adult minds as “Wind in the Willows” unfolds; some messages seem dark while others shine. To an adult the story is not about self-absorption but about addiction; i.e. Toad deceives others and himself in a way that cannot be changed by time or nature. Addiction does not disappear with intervention but reasserts itself as force of intervention diminishes; i.e. once addicted, always addicted. To a child, the message is misleading because it lulls minds to sleep about the nature of addiction; its life-long consequence to the individual, to family, and to friends.
Shining moral examples in “Wind in the Willows” reflect on the value of friends and importance of listening and responding to subtle messages of despair. Friends must be more than listeners; they must do as well as listen. When Mole leaves his home to live with Rat, he does not forget where he came from and what he left behind. Rat, in scurrying back to his own home, misses Mole’s message but comes back to comfort Mole and take Mole back home for recollection that gives vision to Mole’s future. Mole grows into a future that shows him to be brave and instinctively smart in an adventure that liberates Toad’s home from a nasty gang of weasels.
Badger shines as an example of a living thing that appears gruff, unforgiving, and dangerous when he actually shows himself to be warm, accepting, and trustworthy; i.e. how one acts rather than how one looks speaks the truth.
Moral messages aside, “Wind in the Willows” is a teaching opportunity for every adult and child in the world. Ralph Cosham’s narration enlightens and delights young and old.