Thursday, 20 January 2011

"Make way! Make way for Captain Toad of Toad Hall!"

When I was 7 years old my mother finally agreed with me that I was old enough to have my own library card and I was successfully enrolled as a junior member of Stoneleigh Library.
One of the first books that I brought home was the Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.
From the first page I was enthralled.

Charles van Sandwyk image
Source: Books Illustrated Ltd.
Although I liked Moley & Ratty and enjoyed reading about their adventures, messing about in boats along the Riverbank and the picnics (!)

Mole & Ratty enjoy a picnic.
Arthur Rackham image.
my favourite character was the Toad ~
“He is indeed the best of animals,' replied Rat. `So simple, so good-natured, and so affectionate. Perhaps he's not very clever--we can't all be geniuses; and it may be that he is both boastful and conceited. But he has got some great qualities, has Toady.'

He was so naughty and made my little girl self, giggle at his exploits. Always off on some adventure whenever something new caught his fancy and always getting into trouble.

Mr Toad of Toad Hall is probably best known for his love of motor cars, although his first encounter with one was quite disastrous and left him sitting, befuddled, in the middle of the open road after a road hog sent his canary yellow, horse drawn caravan careering off into a ditch.

Moley leads the horse drawn caravan.
Arthur Rackham image.

“Glorious, stirring sight!' murmured Toad, never offering to move. `The poetry of motion! The real way to travel! The only way to travel! Here to-day--in next week to-morrow! Villages skipped, towns and cities jumped--always somebody else's horizon! O bliss! O poop-poop! O my! O my!'

Image supplied by google
After this first fateful encounter he purchased and crashed several cars, until the day his three friends Badger, Ratty and Mole decided it was time for an intervention.
Despite their best efforts, the Toad  refused to reform and after escaping from them he steals a car, and lands in prison, where he is befriended by the gaoler’s daughter.

Drawing by French artist
Michel Plessix
courtesey of Floss

“When the girl returned, some hours later, she carried a tray, with a cup of fragrant tea steaming on it; and a plate piled up with very hot buttered toast, cut thick, very brown on both sides, with the butter running through the holes in it in great golden drops, like honey from the honeycomb. The smell of that buttered toast simply talked to Toad, and with no uncertain voice; talked of warm kitchens, of breakfasts on bright frosty mornings, of cosy parlour firesides on winter evenings, when one's ramble was over and slippered feet were propped on the fender; of the purring of contented cats, and the twitter of sleepy canaries. Toad sat up on end once more, dried his eyes, sipped his tea and munched his toast, and soon began talking freely about himself, and the house he lived in, and his doings there, and how important he was, and what a lot his friends thought of him.”

Tea & toast a favourite afternoon tea time treat.
Toad eventually escapes from prison, with the girl’s help, dressed as a washerwoman and is reunited with his friends but not before having many more Wild Adventures along the way.
Wind in the Willows quotes from: Classic



  1. Maggie I do remember reading The Wind in the Willows at school, but it must not have made as much impression on me as you. I would love to see it again.
    Wonderful post, you have really done the Mr Toad justice.

  2. Kenneth Graham is said to have been inspired by living in Cookham, the same village that I grew up in. ( A lot later !)
    He first lived in a House called 'The Mount'in the Village for a short period of his childhood, but returned as a married man to a house called Mayfield,in Cookham Dean (now Herries, a prep school) close to Quarry Woods which are above the Thames,they are said to be the inspiration for the Wild Woods.

  3. I loved this book as a child, too. I think I read it several times as I did with many books. I was very well known at our library...loved to escape there for hours on end. Your post brought back many memories!


  4. Maggie,

    Just a lovely post. Beautifully thought out and well written.


  5. So delightful! I guess I never read Wind in the Willows because I don't remember any of that, even though I thought I had read it. I must get a copy and read about Mr. Toad. Sounds like there may be some life lessons in there too.

  6. Oh, that buttered toast is making my mouth water!!

  7. I remember well. So utterly charming. And such fun to read when you get older too. I'm so much more appreciative now.
    Lovely post, Maggie!

  8. That was enormous fun, Maggie. You'll see I've just posted about Toad, too - isn't it interesting who appeals to each reader?

  9. Yes, what would WITW be without Mr Toad?

    He certainly brings a lot of excitement to the book, and fun!

  10. Maggie, not only is your post interesting, but leads me to tell you that one artist whom I was fortunate to know, also illustrated this book. Her name was Tasha Tudor and she lived in Vermont. She both wrote and illustrated, but mostly illustrated. And over 100 books to her credit. This brings back many happy memories.

    Have a wonderful week end.

  11. i felt exactly the same way about Mr. Toad and i enjoy a pot of tea and a pile of hot buttered toast too :o)

    a most enjoyable post xx


  12. Maggie, what an absolutely perfect post! Toad has been neglected somewhat thus far, and you rightly bring him into his beloved spotlight for our Finale- oh well done! And that tea tray shot! it should be a still from some lush, plush, big budget televisation! I can hear the crackling of the logs and the slippery melting of the butter! Thank you immensely much for your enthusiastic espousing of Willows Week!

  13. Sorry, but it's me again- zooming straight over from your comment on Floss' blog- please let's have a Famous Five day! Millie Meadowsweet wants a Millie Mollie Mandy day as well! Such fun!

  14. This little book has become a favorite of much so, that I am going to read it out-loud to my daughter. She is disabled and can not read by herself. But she does enjoy when I do all the voices :)

    Your tea set is just lovely...perfect for a winter day!


  15. A lovely post - Mr Toad has been a popular choice today. It has been so much fun to do Wind in the Willows and to find other like minded bloggers too. Betty

  16. Lovely photo of the tea tray, very mouth watering!

  17. Maggie, I always had fun sharing this book with my second grade students. They were enchanted with the escapades of Toad. Wonderful post! I'm so happy you joined in the party. I didn't get one created, so I'm off to see what others have to share. ;-)

  18. Gosh? That made me smile and I now look forward to sittingbreadingbthat to a Amber in time.


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