Illustration by Angel Dominguez
The Wind in the Willows Day
Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
“Toad, with no one to check his statements or to criticize in an unfriendly spirit, rather let himself go. Indeed, much that he related belonged more properly to the category of what-might-have-happened-had-I-only-thought-of-it-in-time-instead-of-ten-minutes-afterwards." ~ The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame, 1908
Author Kenneth Grahame was born in Edinburgh this day in 1859 but went to school in Oxford, where his lifelong love for the River Thames began. The Wind in the Willows began as a collection of bedtime stories and letters for his son Alastair (nicknamed Mouse). Published in 1908, it has become one of the most famous books in the English language. Toad, the village squire, is rich, feckless, hopelessly impulsive, with a penchant for Harris tweed suits. His interest in all the latest fads, including motor cars, leads to an episode in which he steals a car and drives it recklessly The result is a twenty-year prison sentence, but he escapes, dressed as a washer woman, (similarly to Bonnie Prince Charlie) to regain his family seat of Toad Hall from the clutches of the weasels and stoats!
Toad of Toad Hall
Born in Edinburgh, March 8, 1859, author Kenneth Grahame is most famous for The Wind in the Willows (1908), one of the classics of children's literature, and The Reluctant Dragon.
The dance's namesake, Mr. Toad is the village squire, being the wealthy owner and occupant of Toad Hall. Toad is very rich and a bit of a fop, with a penchant for Harris tweed suits. He owns his own horse, and is able to indulge his impulsive desires, such as punting, house boating and hot air ballooning. Toad is intelligent, creative and resourceful; however, he is also narcissistic, self-centred almost to the point of sociopathy, and completely lacking in even the most basic common sense. His reckless interest in motor cars leads to an episode in which he steals a car and drives it recklessly The result of that is a twenty-year prison sentence, but he escapes, dressed as a washer woman, to regain his family seat of Toad Hall from the clutches of the weasels.
Supposedly, the inspiration for Mr. Toad's wayward mischievousness and boastfulness was Kenneth Grahame's only child Alastair: a family friend, Constance Smedley, overheard Grahame telling Alastair the exploits of Toad as a bedtime story, and noted that "Alastair's own tendency to exult in his exploits was gently satirized in Mr. Toad".
For more on Disneyland's homage to The Wind in the Willows, "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride," click the classic illustration of Toad by E.H. Shepard.