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Ratty's Hornpipe

Ratty's Picnic - Illustration by Michael Hague

The Wind in the Willows Day

Mar 8

Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day

Today's Musings, History & Folklore

“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

~ The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame, 1908

Born March 8th, 1859 in Edinburgh, Scotland, Kenneth Grahame is most famous for the beloved children's classics, The Reluctant Dragon and The Wind in the Willows. Several Scottish Country Dances are written for characters in this story including river boating enthusiast, Ratty, whose persona was inspired by Grahame's friend, Cornish writer Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch. Sensible Rat (actually a water vole ) lives at a riverbank somewhere in in a pastoral version of Edwardian England . One spring day, he meets and befriends Mole, who had left his underground home to explore the outside world after tiring of spring cleaning. The two become friends, living together in Ratty's riverside home, and spend many days boating, with “Ratty” teaching Mole the ways of the river. Ratty is cultured, relaxed and friendly, and enjoys a life of leisure; and when not spending time on the river, he composes doggerel verse! 🐀 📙 🛶

Ratty's Hornpipe

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 Wind in the Willows is notable for its mixture of mysticism, adventure, morality, and camaraderie and celebrated for its evocation of the nature of the Thames valley.

At the beginning of the story, good-natured Mole loses patience with spring cleaning. He flees his underground home, emerging to take in the air and ends up at the river, which he has never seen before. Here he meets Rat (a water vole), who at this time of year spends all his days in, on and close by the river. They get along well and spend days boating, with Rat teaching Mole the ways of the river.  One day, Rat and Mole disembark near the grand Toad Hall and pay a visit to the rich, jovial, conceited, friendly but feckless Toad. The story continues with the adventures of these characters and their friends.

In a favorite passage from the book, the friends go on a picnic with a wonderful description of the contents of the luncheon-basket:

"Hold hard a minute, then!’ said the Rat. He looped the painter through a ring in his landing-stage, climbed up into his hole above, and after a short interval reappeared staggering under a fat, wicker luncheon-basket.
‘Shove that under your feet,’ he observed to the Mole, as he passed it down into the boat. Then he untied the painter and took the sculls again.

‘What’s inside it?’ asked the Mole, wriggling with curiosity.

‘There’s cold chicken inside it,’ replied the Rat briefly;


‘O stop, stop,’ cried the Mole in ecstasies: ‘This is too much!’

‘Do you really think so?’ enquired the Rat seriously. ‘It’s only what I always take on these little excursions; and the other animals are always telling me that I’m a mean beast and cut it VERY fine!’

For a literary lunch designed around Ratty's menu, click the luncheon basket.

Ratty's Hornpipe

Click the dance cribs or description below to link to a printable version of the dance!

Ratty's Hornpipe

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