The Wind in the Willows is about many things – the changing seasons, the beauty and fragility of nature, the perils of the open road and the creeping tide of suburbia – but it is the glorious adventures of Toad, Mole, Ratty and Badger that have enchanted generations of children and their parents for nearly a century.
When Mole is drawn out of his underground abode (‘Hang spring-cleaning!’) by the imperious call of Spring, he is fascinated by the world above his home. The first animal he meets is lively Ratty, who introduces him to the beauties of the river and the joys of ‘simply messing about in boats’. Mr Toad, irrepressible aristocrat and creature of crazes, shatters this rural calm with his discovery of the automobile. ‘Villages skipped, towns and cities jumped – always somebody else’s horizon! Oh, bliss! Oh, poop-poop!’ Soon he is risking life and limb indulging his new-found passion, experiencing brushes with the law and landing himself in prison, much to the concern of his friends. Even stern Badger cannot control Toad’s lunatic enthusiasms and wild antics, until they are all faced with a tremendous battle against the scheming stoats and wheedling weasels that have taken over Toad Hall. Can the four friends win against the frightening denizens of the Wild Wood? And does our irresponsible hero really become ‘an altered Toad’?