Friday, August 26, 2011

Fiction Friday: The Wind in the Willows

I'm going to keep this short today because I'm a busy, busy girl.  And I call myself a girl because yesterday someone thought I was a 9 year old's big sister.  So even if I am old enough to be her mother, it doesn't mean I have to look like it.  Just sayin'. 

Anyway, when I was a kid, I saw a couple different movie/tv versions of "The Wind in the Willows."  There was the Disney version, of course, which I don't remember well.  I just remember Mr. Toad stealing cars like a crazy amphibian--and lots of weasels that later appeared in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" and "Mickey's Christmas Carol." 

Then there was this fantastic BBC claymation version they used to show on the Disney Channel back when the Disney Channel was awesome.  I remember this one a little better, but even it is fuzzy in my memories.  Basically, I have some vague impressions of a story that didn't interest me enough to read it.

I was in my late 20's before I ever decided to read The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.  To be honest, I wasn't expecting much.  I was expecting a cute children's story with little or no depth to it, because that's what I remember from the movie versions I saw.

I was wrong.  While The Wind in the Willows has a lot of silliness about Toad stealing cars that I could really just take or leave, it also some of the most beautiful and poignant scenes I've ever had the pleasure of reading.  The story is a little disjointed because Grahame originally wrote it as a series of letters to his son.  There are parts I don't even think I'll ever read again, but there are other parts I will return to over and over again, sometimes thinking about them at seemingly random times, and they fill me with joy and sometimes longing.

There are wonderful scenes about friendship, rest and peace by the riverside, about the draw of home, about the pull of adventure.  There are a few profound Christian scenes that I just would never have expected to find within the pages of a children's story.  I could expound on all of these a little, but I don't have the time now, and I think that might spoil part of the enjoyment from someone who wanted to discover those scenes for him or her self.

But I will write a little about my favorite scene.  It's from a chapter (well, it basically is the whole chapter) called "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn."  In this chapter, Rat and Mole go searching for an otter's lost child, and they discover something much more.  It's one of the most deeply Spiritual scenes I've ever read.  Rat and Mole are in Rat's boat, looking for the child, when they are mysteriously and beautifully called to an island.  They are drawn inland, as if in a dream, to a place where they meet the Piper, who is looking after the lost child.

The writing here is some of the most beautiful I've ever read, but the dialogue is what brings me close to tears every single time I read it:

"Rat!" he (Mole) found breath to whisper, shaking.  "Are you afraid?"
"Afraid?" murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love.  "Afraid!  Of Him? O, never, never!  And yet--and yet--O, Mole, I am afraid!"
Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.

The rest of the chapter is also wonderful, but I really think you should read it for yourself. 

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