The Wind in the Willows: Summary, Characters & Author

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  • 0:01 Major Characters
  • 1:07 The Four Friends Meet
  • 2:33 Toad in Trouble
  • 3:50 Taking Back Toad Hall
  • 4:17 Kenneth Grahame
  • 5:22 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dori Starnes

Dori has taught college and high school English courses, and has Masters degrees in both literature and education.

'The Wind in the Willows' is a novel written by Scottish author Kenneth Grahame. Originally based on bedtime stories Grahame told his son, this novel soon grew into a beloved children's classic.

Major Characters

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame was first published in 1908. The children's story uses the adventures of four animal friends to teach young readers larger lessons about morality. Let's take a look at the novel's major characters.

Mole is an animal who has never really ventured beyond his own home. When he does emerge into the world, he is often overwhelmed by the craziness of life outside, but he doesn't consider going back inside.

Rat is also called 'Ratty', even though he's actually a vole, or another type of small rodent. He is friendly and kind to everyone and takes Mole into his care when Mole is lost and confused. Rat always wants to believe the best of everyone, and this sometimes gets him into trouble.

Toad of Toad Hall is wealthy and likes to have a good time. He lives the life of a rich playboy, spending his time obsessed with a fad and then quickly losing interest.

Badger is a solitary creature who hates dealing with the frivolity of society that Toad embraces. Badger is brave, loyal, and a great fighter.

Plot Summary: The Four Friends Meet

Mole, who is usually pretty easy-going, decides he's had enough of cleaning his home, so he emerges out into the beautiful spring weather. He strolls to the river, where he has never been, and meets Rat, who takes Mole for a boat ride. The two spend many spring days this way. Rat teaches Mole all about boating and the river, and the two become great friends.

One day in summer, Rat and Mole decide to visit Toad of Toad Hall. Toad brings Rat and Mole along on a trip in his horse-drawn carriage. When a passing automobile spooks his horse and overturns his carriage, the fickle Toad decides he must have a motorcar of his own.

Mole asks Rat to take him to visit Badger in the Wild Wood, but Rat tells him to wait until Badger comes to visit them. Mole is too impatient. While Rat hibernates, the bored Mole heads off to the Wild Wood on his own. Mole quickly gets lost and realizes the forest is full of creatures who wish him harm. He hides in the roots of a tree.

Rat wakes up and finds his friend missing and a blizzard brewing. He arms himself with pistols and a stick and follows Mole's tracks in the snow. The weather worsens as the two try to find their way home. They stumble into Badger's home, cold and confused. Badger welcomes them. Over a warm dinner, they tell him the story of Toad's adventures, which now includes seven wrecked cars and a mountain of fines. The three friends agree that at the end of the winter, they will help Toad.

Plot Summary: Toad in Trouble

Summer finally arrives, and Badger visits Rat and Mole so they can plan the intervention for Toad. On a trip to Toad Hall, Badger pleads with Toad to give up his obsession with motorcars. Toad won't listen, so they place him under house arrest. He tricks Rat into letting him escape. Badger and Mole stay at Toad Hall in case Toad returns, but Toad won't be coming back for a while. While having an expensive lunch at the Red Lion Inn, Toad watches an expensive motorcar pull in. He steals it and is caught by the police. He's sentenced to twenty years in prison.

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