Monday, March 7, 2016

The Wind in the Willows

I've heard of this story, but never read it. I believe Disneyland has a Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, but my motion sickness made that impossible.

I bought a very used book at a charity drive, and, after reading one too many Lovecraft horrors (the nightmares started), picked it up for a stroll on the brighter side. I'm halfway through, because life got busy as it usually does, but far enough to say a few things.

One, charming prose. Some truly lovely sentences in there that beautifully capture the image or moment.

Two, welcome innocence coupled with strong moral character. Friendship, hospitality, generosity, hard work, and hard winter rest - a concept I heartily endorse - are illustrated in each story. Even flighty Toad has a good heart.

Three, while I generally don't care for short stories, these are just the right size for reading before bed. Since I haven't slept through the night in about two weeks, I don't have a lot of eye stamina for long bouts of reading.

The hardest part of reading these stories comes from me being too adult. Rat has a boat, a brace of pistols and a cudgel. Mole has Italian sculptures in his burrow. Badger eats ham and bacon, and wears slippers. However, they are animals, and the stories don't dispute their size. Would a rat-sized pistol even fire? Where does Badger get his ham? How do they earn their money? Children don't worry about this sort of thing (except me. This is exactly the kind of thing I worried about as a child). I keep derailing as I try to categorize the logic of the world. Alice in Wonderland is the closest I can come.

The illustrations don't help. Toad's carriage is people-sized, pulled by a horse, and contains a bird in a cage they later carry away. What bird is small enough to be carried in a cage by a toad? Toad is tried in a human court of law, and held in a human prison, if the pictures are to be counted as accurate, which they probably aren't. The author does make some attempts at reconciling the inconsistencies, since they have to coax the horse to pull the carriage when the horse would rather be part of the party, and Badger does explain that humans built what eventually became his burrows. Still, I've stumbled more than once as my brain balks at pure fancy.

I wonder if Mom never read me this book because these are the questions I would have asked as a child, and didn't want to deal with it at bedtime. Can't blame her, if that's the case.

Applaud the jellyfish.

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