Kenneth Grahame

English bank official, writer, and author of the splendid THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS (1908). The work, set in the idyllic English countryside, established Grahame's international reputation as a writer of children's books and has deeply influenced fantasy literature. The central characters in the story are the shy little Mole, clever Ratty, Badger, and crazy Toad. They converse and behave like humans, but they all have typical animal habits, and some of the animals are eaten for breakfast by Mole, Rat, or Badger. Grahame has also published essays, stories and collections of sketches.

"Beyond the Wild Wood comes the Wild World," said the Rat. "And that's something that doesn't matter, either to you or me. I've never been there, and I'm never going, nor you either, if you've got any sense at all..." (from The Wind in the Willows)

Kenneth Grahame was born in Edinburgh as the son of a lawyer from an old Scottish family. Due to the alcoholism of his father, Grahame was brought up by elderly relatives. In the early years he lived with his family in the Western highlands. When his mother died of scarlet fever, the children were sent to live with their maternal grandmother in the village of Cookham Dene, the chief setting of The Wind in the Willows. Grahame was educated at St. Edward's School, Oxford, and in 1879 he entered the Bank Of England.

While pursuing his career at the bank, Grahame began composing light nonfiction pieces as a pastime He contributed articles to such journals as the St. James Gazette, W.E. Henley's National Observer and The Yellow Book. Grahame's stories about a group of orphaned children were published in PAGAN PAPERS (1893).

Grahame was appointed as the secretary at the Bank and in 1899 he married Elspeth Thomson, whose snobbish attitudes Grahame did not share. Living in a disastrous marriage, Grahame wrote parts of The Wind in the Willows originally in a letter form to his young son Alistair. Grahame did not intend to to publish the stories.

The Wind in the Willows reflected the author's unhappiness in the real world - his riverbank woods and fields were ''clean of the clash of sex,'' as he said to Theodore Roosevelt. The main tale tells about Toad's obsession with motorcars. "'Glorious, stirring sight!' murmured Toad, never offering to move. 'The poetry of motion! The REAL way to travel! The ONLY way to travel! Here to-day--in next week to-morrow! Villages skipped, towns and cities jumped--always somebody else's horizon! O bliss! O poop-poop! O my! O my!'" Toad's motoring leads him into imprisonment. Meanwhile Toad Hall is invaded by stoats and weasels. Toad escapes dressed as a washerwoman. He sells a horse to a gypsy and returns into the Wild Wood. With the help of his companions Toad recaptures his ancestral home.

After the publication of the book, Grahame retired from his work because of health reasons or under pressure from his employees. He spent the rest of his life with his wife in idleness. Alistair committed suicide while an undergraduate at Oxford two days before his 20th birthday - he was killed by a train. Grahame stopped writing after WW I. He died in Pangbourne, Berkshire, on July 6, 1932. William Horwood's sequel The Willows in the Winter (1993) received mixed critics, although he managed to reproduce Grahame's phraseology and rhythms rather well. The second sequel, Toad Triumphant, appeared in 1996. The trilogy was finished with The Willows and Beyond (1998). Horwood has also written the internationally acclaimed Duncton trilogies.

Selected works: