Sometime last century (how old does that make me sound!), when I was quite young, a particularly fearsome older teacher approached me in class because I was wasting time.
This teacher shoved a book in my hands and said with fearsome authority, “Read this!” That book was:
This quintessential English book (written by a Scot) quickly became a staple of my reading and re-reading habit over the years.
Question: In the midst of a 21st century pandemic, what relevance could a book written about human-like animals in Edwardian England have for Australia 2020?
Answer: The book was written when England was in crisis and flux. The Boer War had caused the English to question their superior place in the world, consumerism was rampant among the middle classes, technology was changing the way society related and the countryside and its environment were under threat from industrial degradation.
In the midst of this upheaval, Kenneth Grahame wrote a tale for his child.
Through Wind in the Willows he offered a picture of a world that could bring a sense of peace to a young spirit finding the harsh realities of an uncertain world frightening and even depressing.
Grahame pitched social commentary, adventure, humour, car chases, a Christmas tale and a story of the value of spiritual connection to the world in a story populated by a group of humanistic animals, who represented one of the most important aspects of life – undying friendship and loyalty.
(Note: Personally, I think I would have thumped Toad).
It is easy, today, for children who listen to adults, hear our leaders speak of doom and gloom, watch the news with its stories of infection and death and observe the trauma of people they know losing their jobs to react with feelings of fear and anxiety about their world.
So, would it be so bad for them to take a rest from our current unfortunate reality and drift through the world of Mole, Rat Badger et al, in written form, television series or movie?
“But Mole stood still a moment, held in thought. As one wakened suddenly from a beautiful dream, who struggles to recall it, and can recapture nothing but a dim sense of the beauty of it, the beauty! Till that, too, fades away in its turn, and the dreamer bitterly accepts the hard, cold waking and all its penalties.”
Then they can go back to their computer and their online school work, believing that there may still be a place for beauty and peace in the world.