At last I understand Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disneyland:
He increased his pace, and as the car devoured the street and leapt forth on the high road through the open country, he was only conscious that he was Toad once more, Toad at his best and highest, Toad the terror, the traffic-queller, the Lord of the lone trail, before whom all must give way or be smitten into nothingness and everlasting night. He chanted as he flew, and the car responded with sonorous drone; the miles were eaten up under him as he sped he knew not whither, fulfilling his instincts, living his hour, reckless of what might come to him.
I loved that ride. It was the best kid’s ride at Disneyland and was so good that adults could even enjoy it. But I didn’t know who Toad was or why he had a wild ride. Until now.
As I mentioned in passing a couple weeks ago, I did not read Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame when I was a kid. We had a picture book called Frog and Toad are Friends but it turns out that Toad has nothing to do with Mr. Toad.
If I had read Wind in the Willows as a child I am sure I would have loved it. I can see why it is so beloved, but reading it for the first time as an adult meant I noticed too many odd things. The animals change sizes from animal size to human size. The animals speak English and talk to people. Toad has hair. And how could anyone mistake a Toad dressed up as a washerwoman for a real human woman? All the animals are also male which is kind of weird. And I found the book a bit disjointed with Toad’s story being interrupted by other stories featuring Ratty and Mole.
I did quite enjoy Ratty and Mole’s friendship. I also really liked the story of Ratty being tempted to run off to try his paws at sea. He’s perfectly happy with his life on the riverside but temporarily is charmed by a passing Sea Rat into to thinking the migrant life is the one to have. The grass is greener syndrome. Who among us is immune to it?
There was also a laugh out loud moment with Toad crashing a car:
Toad found himself flying through the air with the strong upward rush and delicate curve of a swallow. He liked the motion, and was just beginning to wonder whether it would go on until he developed wings and turned into a Toad-bird, when he landed on his back with a thump, in the soft, rich grass of a meadow.
Mole and Ratty and Badger and Toad taking back Toad Hall from the Weasels and Stouts was pretty good too.
Wind in the Willows was a pleasant read and I would definitely consider giving it to a child. Not having nostalgia for it though I can’t say it comes anywhere close to entering my personal pantheon of treasured children’s books. I do, however, want to go to Disneyland now and take a whirl on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.