It’s funny that although I have never read ‘The Wind in the Willows’ before, I feel, as I read the first few chapters, that I know the characters already. It mimics the way you feel when you meet a friend of a friend, and you say ‘I’ve heard so much about you’ – so much, in fact, that you have made a picture of who they are in your mind, and meeting them in real life either does or does not fit with your picture of them. Reading ‘The Wind in the Willows’ is a bit like that. There is evidence of what Mole, and Rat, and Toad are like out there in the world, and somehow I have absorbed these ideas about them.
This is one of the reasons that I think reading books deemed ‘classics’ are important. There are some ideas, characters, and stories that get absorbed by the collective consciousness of us all, that, I believe, are important to know and understand in order to be a part of this collective consciousness. Some people say that they believe that the Bible should not be taught in schools anymore, but I think it is important to know these Bible stories, not from a religious point of view, but because these stories are referenced everywhere, from Hamlet to the Simpsons, again and again, and a lack of knowledge about these stories means that you are missing out on core ideas, characters and stories that form who we are. The same applies for Greek myths, Shakespeare, fairy tales, and stories like ‘The Wind in the Willows’.
This seems like a bit of a strong implication to place upon a lovely little children’s story like ‘The Wind in the Willows’. However, a story like ‘The Wind in the Willows’, that has been read by hundreds, thousands of children since 1908, has that affect without meaning to. A story that is read and stored in the mind of children for over one hundred years trickles into this imagined force named ‘the collective consciousness’ by default.
This does not, however, affect how delightful and wonderful the story is. In fact, it reinforces it.