Butchering Books… The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

There ought to be a law against it…

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the wind in the willows

The Wind in the Willows was one of the earliest ‘proper’ books I read – probably when I was six or seven. I would go so far as to say that it’s probably the book that most influenced me towards reading what I now think of as ‘literary’ fiction – that is, beautifully written and tells the reader something about the ‘human condition’ rather than simply being a linear narrative with an exciting plot.

In fact, the stuff about Mr Toad, while fun, was not my favourite part of the book – not even close. The chapters I loved most were the ones that explored Ratty and Mole’s friendship, the sense of community amongst the heavily anthropomorphised animals (even as a child I knew that they were people really), the attractions of travel, the comfort of and longing for home. There are three standout chapters for me that I’ve never forgotten from that first read, and sometimes even if I don’t have the time or the inclination to read the whole thing again I will pick up my tattered ancient copy and read one of those chapters.

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Wayfarers All tells the tale of autumn when so many of the birds and little animals prepare to follow the sun, travelling south for the winter. Ratty, already restless, meets up with a seafaring rat, who tells him tales of sun-drenched Spanish ports and the shell-fish of Marseilles, and provokes in Ratty an overwhelming feeling of wanderlust. But Mole, concerned for his friend and knowing this life wouldn’t suit him, talks in his turn of the beauties of an English autumn, with harvest giving way slowly to the festivities of winter. It ends with Mole encouraging Ratty to express his feelings and desires in poetry. The language is lush and beautiful, contrasting the glamour of exotic parts with the joys of the familiar.

Today, to him gazing South with a new-born need stirring in his heart, the clear sky over their long low outline seemed to pulsate with promise; to-day, the unseen was everything, the unknown the only real fact of life. On this side of the hills was now the real blank, on the other lay the crowded and coloured panorama that his inner eye was seeing so clearly. What seas lay beyond, green, leaping and crested! What sun-bathed coasts, along which the white villas glittered against the olive woods! What quiet harbours, thronged with gallant shipping bound for purple islands of wine and spice, islands set low in languorous waters!

wayfarers all

Dulce Domum is the chapter in which Mole suddenly comes across the scents of his old home. At first, Ratty is in too much of a hurry to listen but when Mole finally breaks down in tears, kind old Ratty berates himself for his selfishness and at once devotes himself, first to finding Mole’s old home and then to turning the dark, cold house into a place full of warmth and cheer. And the chapter ends with the local young field-mice, come a-carol-singing, as they do each year. A perfect chapter.

With bright beady eyes they glanced shyly at each other, sniggering a little, sniffing and applying coat-sleeves a good deal. As the door opened, one of the elder ones that carried the lantern was just saying, “Now then, one, two, three!” and forthwith their shrill little voices uprose on the air, singing one of the old-time carols that their forefathers composed in fields that were fallow and held by frost, or when snow-bound in chimney corners, and handed down to be sung in the miry street to lamp-lit windows at Yule-time.

carol singing

But my favourite chapter of all is The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Little Portly, Otter’s son, has been missing for some days, and Ratty and Mole set out one night to search for him. As the dawn rises, they hear the haunting music of distant pipes and are compelled towards it. When they reach the place where the music leads them, they find Portly, safely nestled at the feet of Pan, the great demi-God of the animals – a thinly disguised portrayal of Christ.

Trembling he obeyed, and raised his humble head; and then, in that utter clearness of the imminent dawn, while Nature, flushed with fullness of incredible colour, seemed to hold her breath for the event, he looked in the very eyes of the Friend and Helper…All this he saw, for one moment breathless and intense, vivid on the morning sky; and still, as he looked, he lived; and still, as he lived, he wondered.

“Rat!” he found breath to whisper, shaking. “Are you afraid?”

“Afraid?” murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love. “Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet—and yet—O, Mole, I am afraid!”

This whole chapter is utterly beautiful in both its writing and its message (even to this cynical old atheist) and is the emotional heart of the book. If you haven’t read it recently, here’s a link – the chapter stands alone as a story entire in itself.

the piper at the gates of dawn

* * * * * * *

the wind in the willows 2So… imagine my delight when I was offered a new edition of the book for review via Amazon Vine UK, published by Oxford University Press and complete with new illustrations by David Roberts. The layout and illustrations are great – the book is small with clear print, and the illustrations are appropriately quirky and vibrantly coloured, ranging from double-page spreads to small running pictures round the margins and inserted into the text.

Then imagine my horror on being unable to find my favourite chapter! Unbelievably, they have cut The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. There is a note on the inside in tiny print which gives a reason for the omission…

Rather than relating the ongoing adventures of Ratty, Mole, Toad, Badger, and others, the chapter pauses the action and is largely about the god Pan from Greek mythology.

But I’m guessing the truth is that some stupid decision has been reached to omit it due to its overtly religious message. It doesn’t ‘pause the action’ any more than the chapter Dulce Domum does. It is an adventure undertaken by Ratty and Mole – a great adventure, arising out of friendship and love. The god in this book may be Pan from Greek mythology in physical appearance, but in his presence and actions, Grahame is quite clearly pointing to the Christian tradition. What are we saying – that kids can only read action? Or that they are no longer allowed to read any classic that might suggest any kind of spiritual element? Even if we assume that Pan is in fact Pan, are children no longer to be introduced to Greek and other mythologies?

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A ridiculous decision, both to remove it and, even more, not to say clearly on the book cover or in the blurb that the text has been butchered. The Wind in the Willows is a 5-star book without question, but why give a child this one when you could give them the one Kenneth Grahame wanted them to read – the one that generations of children and adults have enjoyed. I would hate for any child to grow up thinking s/he’s read The Wind in the Willows without being aware that the emotional heart had been ripped out of the book. What’s the OUP going to do next – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe without Aslan perhaps?

There ought to be a law against it…

wind in the willows battle

95 thoughts on “Butchering Books… The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

  1. I think they assume that children won’t appreciate that chapter, or be bored by it (it’s true that my two were somewhat puzzled and it’s perhaps not their favourite part, but they loved the chapter about Dulce Domum and the sophisticated French cousin rat in Wayfarers All).

    • I wish they would leave kids with the choice to decide for themselves – I know I found a couple of the Mr Toad chapters a bit tedious, but was well able to skip over them and go on to the bits I liked. But what annoys me most is that it isn’t made clear on the cover and blurb. When buying a gift for a child, who stands in a bookstore examining the small print on the inside title page? If they made it clear then people would at least be able to make an informed choice! Grrr!

      • That is absolutely true: leave the choice to the reader. I know I read War and Peace and Vanity Fair and Moll Flanders etc. when I was 12-13 and just skipped the bits I found boring. I wouldn’t have wanted them taken out, though!

  2. No way – they actually took the chapter out? Unbelievable! Are they treating the young readers as idiots who are incapable of making up their own minds about the message being delivered? I am furious! This is such a beautiful, wonderful work and one I still dearly love to this day. My favourite was always Ratty, he seemed so wonderfully adventurous to me as a young pup. But… pah!

    • Ridiculous, isn’t it? I was unbelievably angry! And a few Vine reviewers have given it glowing reviews without noticing the omission – the illustrations and format are really good for a youngish child. Had it not been for the fact that it’s my favourite chapter and I wanted to see how he’d illustrated it, I wouldn’t have noticed myself – with these kind of well-loved books and the pressure Vine puts on for quick reviews, we don’t always read through the whole thing. Yes, it’s a book I still love too – easily as suitable for adults as for children. I think I liked Mole when I was little, but Ratty’s my hero too now. He’s so kind and wise and brave! 😉

  3. What a disappointment to hear that this edition cuts out that chapter, FictionFan!!! Explanation or no explanation, it makes no sense whatsoever to me. That’s part of the story, and as you say, it’s what Grahame wanted people to read. No…just…no. I can completely see why you’re so upset about this. To me, anyway, it’s a bit like what happens with some songs, at least in the US. The original song has, say, three verses, and one of them is cut out when it’s played on the radio. It drives me mad! That’s bad enough, but what you’re talking about is literature. Grr!

    • I’m still furious about it, Margot! I really want to collect up every copy and have a massive fire! And the illustrations and format are so good – it would have got a truly glowing review from me if it weren’t for the butchery. Yes, I hate when they do that with songs too – I always hated when they only played the first three verses of American Pie! Or when they talk over the lyrics… Grr!

  4. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is UTTERLY RIDICULOUS! FF, you have filled me with rage! How can this be a thing!??!?!?!

    So much love for this beautiful book – I clearly remember it as being one of the earliest “read alouds” – my dad did such wonderful voices for each of the characters (his little “poop poops” from when Toad discovers the beauty of the motorcar… unforgettable!). Please tell me that you have seen an edition with Tasha Tudor’s illustrations??? They are utterly perfect for this book.

    I truly do get angry about any kind of edited version of a book. Either publish it the way the author wrote it, or don’t publish it at all. I don’t think anyone should have the right to randomly hack out chunks of someone else’s writing, especially without clear and explicit warning that that’s what has been done. That’s like displaying someone’s painting, but covering up a random block of it. No one but the original artist should have the right to determine whether certain aspects of their work should be omitted. Every word in the original book was obviously important to Grahame, or he wouldn’t have published it that way.

    Also, side note, I usually hate it when other people write sequels to books, especially books that I love, but William Horwood has actually done a beautiful job capturing Grahame’s voice in the handful of sequels that he has written. Horwood said he could never believe that Toad was ‘indeed an altered Toad’. It’s a very lovingly written sequel, and I highly recommend it, which doesn’t happen often for not-written-by-the-original-author sequels!

    Anyway, excellent review. We must call these scalawags out on their blasphemous attempts to destroy beautiful stories that every child should read!

    • It’s unbelievable, isn’t it? Once a book is out of copyright, I suppose any idiot can do anything they like to it – but it shouldn’t be allowed!! I can cope with proper abridgements though I’m not keen – but what horrified me most about this was that they didn’t even make it clear up front. Who looks at the inside title page underneath all the library catalogue numbers and so on? If they thought they were improving the book why not boast about it on the cover? Makes me think they must have known what the reaction would be and were trying to hide their crazy decision…

      I think the only illustrations I’ve seen are the Shephard ones, which I love. I must say these new illustrations are great and I’m sorry I couldn’t recommend the book – the vibrant colours and the way they’ve been run around and through the text is a lot of fun. But the butcher’s knife destroyed it!

  5. That’s patronising and horrible of them to do that. If kids want to skip over stuff, they will (I spotted the highly religious stuff in C.S. Lewis’ “The Last Battle” and avoided it, but was fine with Aslan – but it was MY CHOICE). Ugh. What a travesty.

    • Isn’t it? Yes, I think it’s really insulting to kids to assume they’re not capable of deciding for themselves. I frequently missed out chapters I didn’t enjoy or understand in books when I was a kid, and maybe tried them again a couple of years later. And I still do with this one – I miss out a lot of the Mr Toad stuff because it doesn’t really appeal to me – but I’d never dream of cutting the chapters out altogether! Grrr!

  6. Grrr, another thinly-disguised attempt at censorship! I happen to be Christian, and I feel very strongly about “experts” trying to tell me what to believe (or to tell our kids what to believe, for I think they’re certain, if they can brainwash the little ones, the rest of us will eventually die out and religion will be no more). As a writer, I find much fault with editors who re-tell old stories in new editions, leaving out parts that were well-loved because of stupid excuses. Thanks for pointing it out, FF. Now, let’s console ourselves with a nice cup of tea and a chocolate bar, okay?!

    • It makes me so angry! Although I was brought up by two atheist parents, they’d never have dreamt of trying to ‘shield’ me from religious messages. Their attitude was that we should all be allowed to make our own minds up when we were old enough – but how could we possibly have done that if we weren’t exposed to religion? But what annoyed me most was the sneaky way they did this – who actually reads the small print on the inside title page beside all the library catalogue numbers and such! Grrr… It’s going to take a LOT of chocolate to get rid of the taste of this one!!

  7. Boy, am I glad that I found an original edition among some books that I inherited not too long ago. It’s proudly displayed on my shelf now. No temptation whatsoever to purchase a new edition that butchers the text.

    • I know – I’ll be hanging on to my tattered old copy and chucking this shiny new one in the bin – I wouldn’t even give it to a charity shop to be honest! I’m still so furious…

  8. Wind in the Willows remains one of my favourite books – and not just one of my favourite children’s books. I still name Rat as one of my top five literary characters. Abridged versions of children’s books drive me crazy. It’s already a book for children! It doesn’t need to be dumbed down or have beautiful passages omitted. (I actually have heard rumours of a push to re-write the Narnia books without the Christian aspects. How you would accomplish that, especially with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I have no idea.)

    • Mine too – one I turn to again and again for the sheer pleasure of it! I would have minded marginally less if they’d been up front about it on the cover – at least then people would have been making an informed choice, even if I hate the whole idea. But to sneak it onto the inside title page under the library catalogue numbers and such – who reads those? I only noticed because I wanted to see how he’d illustrated my favourite chapter. Can’t believe that about Narnia – I mean, really, what’s the point of those books if you take the whole Aslan thing out?? Grrr…

  9. Well, dear heart, you already know my view on this as I spotted your review on Amazon, and was so pleased you alerted prospective buyers to the unpleasant prospect of a dismembered corpse of a beautiful book. I WOULD have looked out for this as I would like to read this again, but will go for a well thumbed elderly edition with illustrations by Rackham, hopefully marked with the tears of young children, and not too many smears by greasy smears from hands holding chocolate fingers, custard creams and chocolate marshmallows, whilst reading happened

    • Yes, my Az review seems to be getting lots of votes – all I presume from fellow Viners checking it out before requesting. I’m glad I’m not the only person who’s horrified by it! There are so many different versions of it over the years, all with that chapter and a variety of illustrators – I can’t see the need for this one at all, even though the new illustrations are very good. Still furious!!!

      • Not surprised! It would be interesting to see what the ‘real’ reasoning is behind the cut. Whether it’s a patronising dumbing down as the ‘ holds up action’ suggests, or various varieties of religious or atheistic fundamentalism, it’s censorship if some kind, arising from arrogance. We laughed at the Victorians in smug and superior fashion for ‘ Bowdlerising’ Shakespeare but we have our ow versions, alive and kicking, just reflecting a different blinkered set of ism beliefs.

        • It really is arrogant! I don’t get it with kids’ books at all actually. On the one hand books for small children seem to have been trimmed down to such a point of blandness I can’t see how they’d inspire anyone to be a reader, and on the other hand they then leap to ‘YA’ where everyone is shooting each other, taking drugs, being raped etc etc. It’s a funny old world! I think I preferred the old route of childrens’ classics followed whenever the individual kid was ready by adult books…

  10. The Wind in the Willows is one of my favorite books. I try to read it once a year at least. So I will avoid any “new” editions, particularly those that cut chapters out of it. I would be tempted to take a flamethrower to that edition. I’ll bet they cut Tom Bombadil out of The Fellowship of the Ring. 😦

    • Certainly if I ever decide to replace my ancient copy I’ll be looking very carefully to see that everything’s included before choosing a new version! I don’t re-read the whole thing as often as I once did, but it’s a book I regularly dip into whenever I want something beautiful and familiar. I bet they would too – I wish they would give readers, even young ones, credit for being able to skip over the bits we don’t enjoy. Grrr!!

  11. I’m afraid this isn’t the first time that this has happened,either in the publishing world or in the classroom. I have known teachers omit it probably because they didn’t understand it. Going on my own experience I’m sure their children would have done.

    • I hate the idea that children aren’t capable of making up their own minds. I’m quite certain I didn’t look on it as either Greek mythology or Christian when I was seven, just enjoyed it for the lovely story, the message of love and safety and the beautiful writing. Same applies to Aslan – I certainly wasn’t aware of the symbolism on fist reading, but still loved the story. Are today’s kids stupider? I think not! So furious…!

  12. I am happy to say that my 1991 edition illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard, now in color, does
    include your chapter on Pan. We were more “pooh” people growing up, but I admire your
    identity with this little river group.

    • My old copy has the Shephard ones too, though in black and white. It’s so infuriating because actually these illustrations are great, once I got used to their quirkiness – but I could never recommend this butchered version! I loved Pooh too, but The Wind in the Willows is undoubtedly one of my favourite books of all time. If this has done anything, it may have made me think about getting a nice updated version with colour illustrations – but I’ll make sure it has the complete text!!

  13. Rather than cutting due to religion, I’m thinking that as editors get younger and younger (some may be ignorant of classical allusions and think this aspect may be boring for readers), they tend to cut things that interfere with action. And they sometimes (often??) do this with the result being a loss to the reader. Kind of like chopping out the whale section of Moby Dick….While not being a traditionally “religious” person, I admire so many works that are inspired by religion. Where would we be with Mozart or Michelangelo?

    • I can’t be sure of their reasons, obviously, but it seems to me that there are several chapters that are pretty much action-free in The Wind in the Willows, so it seems there must be another reason for selecting this one. It surprised me when they said it was about Pan, because it’s always seemed blindingly obvious to me that it’s about Christianity (since I was old enough – I don’t mean to imply I had worked that out aged 6!) in exactly the same way as Aslan’s not really a lion! Yes, as an atheist, I too admire much art, and architecture, that owes its inspiration to religion and faith, and whether one believes the stories or not doesn’t take away from their beauty as stories… Grrr!! Still furious!!

        • I shall indeed! I’m considering having a formal book-burning complete with effigy of the publisher! I may even boycott them and refuse to take more free books – that’ll teach them!!

  14. No, no, no, ………… And to be honest, I don’t really see the point of re-illustrating WITW when the originals are so perfect.

    • It did take me a bit of time to appreciate the new illustrations, being a bit of a traditionalist myself. But just when he’d won me over, I thought I’d like to see how he’d done The Piper chapter… and that’s when the outrage began!!!

  15. I have yet to read The Wind in the Willows (I know, I know) but I have been planning to buy it to read to the twins. I’ll make sure to look out for the original version when I go to buy it. I recently bought The Enchanted Wood for the kids and found that lots had been changed there too.

    • What a treat all three of you have in store! Yes, I’m sure the twins will like some chapters more than others, but at least they, and you, will get the chance to make the decision yourselves. I can just about see why they take the racism out of old kids’ book, though I hate that too – better to have it in and provoke a discussion on changed attitudes. I still can’t think of it without my teeth grinding… 😉

  16. Agreed, it’s positively criminal. It’s exactly this sort of butchering that made me think I didn’t really like “classics” or “literary” books until I was in high school. Stories that are all action but deny the spiritual and emotional are exactly what today’s children *don’t* need. So sad that publishers and editors don’t realize this.

    • I’m ‘lucky’ enough to be old enough to have read the childrens’ classics before they began messing with them. And yes, some bits of them were hard to understand, or even boring to a young child, but each child likes different bits, and how can we find out what we do like if we’re fed a constant diet of adventure! Nothing wrong with adventures, but while they entertain not many of them help us to understand the world and think about the bigger questions. Oh, dear, I must stop ranting! Still furious!!!

  17. This is horrible!! Why should children be shielded from ANY religious message?! Isn’t that how they learn about what other people believe and about history, if indeed the god being discussed is Pan? I’m going to have to check my own copy now… I don’t want some butchered waste of a book.
    How about they just cut Aslan out of the Narnia series, since he’s obviously a metaphor for Christ. And perhaps Gandalf, kids don’t need Gandalf anymore.
    Even if it’s just due to a lack of action… why does everything need to be action packed? Kids survived just fine with slower books! I’m 24, and had no problems at all reading slower books as a child. I read mostly classics, and still do. Kids don’t need all these super maxi boom boom slam books that keep being released… it’s arrogant to act like that’s what all kids want anyway!

    • Absolutely! Whether you take it as Pan or as a metaphor, it still serves a purpose, not to mention just being gorgeous writing! And it cheers me up a lot to hear about younger people loving the classics just as much as my generation did. Of course, action and adventure stories are great sometimes, but there should be a place for all types of writing, and publishers should trust kids to make their own decisions. If any child hates the Pan chapter, I’m sure they’re perfectly capable of flicking past it to get back to the ‘action’ if that’s what they prefer! And your point about learning about what other believe and history is a great one – reading books with religious messages didn’t make me grow up religious, but it did let me understand more about what religion means to so many people.

  18. At the risk of being blackballed, I have never actually read Wind in The Willows. I don’t know why not, but i have clearly missed something special and will remedy this pronto ;o) I may even introduce my brand new granddaughter to Mr Toad and Mole and Ratty when the time comes. I will, of course, make sure we read the original as I am not a fan of butchered stories of any kind. I remember being made to read “abridged versions” of some classics at school (Treasure Island springs to mind!) which were so bland and boring as to have almost put me off reading – luckily, we had a good local library and I was saved missing the pleasure of reading real books 😉

    • *gasps* 😉 You’re in for a treat! It’s one of those childrens’ books that works just as well for adults – in fact, possibly better. I’ve read it so often that it’s hard to remember now just what I got out of it as a young kid on first reading, but as an adult I so appreciate the language – I wonder if many childrens’ authors nowadays would be willing to challenge kids as much as this one does. In retrospect, I must have driven my mother mad with asking ‘what does this word mean’. No wonder we were all introduced to dictionaries at such a young age! And definitely a great one for reading out loud to even younger children. Yes, my opinion is that if a book has to be abridged to suit an age group, then it’s being given to kids who are too young. Better wait till they’re old enough to read the full thing.

  19. I’ve never read The Wind in the Willows, but it is on my list. I’ll look for an older edition when the time comes. People who read the abridged version of this or other books may never even realise they have missed anything.

    • I kind of envy you! I’d love to read it again for the first time! Yes, I don’t much see the point of abridged books, especially the classics. Generally speaking, the plot comes second to the writing, so if you strip away all the extras, you’re actually taking away a lot of the stuff that makes it a classic. Grr! Every time I think about it, I get angry all over again!

  20. I’m with you – shocked and appalled – I strongly believe that the children’s classics are just that because generations of children have loved them (and yes not all (most) children read them in their entirety but the whole book should be there so that they can if they want to. Children of today are no different to previous generations when it comes to loving a good book no matter what the trendy publishers think. Glad you’ve managed to spread the word on Amazon!

    • Given that not a single person has stuck up for the publishers, you have to wonder what was in their minds! They should maybe have thought of asking a few readers what they thought first. It’s a pity though, because the format and illustrations would have meant the book would have had a glowing review from me otherwise. I’d love to think that they’d go back and reprint it with the missing chapter included… oh well, it’s a nice dream anyway…!

  21. Well, I got lathered up when I read this last night. But I was also sleepy and the reply I wrote and that I thought was being leave for suffering humanity was not clicked upon! I may or many not have said something important or not but I do recall gasping in horror at the thought of bowdlerizeing that dear little story. And I may or may not have mentioned that I expected the next thing to go down that dark and dank road we might encounter a like sad change in The Secret Garden.

    • Haha! I hate when that happens! The comments that get ‘lost’ are always the ones where we managed to say something really profound… 😉

      It’s horrible, isn’t it? I know these old books are out of copyright, but I still don’t think publishers should have the right to do things like this, especially not making it clear on the cover! D’you know, I’ve never read The Secret Garden? Not sure how that one got missed. But if I ever acquire any old classics in future, I’ll be making sure I get the version the author intended me to read… grrr!!

      • I love The Secret Garden has one of those mystical passages in it, which is why it came out of my head just now. You know, I think someone is meddling with Narnia.

      • I LOVED The Secret Garden – how on Earth did I miss cramming it down your throat – generation gap, I fear. And what, oh what, would they do to Uncle Tom’s Cabin – make Simon Legree a sort of Despicable Me? Snarl, growl…..

        • You must have read a library copy, I think, because I don’t ever remember there being a copy in the house – I reckon I read everything on the bookshelves. It’s just crazy, the whole thing! Hardly any book written before about 1950 didn’t have religious aspects to it – should they all be junked? And we can bring the kids up on a diet of YA fight the alien books instead… grrr!!

  22. There was a copy of this book (I assume it was the non-butchered version) on my shelf when I was little and I remember /not/ picking it up. Is it too late for me? 🙂

    (I ask primarily because you mention Narnia in your review and that is one series that CANNOT be read as a grown-up. I read them as a kid and thought of them as grand, imaginative adventures. I re-read a couple of them a few years ago and said, “Wait, these are just thinly veiled allegory!” I mean, the man barely needed to invent plot-points! But wow did I love the box set when I was a kid.)

    • It’s hard to be sure, but I really think this one could be enjoyed just as much by adults as kids. I suspect kids might prefer the Mr Toad story, but there’s plenty of other stuff that adults might prefer. And in my opinion the quality of the writing is much higher than the Narnia books, and the ‘messages’ are more about friendship and community than religious, except for The Piper chapter. I say go for it!! Everyone should read it at least once! I must admit I enjoyed The Lion when I re-read it recently, though…

  23. I’m so shocked by this. And really don’t see the point of omitting the chapter. I hope enough people will be scandalized that they won’t repeat their mistake.

    • I hope so too! It’s such a pity though, because the new illustrations are great and a lot of fun, but I’d never give this book to a child – I’m afraid it’s going straight to the recycling bin.

  24. Awesomely epic review! You know, I’ve never read it. I’ve heard of it, of course. And I’ve watched many cartoons–and I think maybe one picture book. You know, you’re the first person I know to have given it a good review! I might need to give it a checking out.

    • Why, thank you! That’s a shame because I imagine a little Prof would have loved all the Mr Toad stuff – still might, though, but I think the rest of it stands up to adult eyes better. It’s incredibly well written for a childrens’ book – I shall add it to your list. *chuckles*

        • You should have started blogging when you were four and then I could have guided you! *tries not to laugh* I am forced to admit there may be a tiny resemblance… *laughs anyway*

            • *laughs meanly* If you’d started Bleak House when you were four, you’d be nearly finished by now! Did you really? I was just starting xylophone…

              Oh, no – no physical similarities – nobody ever called poor Mr Toad cute! I’ve decided you’re really more like Badger…

            • Then you should go back in your time machine and read it, and then when I try to get you to read it two years ago, you will be able to say you already did! Think how smug you’ll feel! Oh, yes, I’m a skilled xylophonist – I told you, that’s when I mastered my signature piece, Three Blind Mice! But my parents never encouraged me. In fact, I seem to remember my mother weeping and yelling “If you don’t stop banging out that dadblamed tune every two minutes, you’ll drive me insane!!!” I felt it would be tactless to point out that clearly I already had…

              You need to get your cute-ometer recallibrated!

            • I must admit, I would feel so smug, I wouldn’t be able to believe it.

              Aww! Now I feel bad for little FEF. I would’ve let you play and play…tho, I would’ve encouraged you to start guitar, I must admit. I’m so biased when it comes to that, see. *laughs* That would’ve been a good come-back, I must admit.

              See, the problem here is that you don’t think toads are cute!

            • Well, you can feel smug in 2050, when you do finish it!

              I think my poor mother may have had a point! I would not describe myself as musically gifted.

              Maybe I just keep meeting the wrong toads…

  25. I’m in complete agreement. The book should not be tampered with. It’s not the same book. Children should see it as written. This makes me think of Swiss Family Robinson. I adored the book. In rereading it there is racism and I don’t like it, but I wouldn’t remove it. This is where a teaching moment comes in-where you can discuss difference in times and what we have learned. Now this is not the same thing. Religion is a choice but if a parent doesn’t like it they can have a teaching moment. The book is the book and should not be changed. If there are aspects you don’t like our don’t agree with address them with the child.

    • Yes, I feel that way about racism and any other kind of outdated attitude in books – how are children ever to learn that things change over time if we constantly update everything? And in the case of religion, whether one is a believer or not, religion plays a huge role in the world, so surely even atheist parents need to make sure their children understand it? I was brought up by atheist parents, but they never tried to stop us reading books that had a strong religious message. Thank goodness – because if they had that would pretty much rule out every book ever written before about 1960…

      I still get mad every time I think about this one!

      • Good idea! I’ve gotta say this has stayed one of my most viewed posts ever since I posted it, and my review on Amazon has consistently stayed at the top of the product page too, so I’m delighted to say I suspect I might have damaged at least online sales quite badly. Not a thing I’d ever normally try to do, but this book deserves it. Pity, because the layout and illustrations were very good…

  26. Really not surprised you’re fuming!

    I agree with you on all counts – I detest the way modern educators try to foist their own views onto children. Christian type content in particular seems to be a bit of a red rag – can’t see why it’s such a problem for so many people. It all seems a bit pointless, especially when, like the Narnia/Abbey Girls/Chalet School stories, it’s a huge chunk of the story.

    There’s quite a lot of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s work on Project Gutenberg – including her adult novels which I really enjoy – I think ‘The Secret Garden’ among them. (Obviously a book is always better but it’s a handy way of checking something out before springing any cash.)

    • It still makes me angry whenever I think of it. I’m a lifelong atheist, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to understand other peoples’ beliefs or think about the more spiritual side of life. It’s becoming ridiculous that we as a society are actually censoring religion out of books – though I’d have had a little more respect for them if they’d admitted that was what they were doing and said it prominently so purchasers could reach an informed decision.

      Ah, that’s good to know – I might try it sometime. I’m still surprised I never read it as a child… 🙂

  27. UNBELIEVABLE ABOMINATION!!!! I just checked my copy (Templar, 2000) to be sure it was intact. I quickly scanned the chapter (its been too long since I read it) and of course, its a part of Ratty and Mole’s adventures, with a beautiful otherworldly savour, and no more subversive than Puck of Pook’s Hill, or Midsummer Nights Dream – why not censor Kipling and Shakespeare as well while they;re at it!!! The word abridged should only ever exist when obliged to cross a river without getting your feet wet!

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