“The Wind in the Willows” begins with the Mole leaving home. He sets off to have an adventure, just as everyone who leaves home beleives he or she is doing.
Yet, as the book continues, I think that the destination of every character finally poves to be home after all. The quest to return home, rather than to find adventure, is the center of every character’s journey. Mole comes back to his home at last and settles into it with joy. Rat moves in with him without discussion. Toad is willing to go to any lengths to make his way home.
We see this theme of the return home most clearly when Rat gets the urge to go “seawards first and then on shipboard, and so to the shores that are calling to me!” But the Mole physically drags Rat home at that point. And to bring Rat back to himself, to relieve him of the fever of adventure that has gripped him, he talks about casual things, about the land. About harvests and jam and winter.
When I think of “The Wind and the Willows,” I will think a bit of Rat and Mole on the river, or wandering in the storm. I will laugh at Toad in his dress getting rides on riverboats on trains. But most of all, I will think of the image of Mole and Rat, in front of the fire in Mole’s comfortable home. Safe and snug.