Sunday, March 22, 2015

Movies always leave out the best parts

I remember being terrified of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride at Disneyland as a child - I rode it before I'd seen the movie, and then once I'd seen the movie I was REALLY terrified of weasels. I got over it and have seen the Disney film a few times, and once (sleep-deprived at 4AM and looking for anything to numb the insomnia) I watched a bizarre, frightening, confusing version of the story done by Terry Jones and what must have been a metric fuckton of acid.

But I'd never read the book until this week and now I'm not at all frightened by any of it, I'm simply charmed by the story and really curious as to why film interpretations of children's books leave out the best and most magical parts.

Everything I've seen has focused on horrible Mister Toad and ignored the sweet friendship of Ratty and Mole. Otter has never gotten his due on screen (that I've seen) and there are a dozen wonderful, not totally lucid, little side-stories that are wonderful to read but get skipped over in favor of motor-cars and Toad dressed as a washerwoman.

This is a lovely, serene little book and I wish I'd read it sooner. If I have kids I'm sure I'll be reading it to them because it's full of delightful little songs and descriptions of cozy holes and spooky woods without being idiotic or insipid the way that lots of children's novels can be.

Though perhaps calling this book a novel is misleading - it seems more like an aggregate of short stories interspersed with chapters of a novella. Mr. Toad's escapades ARE the main action, the greater part of the book, and that's why they've gotten so much attention, but the certainly aren't the best part of the book.

"Piper at the Gates of Dawn" is a fluffy little short story about a lost child and a loving benefactor that made me weep as I read and has established itself in my mind one of the most touching stories of familial love and care that I will ever read. Mole's longing for his hole, Ratty's encounter with a seafaring rat, and stumbling upon Mr. Badger's house in the wild wood are all fantastic moments that are overlooked in a lot of retellings. Not only do they make the book worth reading even if you HAVE seen the movie, it's moments like these that make the book worth reading at all.

     - Alli

Grahame, Kenneth. The Wind in the Willows. Amazon Kindle. Seattle: Washington. 1908.

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