From the Riverbank to Middle Earth and Beyond
by Pat Shirley
Trafford Publishing

"...a common tradition has developed to modern fantasy out of earlier traditions of legend and myth."

The Wind in the Willows by author Kenneth Grahame is compared to J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit in this interesting book. Both writers championed the English countryside over the increasingly industrialized cities of their time and reflected this in their work. Tolkien prized the peaceful Shire to the battlefields of World War I he had experienced in his youth, while Grahame preferred the Riverbank of his estate to the time he had to spend in London at the Bank of England. Further similarities include a focus on rivers, reeds, and willows and ultimately, the author posits, the Great God Pan. Underground dwellings, dangerous forests, and secret tunnels are also important elements in both fictional milieus. Citing William Morris as an influence on both writers, the ancient proto-myth of the "dying god/ returning king" is suggested to underlie the thematic focus of all.

The author clearly has great love for these classic works and takes time to cite sources and evidence to back up her assertions. Conversational in tone, she argues against clear cut divisions between adult and children's literature. She sheds light on the tragic case of Grahame's son, Alastair, whom he initially began to compose The Wind in the Willows for. Some rather freewheeling discussion of fairie folklore and its relevance to these works as well as the modern world are also entered upon. A great deal of literary history coupled with speculative ruminations regarding the function of archetypes in literary art is present here. It is a unique work, sure to interest anyone who would like to learn more about Grahame, Tolkien, and their modern day writer-heirs.

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