The Wind of Change


The children’s novel The Wind in the Willows from 1908 by Kenneth Grahame does not seem like a very obvious work of culture that investigates posthuman conditions. Nevertheless ideas of unity and otherness are certainly present in the book. The animals, like Mole, Rat and Badger, all behave like humans and together they live in a very British community in the countryside, but they are also very different from each other; not only by moods and faculties, but by the fact that they are all different species. Because of this they have different positions in their society. Unity comes when they face the Wide World, a place of mystery and danger beyond their little community. The ultimate other for these animals is the human race(!) and our technology, like the car that disrupts the rural idyll. In many ways the novel is about change and threatening modernity, but it also shows how unity disappears when the great other is not considered. Amongst themselves the animals are in fact divided in many social classes based on races.

Leave a Reply

3 Comments on "The Wind of Change"

Notify of
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Charlotte Grum

Thank you Kristian for bringing a smile on my face this morning – the characters in The wind ind the Willows as well as the characters in Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit were my first encounters with a non-human animal perspective on the world – that is, a human non-human perspective. Have a good day in the Wide World!

Johannes Poulsen
Johannes Poulsen
Anthropomorphic animal societies as the source of a post-anthropocentric point of view in popular culture could be an entire field of research on its own, and it’s great that you brought up The Wind in the Willows – I hadn’t thought about that at all. The question is: does this point of view tell us anything about how to live in a posthuman world other than the fact that it brings our attention to the construction of otherness? These kinds of stories in children’ literature and popular culture often have strong elements of allegory and parable, which makes it difficult… Read more »
Maja Tingberg Kruse
Hi Kristian! I think it is very interesting that the animals find unity only when facing the Wide World, as you say! To make a human contemporary parallel I wonder what challenge would be great enough to unite humanity. It seems like the creation of “others” that are different from yourself, your family, religion, nation, plays a very important role especially from a political point of view. A sure way to gain power and popularity as a politician seems to be the classic problem-solution tactic where you invoke fear of the other and demonize them (even to the point that… Read more »