So you can read my books

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


On this day in 1907 Kenneth Grahame wrote the first of a series of letters to his son, Alastair,

describing the Toad, Rat, Mole and Badger adventures that eventually became The Wind in the Willows.

Grahame had been inventing such bedtime stories for several years and the letter, occasioned by his being separated from Alastair on his seventh birthday, picks up what seems to be a continuing tale:

"Have you heard about the Toad? He was never taken prisoner by brigands at all. It was all a horrid low trick of his."

Alastair was an only child, born blind in one eye and with a squint in the other.

He was plagued by health problems throughout his short life. Alastair eventually committed suicide on a railway track

while an undergraduate at Oxford University, two days before his 20th birthday on 7 May 1920.

Out of respect for Kenneth Grahame, Alastair's demise was recorded as an accidental death.

Mother once told me that the folly of most two-leggeds was that they wanted "happy endings"

when the best one could hope for was the appreciating of the happy moments in between the dawning of the light and the dying of it.

"Can't we have both, Mama?," I remember asking, coughing from double pneumonia.

She ruffled my hair and smiled sadly, "Perhaps you will be the exception, Little One. I will pray so."

Perhaps Alastair's suicide was brought on by his handicap and his maladjustment to an adult world that seemed, to him as to Rat, more than adventure:

"And beyond the Wild Wood again?" [Mole] asked: "Where it's all blue and dim, and one sees what may be hills or perhaps they mayn't, and something like the smoke of towns, or is it only cloud-drift?"

"Beyond the Wild Wood comes the Wide World,'" said the Rat. "And that's something that doesn't matter, either to you or me. I've never been there, and I'm never going, nor you either, if you've got any sense at all."

Grahame himself is described as one who pined for but never took the Open Road,

as an escape from his banking career and a loveless marriage.

When he offered THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS to his publisher he described it as a book "of life, sunshine, running water, woodlands, dusty roads, winter firesides, free of problems,

clear of the clash of sex, of life as it might fairly be supposed to be regarded by some of the wise, small things 'that glide in grasses and rubble of woody wreck."

My own THE BEAR WITH 2 SHADOWS grew from my own childhood tales told to me by Mother

as she hugged me as I shivered and coughed from double pneumonia. We were iced in our basement apartment in Detroit by one of the worst ice storms in remembrance.

Phones down. Just new in town. All alone.

So Mother merged bits of myth and legend she remembered from both sides of her bloodline : Lakota and Celtic.

She was sure I would die, and she wanted my last moments to be filled, not with fear and dread, but with awe, wonder, and magic.

She told of The Turquoise Woman, whose touch was icy but whose heart was warm. My shivers were from her embrace.

And that hulking shadow at the foot of my bed? Why, that was Hibbs, the bear with two shadows, protector of all hurting children.

He was there for me.

And a world of wonder and magic opened up in my feverish mind, birthing a happy moment for my mother : despite the odds, I grew better. I lived.

Have you heard about the bear? He saved a little boy once. A bit of that little boy still lives ... in my heart.



  1. Hi, Roland,

    The prayer was so beautiful..... The images and music so tranquil and soothing.

  2. Sweet and touching.

    As the mother of a child with special needs I hope that he can find a kinder world than many who struggle do.

    I pray that the safety, warmth and stories I give him while he is little will inspire and strengthen him as he grows.

  3. Sweet. You reveal the most interesting trivia Roland.

    Have a good day.


  4. Beautiful imagery! And your own bear legend. How wonderful!!

  5. And so, another layer of the onion is peeled away to bring my tears...

  6. Hello, Michael :
    I'm glad you made to Chicago from Florida safe over these sometimes insane highways. Isn't that prayer, music, and photography beautiful?

    Jo :
    My mother's love and stories worked for me. I feel they will work for your little boy. And Alastair was from a home of a loveless marriage, an often absent father, and a pre-occuppied with self mother. Your little boy will grow strong within from your love and your stories.

    Donna :
    Thank you. I try to bring depth and perspective to things that are not as familiar as we might believe. Thanks more for visiting and chatting. I am still trying to recover from that 18 hour Sunday work day in preparation for another gauntlet tomorrow.

    Johanna :
    Thanks for the praise. Yes, Hibbs, the bear with 2 shadows, is special to me, for he is mine ... and of my mother's love and imagination. Download the free application "Kindle for PC" and check out the FREE first 3 chapters of THE BEAR WITH TWO SHADOWS, why don't you?

    Wendy :
    I teared up, too, writing this. But they were good tears, for I remembered my mother's words and her love. Hibbs even seemed to stand close, clamping that big paw of his on my shoulder as I wrote.

    Have a great new week. And thanks for caring enough to shed a tear or two for me, Roland

  7. This was one of the most beautiful writings I've ever read. Thank you so much for this.

  8. Alleged Author :
    I am left without words at your very kind ones. I hope when all is dark, a strong wind comes to fill your sails and carry you into the light again. Thank you for your comment. Roland

  9. Roland, oh my, what an evocative post. And I learned so much about Kenneth Grahame (so sad) and one of my favorite all time books.

  10. Condra :
    Thinking about this anniversary of sorts for Kenneth Grahame put me in a reflective, evocative mood. Thanks for enjoying my post. So often we think we know about the icons in our childhood, but then we learn there is always something new to discover. Thanks for visiting and commenting. It means a lot to me, Roland

  11. ...and those who read this, should then bounce over to the interview we shared in which I compared Grahame's work to your very own "Bear With Two Shadows," a comparison I felt worthy of mentioning at the time.
    Thank you for bringing to the forefront one of the greats in our craft.
    Well done, Roland:)


  12. Beautiful prayer. Thank you for sharing!

  13. Thank you for the beauty, Roland. I had both Wind In The Willows and Winnie The Pooh read to me as a tiny child and know that the sunshine, friendship and woodland found there created a solid opptimism in my heart.

  14. Such a beautiful post Roland. I had no idea about Kenneth Grahame's son. I love the Wind in the Willows and I've just gotten a copy of Dream Days.

  15. What a lovely, calming story. You inspire me so much Roland!