Kenneth Grahame’s books changed the nature of children’s fiction for ever, giving childhood its own authentic voice. Of them, of course, the one which stars the animal characters Ratty, Mole, Badger and Mr Toad is by far the most famous. It is not only a rollicking comic tale, of a quite unique kind, but a disturbing social parable, one of the finest portraits of the southern English countryside, and the most intense evocation of paganism in Victorian and Edwardian fiction. This talk looks at how and why it came to be written, and at the story of Grahame himself, the outwardly boring and conventional bank clerk who created it. His life turns out to be one of triumph, pathos and tragedy, and by understanding him, we come to understand also when and why his masterpiece was created, and how it has been so effective.

Speaker: Professor Ronald Hutton is a Professor of History at the University of Bristol. He is a leading authority on history of the British Isles in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, on ancient and medieval paganism and magic, and on the global context of witchcraft beliefs.

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