Title: The Place of the Song-Dream: The Animal Spirituality of Kenneth Grahame
Publisher: Fiddler’s Green
Author: Clint Marsh
Illustrator: Timothy Renner
The name and the imagery have become so embedded in our culture that many of us are not even certain as to its origins: the Piper at the Gates of Dawn, playing his hypnotic, all-consuming song, known for only a moment as night tips into day.
The scene originates in Kenneth Grahame’s classic novel, The Wind in the Willows. It is one of those children’s books that is not really just for children and, in this short leaflet, Marsh explores the mystical depths of The Wind in the Willows‘ seminal chapter.
I’ll admit: I have not read Grahame’s book. I am moderately familiar with it, and I’ve seen short cartoons that are based on a chapter here and there. I ordered the leaflet not because of a particular interest in Grahame, but because of the focus on Pan and because I really really like the Fiddler’s Green leaflets. They are randomly in and out of print, so I snatch up any I don’t have when the opportunity arises.
And I am very very glad that I was finally able to add The Place of the Song-Dream to my collection. This is an intense, moving, and heart-felt exploration of a single literary moment — the kind of moment that can change one’s entire outlook on the nature of, well, Nature. Here, Mole and Water Rat serve as the models/stand-ins of too many Homo sapiens; working, moving, fretting, deaf and blind (at first) to liminality and ripe possibility of the ever-changing moment.
At first. But then they can see and hear, and they are utterly swept up. As Marsh writes, “This is a harkening to an earlier, more personal, more primal spirituality, a soulful connection between the earth and its inhabitants. … It is utter, delightful mysticism.” (8)
Marsh’s essay is highlighted by two of Renner’s ink illustrations: the wonderful cover, and an interior drawing of Mole and Water Rat, plying uncertain and unfamiliar waters. I hope to see more of his work in the future.
Overall, The Place of the Song-Dream is a quick read, but one which will stay with you for a very long time. Highly recommended to fans of the original The Wind in the Willows and Fiddler’s Green Peculiar Parish Magazine, as well as devotees of Pan and nature mystics everywhere.
[Reviewed by Rebecca Buchanan.]