A literary scholar has rocked the world of children's literature by suggesting Kenneth Grahame's quintessential children's book The Wind in the Willows is a "gay manifesto".
The emeritus professor in English and children's literature at Cardiff University, Peter Hunt, has claimed the stories about Ratty, Toady, Moly, and gruff old Mr Badger may have been written as a subversive exploration of Grahame's sexuality.
Professor Hunt has published his theory in an upcoming book titled The Making of Wind in the Willows, where he outlines the way in which the original novel was written and developed, and the real people Grahame may have based his iconic characters on.
Originally, Wind in the Willows began as bedtime stories Grahame would tell his son, Alastair, which he then broadened out into a series of letters he sent to his son. These letters - kept by his wife and published after Grahame's death - later became the very early basis for what would become the children's book.
Despite the origins of the stories being founded in tales for a young boy at bedtime, professor Hunt has long believed the tales were an allegory for a group of men "exercising their power over the lower classes," as well as featuring themes like "fear of change" and "fear of women".
Now it appears Hunt has dug deeper into that reading, telling The Times, "It is certainly a story of maleness and companionship," and despite Grahame being married with a son, Hunt believes he explored his queerness through the anthropomorphic animal tales.
Due to the fact that Grahame died several decades before homosexuality was decriminalised in the UK, Hunt believes the author was exploring the life he was unable to lead through his writing.