Landscape (UK)

FOLKLORE AND FICTION

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Toads are, in common with many other shy and nocturnal creatures, deeply entrenched in our myths, legends and folklore. Their main connection is with witchcraft: toads were often thought to be used in spells, as in one of the three witches’ scenes in Shakespear­e’s Macbeth. In medieval times, the toad was associated with the Devil, whose coat of arms was supposed to show three toads. Toads often come into houses, especially in autumn, when they are looking for places to hibernate, something once widely considered as bringing bad luck to the occupants. This may also have been connected to the fact that toads secrete poison. Luckily, their image took a more positive turn, thanks to Kenneth Grahame, whose character Mr Toad in The Wind in the Willows is one of the best-known in children’s literature. The antics of this pompous but loveable fictional toad have been enjoyed by generation­s of young and not-so-young readers since the book was first published in 1908.

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