Winnie-the-Pooh | Study Guide

A.A. Milne

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Winnie-the-Pooh | 10 Things You Didn't Know


A.A. Milne never expected Winnie-the-Pooh to become his most popular work when it was released in 1926. Milne was a successful writer before writing Winnie-the-Pooh; he'd written several popular plays and novels and worked for a magazine as a writer and editor. His other work, however, was eclipsed by the popularity of Winnie-the-Pooh and its sequel The House at Pooh Corner (1928). The much-loved bear also appeared in poems in the volumes When We Were Very Young (1924) and Now We Are Six (1927). There are also several authorized sequels penned by other authors.

Winnie-the-Pooh is one of the most beloved children's book characters in the English-speaking world. The "bear of little brain" has inspired popular songs, band and street names, and countless television shows and movies. The books featuring Winnie-the-Pooh have sold more than 50 million copies and have been translated into more than 50 languages. And the Latin translation is the only book in Latin to make it onto the New York Times best-seller list.

1. Most of the characters in Winnie-the-Pooh were based on the author's son's toys.

A.A. Milne bought his son Christopher a stuffed bear as a gift for his first birthday in 1921. Christopher named the bear Edward, the proper form of "Teddy." The bear later became Winnie-the-Pooh. For the next eight years, Christopher received other stuffed animals as gifts, and they became the characters Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, Tigger, and Piglet in the stories. Roo, unfortunately, was lost in an apple orchard in the 1930s, but the remaining stuffed animals are on display in the New York Public Library.

2. Winnie-the-Pooh was named after a bear and a swan.

As World War I began in 1914, a veterinarian traveled to England from Canada to join the fighting. On the way he bought a bear cub from a hunter who had shot the mother bear. The vet named the bear Winnie, after the city of Winnipeg in Canada. When he went off to war, he left the cub with the London Zoo. Christopher Milne saw her there as a child. The bear was so tame that children, including Christopher, were allowed to feed her.

The "Pooh" part of Winnie-the-Pooh's name originally belonged to a swan the family saw while on holiday. Christopher gave the swan this name as he fed it in the mornings.

3. The book's illustrator regretted doing the artwork for Winnie-the-Pooh.

Before he got involved with the Winnie-the-Pooh books, illustrator E.H. Shepard was a political cartoonist. He worked for Punch magazine, a British weekly humor publication, from 1921 to 1953. However, his work as a cartoonist was quickly overshadowed by the popularity of his illustrations for Winnie-the-Pooh. Shepard called Winnie-the-Pooh "that silly old bear" and regretted that he had ever taken the job. He believed his real work was his cartoons. Some people, however—including his granddaughter, novelist Penelope Lively—thought his frequent inclusion of animals into his drawings showed a style well-suited for the Pooh books.

4. Milne's son resented his father basing the character of Christopher Robin on him.

In an interview, Christopher Robin Milne admitted that he'd had "a love-hate relationship" with the books his father wrote. As a young child, he found it exciting to be recognized as the books' Christopher Robin. When he went away to boarding school, however, he was teased and bullied because of the books. He resented his father for creating an ideal son in his books, feeling unable to live up to the perfection of the fictional Christopher Robin. He felt that his father "had got where he was by climbing on my infant shoulders, that he had filched from me my good name and had left me with nothing but the empty fame of being his son."

Christopher remained estranged from both parents until they died, but by the time of his own death in 2014 he was able to say that he was "quite fond" of the Pooh books.

5. Winnie-the-Pooh was the inspiration for several philosophical treatises.

The charm and quiet complexity of Winnie-the-Pooh has inspired readers, parents, and thinkers to take many of the statements by the "bear of little brain" quite seriously. Winnie-the-Pooh has been called "a philosopher to rival Plato and Confucius." According to the British charity The Philosophy Foundation, Britons' favorite Pooh words of wisdom are "a little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference." Other favorites, which many respondents have shared online, include:

  • It's best to know what you are looking for before you look for it.
  • You can't stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.
  • It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like 'What about lunch?'
  • A good reason for going to see everybody is because it's Thursday.
  • Some people care too much. I think it's called love.
  • Do a good thing to do without thinking about it.
  • When you get a sinking feeling, don't worry, it's probably because you're hungry.
  • Don't be late for whatever you want to be in time for.
  • If the person you are talking to doesn't appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.
  • The most important thing is, even if we're apart, I'll always be with you.

6. Psychoanalysts have diagnosed Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends with a variety of mental and developmental problems.

In a 2000 edition of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, four doctors wrote a tongue-in-cheek article titled "Pathology in the Hundred Acre Wood: a neurodevelopmental perspective on A.A. Milne." In the article, the doctors diagnosed a variety of conditions in Milne's characters. Pooh suffers from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, illustrated by his obsession with honey. Piglet, who worries about everything, has Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Owl is dyslexic. Tigger is hyperactive, with impulse control problems, and Christopher Robin, with his long hair and odd clothing, has gender identity issues. Other theories suggest that Eeyore the always sad donkey suffers from depression, and Christopher Robin, who socializes only with animals, is autistic or schizophrenic.

7. Pooh's Hundred Acre Wood was based on a real forest.

Milne set his Pooh stories in a fictional forest called the Hundred Acre Wood. The forest was based on the real-life Ashdown Forest, where the Milnes had a home. The forest, located about 30 miles outside London, was 5,000 acres in size, not 100. Many of the beloved locations from the book are labeled in the forest, including the enchanted place, the Sandy Pit, and the bee tree.

8. Winnie-the-Pooh was the first Sunday morning cartoon.

American producer Stephen Slesinger, who bought the licensing rights for Winnie-the-Pooh merchandise from A.A. Milne, produced the first cartoon about the honey-loving bear in 1935. Later, in the 1940s, he created the first Sunday morning cartoon about Pooh. After that series, Pooh wasn't seen again on the screen until the 1960s, when Disney purchased the film rights and began making movies about him.

9. There's a world championship of the game Pooh Sticks every year.

Every May in the British town of Witney, people compete in the World Championship of Pooh Sticks, the game of sticks and stream immortalized in Winnie-the-Pooh, to raise money for charity. Sponsored by local businesses and the Rotary Club of Oxford Spires, the Championship draws hundreds of competitors and tourists from as far away as Australia. The official rules of Pooh Sticks give eight steps for the game, including asking players to check which way the stream is flowing and to refrain from falling into the water.

10. Winnie-the-Pooh has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Winnie-the-Pooh received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on his 80th birthday in 2006. The Hollywood Walk of Fame, on Hollywood Boulevard in California, includes over 2600 inlaid stars stretching well over a mile. The stars honor actors and celebrities, including the animated characters Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Snow White, and Winnie-the-Pooh.

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