Across the 100-acre Wood: A.A. Milne's "Winnie-the-Pooh"
“Sometimes," said Pooh, "the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”
-A.A. MILNE, Winnie-the-Pooh
Winnie-the-Pooh is one of the most beloved children's stories of all time, and in 2014 a UK poll voted Pooh as the #1 favorite children's book from the past 150 years. The legacy of Pooh-Bear, from 1926 when A.A. Milne's book was first published, to Disney's Pooh and the countless adaptations created from the original story, continues to find a home in the hearts of readers young and old today.
Every spring, I find my heart sighing to return to the 100-acre Wood, where Pooh Bear is counting his fourteen pots of honey, and Christopher Robin is setting everything to rights just when you need him. Returning to this world as an adult has only made my deep appreciation for Milne's Pooh grow stronger, as the Silly Old Bear of Very Little Brain seems to hold the key to childhood innocence and ageless humor outheld in his stuffed paw. E.H. Shepard's playful illustrations are timeless, and their ability to completely encapsulate Milne's written word and evoke the style, laughter, and soul of Pooh is nothing short of outstanding. The words and the pictures become inseparable both on the page and in our childhood memories of simpler, better times at The House at Pooh Corner.
At the heart of the "100 Aker Wood" is Winnie-the-Pooh, a simple, stuffed bear whose greatest loves are for honey and Christopher Robin. In the Wood live many friends, such as anxious little Piglet, bouncy Tigger, gloomy Eeyore, wise Owl, motherly Kanga and baby Roo. Pooh Bear gets into many scrapes and adventures, from catching woozles and Heffalumps, to going on an 'Expotition' to the North Pole...but no matter how hopeless things may look, Christopher Robin is always there to save the day and say, "Silly old bear," in his loving way.
A.A. Milne wrote the Pooh stories for his son, Christopher Robin Milne. Christopher's stuffed bear, originally named 'Edward Bear,' became the subject of many stories, and was eventually renamed 'Winnie' after a Canadian black bear seen at the London Zoo. The other friends of the Wood were also based on Christopher's stuffed animals, which are now displayed at the New York Public Library Main Branch in NYC. The stories were originally set at Ashdown Forest outside Cotchford Farm in East Sussex, England. E.H. Shepard drew much of the 100-acre Wood from Ashdown Forest, and several of the locations referenced are popular tourist locations for fans of Milne and Shepard's creation.
This time returning to Pooh, I grabbed a copy of Barnes & Noble's Collectible Edition of The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh, which you can find here. If I were to review merely the edition itself, I have to admit it's gorgeous, wrapped in honey-yellow bonded leather with gold-sprayed edges. While it would definitely make a great gift, it's the kind you'll have a little struggle with to let go of. I say: grab one for yourself, and it'll be an investment towards your happiness. Every page is full of laughter and pure whimsy.
Going through every lovingly-crafted chapter was a real treat to come back to. I have to admit, Pooh is the only book I can think of that has made me repeatedly, regularly burst out laughing. Notably, perhaps the reason our honey-loving bear is so timeless is that his slow, simple thoughts and "oh-bother"s have never yet failed to appeal to readers of every age: from young children to their parents and grandparents reading aloud to them. You could never be too old for Milne's ageless humor. A beloved college professor of mine reads the stories on his own now, at 60, and enjoys them every bit as much as his grandchildren do.
"[Pooh] hurried back to his own house; and his mind was so busy on the way [...] that, when he suddenly saw Piglet sitting in his best arm-chair, he could only stand there rubbing his head and wondering whose house he was in.
'Hallo, Piglet,' he said. 'I thought you were out.'
'No,' said Piglet, 'it's you who were out, Pooh.'
'So it was,' said Pooh. 'I knew one of us was.'
He looked up at his lock, which had stopped at five minutes to eleven some weeks ago. 'Nearly eleven o'clock,' said Pooh happily. 'You're just in time for a little smackerel of something,' and he put his head into the cupboard.
Winnie-the-Pooh is a story for every generation of readers. It is truly one of the greatest children's stories ever written, and I doubt any new work could supplant its place in the hearts of readers now and to come. If you are only familiar with the Disney-fied version of Pooh, I can't recommend enough that you discover the real story, full of unrivaled charm and colorful, quaint imagination that evokes the essence of childhood glory at its heart.
Back in 2017, Fox Searchlight released Goodbye, Christopher Robin, a bio-pic on A.A. Milne's life and the effect of Pooh's immediate success on his family, and particularly his son Christopher. It's an excellent, heart-gripping film, and I firmly recommend it to all who wish to learn more about the beloved author's life, or simply enjoy a good period drama (as I know we all do).
That's all for this week! But don't despair, I'm back early next week with a new post, here on the blog. Follow along on social if the mood takes you! You can find Austens & Alcotts on Instagram here, and Pinterest here.
Have a lovely week, and stay safe, healthy and happy! We'll see you here Monday.