Monday, May 05, 2008

Winnie the Pooh - A. A. Milne

 Title: Winnie the Pooh
Author: A.A. Milne
Pages: 161
Rating: 4.5/5

Once upon a time, a very long time ago now, about last Friday, Winnie-the-Pooh lived in a forest all by himself under the name of Sanders.

The Good: This book is a collection of ten stories of the life and trials of Winnie the Pooh and his friends. Over the course of these stories Pooh pretends to be a raincloud, gets stuck in a rabbit hole, hunts Woozles, steals a baby kangaroo, survives a flood and manages to (almost) find the North Pole. His is a busy and exciting life but he doesn't do it alone. Throughout these experiences he's accompanied by friends like Piglet, his anxious best friend or Owl, who's not the world's best speller or Rabbit who's a bit of a curmudgeon or Eeyore who suffers from self-esteem issues. If you think this is little clinical for a children's book then check out this amusing article published by the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) about the various disorders of the characters in the Hundred Acre Woods.

My experience with Winnie the Pooh involved being read to as a child and watching the movies "The Blustery Day", "The Hunny Tree" and "The Day for Eeyore". Even at that age I thought Pooh was funny but a little silly and not the brightest bear in the woods. (That title belongs to Yogi). But the stories did have an impact on my life. I play poohsticks every chance I get, every bridge I find and I've memorized the "Wonderful Thing About Tiggers" song, though I sing it without the characteristic lisp.

I was surprised and amused by the dry wit peppered throughout the book. I expected it to be far more simple in how it was written, considering it's a children's book. But I think it's a book anybody can pick up and read.

This book is on my BTRBID (Books to Read Before I Die) list so I was happy to check it off.

The Bad: My major hangup with Winnie the Pooh is that no one knows the truth behind the bear. It may surprise you but Winnie is actually a girl and Canadian. Let's get this straight right here, A.A. Milne named the bear in his stories after the teddy bear owned by his son Christopher Robin. Christopher named his bear after Winnipeg, a bear in the London Zoo. Winnipeg was brought to England by her owner Lt. Harry Coleburn, a Canadian soldier. Harry purchased "Winnie" from a hunter for $20 and named her after his hometown, Winnipeg, Manitoba. He brought her over during the Great War (that's WWI to some of you) and she sort of became a mascot for Harry's regiment. He had to leave her at the zoo when his unit went over to France.

So in short, Milne gives bear name - bear named after Chris' teddy - Chris' teddy named after bear at Zoo - bear at zoo from Canada, brought over during the Great War - Canadian bear named after Manitoba capital, Winnipeg.

There are also some quirks that I would like to understand. Why does Pooh live under the name 'Sanders'? And what about that "Tresspassers Will Be Prosecuted" sign by Piglet's house? Where did that come from? Also, why is Alexander Beetle sidelined? He disappears and goes to live with his Aunt forevermore. He gets this tiny little mention in one story and then essentially ceases to become a character.

The Ugly:
Somebody find Eli Wallach. There's no ugly here.


Melanie said...

Winnie the Pooh is so great. Eeyore is my favourite, although I did like the disappearing Alexander Beetle, sigh. As for 'the ugly', just look at the Olympyjama in your next post!

the duck thief said...

Eeyore's my mom's favourite too and I have to say that he has a certain place in my heart.

Tigger will always be my favourite though. He's always so upbeat and full of energy.

Olympyjama, that's good. I'm going to call it that from now on.

Nicole Maddock said...

Entertaining review. I'm definitely going to play poohsticks the next chance I get!