For many of us, a boy, a bear, and their fuzzy friends all represent childhood. Well, that bear is a little more grey than he once was. This October marks the 90th anniversary of Winnie-the-Pooh’s arrival at the Hundred Acre Wood.
Winnie-the-Pooh is a fictional bear created by English author A.A. Milne (1882-1956). In the early 1920’s, Milne began to create a series of stories based on his son, Christopher Robin, and his son’s stuffed animals, including a teddy bear named Winnie-the Pooh (originally Edward Bear), a tiger named Tigger, a pig named Piglest, a kangaroo named Kanga, and a donkey named Eeyore. Winnie-the-Pooh, the first collection of stories about Pooh and his friends, was published in 1926. The early books about Pooh were all published by E.H. Shepard (1879-1976), an English artist who also illustrated The Wind in the Willows, and Walt Disney Productions licensed rights to the series in the 1960’s and produced its first animation featuring Pooh in 1966.
Since then, Pooh and his friends have become a beloved part of popular culture throughout the world. The Soviet Union adapted three Winnie-the-Pooh (or Vinni Pukh) films; Warsaw and Budapest each named a street after the bear; and, of course, Oxfordshire hosts the World Championship Poohsticks race annually. (In my heart, I am a champion at poohsticks.)
In honor of Pooh’s special anniversary, several new stories about him are being produced.The first, The Best Bear in All the World, is an anthology that introduces a new penguin friend. (The Telegraph has a fascinating article about why the writers chose a penguin; apparently there is a photograph of the real life Christopher Robin playing with his father, a teddy bear, and a stuffed penguin.) Since the Queen of England and Pooh both turn 90 this year, Disney also produced “Winnie-the-Pooh and the Royal Birthday”, a story about how the pair met. You can read a free PDF of that tale here.
Pooh and his friends always make me a bit nostalgic. When I was very young, my bedroom had a Pooh motif, and even now I still have a couple of old copies of the Pooh story collections. If you have any warm feelings for the bear and his friends, I suggest you check out some of their new adventures. The illustrations pull strongly from the classic Pooh designs, and I love them dearly. Also feel free to share any memories you have of the Hundred Acre Wood! I’m sure I’m not alone in carrying the thought of it with me.
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“What the friends didn’t realize was that Pooh Bear had arrived in the Forest in the very same year that Princess Elizabeth was born. But time is a tricky thing; years begin by lazing along slowly and then suddenly, up they jump and off they trot as quickly as ever they can. To Winnie-the-Pooh, it felt like just yesterday that he had come bumping down those stairs. Bump, bump, bump. And that is just the way it should be.”
-“Winnie-the-Pooh and the Royal Birthday”
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E.H. Shepard, Illustration to page 3 of Winnie-the-Pooh, 1926.
Original Winnie-the-Pooh Toys, 2006, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_original_Winnie_the_Pooh_toys.jpg.
A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh, illustrated by E.H. Shepard, Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1926.