Thursday October 14, 2021’s Smile of the Day: Winnie the Pooh
On this Day:
In 1926, A. A. Milne’s book “Winnie the Pooh” was released.
Winnie-the-Pooh, also called Pooh Bear and Pooh, is a fictional anthropomorphic teddy bear created by English author A. A. Milne and English illustrator E. H. Shepard.
The first collection of stories about the character was the book Winnie-the-Pooh (1926), and this was followed by The House at Pooh Corner (1928). Milne also included a poem about the bear in the children’s verse book When We Were Very Young (1924) and many more in Now We Are Six (1927). All four volumes were illustrated by E. H. Shepard.
The Pooh stories have been translated into many languages, including Alexander Lenard’s Latin translation, Winnie ille Pu, which was first published in 1958, and, in 1960, became the only Latin book ever to have been featured on The New York Times Best Seller list.
In 1961, Walt Disney Productions licensed certain film and other rights of Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh stories from the estate of A. A. Milne and the licensing agent Stephen Slesinger, Inc., adapted the Pooh stories, using the unhyphenated name “Winnie the Pooh”, into a series of features that would eventually become one of its most successful franchises.
In popular film adaptations, Pooh has been voiced by actors Sterling Holloway, Hal Smith, and Jim Cummings in English, and Yevgeny Leonov in Russian.
A. A. Milne named the character Winnie-the-Pooh after a teddy bear owned by his son, Christopher Robin Milne, on whom the character Christopher Robin was based. The rest of Christopher Milne’s toys – Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, and Tigger – were incorporated into Milne’s stories. Two more characters, Owl and Rabbit, were created by Milne’s imagination, while Gopher was added to the Disney version. Christopher Robin’s toy bear is on display at the Main Branch of the New York Public Library in New York City.
Christopher Milne had named his toy bear after Winnie, a Canadian black bear he often saw at London Zoo, and Pooh, a swan they had encountered while on holiday. The bear cub was purchased from a hunter for C$20 by Canadian Lieutenant Harry Colebourn in White River, Ontario, while en route to England during the First World War. He named the bear Winnie after his adopted hometown in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Winnie was surreptitiously brought to England with her owner, and gained unofficial recognition as The Fort Garry Horse regimental mascot. Colebourn left Winnie at the London Zoo while he and his unit were in France; after the war she was officially donated to the zoo, as she had become a much-loved attraction there. Pooh the swan appears as a character in its own right in When We Were Very Young.
In the first chapter of Winnie-the-Pooh, Milne offers this explanation of why Winnie-the-Pooh is often called simply “Pooh”:
But his arms were so stiff … they stayed up straight in the air for more than a week, and whenever a fly came and settled on his nose he had to blow it off. And I think – but I am not sure – that that is why he is always called Pooh.
American writer William Safire surmised that the Milnes’ invention of the name “Winnie the Pooh” may have also been influenced by the haughty character Pooh-Bah in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado (1885).
One of the best known characters in British children’s literature, a 2011 poll saw Winnie the Pooh voted onto the list of top 100 “icons of England”. Forbes magazine ranked Pooh the most valuable fictional character in 2002, with merchandising products alone generating more than $5.9 billion that year. In 2005, Pooh generated $6 billion, a figure surpassed by only Mickey Mouse. In 2006, Pooh received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, marking the 80th birthday of Milne’s creation. The bear is such a popular character in Poland that a Warsaw street is named for him (Ulica Kubusia Puchatka). There is also a street named after him in Budapest, Hungary (Micimackó utca).
Winnie the Pooh has inspired multiple texts to explain complex philosophical ideas. Benjamin Hoff uses Milne’s characters in The Tao of Pooh and The Te of Piglet to explain Taoism. Similarly, Frederick Crews wrote essays about the Pooh books in abstruse academic jargon in The Pooh Perplex and Postmodern Pooh to satirise a range of philosophical approaches. Pooh and the Philosophers by John T. Williams uses Winnie the Pooh as a backdrop to illustrate the works of philosophers, including Descartes, Kant, Plato and Nietzsche. “Epic Pooh” is a 1978 essay by Michael Moorcock that compares much fantasy writing to A. A. Milne’s, as work intended to comfort, not challenge.
In music, Kenny Loggins wrote the song “House at Pooh Corner”, which was originally recorded by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Loggins later rewrote the song as “Return to Pooh Corner”, featuring on the album of the same name in 1991. In Italy, a pop band took their name from Winnie, and were titled Pooh. In Estonia, there is a punk/metal band called Winny Puhh.
In the “sport” of Poohsticks, competitors drop sticks into a stream from a bridge and then wait to see whose stick will cross the finish line first. Though it began as a game played by Pooh and his friends in the book The House at Pooh Corner and later in the films, it has crossed over into the real world: a World Championship Poohsticks race takes place in Oxfordshire each year. Ashdown Forest in England where the Pooh stories are set is a popular tourist attraction, and includes the wooden Pooh Bridge where Pooh and Piglet invented Poohsticks. The Oxford University Winnie the Pooh Society was founded by undergraduates in 1982.
From December 2017 to April 2018, the Victoria and Albert Museum hosted the exhibition Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic. On exhibit were teddy bears that had not been on display for some 40 years because they were so fragile.
The Japanese figure skater and two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu regards Pooh as his lucky charm. He is usually seen with a stuffed Winnie-the-Pooh during his figure skating competitions. Because of this, Hanyu’s fans will throw stuffed Winnie-the-Poohs onto the ice after his performance. After one of Hanyu’s performances at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, one spectator remarked that “the ice turned yellow” because of all the Poohs thrown onto the ice (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
How does Winnie the Pooh eat his honey? With his bear hands, of course…
Second, a Song:
Pooh’s Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin (also known as Winnie the Pooh’s Most Grand Adventure in some countries) is a 1997 American direct-to-video animated adventure comedy-drama film co-written, co-produced, and directed by Karl Geurs. The film follows Pooh and his friends on a journey to find and rescue their friend Christopher Robin from the “skull”. Along the way, the group confront their own insecurities throughout the search, facing and conquering them in a series of events where they are forced to act beyond their own known limits, thus discovering their true potential. Unlike the film’s predecessors, this film is an entirely original story, not based on any of A. A. Milne’s classic stories (although some elements derive from “In Which Rabbit Has a Busy Day and We Learn What Christopher Robin Does in the Mornings” and “In Which Christopher Robin and Pooh Come to an Enchanted Place and We Leave Them There” from The House at Pooh Corner).
On the last day of summer, Christopher Robin attempts to tell his friend Winnie-the-Pooh some unpleasant news, but Pooh is disinterested and continuously changes the subject. After spending the day playing, Christopher Robin leaves Pooh with the advice, “You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think,” but the drowsy Pooh does not clearly understand. Autumn arrives the next morning, and Pooh awakes to find a pot of honey at his doorstep, failing to notice a note attached to it. After eating the contents and staining the note in honey, Pooh searches for Christopher Robin to ask about the honey pot, but discovers that he is missing. Pooh’s friends – Piglet, Tigger, Rabbit, and Eeyore – have not seen Christopher Robin either and cannot decipher the note attached to the pot, so they go to Owl for assistance. Although he is able to remove some of the honey from the note, Owl misinterprets it as a request for help from Christopher Robin. Further mispronouncing the word “school” as “skull”, he deduces that Christopher Robin has been taken to a distant and dangerous place called “Skull”, a cave where the monstrous “Skullasaurus” resides. Owl equips the group with a map and sends them into the “Great Unknown” of the Hundred Acre Wood.
Throughout their journey through the Great Unknown, the group hears strange noises behind them, which they assume is the Skullasaurus. The group slowly begins to realize just how helpless they are without Christopher Robin in the outside world. Piglet, Tigger, and Rabbit come to believe they do not have the courage, strength, or intelligence respectively to go on; Piglet is abducted by a swarm of butterflies in a tranquil field, leaving him feeling scared and powerless, Tigger plummets into a deep gorge and is unable to bounce out to safety, eventually causing the others to fall in with him, and Rabbit continuously makes poor leadership decisions following Owl’s inaccurate map. Pooh tries to comfort them each with the advice Christopher Robin had given him, but fails due to his inability to remember exactly what he said. When Rabbit finally breaks down and admits he has no idea where they are going, the group comes to terms with their failure and take shelter in a nearby cave. While everyone is asleep, Pooh laments on getting no closer to finding Christopher Robin.
The next morning, the five friends realize they had spent the night in the Skull Cave. The group enters and splits up to find Christopher Robin, and though Rabbit, Tigger, Eeyore, and Piglet eventually reunite, they are scared away by Pooh’s distorted reflection as he walks towards them from behind a crystal wall, mistaking him for the Skullasaurus. As Pooh winds up stuck in a small crevasse, his friends believe that he has been eaten. They discover the “Eye of the Skull” where Christopher Robin is supposedly trapped, and overcome their fears and doubts to reach it. Observing his friends’ bravery, Pooh excitedly frees himself from the tight gap, only to slip down a long descent and fall into a deep pit that he is unable to escape. While there, he realizes that Christopher Robin is still with him in his heart, even when they are not together, just as Christopher Robin had promised. As Piglet, Rabbit, Tigger, and Eeyore enter the Eye, they are found by Christopher Robin, who has been searching for them as well. He clears up Owl’s misunderstanding of the note, explaining that he wanted Pooh to “help [him]self” to the honey pot he gave him. The roars of the Skullasaurus they have been plagued by were actually the noises of Pooh’s stomach growling.
After Christopher Robin rescues Pooh from the pit, the group exits the cave, only to discover that from the outside, it and the other places they have crossed are not nearly as big and scary as they seemed when Christopher Robin was not with them. That evening, Christopher Robin says he will be returning to school the next day, but Pooh declares that he will always be waiting for him, and the two happily watch the sunset, knowing they will always have each other in the sanctuary of the Hundred Acre Wood (per Wikipedia).
Here is a clip “You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, & smarter than you think.” from Pooh’s Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin, courtesy of ROBINxPOOH and YouTube.com. I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.” Winnie the Pooh
Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky