I’ve always loved the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. The Disney version is OK, but I really treasure the books with the pastel wash illustrations by EH Shepard. My son’s nursery had six of these prints which I still have and can’t manage to part with despite him graduating university. Why is that?
AA Milne became famous for a series of stories and poems about a little boy named Christopher Robin and his adventures with his animal friends in the Hundred Acre Wood. Up until this point Milne had been known for his plays, but in 1926 he published Winnie-the-Pooh, and Christopher Robin, Eeyore, Kanga and Roo, Rabbit, Piglet, Owl, and Tigger made their way into children’s literature and the hearts of millions on both sides of the pond.
The character of Christopher Robin was based on Milne’s small son by the same name. When the real Christopher Robin was young, he helped his father work on the stories. The fictional Hundred Acre Woods was modeled on nearby Ashdown Forest where father and son would walk together. Young Christopher had a stuffed bear named Edward. The fictional story bear was named after a bear in the London Zoo he had seen called Winnie (the bear came from Winnipeg, Canada) and Pooh after a swan the boy also saw. There is a bridge in Ashdown Forest where it is alleged that the first game of Poohsticks was played. The bridge has become a tourist site and since 1984, the annual World Poohsticks’ Championship has been held at Day’s Lock on the Thames.
Unfortunately, Christopher Robin grew up to resent his father immortalizing his childhood in the stories and poems. Once he was off to boarding school, he was teased and his life made difficult by other boys. So much so, that he learned to box to defend himself. Christopher Milne served in WWII, graduated from Cambridge, and ran a bookshop for most of his life. He also wrote several books, one called The Enchanted Places examined his life as a child. The stuffed toys Christopher played with were given to an editor who donated them to the New York City Public Library where they can be seen today.
Trivia Question: AA Milne attended school and was taught by another famous writer. Who was that? Feel free to answer in the comments. (I’ll post the answer if no one gets it.)