Did you know today is Winnie the Pooh Day in honor of his creator, A.A. Milne’s birthday? If Mr. Milne were still alive today, he’d be turning 130 and he would no doubt be honored to see that his creation is still bringing joy to children to this day. In honor of Milne and his beloved Pooh Bear, here are a few things you might not know about Winnie and the rest of his pals.
Image Via CorneelW [Flickr]
His name has changed over the years, but not much. When the first A.A. Milne books came out, he was originally called Winnie-the-Pooh, but when Disney acquired the rights to animate the characters, they dropped the hyphen and the hyphenless title became much more popular.
The Pooh stories have broken many book records –even in foreign languages. It has been published in dozens of languages and the 1958 Latin translation even became the first non-English book to be featured on the New York Times Best Seller List and it remains the only Latin book to ever be seen on the list.
Winnie the Pooh may seem like a silly name for a bear, but it was the name of Christopher Robin Milne’s real teddy bear, so it became the name of the bear in the books as well. As it turns out, Christopher Robin named his bear after Winnie, a Canadian black bear that lived at the London Zoo (pictured above in his youth), and a swan named “Pooh” that the family met on vacation. Before the toy was given its famous name, it was originally sold at Harrods with the name “Edward Bear.” As for Pooh the swan, he was actually featured as a character in the same poetry book where Milne first introduced Winnie The Pooh to the world, although he still wasn’t named in one of Milne’s works until a 1925 Christmas story he wrote for The Evening News.
Contrary to many rumors, Winnie’s last name is not Sanders. This story was spread because Pooh’s house says “Sanders” over the door, but it is generally accepted that the name was put above the door by the home’s previous resident and that Pooh just never bothered to take it down.
Most of the other characters were named after Christopher Robin’s toys as well. That is, except for Owl, Rabbit and Gopher. Owl and Rabbit were created by Milne and illustrator Ernest Shepard solely to add a little more variety to the character list. Gopher wasn’t added until 1977, when the Disney company added the character to their animated feature, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
You can see all of the real plushies that inspired the characters at the New York Public Library. With one exception –Christopher Robin lost his Roo plush in the thirties, so it is sadly missing from the collection.
You can also visit most of the locations from the stories. The Hundred Acre Wood, Roo’s Sandpit, Poohsticks Bridget and the rest are all fictionalized names of real places in the Ashdown Forrest in Sussex, England where Milne bought a country home in 1925. For example, the Hundred Acre Wood is really the Five Hundred Acre Wood and Galleon’s Leap is really Gill’s Lap.
Christopher Robin was less than thrilled about the success of his father’s stories. Apparently his grudge started when kids in school picked on him by citing passages from the stories. As he grew older, he accused his father of achieving success by “climbing on my infant shoulders, that he had filched from me my good name and left me nothing but empty fame.” I don’t know about you guys, but if my dad wrote awesome books about me and my toys, I’d be touched, especially as I got older and realized that if the kids making fun of me used verses from the stories –that they must have been fans of the stories themselves.
While Disney maintained Pooh’s classic red shirt look, first introduced in 1932, critics complain that the company has changed the personality and stories too drastically. Strangely, if you prefer your Pooh Bear to be closer to the original, you’ll have to sacrifice the character’s look as his most accurate animation portrayal has been performed by his Russian version. While Russian Winnei’s stories closely follow those depicted in the original trilogy of Pooh stories, he certainly looks drastically different from the illustrations created by artist Ernest Shepard. That's him in the cartoon above, if you couldn't tell.
As for Disney, they’re doing just fine with their own take on the bear and his friends. It turns out the company makes just as much money from Pooh movies and merchandise as they do from the same creations bearing Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto.
Image Via parodyerror [Flickr]
Of course, Disney hasn’t manipulated the stories nearly as much as a few others have. The character has been used by Benjamin Hoff to explain the tenants of Taoism, by Frederick Crews to satirize philosophical approaches used by academics and by John T. Williams to illustrate the works of popular philosophers including Descartes, Pluto and Nietzsche. Apparently the little stuffed bear might just be one of the best philosophers of our time. As if that weren’t enough, Kenny Loggins even wrote a song based on the cuddly character.
He has also left his mark on the real world as well. There are streets in Warsaw and Budapest named after him. And the imaginary sport of Poohsticks, where contestants drop their stick in a stream to see whose will cross the finish line first, is now played worldwide and even has a World Championship match in Oxfordshire.
Are you a Pooh fan? Is there anything I left out here? Also, who is your favorite character in the Hundred Acre Wood? Personally, I love Eeyore, but that's partially because he reminds me of my lazy, mopey dog.