An article from the Ovi magazine
There is only one way I want to start this review celebrating Winnie-the-Pooh and that is to accuse Disney of ripping the soul out of this lovable octogenarian teddy bear and profiteering from his famous gang of friends. I grew up watching Disney’s ‘hyphenless’ incarnation and thoroughly enjoyed the cartoons, but my opinion has radically altered now I have read the original stories.
October 14th 2006 marked 80 years since Alan Alexander Milne published Winnie-the-Pooh, the first of two books that would firmly establish the bear in the hearts of all that would meet him. The Complete Winnie-the-Pooh contains A.A. Milne’s first compilation of short stories, plus The House at Pooh Corner, which was published two years later in 1928 and introduced Tigger.
The two books, unlike Disney’s animated versions, are written in a style that will make adults laugh more than the children, at whom they are aimed. Milne’s use of language, the poetry ascribed to Pooh and the cynicism expressed by Eeyore are just a few examples of the adult-orientated material within the pages, but it simultaneously awakens the inner-child reminding us of our own childhood games, toys and teddy bears.
Both books are written as though Milne is narrating the story to Christopher Robin, his only son, and you begin to feel as though you are the one sat cross-legged listening intently to the “silly old bear’s” adventures. Milne fires your imagination in such a way that you could almost smell the leaves in Hundred Acre Wood or a jar of honey in Pooh’s house.
When I wrote that the language is directed at adult readers, I mean that the little asides and vocabulary that Milne injects into the text or puts into the mouths of his characters are beyond what most children would understand. In the first story (In Which We Are Introduced to Winnie-the-Pooh and Some Bees and the Stories Begin), Pooh decides to use a balloon to float up to get honey from a beehive, but events take a wrong turn and the bees begin buzzing around the bear, who is pretending to be a cloud: “I think the bees suspect something!” The dry humour, the straight delivery by Pooh and the unlikely use of the word ‘suspect’ when used with bees just left me in pieces.
All the characters in the book develop strong personalities so quickly that you can’t help but love them all. Piglet is effeminate and has a modest ego, plus, despite being a “Very Small Animal”, he accompanies Pooh on many adventures and manages to do a Very Grand Thing. Milne loves capitalization to emphasise the fact that the characters are doing something almost for the first time, so it demands emphasis…a Very Clever Idea.
Returning to the adult theme, I believe that once you have read the books Eeyore will become your favourite character because his pessimistic, sarcastic, cynical and gloomy personality will just win you over. For example, when Roo and Tigger are stuck up a tree, Piglet helpfully suggests that by standing upon each other’s shoulders, with Eeyore at the bottom, they may be able to reach the stranded pair, “”And if Eeyore’s back snapped suddenly, then we could all laugh. Ha ha! Amusing in a quiet way,” said Eeyore, “but not really helpful.””
A.A. Milne was a little bitter himself at forever being remembered as a children’s author, especially after writing 25 plays and a number of other books, but he was not the only one to rue Winnie-the-Pooh. His son, Christopher Robin Milne, complained that his father had left him with ’empty fame’ and Ernest Howard Shepard, the illustrator, felt that Pooh overshadowed his work. However, his illustrations give the book another dimension and give a soul to each of the characters; I particularly love his Piglet with his flappy ears.
If, like me, you have only experienced Disney’s Winnie the Pooh, then it is time to inject the hyphens and the Milne back into this 81-year-old bear. Accompany him on an adventure with Rabbit, Roo, Kanga, Owl, Tigger, Eeyore, Piglet and Christopher Robin because it will make you feel like a child again…if not, then you will enjoy Winnie-the-Pooh’s fantastic poetry.