“Don’t underestimate the value of doing nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”
A.A. Milne’s contemplative, red t-shirted bear first appeared in book form in 1926, in the original eponymous collection of stories, followed two years later by The House at Pooh Corner. Milne wrote the stories for his young son, after whom Pooh’s best friend Christopher Robin is named, and the inspiration for the vibrant cast of animal characters was taken from Christopher’s toy collection.
The animals in Winnie-the-Pooh are what make it one of the most recognisable and iconic children’s stories in the last century, peppered with quirks and remarks testament to its lasting individuality. Tigger’s pogo-stick-like tail, Pooh’s poetic tendencies and Piglet’s adorable bewilderment at the world evoke more intense childhood nostalgia with each YouTube video watched. Every cast of children’s characters produces a personal favourite, and my heart goes out in particular to Eeyore, who surely epitomises the frustration of any reader not to be able to reach into a book and tell a character that everything is going to be just fine. The adjective ‘Eeyorish’ has even made it into the Oxford English Dictionary as “deeply pessimistic, gloomy” and his melancholic reflections on life are one of the most memorable trademarks of the story.
In 1932, Pooh appeared for the first time in his classic red t-shirt, in the first colour motion picture of the story made by Stephen Slesinger. After buying the rights in 1930, Slesinger cultivated a multi-million dollar Winnie-the-Pooh empire. Since then, Pooh has become associated vividly with Disney. Pooh’s brand might be lucrative but it will always be simultaneously, soothingly simple in the gentle world of Hundred Acre Wood— which can be visited via reading the book or heading down the M25 towards Hatfield, the location of Ashdown Forest, where you can visit the real life inspiration for Pooh Corner.
Nowadays, nostalgic Winnie-the-Pooh love remains a strong force for good in the world; it has recently produced a new story called Winnie-the-Pooh and the Missing Bees, illustrated by Mark Burgess, to raise awareness of the bee decline—particularly good news for anyone as partial to honey as Pooh. Finally, for anyone who wants to combine Pooh-love with skill and precision, look no further than what must surely be the happiest sporting competition in existence, the World Pooh Sticks Championships 2017.