| Additional Resources | About Pauline Dewan
   
                     
  Adventure Fiction   Realistic
Fiction
  Animal
Fiction
  Historical
Fiction
  Toy
Fiction
  Fantasy
Fiction
 
 

An image of the bookcover for Winnie-the-Pooh


Winnie-the-Pooh (1926)

A. A. Milne

Like Grahame, Milne remembered his childhood as “the great, good time,” according to biographer, Ann Thwaite.1 These happy memories are reflected in his novels and poetry for children. Like Lewis Carroll, Milne was a mathematician. Revealing a mathematician’s humour, these authors typically conduct the logical pursuit of an idea to the point of absurdity.2

After graduating from Cambridge, Milne worked as a freelance journalist in London, becoming an assistant editor at Punch, the British humour magazine.

Milne’s writing

Milne spent most of his life as a playwright. He wrote 34 plays, including Toad of Toad Hall, a stage version of Grahame’s The Wind in the Willow. Milne also wrote numerous children’s works as well essays, novels, and short stories.

Although he wished to be remembered for his plays, Milne is now famous for his two Winnie-the-Pooh novels and two related books of humorous verse (When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six). His only child, Christopher, became the model for the character, Christopher Robin, who appears in these four books.  

Introduction to the story

Winnie-the-Pooh is the story of a toy bear and his toy friends. Their adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood are depicted with great perception and light-hearted humour. Milne worked closely with Ernest Shepard, an illustrator he met in his earlier days at Cambridge. To this day, Shepard’s illustrations accompany the text.

The Winnie-the-Pooh books have been translated into numerous languages and have always remained popular with young children.

Back to top

Point-of-view and characterization

What distinguishes these two novels is the use of narrative voice. Rarely has a more convincing story been presented from the point of view of a very young child.

The humour and insight in the novels are dependent on a young child’s limited and unsophisticated reasoning. For example, Pooh (who acts and reasons like a youngster) thinks he can deceive a swarm of bees by pretending to be a cloud.

The toy animals have the personalities of very young children. Milne is exceptionally perceptive about the thought processes of a young child. Child logic and its incongruities have never been depicted so successfully. Most of the adventures in the novel are instigated or complicated by some form of child logic.

When Pooh squeezes into a hole in the ground, a hole that he can barely fit into, he is unable to get out. Christopher Robin’s proposed solution is to wait until he becomes thin.

The Hundred Acre Wood

Unlike most fictional forests, the Hundred Acre Wood is not depicted as frightening. There are no real dangers in this protected place. These woods are associated with childhood, particularly preschool childhood.

Time in the Hundred Acre Wood is measured in childlike terms. The story takes place “once upon a time, a very long time ago now, about last Friday.”3 The unhurried, leisurely pace of life in this forest epitomizes the relaxed tempo of childhood.

The preliterate world of young children

One of the most successful aspects of the novel is the depiction of a preliterate world. All the characters are on the threshold of literacy and are well aware of the difficulties of the printed word. Pooh tells Owl, “My spelling is Wobbly. It’s good spelling but it Wobbles, and the letters get in the wrong places.”4

The toy animals have enormous respect for anyone who can read and write. Owl’s negligible reading skills are greatly admired because the others can barely read at all. When Pooh asks him to write “Happy Birthday” on a jar, Owl asks “a little anxiously” if Pooh can read. Then Owl writes, “HIPY PAPY BTHUTHDTH THUTHDA BTHUTHDY”5

Back to top

To enter the world of literacy and learning, Christopher Robin must eventually leave the Hundred Acre Wood. The toy animals all know that he has somehow outgrown the preliterate world of the forest: “Christopher Robin was going away. Nobody knew why he was going; nobody knew where he was going; indeed, nobody even knew why he knew that Christopher Robin was going away.”6

The self-conscious emphasis on language in the Pooh books, argues Deborah Thacker, “suggests an awareness of the social power of language, and the different ways in which children use it, that reflects Modernist concerns.”7

Plot

The episodic plot contains ten self-sufficient chapters that are independent of one another. This simple, unstructured plot reflects a young child’s unplanned and casual life.

The toy genre

The inspiration for Milne’s book came from his son’s stuffed animals. Benign toy animals are less frightening for preschool children than frightening real ones. The toy animals are in keeping with the insulated, protected world of the story.

These toy characters blur the boundaries between toys, animals, and people. They are well suited to young children who do not draw distinctions between the real and the imaginary.

Notes

1. Ann Thwaite, A. A. Milne: His Life (London: Faber and Faber, 1990), 226.

2. Thwaite, A. A. Milne, 303.

3. A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh (1926; New York: Dell, 1981), 4.

4. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh, 81.

5. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh, 82.

6. A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner (1928; Toronto, ON: McClelland & Stewart, 1988), 162.

7. Deborah Thacker, “New Voices, New Threats,” in Introducing Children’s Literature: From Romanticism to Postmodernism, by Deborah Cogan Thacker and Jean Webb, 103 (London: Routledge, 2002).