By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department
After a particularly nerve-shredding week that saw citizens foaming at the mouth over the divorce announcement of a high-profile celebrity couple, schools placed on lockout over bizarre and inexplicable clown sightings, and a media frenzy surrounding the alleged armed robbery of millions of dollars in jewelry from a woman who is famous merely for being famous (and saying and doing obnoxious things), I was desperate for some calm. (Fans of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” may insert a quote here from the delightful and unparalleled Daryl Dixon: “Am I the only one Zen around here? Good Lord!”) I needed some Zen and I needed it fast. How utterly fortuitous it is that I am employed in the Children’s Department of Williamson County Public Library, by which I was granted an unrestricted, all-access pass to some books about Alan Alexander Milne’s deceptively simple but actually quite wise “Silly Old Bear,” that delightful creature who has won the hearts of readers for more than nine decades, Winnie The Pooh.
Winnie the Pooh, aka Pooh Bear, first appeared as Edward Bear in a poem in A.A. Milne’s1924 children’s verse book When We Were Very Young. The first collection of stories about Pooh and his friends was Winnie-the-Pooh, published in October of 1926 and followed by The House at Pooh Corner in 1928. Milne named the character for a teddy bear owned by his son, Christopher Robin Milne, who was of course the inspiration for the character Christopher Robin. Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, and Tigger were also toys belonging to Christopher Robin Milne and were incorporated into A.A. Milne’s stories. Owl and Rabbit were created from Milne’s imagination, and Gopher was later added in the Disney theatrical adaptation. Some of Christopher Robin Milne’s original toys have been on display at the Main Branch of the New York Public Library in New York City.
Dear Reader, you’ll be thrilled to learn that after spending some time reminiscing with Pooh and his friends (and a delicious cup of black chai tea), I was able to regain my sense of Zen. While contemplating a second cup of tea, it occurred to me that Pooh is quite fond of snacks, and I think he would wholeheartedly encourage me to have another, and accompany it with a “smackerel” of something. If you recall, Pooh makes it a habit to eat a snack at around eleven in the morning. Seeing as how all the clocks in Pooh’s house “stopped at five minutes to eleven some weeks ago,” then pretty much any time of day or night can be considered Pooh’s snack time.
“Christopher Robin was at home by this time,
because it was the afternoon, and he was so glad
to see them that they stayed there until very nearly
tea-time, and then they had a Very Nearly Tea,
which is one you forget about afterwards, and
hurried on to Pooh Corner, so as to see Eeyore before
it was too late to have a Proper Tea with Owl.”
–“The House at Pooh Corner”
So as my tea was brewing, I pondered to myself (ok, I might have actually verbalized some of my random thoughts to my cat Blackie Lawless, who was hovering around hoping for a “smackerel” of something herself, and was more than willing to hedge her bets and pretend to listen to my idle musings, if it resulted in her getting some food) how fabulous it would be if we all—librarians, movie stars, Department of Motor Vehicles employees, politicians, pizza delivery guys, rappers, and plumbers—were to manifest more of Pooh’s characteristics in our own lives. For instance, Pooh is portrayed in Milne’s books as naïve and often a little slow on the uptake, but occasionally Pooh has a really clever idea, often sparked by urgency and fueled by common sense. Pooh showed remarkable initiative the time he used one of his honey pots, which he christened The Floating Bear, to navigate to Christopher Robin’s house during a flood, and then together they utilized Christopher Robin’s umbrella to rescue little Piglet from rising floodwaters. How glorious it would be if we all shared our umbrellas, so to speak, with friends and strangers alike.
Pooh is also an extremely social animal (see what I did there?) and also very loving toward his friends, who are really more family than friends, in my opinion. In Pooh’s own words, “It’s always useful to know where a friend-and-relation is, whether you want him or whether you don’t.” Although Pooh chooses to spend most of his time with Christopher Robin and Piglet, he habitually pays visits to Kanga and Roo, Rabbit, Tigger, Owl, and Eeyore. Pooh’s thoughtfulness and kindhearted nature compel him to go out of his way to be especially friendly to gloomy Eeyore, visiting him frequently and even building him a house (with Piglet’s help), despite getting lukewarm sentiments from Eeyore in return. How fabulous that would be, if we all followed Pooh’s example and put the needs of others ahead of our own from time to time, with disregard to personal gain.
Dear Reader, thanks for dropping by for another installment of my kid-lit-inspired mental meanderings. I believe that this charming, thought-provoking Silly Old Bear and his friends will continue to delight and inspire readers far beyond the century mark.
*All opinions and viewpoints advanced herein the above blog belong solely to the author and her cats: Blackie Lawless, Roxy Blue, Jack Bauer, and Pearl.
Sources and suggested reading:
- A.A. Milne, Author of Winnie the Pooh by Marlene Toby (J 92 MILNE)
- The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne (J F MIL)
- Disney’s Winnie the Pooh: A Celebration of the Silly Old Bear by Christopher Finch (791.43 FIN)
- Pooh and the Psychologists (In Which It Is Proven That Pooh Bear Is a Brilliant Psychotherapist) by John Tyerman Williams (823.912 WIL)
- The Pooh Dictionary: The Complete Guide To The Words Of Pooh & All The Animals In The Forest by A.R. Melrose (J 828.91209 MEL)
- Postmodern Pooh by Frederick Crews (823.912 CRE)
- The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff (828.91209 HOF)
- Winnie the Pooh: The Essential Guide by Beth Landis Hester (J 791.4372 HES)