The stories we’re told as children can stay etched in our memories for a lifetime, and some very special tales are handed down from generation to generation. Beautiful storybooks can inspire, excite or soothe and reading to little ones can evoke a sense of nostalgia like nothing else.
For one little boy, the days spent playing in the forest with sticks for swords and a teddy bear for a companion led to stories he adored. His was a tale that went beyond his own bedtime, spun into stories enjoyed by countless other children for generations, penned by A. A. Milne. But there is more to this tale than its author, just as Milne mentions in the dedication to the book Winnie-the-Pooh:
“Hand in hand we come
Christopher Robin and I
To lay this book in your lap”
The Bear Formally Known as Edward
The story of Winnie the Pooh does begin with a bear, but not quite the one we know and love today. Winnipeg was a Canadian black bear, who was given to London Zoo by Harry Colebourn, a veterinarian from Canada. A. A. Milne’s son Christopher Robin was so fond of the bear that he renamed Mr Edward Bear, his own teddy, Winnie after Winnipeg. Winnie was extended to Winnie ‘the Pooh’, taking the name of a swan who Christopher Robin had named, considering it ‘a very fine name for a swan’. And so, Winnie the Pooh came to be.
A. A. Milne
The father who took young Christopher Robin to London Zoo was Alan Alexander Milne. A. A. Milne was an accomplished writer, who joined the Royal Warwickshire Regiment during the First World War as a signals officer, until he was invalided out with trench fever.
Milne sought inspiration from his son Christopher, or Billy Moon as he was also known, writing verses, hums and songs for children. Some were based on Christopher Robin’s stuffed animals, which are now on display at the New York Public Library. His ideas and tales would later become a collection of stories.
Christopher Robin was born on 21 August 1920. As a little boy he loved to venture into Ashdown Forest with his nanny, and it was here that the landmarks of the world of Pooh were discovered. The little boy’s imagination, bringing his stuffed toys to life, and his adventures in the forest were the inspiration behind Milne’s Winnie the Pooh storybooks, set in the Hundred Acre Wood.
E. H. Shepard
The illustrator that brought the Hundred Acre Wood to life was Ernest Howard Shepard. E. H. Shepard studied at Heatherley’s School of Fine Art and the Royal Academy Schools. During the First World War he received the rank of Major and was awarded the Military Cross. He went on to be a regular contributor to the publication Punch. It was here that he first illustrated A. A. Milne’s work, beginning with the first verses of what would become When We Were Very Young. Shepard would later create the illustrations for Winnie the Pooh using his own son’s Steiff teddy bear, named Growler, for inspiration. The artist’s timeless illustrations have brought the characters of the Winnie the Pooh storybooks into the hearts of generations of readers.
The First Adventure
The opening chapter of Winnie-the-Pooh begins with Christopher Robin trailing his loyal teddy bear down the stairs, bumping his head along the way. He is soon asking his father to tell him a story before bath and bedtime. The tales that A. A. Milne tells within those pages became the stories that thousands more children would come to know and love, with the friendly Pooh Bear at their centre.
‘And now all the others are saying, “What about Us?”’
Adventure always beckons when Pooh Bear and Christopher Robin are around, but the story of Winnie the Pooh wouldn’t be the same without the faithful cast of characters who shared their escapades in the Hundred Acre Wood – loyal Piglet, gloomy Eeyore, uptight Rabbit, ‘wise’ Owl, bouncy Tigger, charming Kanga and the adorable Roo.
To learn more about the friends of Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh click here.
©Disney. Based on the “Winnie the Pooh” works by A. A. Milne and E. H. Shepard.
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