AA Milne named the character “Winnie-the-Pooh” after a teddy bear owned by his son, so I guess it is pretty relevant for inclusion on Jammy Toast. He also based Christopher Robin on his own son Christopher Robin Milne. The rest of Christopher Robin Milne’s toys – Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo and Tigger – were also incorporated into Milne’s stories. Two more characters, Owl and Rabbit, were created by Milne’s imagination, while Gopher was added by Disney.
Winnie The Pooh’s stories are set in Ashdown Forest, East Sussex, England. The forest is a large area of tranquil open heathland on the highest sandy ridges of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, situated 30 miles south of London. In 1925 Milne, a Londoner, bought a country home a mile to the north of the forest at Cotchford Farm, near Hartfield. According to Christopher Milne, while his father continued to live in London “…the four of us – he, his wife, his son and his son’s nanny – would pile into a large blue, chauffeur-driven Fiat and travel down every Saturday morning and back again every Monday afternoon. And we would spend a whole glorious month there in the spring and two months in the summer.” From the front lawn the family had a view across a meadow to a line of alders that fringed the River Medway, beyond which the ground rose through more trees until finally “above them, in the faraway distance, crowning the view, was a bare hilltop. In the centre of this hilltop was a clump of pines.” Most of his father’s visits to the forest at this time were, he noted, family expeditions on foot “to make yet another attempt to count the pine trees on Gill’s Lap or to search for the marsh gentian”. Christopher added that, inspired by Ashdown Forest, his father had made it “the setting for two of his books, finishing the second little over three years after his arrival”.
Many locations in the stories can be linked to real places in and around the forest. As Christopher Milne wrote in his autobiography: “Pooh’s forest and Ashdown Forest are identical”. For example, the fictional “Hundred Acre Wood” was in reality Five Hundred Acre Wood; Galleon’s Leap was inspired by the prominent hilltop of Gill’s Lap, while a clump of trees just north of Gill’s Lap became Christopher Robin’s The Enchanted Place because no-one had ever been able to count whether there were sixty-three or sixty-four trees in the circle.
AA Milne originally called his creation Winnie-the-Pooh. Hyphens in the character’s name were dropped by Disney when the company adapted the Pooh stories into a series of features that became one of its most successful franchises or all time.
The landscapes depicted in EH Shepard’s illustrations for the Winnie The Pooh books were directly inspired by the distinctive landscape of Ashdown Forest, with its high, open heathlands of heather, gorse, bracken and silver birch punctuated by hilltop clumps of pine trees. Many of Shepard’s illustrations can be matched to actual views, allowing for a degree of artistic licence. Shepard’s sketches of pine trees and other forest scenes are held at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
The game of Poohsticks was originally played by Christopher Milne on a footbridge across a tributary of the River Medway in Posingford Wood, close to Cotchford Farm. The wooden bridge is now a tourist attraction, and it has become traditional to play the game there using sticks gathered in nearby woodland. When the footbridge recently had to be replaced, the engineer designed a new structure based closely on the drawings of the bridge by Shepard in the books, which were somewhat different than the original structure.
In the books, Pooh is naive and slow-witted, but he is also friendly, thoughtful and steadfast. Although he and his friends agree that he “has no brain”, Pooh is occasionally acknowledged to have a clever idea, usually driven by common sense. These include riding in Christopher Robin’s umbrella to rescue Piglet from a flood, discovering “the North Pole” by picking it up to help fish Roo out of the river, inventing the game of Poohsticks, and getting Eeyore out of the river by dropping a large rock on one side of him to wash him towards the bank.
Pooh is also a talented poet, and the stories are frequently punctuated by his poems and “hums.” Although he is humble about his slow-wittedness, he is comfortable with his creative gifts. When Owl’s house blows down in a storm, trapping Pooh and Piglet and Owl inside, Pooh encourages Piglet (the only one small enough to do so) to escape and rescue them all by promising that “a respectful Pooh song” will be written about Piglet’s feat. Later, Pooh muses about the creative process as he composes the song.
Pooh is very fond of food, especially “hunny” but also condensed milk and other items. When he visits friends, his desire to be offered a snack is in conflict with the impoliteness of asking too directly. Though intending to give Eeyore a pot of honey for his birthday, Pooh cannot resist eating the honey on his way to deliver the present, and so instead gives Eeyore “a useful pot to put things in”. When he and Piglet are lost in the forest during Rabbit’s attempt to “unbounce” Tigger, Pooh finds his way home by following the “call” of the honeypots from his house. Pooh makes it a habit to have “a little something” around eleven o’clock in the morning. As the clock in his house “stopped at five minutes to eleven some weeks ago,” any time can be Pooh’s snack time.
Pooh is very social. After Christopher Robin, his closest friend is Piglet, and he most often chooses to spend his time with one or both of them. But he also habitually visits the other animals, often looking for a snack or an audience for his poetry as much as for companionship. His kind-heartedness means he goes out of his way to be friendly to Eeyore, visiting him and bringing him a birthday present and building him a house, despite receiving mostly disdain from Eeyore in return.
Pooh has remained one of the best known characters in British children’s literature, a 2011 poll saw Winnie the Pooh voted onto the list of icons of England. Forbes magazine ranked Pooh the most valuable fictional character in 2002, with merchandising products alone generating nearly $6 billion that year, a figure only ever surpassed by Mickey Mouse.
In 2006, Pooh received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, marking the 80th birthday of Milne’s creation.
In the “sport” of Poohsticks, competitors drop sticks into a stream from a bridge and then wait to see whose stick will cross the finish line first. Though it began as a game played by Pooh and his friends in the book The House at Pooh Corner and later in the films, it has crossed over into the real world: a World Championship Poohsticks race takes place in Oxfordshire each year.
The Oxford University Winnie the Pooh Society was founded by undergraduates in 1982.
Winnie The Pooh will be coming to Jammy Toast soon!