“People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day,” says Winnie the Pooh in A.A Milne’s classic novel. There we have one of the most important lessons for today’s world. It’s okay to just do nothing sometimes.
When I was three years old I got my first life-sized Winnie the Pooh stuffed bear. I found him on the bottom shelf of the toy section at Walmart, and I haven’t let go since. If I press his belly, he says “there’s a rumbly in my tumbly” or “where’s Piglet?”
I can’t distinctly remember the moment I got my silly old bear, but I’m told I was the type of child that never asked for anything except things I really, really, wanted. Pooh Bear was one of those things. My affinity for the chubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff began even before I was cognizant of it. My parents observed with wonder the way my face would light up when I saw him on our VHS tapes or heard his voice saying, “there’s a rumbly in my tumbly.”
I think I have such an affinity towards Pooh Bear because he is one of the most genuine characters I know. His needs are plain and simple: he wants honey. He wants to help his friends. He adores Christopher Robin, the human boy that watches over the creatures of the land. All the characters in the universe of the Hundred Acre Wood are genuine. Their qualities are distinct from each other, but as a unit, they are supportive and complementary to each other’s personalities. All of them could somehow relate to the emotions I felt as a child and as I grew up. Roo and Kanga reflected my own experience living with a single mom. Kanga’s affection and nurturing personality stuck with prescribed gender roles but taught me about the importance of strength in softness. Gender roles in the Hundred Acre Wood didn’t seem to matter. The other animals respected Kanga for her wisdom. She didn’t have to be harsh to be a good mom, being kind was just as important.
Identifying with negative Eeyore and angry Rabbit was easier the older I got, and as a child I identified with Piglet, Roo, and Pooh the most.
When I came across the Hundred Acre Wood in a psychology article, I realized I wasn’t the only one that made the connection of the emotional universality present in The Winnie the Pooh-verse. Through their supposed mental illnesses, Eeyore’s depression, Piglet’s anxiety, and Tigger’s ADHD, it’s clear that there is more to these characters than fluff. They represent something about us as child consumers.
Despite their flaws, they love each other endlessly. “Just because an animal is large, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t want kindness; however big Tigger seems to be, remember that he wants as much kindness as Roo,” writes Milne in Winnie The Pooh.
I had never considered the role of the creator in shaping this world. It seemed shocking to accept that someone human and older than these characters had made this world. As I approach the age of nineteen, I realize that learning about the creator of Winnie the Pooh, A.A Milne, might help me to understand this world.
It was simultaneously disheartening and hilarious to note that A.A Milne did not want to be defined through the words of Winnie the Pooh. As a 2017 article for the Guardian notes, “So A.A Milne’s long career as poet, playwright, polemicist, peace campaigner and novelist is completely eclipsed by four short children’s books which, as he put it in 1952, he created, “little thinking / All my years of pen-and-inking / Would be almost lost among / Those four trifles for the young.”’ Milne was poet, a novelist, and a playwright, and yet his legacy is chalked down to a cartoon bear and his anthropomorphic friends. Many looked at Winnie the Pooh as a failure as all his other accomplishments were overlooked. However, I find it hard to feel sympathy for someone who created something I see value in. It’s a great success, I think, to create a universality which children worlds apart can enjoy.
Sometimes people with the darkest backgrounds make the most heartwarming stories. Milne suffered from PTSD stemming from his service in the first world war. He wrote these characters as friendly company for his son, Christopher Robin, and they ended up touching the entire world. It’s one of those accomplishments that leaves you a little hopeless as an artist, as it did almost nothing for creator’s goals, and so much for the world.
Digging into author’s past or mental health has never proved helpful to me, unless the subject matter is heavily based on their lives. As contemporary society shifts to an information-based network, I get the more I feel like I need to find the sources behind everything. This need to know attitude is great for research and especially great for solving social issues, but maybe it’s not so important to dissect the things we can enjoy with purity. It’s nice to know that Milne based these characters on his son’s stuffed animals, nice to know that this untended creation became a success, but I’m alright knowing nothing about the history of these characters. Their pasts are not their message, nor do they have a future. They are what they always will be, which is something universal and true.
The enchantment is what I long for. The Hundred Acre Wood is the safe haven for enchantment. It’s one of the truly innocent feelings we can attain in a disenchanted world. I’m thankful for the universal lessons the Disney adaptations and original books of Winnie the Pooh have taught me. Respect others, to be yourself, have fun, and do nothing.
Besides the obvious manufacturing simplicity, it seems clear to me why my stuffed Pooh Bear only expresses sentiments about his best friend and his love for honey. It’s not as if Pooh sits around all day staring at the ceiling. He spends time hanging out with Piglet, and whether it’s building a new house for Eeyore, or rescuing Christopher Robin from fictional monsters like the Baxon or the Heffalumps, he’s a problem solver. He’ll do something great someday, just maybe not today. So, there’s no rush for any of us as long as we fill our time with kindness and creativity.
I’m sitting now the desk next to my bed, staring at that empty space where Pooh bear used to lie. He’s packed away. As I grew, he became too big to share the bed with me, so we put him in the closet for a while. Sometimes I forget he’s in there. Sometimes I peek in there and catch a glimpse of his little red t-shirt and smile. I’ll never really leave the Hundred-Acre Wood, and as Pooh bear himself says, “it isn’t really Good-bye, because the Forest will always be there…and anybody who is Friendly with Bears can find it.”