A Short History of The World’s Most Popular Pooh
(Because that’s all a “Bear of Very Little Brain” can remember)
It all began in 1921 when young Christopher Robin Milne received a teddy bear named Edward as a gift for his first birthday. Over the next few years, he
added other stuffed toys to his collection, which grew to include a donkey, a kangaroo or two, a pig, and a striped tiger. Owl and Rabbit were based on animals that lived near the author’s Cotchford Farm in East Sussex. When Christopher was four, he went to the London Zoo and struck up a friendship with a Canadian black bear named Winnie (short for the bear’s hometown of Winnipeg). This fascination led the boy’s famous father, noted playwright/journalist A.A. Milne, to invent a wonderful series of stories and books.
The books were written at the suggestion of the author’s wife, Daphne. On December 24, 1925, the first Pooh story was published in the “London Evening News.” It had the descriptive title “In Which We Are Introduced to Winnie-the-Pooh and Some Bees, and the Stories Begin.” The story proved to be so popular that it was broadcast by BBS radio the following day (Christmas Day).
Milne, who lived from 1882 to 1956, was one of England’s most successful playwrights. He also spent many years writing humorous essays for “Punch Magazine”, where he served as an assistant editor for eight years. Milne wrote the original Pooh stories primarily to amuse himself. In the great tradition of J.M. Barrie and Lewis Carroll, he used a child as the catalyst to pen his stories. In fact, he was truly writing of worldly affairs, politics, puzzles, and the beauty of childhood,
Milne went on to write two Pooh books – “Winnie- the-Pooh” (1926) and “The House at Pooh Corner” (1928). Both books were beautifully illustrated with line drawings by note artist E.H. Shepard. The same team collaborated on two other acclaimed books of children’s verse that featured the beloved character – “Where We Were Very Young” (1924) and “Now We Are Six” (1927).
Many of the locales used in the Pooh stories are base on real areas near the author’s home in East Sussex, England. The Forest and the Hundred Acre Wood were Inspired by Ashdown Forest and the Five Hundred Acre Wood. Several years before the real Christopher Robin passed away (April 20, 1996), he became involved in efforts to preserve and protect the wooded area near his childhood home that had inspired his father’s masterworks.
The first Disney Pooh featurette, “Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree,” was released in 1966. Through the years, Pooh, Tigger, and the Hundred Acre Wood gang have appeared in many videos, educational films, holiday specials, and TV series, culminating in the first Pooh full-length original feature film, “The Tigger Movie,” which opened in theaters nationwide February 11,2000.
According to leading Pooh authority Peter Dennis, Milne didn’t base the character of Tigger on a tiger but rather on a spirited black spaniel dog named Chum. Chum was always bouncing or jumping into things and causing a great deal of trouble for his owners. Tigger only appears in three of the 20 Pooh stories and didn’t bounce onto the scene until 1928.