‘Hunny’ bunny! | Daily News


‘Hunny’ bunny!

Winnie the Pooh Day celebrated on January 18
AA Milne, his son Christopher Robin, and the real Winnie The Pooh, 1926.
AA Milne, his son Christopher Robin, and the real Winnie The Pooh, 1926.

His arms are described to be stiff. It is beyond our scope to imagine someone’s arms stay up straight in the air for more than a week. What if a fly buzzes around? When such a creature hangs around his nose he would have to blow it off. Now, come to think of it… That’s probably why he is called Pooh - always.

Alan Alexander Milne emerged a noteworthy literary figure for his invention of Winnie the Pooh. He is celebrated in January as the author’s birth and death anniversaries occur in the month (born January 18, 1882, and died January 31, 1956). The Winnie the Pooh Day is celebrated on the author’s birthday, January 18. Every year, the occasion comes alive with many events: teddy bears’ picnics and pots of honey offered on the menu.

The Pooh stories were translated into many languages before they entered the showbiz. Alexander Lenard’s Latin translation, Winnie Ille Pu, for instance, was first published in 1958. It was the only Latin work that entered The New York Times Bestseller list.

The Pooh made his debut on the printed page in 1926 with quite a few friends: Piglet, Tigger and Eeyore. These friends are an offshoot based on the toys that were in possession of the author’s son. He was Christopher Robin who was also a character in the series. The Pooh fans make it a point to visit Hartfield, East Sussex, where the much-adored series came to be written down. They would not forget to track down the characters and would play a game of Poohsticks on the original bridge.

The Walt Disney Productions entered the Pooh estate in 1961 when they licensed certain film and other rights of Milne’s stories. They applied minor, yet important, changes. They unhyphenated Winnie-the-Pooh.

Naive and slow-witted, Pooh is nevertheless blessed with friendliness, thoughtfulness and steadfastness. Everyone, his friends and us the readers, would not mind call him ‘a bear of very little brain’. Yet, he would sometimes come up with a clever idea, usually driven by common sense. He would grab 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.

And he is the proud founder, of Poohsticks game. He also succeeded in getting Eeyore out of the river by dropping a large rock on one side of him to wash him towards the bank.

Pooh is a poet too. Most stories have a layer and flavour of his poems and hums. Probably because his creator, Milne, is also a poet. The slow-wittedness aside, Pooh has his own creative excellence. When Owl’s house blows down in a windstorm, trapping Pooh, Piglet and Owl inside, for instance, our so-called little-brain encourages Piglet to escape. He manages to rescue them all by promising a respectful Pooh song that will be written about Piglet’s feat.

Like any other character we find in children’s literature, Pooh has a soft spot for food. His favourite is hunny (mind the spellings, for it is not honey) ideally mixed with condensed milk. His affection for hunny is such that once he decides to gift Eeyore a pot of the sweet liquid. But like humans, bears too would give in for temptation at times. On the way to his friend’s place, Pooh would take intervals not to eat, but to taste hunny and check its quality. At the end of the journey, Pooh changes his decision. He gifts his friend ‘a useful pot to put things in’.

The first collection of stories about the character was the book Winnie-the-Pooh (1926). This was followed by The House at Pooh Corner (1928). Milne also included a poem about the bear in the children’s verse book When We Were Very Young (1924) and many more in Now We Are Six (1927). The volumes were illustrated by E. H. Shepard.

A A Milne was inspired to name the character Winnie-the-Pooh by his son’s teddy bear Christopher Robin Milne’s toys, Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo and Tigger were later incorporated into the stories. Two more characters, Owl and Rabbit, surfaced from Milne’s imagination. Christopher Robin’s toy bear is on display at the Main Branch of the New York Public Library in New York City.

Christopher Milne, on the other hand, named his toy bear after Winnie, a Canadian black bear he often saw at London Zoo and Pooh, a swan they had met while on holiday. The bear cub was purchased from a hunter for $20 by Canadian Lieutenant Harry Colebourn in White River, Ontario, Canada, while en route to England during the First World War. He named the bear ‘Winnie’ after his adopted hometown in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

In the first chapter of Winnie-the-Pooh, Milne explains why Winnie-the-Pooh is often called simply Pooh:

“But his arms were so stiff ... they stayed up straight in the air for more than a week, and whenever a fly came and settled on his nose he had to blow it off. And I think – but I am not sure – that that is why he is always called Pooh.”

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