by Graham Pierrepoint
Did you know that Winnie the Pooh’s actual first name is Edward? What about Winnie, or Pooh? How many names does a bear require? However many the actual number may be, the literary world celebrated the astonishing 90th birthday of arguably written fiction’s most famous and most cuddly ursine, created by A A Milne. To mark the occasion, an official ‘sequel’ to Milne’s original work – entitled ‘The Best Bear in All The World’ was released earlier in the week, proving that there is life yet in the honey-loving, philosophically-pondering bear. Certainly, he has become an iconic figure – with our without Disney’s relatively recent ownership of the character, his friends and their adventures in the 100-acre wood.
Winnie the Pooh is officially described as ‘the bear of little brain’ – and while he can certainly have his moments of clumsiness and slow-mindedness, his reputation as a philosophical thinker and out-of-the-box witticisms have largely made him into a unique character – while he may not solve problems or go about helping his friends in a logical nor practical manner, the way in which he approaches issues is normally obvious and rather understandable – in a roundabout way. It is these qualities in the eccentric Pooh that enabled the character to become so well-loved and to still be remembered as a children’s storybook great even almost a century after he first came to print.
Disney, of course, is responsible for keeping the honey-scoffer in the headlights to some degree – three theatrical animated movies, a series of spin-off films featuring Pooh’s friends and a whole host of television series (on top of tie-in books and other paraphernalia) have helped reintroduce Pooh bear to generation after generation – it’s likely that he won’t be forgotten nor absent from popular culture any time soon. In fact, the omnipresence of Pooh has encourage young readers to seek out Milne’s original works, and it is for this that the perpetuation of his stories and brand should be applauded.
Whether he was part of your childhood or if he’s playing a part in your own children’s storytime, it’ll be rare that you find anyone in the West who hasn’t heard of Winnie the Pooh. This, in itself, is a remarkable feat – a humble, simple bear debuting in a children’s storybook going on to become one of the 20th century’s best-loved and most-recognized icons is hardly a stroke to be scoffed at. Happy birthday, Pooh – and here’s to many more!