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The Book Club

A.A. Milne’s Winnie-The-Pooh

Taken from http://pictures-of-cartoon.blogspot.com/2007/09/winnie-pooh-book.html.1. “Winnie-the-Pooh” and its significance. The Winnie-the-Pooh franchise – including television series, book collections, assorted stuffed toys et cetera – is internationally-recognised and widely-popular with the young and the young at heart. A.A. Milne had published his first Winnie-the-Pooh story in 1926 – which this article is based upon – based on various stuffed toys owned by his son. Winnie-the-Pooh is quintessentially a children’s book; a collection of short stories that revolve around the random adventures and events encountered by Pooh and his fellow Forest friends. As a reader, it is a pity that it took me so long before I flipped through the original text; but Milne’s expositions – accompanied by the delightful illustrations (coloured) of E.H. Shepherd – are a joy to read. Correspondingly, based on the original text, multiple individuals have voiced their opinion that Milne’s characters in particular are representations of wider themes and concepts. Therefore, going in tandem with these propositions, I shall look at some theories expounded – online and offline – and give my two cents’ worth.

2. The Tao Of Pooh (The Theory). Using specific tales from the text as allegories, Benjamin Hoff attempts to “use … [the] characters to symbolise ideas that differ from or accentuate Taoist tenets”. For instance, Pooh is used to further the principles of wei wu wei (translated from Chinese, which literally means action without action); the idea based on the observation that Pooh manages to get things done – albeit tediously – despite being a “Bear of Very Little Brain”. He is contrasted with the characters of Owl and Rabbit who are constantly complicating issues and challenges; and Eeyore, whose consistent frustrations and pessimism impairs his ability to act and be proactive.

3. The Tao Of Pooh (Musings). Hoff’s theory does make sense for the average reader who does not have an intimate understanding of Taoism. I am personally quite inclined to the proposition that Pooh is pu (translated from Chinese, which literally means simplicity), since Pooh is untainted by the burden of knowledge or sensitivity towards circumstances of interactions. His reactions to events are wildly spontaneous and reactive, and at times reliant upon Christopher Robin, but manages to solve problems nonetheless. This simplicity frees him from prejudice, and gives him his innocence.

4. Owl’s “talent” in spelling. “These notices had been written by Christopher Robin, who was the only one in the forest who could spell; for Owl, wise though he was in many ways, able to read and write and spell his own name WOL, yet somehow went all to pieces over delicate words like MEASLES and BUTTEREDTOAST”.

5. The Te Of Piglet (The Theory And Musings). This book is a companion to the aforementioned; as Hoff expounds upon the theory of te (translated from Chinese, which literally means virtue). I am a little less convinced on the argument for Piglet – contending that he has a great heart in comparison to his small physical stature – because I am a little more inclined to perceive Piglet as being insecure. However, his tendencies to rely on others, in his various interactions, do show him to be loyal and faithful as a friend and worthy companion.

6. Symbolisms of American problems (The Theory – http://hubpages.com/hub/Winnie-the-Pooh-and-the-Meaning-of-Life). In this theory, different characters represent different American problems: Pooh is a reflection of the obesity epidemic as a result of his pursuit of more honey and chunky appearance; Piglet is a “physical manifestation of fear”, fear of terrorism, the economic crisis et cetera; and Eeyore the problem of depression, especially with his pessimism and lack of confidence in himself. By extension, and as pointed out by some of the other comments to the post, Rabbit represents capitalism and the relentless pursuit for materialism and pragmatic gains; Owl the seemingly all-knowing creature, but dispenses misguided information or knowledge; and Kanga and Roo the challenges of a single-parent family.

7. Symbolisms of American problems (Musings). The most obvious opposition to the theory is the fact that the original book was penned way before many of the problems had surfaced; though some of the contentions may still be valid (the fear of the European governments instead of terrorism, the Great Depression as the economic crisis of that time). Nevertheless, this is not a very convincing argument in my opinion.

8. Symbolisms of psychological challenges (The Theory And Musings). In this theory (in one of the comments), it is contended that Pooh struggles with an eating disorder, Piglet with a variety of phobias, Rabbit with OCD, Eeyore with depression, and Kanga and Roo as a single-parent family. The next question is, “so what”? Though the associations are mildly valid, the connections are not exactly meaningful, and do considerably little to advance the interpretations of the text and plot.

9. My favourite quote from the book. “There are some people who begin the Zoo at the beginning, called WAYIN, and walk as quickly as they can past every cage until they get to the one called WAYOUT, but the nicest people go straight to the animal they love the most, and stay there”.

10. A celebration of diversity. For me, the interpretation is quite straightforward: Milne’s work is quite simply a celebration of diversity, of how creatures of different natures and varying characteristics can come together cohesively and genuinely enjoy one another’s company. The exchanges and dialogues are honest and simple, while the engagements are spontaneous and sincere. Furthermore, what stands out too for me is the love and friendship shared between Pooh, Robin and Piglet, as evidenced through the episodes they go through together.

About guanyinmiao

A man of knowledge lives by acting, not by thinking about acting. Carlos Castaneda.


2 thoughts on “A.A. Milne’s Winnie-The-Pooh

  1. My favorite quote is, ” You can’t help respecting anybody who can spell TUESDAY, even if he doesn’t spell it right…” I often wondered if Christopher Robin was learning to spell the days of the week during the time Milne was writing this passage and mis-spelled Tuesday.

    Posted by Jimmy | June 18, 2011, 10:47 pm
    • I really did enjoy the book; I wished I had the chance to have tea with Milne because there are so many questions I have after reading the text. The later cartoons for Pooh and his counterparts did boost the franchise’s and Milne’s popularity, but I do feel that it compromised some of the pure innocence and honesty that the written (and drawn) original had to offer.

      And it’s quite surprising that many of my friends haven’t read the original text even though most of them know about Pooh.

      Jin Yao

      Posted by guanyinmiao | June 18, 2011, 11:18 pm

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