Jan 18, 2008

A. A. Milne January 18, 1882 – January 31, 1956

Let's start with the Winnie:

In August of 1914, less than a month after the beginning of World War I, Lieutenant Henry Colebourn was a Veterinary Officer traveling on a troop train from his home town of Winnipeg to Quebec. From Quebec, Colebourn and the rest of the troops would set sail for Britain awaiting further orders.

On a stopover in White River Ontario Henry gets off the train to take a break. There on the station platform sits a trapper with a female black bear cub tied to the bench beside him. Henry offers the hunter $20 bucks for the cub and the young vet takes his new cub on board the train.

Of course the bear is a big hit on a troop train loaded with adolescents headed for uncertainty. Henry names the new cub Winnie after Winnipeg Canada and the bear is adopted by Henry's 2nd Canadian Brigade and smuggled aboard the ship headed for England.

In Dec, of 1914, The 2nd is called to France and Henry knows the dangers awaiting the Brigade. He visits the London Zoo and asks them to care for his cub. Henry is hoping the arrangement will only be for a few weeks but wars always have their own schedule and Colebourn is not back to London until 1918. By that time, Winnie is a Zoo favorite. The bear who has grown up constantly handled by people is extremely tame and Colebourn officially donates Winnie to the zoo in 1919.

Winnie lives out the rest of her life at the zoo occasionally visited by Colebourn and constantly visited by the kids in London until her passing in 1934.

Now, let's add the Pooh [please keep the infantile tittering at the scatological reference to a minimum, this is an institution of learning after all.]

He started his life as Edward Bear. Well, technically, he just started his life as a stuffed bear with no name at all but as soon as Christopher Robin Milne was old enough to grasp the concept of names, he named his bear Edward. The bear had been a present to Chris on his first birthday.

Sometime around 1924, Christopher began to frequent the London Zoo and like many kids he found Ol' Winnie to be a one of his favorite animals. He also became fascinated with a swan whom he named Pooh. In a logic that only applies to childhood, the young Milne not only renamed his bear after his two favorite animals, he made Pooh a noun.

Now, lets end with the man.

Up to the release of Winnie the Pooh in 1924, Alexander Alan Milne had been known as a poet and a playwright but his young son changed all that. The boy who was obviously on the young authors mind seemed to give his writing a new direction and the first book of Winnie the Pooh stories struck a chord with kids and parents everywhere. Winnie was followed by The House at Pooh Corner in 1926.

Sadly, the the romanticised stories of his only son's youth backfired and a teenage Christopher Milne was mocked with constant recitals from bits of the books. This teasing along with the constant attention of being the character in his father's stories created a gap between father & son that was never fully bridged.

Milne died Jan 31 1957.

A, A Milne bios are here here & here

This poem
known as Vespers was one that was used to torture a young Christopher quite often. He learned to hate this poem his father wrote. [isn't childhood a hoot?] It was first published in the New Yorker before the Pooh Stories
A video interview with the son of Henry Colebourn is here, and finally, since I'm sure you can find Disney's Pooh stuff ad naseum, here's a 10 minute Winnie the Pooh Cartoon from Russia with great animation and funny voice choices.


Davelandweb said...

Interesting info on the background of Winnie the Pooh - thanks!

Orandon Marie said...

What an interesting, intriguing and sad turn of events regarding a bear! Thanks so much for sharing!