The Story of Pooh - Rezeptionsgeschichte Winnie-the-Pooh

Seminar Paper, 2003

12 Pages, Grade: 2,0 (B)


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. When It Was First Published

3. Family Fortunes

4. Disney incorporated

5. These are the wrong sort of bees – The Necessity for Yellow Self-Help Books

6. Conclusion

7. Bibliography

1. Introduction

“A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh stories have delighted generations of children since they first appeared over 70 years ago”[1]. Both Winnie-the-Pooh books, published in the 1920s[2], sold extremely well from the start of publication and have done so ever since. Nowadays numerous editions and spin-offs exist, and virtually every shop sells something that features the chubby yellow bear and his friends from the Hundred Acre Wood. When the copyright was sold to Disney in 1961, even more people around the globe were to become acquainted with Winnie. And last but not least The Tigger Movie and Piglet’s Big Adventure ensured not only commercial success but also an ever growing fan-community, most of it based on the WorldWideWeb. Over the last twenty years various ‘scholars’ have attempted to partake in the success of the Pooh stories – by writing more or less necessary works of The Wisdom of Pooh, with probably the most famous one being Hoff’s Tao of Pooh, published in 1982. The Story of Pooh seems to be one of everlasting success – a merchandise haven – with Pooh having replaced even Micky Mouse as Disney’s favourite character.

2. When It Was First Published…

Alan Alexander Milne was born in Hampstead in 1882 and “from the start was steeped not only in his own happy family but in the idea of childhood as a glorious and important time”[3]. His father was headmaster of a small public school, in which learning was esteemed but discipline relaxed, and he and his brothers were brought up by Milne’s own mother. He was his parents third child – their last and favourite one -, and the happy world of his childhood was to be recreated forty years later in the Hundred Acre Wood. In 1900 Milne followed his scholarship at Westminster with an award to Trinity College, Cambridge, as a mathematician with literary ambition. Whilst at college he edited the undergraduate journal Granta (a stepping-stone to Punch), and eventually left Cambridge with a third-class degree. Being acquainted with H. G. Wells and R. C. Lehmann and friends with J. M. Barrie and Kenneth Grahame, literary London opened up to the young graduate. Unlike his writer friends, who “were tied to an ideal of childhood which prevented adjustment to later experience”[4], Milne seemed to grow simply from a happy child into a charming young man in “the adult playground of pre-war London”[5]. In 1906 he joined the staff of Punch and made his mark with two series. He married Dorothy de Selincourt in 1913.

In 1920, his only child Christopher Robin, known as Billy Moon, was born, and Milne became unusually involved in his upbringing. He moved to Cotchford Farmhouse, a country retreat on the edge of Ashdown forest in Sussex, which functioned as a model for Pooh’s forest. During the early 1920s he wrote poems and stories for his son, and the first Winnie-the-Pooh episode appeared in the Evening News on Christmas Eve in 1925, and was broadcast from all radio stations the next day. It was so popular that Winnie-the-Pooh was published in 1926, and its successor The House at Pooh Corner in 1928. According to Wullschläger “all were instant bestsellers and have been ever since”[6]. Mill was already in his forties when he wrote the Pooh books, and like many of his friends and contempories he lost himself in the alternative reality offered by his stories. But unlike them he did not need to re-invent himself in a magical mysterious forest – instead he let his stories reflect his son’s life. Christopher Robin, the stories’ hero, was modelled on Milne’s son, who thus became the best-known child in England. Winnie himself is named after Billy Moon’s toy bear, who in turn got half of his name from a grizzly from London Zoo named Winnipeg. Most of the other characters were also based on his toys: Piglet was a present from a neighbour when they were still living in London, Eeyore was a Christmas gift in 1921, Kanga came from Harrods. According to legend Milne claimed that he barely had to create these characters – merely looking at his son’s stuffed donkey with the drooping head or at the other animals told all about their personality.

In Britain especially, the enormous wound of the First World War has barely healed after more than half a century. The effect was deeply felt in children’s literature as elsewhere. “The decade after the war was the dreariest since at least the middle of the nineteenth century”[7] says John Rowe Townsend. Although Milne survived the war, “we cannot know how many men were killed who might have written works to compare with his and those of other writers”[8]. In the war years themselves, active service and paper shortage left a backlog of old titles to be reprinted; afterwards there was a great expansion in quantity but a sad lack of quality. “The 1920s in children’s literature were a backward-looking time. Old books were reissued, the trade in cheap ‘rewards’ flourished exceedingly, and there was a huge output of second, third and tenth rate school and adventure stories”[9].

The spectacular British success of the 1920s was scored by Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner. “Like the Christopher Robin verses, the Pooh books have had their ups and downs in general esteem. In their early years they were much in vogue among adults”[10] – but not only then: In the December 17, 2002 issue of Publisher’s Weekly the Pooh books still make numbers 39 and 92 in the Top 50 All-Time Bestselling Children’s Books, with 2,952,331[11] and 1,192,911[12] copies sold respectively[13].


[1] Back cover text of Alan Alexander Milne, The Complete Winnie-the-Pooh, (London: Dean, 2002).

[2] Winnie-the-Pooh first published in 1926, The House at Pooh Corner first published in 1928.

[3] Jackie Wullschläger, Inventing Wonderland, (London: Methuen, 1995), p.179.

[4] Ibid, p. 181.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid, p.184.

[7] John Rowe Townsend, Written For Children, (London: Penguin Books, 1983), p. 163.

[8] Ibid, p. 163.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid, p. 171.

[11] Winnie-the-Pooh.

[12] The House at Pooh Corner.

[13] Found on and

Excerpt out of 12 pages


The Story of Pooh - Rezeptionsgeschichte Winnie-the-Pooh
University of Bonn  (English Seminar)
Proseminar: Children's Literature
2,0 (B)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
438 KB
Story, Pooh, Rezeptionsgeschichte, Winnie-the-Pooh, Proseminar, Children’s, Literature
Quote paper
Kristin Ott (Author), 2003, The Story of Pooh - Rezeptionsgeschichte Winnie-the-Pooh, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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