Remembering A.A. Milne whose birth anniversary falls on January 18. He gave us Winnie-the-Pooh who continues to be a favourite with adults and children alike.

“How do you spell ‘love’?”- Piglet

“You don’t spell it...you feel it.” - Pooh”

Endearing words like these have made Winnie-the-Pooh not only appealing but most lovable. Winnie-the-Pooh’s philosophy of life is simple and straightforward. Talking to his friend Eeyore (who is a pessimistic, gloomy, depressed grey donkey) he says, “You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” And for all those who are rushing around trying to climb impossible mountains and attain unreachable goals he says rather simply, “People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.” For a bit of encouragement he says, “If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together... there is something you must always remember. you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart... I’ll always be with you.”

January 18, 1882 could be termed a historic day in the arena for children’s literature. It marks the birth of Alan Alexander Milne who gave to the world Winnie-the-Pooh. Though A.A. Milne was already a writer and a playwright he is best known for his Pooh books.

Milne was born in London and he studied at Westminster School and later at Trinity College, Cambridge. At Cambridge he studied on a Mathematics scholarship. During World War I, he served as an officer in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and later, when he became ill, he shifted to the Royal Corps of Signals. His son Christopher Robin Milne was born in 1920 and five years later he bought a country home in Sussex. Four years after the birth of his son he brought out a collection of children’s poems titled When We Were Young and these poems were illustrated by the Punch cartoonist E. H. Shepard.

Despite the fact that all his books were well received, it is for his books on Pooh that he is remembered. Christopher Robin and his friend Winnie-the-Pooh won many hearts from the very beginning. Once again Shephard illustrated the books.

Meet the bear

Readers were first introduced to Pooh in the book Winnie-the-Pooh. The first chapter is simply titled “In Which We Are Introduced To Winnie-The-Pooh and Some Bees, and the Stories Begin”. From the very beginning, Pooh and the denizens of the Hundred Acre Wood stole the hearts of their readers.

Milne is said to have named the bear after his son’s teddy bear. A rather strange name for a teddy bear you would think. But Christopher Milne had a reason for this. The London zoo was home to a Canadian black bear that was named Winnie, and was used as a military mascot in WWI. And Pooh was a swan he had met during one of his holidays. The Hundred Acre Wood was inspired by Ashdown Forest in Sussex, England. Situated 50 km from London, it was a country home for the Milne family where they spent weekends and spring and summer. Slowly, the rest of Christopher’s toys were introduced into his stories. So there was Piglet, Eeyore the donkey, Kanga and little Roo and Tigger. Owl and Rabbit were not a part of the toy collection but were creations of Milne’s imagination.

Pooh and his friend invent a game called Poohsticks which they play in the Hundred Acre Wood. At Ashdown Forest there is a wooden bridge name Pooh bridge and tourists now can play Poohsticks on the bridge.

Winnie-the-Pooh was first published in 1926 and The House at Pooh Corner two years later. In 1927, Milne published his second collection of poems Now We Are Six.

Milne’s Pooh stories have been translated into many languages, and made into movies.

Pooh, though lovable, is depicted as a naïve and slow-witted bear. His endearing qualities are his ability to love, make friends and being there for them. In one story Piglet is caught in a flood and Pooh comes up with the idea that he sail out on Christopher Robin’s umbrella to rescue Piglet. Pooh’s favourite is “hunny” and many a scrape is got into with his unquenchable desire for it.

You need friends around you and Pooh wisely says, “A day without a friend is like a pot without a single drop of honey left inside.”