A Baby Bear Behind Winnie the Pooh

Written By: Aiziya

Behind every legendary book lies an interesting (if not a legendary) story. Have you ever wondered how Milnes, the creator of Winnie the Pooh, came up with the stories about the clumsy bear and its friends?

           Last year Winnie the Pooh turned 90 years old. Yes, it was a rainy October of 1926, when the first Winnie the Pooh’s adventures book was published. Since then it was translated into more than 60 languages and became one of the all-time favorites children’s book across the world. The fans of the famous bear celebrate its birthday, or “Winnie the Pooh’s day”, on 18 January, as it is a birthday of Alan Alexander Milnes.

           So, how did Milnes come up with an idea of a friendly poet-bear and his friends? Have there ever been a real bear named Winnie the Pooh? The truth is there actually was a bear named Winnie in the London Zoo back in the time when Milnes decided to write the Pooh stories. The Winnie bear arrived at the London Zoo in the times of the First World War. Originally, she was from Canada and was brought to London by the lieutenant Harry Colebourn. In 1914 the lieutenant was travelling from his hometown Winnipeg to Quebec, where he was planning to join the Canadian army as a vet for the army’s horses. When his train stopped in Ontario, Colebourn noticed a man sitting with a baby bear alongside the platform. As the man later told him, he was a hunter and shot a mother of the bear, but did not know what to do with her baby. Thus, Harry bought the baby bear for 20 Canadian dollars. The bear was named Winnie after the birthplace, the lake of Winnipeg, and became a mascote of the army’s brigade. Later the army was secretly relocated to France, so Colebourn decided to leave Winnie in the London Zoo.

Winnie-the-Pooh in the Zoo of Winnipeg(From Wikipedia)
                     Winnie-the-Pooh in the Zoo of Winnipeg(From Wikipedia)

           The Winnie bear was one of the favorites among the visitors and staff of the Zoo and lived a long and happy life. Among her little fans was Christopher Robin Milnes, a son of the Pooh stories’ creator. Later in his life Christopher would remember how he visited Winnie in her cage and how she, in fact, did not like honey. Surprisingly, Winnie preferred condensed milk to honey. Just imagine how different the story would be if the author sticked to the true historical facts. Would Winnie the Pooh still be climbing to honeybees’ nests? Or would he ask for condensed milk sitting at Christopher Robin’s home? Would he present Eeyore a pot full of honey instead of ‘a useful pot to put things in’?:)

           Lots of locations described by Milnes in the book can be found in the reality. A year before the Pooh stories were brought to light, the Milnes’ family moved from London to the English countryside, close to the Ashdown forest. There the Milnes spent their free time walking in a forest in a company of Christopher Robin’s teddy bear. The Ashdown forest became a place of inspiration for Alan A. Milnes, as he set up the stories and imagined his fictional characters to be living there. While Milnes referred to the illustrations artist, Hernest Shepherd as a co-author to the books, Hernest drew his sketches in these same woods close to the Milnes’ family home. There you could find Galleon’s Leap (named as Gill’s Lap in the stories), the hilltop with pines and other places, which were later lovingly described by Milnes in his books.

           Since then he Ashdown forest became a famous tourist attraction. In fact, what could be better than contemplating the places where your favorite characters allegedly lived? Tourists from everywhere still come here to walk along the forest sidewalks and water bridge. Just climb the hilltop in the center and you can spot some famous places! There - close to the sand carriers - could be a home for a baby kangaroo Roo, whereas the clouds of heather over there could potentially be where Eeyore lived. Tourists come here year after year, longing to merge with their favorite stories and play with the sticks standing on the bridge just like Pooh and his friends did. The amount of visitors was so high that in 1984 the locals removed the road directions leading to a famous (and quite shattered) 'The Pooh Bridge'. The place became a bit harder to find but it did not stop the Pooh fans, so they continued travelling there anyways.

           We invite you to dive into the world of Winnie the Pooh and his friends with this colorful collection of books.


About Aiziya: She loves nature, art and learning new things about everything. She is passionate about leading a healthy lifestyle and loves spending time with her siblings and their German shepherd named Jack.

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