by Lash

Hush! Hush! Whisper who dares!

Christopher Robin is saying his prayers.

We’re all familiar with the childhood story of Winnie the Pooh, the lovable bear whose paw is always found in the hunny pot and his trusty companions, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore and their human friend, Christopher Robin.

However, the creation of these memorable characters that withstood the test of time wasn’t from a place of warm and fuzziness. Instead, the consequences of playwright A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh stories aren’t quite as joyous. 

In 2017, the movie Goodbye Christopher Robin told the story from Milne’s (Domhnall Gleeson) point of view, about how he had returned from World War I a withdrawn person. On the opposite extreme, his socialite wife (Margot Robbie) can’t get enough of socialising. The victim here is their son, Christopher Robin. The story went on to give us a look at the events that let Milne create these lasting childhood characters.

This year, Christopher Robin looks at Milne’s son, Christopher Robin, all grown up. Christopher had been the largest inspiration behind Milne’s famous characters. Ewan McGregor plays the grown-up Christopher, who’d forgotten all his sense of imagination and his childhood friends. And they (as in his friends), are not about to let him forget them. And these friends are none other than familiar names like Pooh Bear, Piglet, Eeyore, and the rest of the gang.

With these two movies, we get a better picture of how Winnie the Pooh and friends came about, but what is the real story behind Winnie the Pooh?

Alan Alexander Milne was a playwright before he enjoyed his enormous success as the author of the Winnie the Pooh books. He had married Daphne Sélincourt before he went to war. Their son, Christopher Robin Milne, was born in 1920.

Milne serviced in World War I and returned home suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. He became withdrawn and retreated his family to the country on weekends. It was at the country house that Winnie and his friends were born. Cotchford Farm, where their country house was located, had a lush jungle, a river and a hilly countryside with meadows and wide, open fields, framing the backdrop to Galleon’s Lap in the stories, and a bridge over a river nearby became Pooh-sticks Bridge.

Christopher’s own stuffed toys, Pooh Eeyore and Piglet, came to life with the imagination of both him and his mother, and was told to his father by his mother when she occasionally updates him about Christopher’s activities, hence inspiring Milne to pen these stories down on paper. Kanga and Tigger were late additions to the crew, gifted by Christopher’s parents.

After the phenomenal success of the Winnie the Pooh stories, much of the interest centred on young Christopher, a living, breathing boy who’s not just a character in the books, but made of real, flesh and blood. He initially loved the attention, telling a reporter back in the 70s, “It was exciting and made me feel grand and important.”

However, Christopher grew to loathe it, and that hate escalated when he was sent to a boarding school at eight and was bullied for being Christopher Robin. Meanwhile, his own father didn’t seem to notice his increasing resentment. In his own biography, The Enchanted Place, he had written, “At school, however, I began to dislike him (the character of Christopher Robin) and I found myself disliking him more and more the older I got. “ He added, “for it was [then] that began that love-hate relationship with my fictional namesake that has continued to this day.”

In the latter part of his life, Christopher was reflective of the immense frustration he had towards the books, seen from the last line in The Enchanted Place,

“When I was three my father was three. When I was six he was six… he needed me to escape from being fifty.”

After Milne’s death, Christopher gave his stuffed toys to the books’ editor, who in turn donated them to the New York Public Library, which you can still see if you visit.