How precious are Your thoughts to me, O LORD ... how vast is the sum of them!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


I grew up with Disney’s versions of these stories and their offshoots, but I never read the books until this year. They were just about my favorite show and even now watching them again would wrap me in a warm wool blanket of nostalgia that makes me too content for words.

Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) and The House at Pooh Corner (1928) appealed to me, too. The charm, fun, and innocence is there; they are like a humorous, loving, talented father’s gift to his little son and it’s a treat to listen in on them. I felt close to A. A. Milne, his son Christopher Robin, and even his wife (because he dedicated the first book to her with a sweet poem!) because these stories seemed a family affair. I didn’t like them just because I liked the shows as a kid, though it certainly set me off in the right direction!

File:The original Winnie the Pooh toys.jpg
wikimedia commons, the originals. Rabbit and Owl weren't based on toys.

I expected them to be enjoyable, but I wasn’t prepared for the ultimate reasons why. The stories are insightful. The characters are simplified depictions of human nature and personality, and as such are shown in their sharpest, funniest light. They are simple creatures – the little boy Christopher Robin is the loved and respected leader and the most knowledgeable of the Hundred Acre Wood residents – and they get themselves into silly, sometimes nonsensical scrapes, but A. A. Milne’s wry humor and clever observations frequently made me laugh and, if my mom was nearby, say, “Listen to this …!”

A. A. Milne wrote humor, poems, plays, novels … he didn’t like to be tied to any one writing field. I found this thorough biography sketch, Who Was Alan Alexander Milne?, which I recommend if you have time! Here is one statement about his writing for children that I thought summed him up well: “It was Alan’s very strength as a writer, however – virtue combined with whimsy – that made him a superb children’s author in due time. Another factor that did so was Alan’s unsentimental yet keenly observant attitude toward children, their thoughts and behavior; still another was his keen memory of his own childhood. It helped greatly as well that he had a living example in his own house on which to draw ….”

File:Christopher Robin Milne.jpg
wikimedia commons, A. A. Milne and Christopher Robin

Well, I didn’t do this subject justice, but I’ve always believed the work speaks for itself. Here are a few favorite lines!

Rabbit: “Did you make that song up?”
“Well, I sort of made it up,” said Pooh. “It isn’t Brain,” he went on humbly, “because You Know Why, Rabbit; but it comes to me sometimes.”
“Ah!” said Rabbit, who never let things come to him, but always went and fetched them. “Well, the point is, have you seen a Spotted or Herbaceous Backson in the Forest, at all?”

“But it isn’t Easy,” said Pooh to himself, as he looked at what had once been Owl’s House. “Because Poetry and Hums aren’t things which you get, they’re things which get you. And all you can do is to go where they can find you.”

It was going to be one of Rabbit’s busy days. As soon as he woke up he felt important, as if everything depended upon him. It was just the day for Organizing Something, or for Writing a Notice Signed Rabbit, or for Seeing What Everybody Else Thought About It.

I thought,” said Piglet earnestly, “that if Eeyore stood at the bottom of the tree, and if Pooh stood on Eeyore’s back, and if I stood on Pooh’s shoulders –”
“And if Eeyore’s back snapped suddenly, then we could all laugh. Ha ha! Amusing in a quiet way,” said Eeyore, “but not really helpful.”
“Well,” said Piglet meekly, “I thought –”
“Would it break your back, Eeyore?” asked Pooh, very much surprised.
“That’s what would be so interesting, Pooh. Not being quite sure till afterwards.”

Tigger took a large mouthful of honey … and he looked up at the ceiling with his head on one side, and made exploring noises with his tongue and considering noises, and what-have-we-got-here noises … and then he said in a very decided voice:
“Tiggers don’t like honey.”
“Oh!” said Pooh, and tried to make it sound Sad and Regretful. “I thought they liked everything.”
“Everything except honey,” said Tigger.
Pooh felt rather pleased about this, and said that, as soon as he had finished his own breakfast, he would take Tigger round to Piglet’s house, and Tigger could try some of Piglet’s haycorns.
“Thank you, Pooh,” said Tigger, “because haycorns is really what Tiggers like best.”

They had got a rope and were pulling Owl’s chairs and pictures and things out of his old house so as to be ready to put them into his new one. Kanga was down below tying the things on, and calling out to Owl, “You won’t want this dirty old dish-cloth any more, will you, and what about this carpet, it’s all in holes,” and Owl was calling back indignantly, “Of course I do! It’s just a question of arranging the furniture properly, and it isn’t a dish-cloth, it’s my shawl.” Every now and then Roo fell in and came back on the rope with the next article, which flustered Kanga a little because she never knew where to look for him. So she got cross with Owl and said that his house was a Disgrace, all damp and dirty, and it was quite time it did tumble down. Look at that horrid bunch of toadstools growing out of the floor there! So Owl looked down, a little surprised because he didn’t know about this, and then gave a short sarcastic laugh, and explained that that was his sponge, and that if people didn’t know a perfectly ordinary bath-sponge when they saw it, things were coming to a pretty pass. “Well!” said Kanga, and Roo fell in quickly, crying, “I must see Owl’s sponge! Oh, there it is! Oh, Owl! Owl, it isn’t a sponge, it’s a spudge! Do you know what a spudge is, Owl? It’s when your sponge gets all –” and Kanga said, “Roo, dear!” very quickly, because that’s not that way to talk to anybody who can spell TUESDAY.

So they went off together. But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this! Who's your favorite character? I always had a soft spot for Eeyore and Tigger in the movies, but now I can't decide who I like best.

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