I’m sorry for my absence in the last couple of weeks; I’ve missed writing about books for you all! It’s been a time of a lot of change for me, and I’m looking forward to the future. But change is always a little hard. I’ve been craving things of comfort: mashed potato dinners, cozy sweaters, adorable childhood favorites.
Surprisingly, I had never read the original A.A. Milne Winnie the Pooh stories. I, like many children, was introduced to these characters by Walt Disney. I was surprised by how similar the stories I knew from those films were to the original text. Some of the lines and plots were exactly the same, and of course, both versions are so charming. I think the biggest difference between Milne’s original stories and Disney’s versions is the sense of intimacy. The stories in the book feel much more familial, a world created by a father for his child. Often, the narrator of the stories steps out of the plot to speak directly to his listener, the child Christopher Robin. This element added so much sweetness to the stories, and made their structure and narrative unique. The text plays around a lot with the concept of storytelling, which is something I really liked about it.
There are a lot of clever jokes throughout the stories. My personal favorite is the fact that Piglet lives in a home with a partially damaged sign that reads “Trespassers Will.” The real-world understanding of this sign would be that it was the beginning of a threat of violence, but instead, Piglet understands it to mean that the grandfather who passed down his home to him was named Trespassers William. If you’re like me and enjoy over-analyzing everything, you could read this as more than cute wordplay, but as an intentional subversion of something unpleasant and unfriendly for something sweet and familial. It’s a good trade.
Of course, the best parts of the stories are the characters. Pooh and his friends are kind and funny. They are also (for stuffed animals) so human. They like to be recognized and admired for good deeds; they like attention. They pretend to understand more than they do at times. They’re not always the best to one another, but at the end of the day, friendship always seems to prevail. My favorite of the stories was titled “In Which Eeyore Has a Birthday and Gets Two Presents.” Pooh and Piglet learn that Eeyore is feeling alone and neglected on his birthday, and each decide to bring him the perfect present. They both mess up the gifts and feel terribly about ruining Eeyore’s birthday. I won’t spoil the details, but I’m sure you can imagine it doesn’t end in hurt feelings. It’s so sweet and perfect.
This book was exactly what I needed. It’s comforting and warm without being too frivolous and silly. It manages to be smart while retaining a child’s sense of wonderment and joy. It’s a classic for a reason, and if you’ve never given the original stories a try, it’s definitely worth it.