LIT 4334: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

Winnie the Pooh, a Classic

on April 18, 2013 2:39pm

Is Winnie the Pooh a classic?

Yes, of course. It has had a presreadingence in each of our lives. The majority of people in the U.S. know about Winnie the Pooh or have heard of it. Particularly, it has been successful in capturing the interest of young children; though, Milne wrote the Pooh stories for both children and the child within adults. To this day, Winnie the Pooh remains a multibillion merchandising empire whose trademarks are owned by Disney. Disney has created numerous adaptations based off of Milne’s original stories, and is continuously releasing new Pooh movies, Pooh video games, Pooh TV series/specials, and a great variety of Pooh merchandise.

Now, what is a classic? What makes a story a classic? Well, a classic in the literary context is a story that transcends time and maintains itself as a source of value, relatability, and/or pleasure for the recurring generations. Although each classic is distinctively different from another in its unique form, style, presentation, and/or plot points and storyline, all classics share certain characteristics that nurture their success.

footprints

Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh and The House At Pooh Corner have a distinctive writing style that distinguishes them from other texts. Milne adds humor at the expense of the characters who may have no idea what is going on, but we know all too well. We see such occurrences in chapter three, “Pooh and Piglet Go Hunting and Nearly Catch a Woozle.” Here, Piglet and Pooh are following animal tracks that they hypothesize to be Woozles. The reader is told that Pooh has been “walking round and round in a circle, thinking of something…” (A. A. Milne). Then Pooh and Piglet commence their tracking of some mysterious prints in the snow, which the reader knows them to be Pooh’s own footprints. More evidence of these being Pooh’s (and Piglet’s) own footprints presents itself as Piglet and Pooh come across more pairs of footprints along the same track. It is amusing to the reader to watch two completely oblivious characters waste their time in tracking nothing but their very selves, and then seeing Piglet in fear over what the creatures could be (and how many as well).

Milne uses characters who dominantly express one single trait: Pooh and his constant hunger; Piglet and his anxiety; Eeyore and his depression; Etc. Milne’s intention in doing so is to create a more enjoyable piece; to use exaggerations that are both humorous and enjoyable to the reader. Furthermore, as we discussed in class, because the characters never change and always result back to their original selves by the beginning of the next day (the next story), we have here everlasting characters who will always be in a single state of mind, and whom popular culture can make into infinite adaptations featuring new adventures and experiences, thus keeping Winnie the Pooh classic, interesting, and profitable.

Pooh stuff         A good sign of the timelessness of Winnie the Pooh is its popularity in terms of merchandise and profitability. In fact, Winnie the Pooh is Disney’s most profitable franchise, and brings in over a billion dollars in revenues each year. Just surfing through the Disney online store, there are Winnie the Pooh plush toys, figurine playsets, crib bedding sets, mugs, quilts, tees, beanie bags, pillows, slippers, cups, pajamas, and even a limited edition signed artwork for approximately $800.00. It goes to show that children and adults alike enjoy Pooh and may develop nostalgia — or “expensive” nostalgia — for the lovable bear and his companions. There is no doubt that Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh and The House At Pooh Corner will continue to be classics for years to come as they inspire new adaptations and new adventures that offer joy and value to the young and old alike, as well as for many future generations to come.

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2 responses to “Winnie the Pooh, a Classic

  1. bgugliemino says:

    Something that I think is interesting regarding the status of Winnie the Pooh as a classic is that the original text itself seems to have endured, not just the story or the characters as preserved through the countless Disney incarnations. With some of the other books we have read, especially ones that were turned into Disney films, the story has become ingrained in the public consciousness but it is largely the film version that is better-known and responsible for the work’s lasting popularity. In the essay “Sentiment and Significance: The Impossibility of Recovery in the Children’s Literature Canon, or the Drowning of The Water Babies” that we read near the start of the semester, Deborah Stevenson explains that while a film version can lead to a small revival of interest in a book, the more common result is that the film becomes the primary version that is passed on and through which the story is known. Pooh has certainly received the Disney treatment, as you discuss, but the original book seems to have endured as well, at least in my personal experience. Both my sister and I had our own copy of Winnie the Pooh as children in addition to having seen the cartoons, but out of the four other books-turned-Disney films that we read this semester (Pinocchio, Alice in Wonderland, The Jungle Book, and Peter Pan) I have seen all of the movies but had not read any of the original books until this class. It is interesting to examine what it is about the Pooh stories that has ensured their survival alongside the Disney cartoons and merchandise. I think you bring up some good arguments, including the point that Milne’s sense of humor is one that allows the reader to be in on the joke, often at the expense of the character, although the joke never lessens the lovable nature of these characters.

  2. kmelkins says:

    I thought you had a lot of great points in this blog post. Milne’s humor is unique in that it is at the expense of the characters—which entertains the child—while his interactions with Christopher Robin in the telling of these stories is one that the adults are entertained by because it is one that is humoring his interjections (silly young kid). I think it also remains a classic because Christopher Robin isn’t really gendered. He’s a sort of blank slate; a character that is transparent enough that a child could easily place themselves into the story through Christopher Robin. He is the “every child,” as Rebekah called him.
    Perhaps Milne’s characters are simple in that they only have one trait because he knows that a child can’t process a very complex character. He uses characters and situations, such as Christopher Robin needing to go away and grow up, to make the story relatable and not just another fairy tale or escapist story.
    In regards to the huge profit that Disney continues to make off Winnie-the-Pooh, I think we can all agree that it due to its status as a classic, especially in the sentimental canon. It’s a timeless story about playing and having growing up, but it has definitely maintained its popularity because it has been passed down through the sentimental canon. In response to the prior comment, I think the move towards creating adaptations that stay close to the original stories can also be attributed to sentiment. Pooh is definitely one of the few storylines that Disney didn’t add to or change too much (obviously this doesn’t apply to the more recent movies and TV series that took more creative liberties to help extend the story of Pooh beyond what was written). I think Pooh will maintain its popularity for many years to come.

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