LIT 4334: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

Winnie-the-Pooh in Popular Culture

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Is it without second thought to realize that Winnie-the-Pooh has been a well-known piece of work for nearly a century. It has revolutionized the entire genre of children’s novels, that authors have striven to emulate and should strive to emulate. In fact, this text has had such a huge, positive impact on the world that it has had a great deal of adaptations, including: theatre, audio, radio, film, and television. I would like to expand on all of these subsections of popular culture.

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In terms of theatre, there have been two plays adapted from the original text, one called “Winnie-the-Pooh at the Guild Theatre” in 1931, and more recently one called “Bother! The Brain of Pooh” in 1986, which was a one-man show, which is pretty interesting. In terms of audio,  Pooh stories were read in different decades by many different people, including: Maurice Evans,  Peter Dennis, and, David Benedictus. In two different instances, famous celebrities, Carol Channing and Stephen Fry both were involved with Winnie-the-Pooh. In terms of radio, Winnie-the-Pooh was debuted in England almost 7 years before it was debuted in the United States.

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In terms of film, Disney has had a number of adaptations, which were divided into theatrical featurettes and full-length theatrical features, the former being short films, that had varying success. The Soviet Union also had film adaptations, and made a trilogy. The aspect that is interesting about the Soviets, is that unlike Disney, the animation team made a new look for every character, and did not base their ideas on illustrations of Shepard. They played close attention to the original work by Milne, and utilize specific characteristics representative of the characters’ personalities that Disney neglected to do. In terms of television, Winnie-the-Pooh was separated into television shows, Holiday TV specials, direct-to-video shorts, and direct-to-video features.

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Can Pooh Influence Children to Binge Eat?

A. A. Milne’s characters of The World of Pooh, which include Christopher Robin and his animal toy friends, represent different disorders.  Can these disorders really be read into these characters and can they affect the children who read about them?

The book of Winnie-the-Pooh is structured in such a way that at points the narrator is talking to a Christopher Robin and then telling stories about Christopher Robin.  I thought this was interesting and imitative of real life—adults telling their children stories that include their children as characters.  However, is this potentially a way to prime schizophrenia and delusions in a child?

Christopher Robin lives a multi-faceted life in A. A. Milne’s book, and all of the talking animals have exaggerated traits.  Pooh is a bear who loves to eat and cannot control his habits.  In Chapter VI “Eeyore Has a Birthday and Gets Two Presents” Pooh plans to give Eeyore a pot of honey but gets hungry along the way to Eeyore so he eats it.  Then afterwards he realizes he ate Eeeyore’s present.  Pooh is constantly hungry, and he can’t control his habits surrounding food and hunger.  Is Pooh an allegory for an eating disorder?

The rest of the Hundred Acre Wood gang also seem to exhibit other DSM-worthy diagnoses.   Piglet is constantly battling his own cowardice, stuttering, and afraid of many things.  Owl is always thinking of what story of his own to tell next, displaying his superiority of knowledge, and just talking over others and to others without caring if the listener even cares.  Eeyore is gloomy and pessimistic and hardly ever happy.  He can also be angry and sees all the faults in people and situations.  Rabbit expresses always needing to be in control of situations and being the leader.  He has to have things done in a certain way, and he tries to make other characters at time conform to what he wants them to be, such as when he didn’t want Kanga and Roo in the Hundred Acre Wood causing change or Tigger to be so bouncy.  Tigger himself bounces from one idea to the other and is quite energetic to the point where he can’t control it.  The animated versions of these characters also play on these exaggerated traits epitomizing them.

Christoper Robin.  Schizophrenia.  Pooh.  Eating Disorder.  Piglet.  General Anxiety Disorder.  Owl.  Narcissism.  Eeyore.  Depression.  Rabbit.  Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  Tigger.  Attenion Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Do these characters represent these disorders and then influence children in a way that may prime them for the disorders and cause them to imitate them?

I believe that in literature and TV and all other forms of media, traits are normally exaggerated for entertainment’s sake.  It does not mean that the general masses will all of a sudden experience these disorders because a favorite character does.  Granted, children may imitate these disorders, but psychology has researched them enough to show that for most disorders a genetic priming is also a factor.  Environment is also a factor.  Eating disorders, for example, will not come about because of one instance of a bear character exhibiting it.  First, animal characters are not human characters, so children are less likely to want to “be” them, and second, one character from childhood is almost insignificant in the sea of parenting and media that may actually really cause an eating disorder.  A cute, fat, yellow bear’s influence is almost nothing when compared to the models in magazines and commercials and the advertisements that flood our children’s and our own vision everyday.

I also believe that creative works of art, such as literature, can be interpreted however the reader chooses to so if the reader does not notice or choose to see these characters as allegorical representations of mental disorders, then they will not influence the reader as such.  If parents do not present them as so to their children, then there is less of an opportunity for the children to see the characters that way.  I do not think that The World of Pooh and its characters are harmful to their child consumers.

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Children Do Grow Up

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Something that struck a chord with me with this weeks’ reading of A.A. Milne’s The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh and The House At Pooh Corner, is how different a character Christopher Robin is from Peter Pan.  Also, please note that the Peter Pan that I will be referencing is the Peter from Peter and Wendy.

 

Within these novels we see two young boys who live in a world filled with fantasy and magic.  Both boys have a band of merry friends and are somewhat seen as the leaders within there groups.  They seem to be the problem solvers and decision makers when questions are asked and decisions need to be made.  Both Christopher Robin and Peter Pan enjoy going on adventures with their friends and exploring.

 

However, there are numerous differences between Christopher Robin and Peter Pan.  One contrast is education.  Peter Pan has fled to Neverland where he lives without any schooling or education, but Christopher Robin spends his mornings getting an education and even teaches his friends in the Hundred Acre Woods some letters and spelling.

 

Another difference is quite possibly the most important difference between the two boys.  Peter does not wish to grow up at all and even goes so far to refuse to do so.  Christopher Robin does not seem to wish to grow up but he also understands that this is something that must occur.  He spends the time to say goodbye to Pooh and to ask him to never forget him and his pledge to return to their enchanted place.

 

The idea of growing up can be disillusioning to children but it is a practical idea and Milne has taken the time to show how growing up is inevitable but at the same time if you maintain a desire to remain youthful you can.

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Correct Collodi?

We have all been introduced to the Victorian children’s novel and how the authors used morals to lead children in the direction of obedience. But when reading Pinocchio by Carl Collodi we see his extreme views of what is expected of children. His main character Pinocchio represents the rotten little boy who misbehaves and only thinks of himself. Collodi view most children, especially boys as these outrageous little monsters. Then there is the opposing view of children during the time; the thought that children were little angels corrupted by their parents and the surrounding world. Many critics believe that he had a rather skewed outlook on children and how they should behave. But did he really?

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Yes, some punishments that Pinocchio received were extremely harsh; for example he being thrown in jail on account of he let the burglar rob him. I personally was horrified at that and felt bad for his character. Being that he was a mere child was not means to lock him in prison. But he did deserve to be punished for the wrong things he did. Collodi was correct in his belief that children need to be properly punished for what they did wrong; he wanted to call out the parents of the rotten children and show them that by treating their children like little, innocent cherubs that they could turn out just like Pinocchio. But how should children be treated? When I become a parent, I do not know if I would let my child read this novel. Even though there are great lessons to be learned, some of the tales could frighten young children. We learned that Collodi changed the vulgar ending of Pinocchio being hung for his crimes of being a bad child, and that was a smart move. We should not be preaching to children that if they mess up that they will suffer the most severe of consequences like Collodi believed. But we should allow them to make mistakes and guide them in the right direction to help them not falter again.

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