I met Winnie the Pooh

As a child, I delighted in the adventures of Winnie the Pooh. As a teenager, I found wisdom in the Tao of Pooh. At present, I have a postcard of Pooh and Piglet on my wall.

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. “Pooh!”, he whispered. “Yes, Piglet?” “Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw, “I just wanted to be sure of you.”

I never warmed to Disney’s version. Garish Technicolor could never compete with E.H. Shepherd’s delicate, lovingly-drawn watercolours and Pooh with an American accent is just not cricket. Pooh is, and always will be, a quintessentially English bear. So it came as a complete surprise to me to learn that Winnie the Pooh now lives in New York. The story goes something like this:

In the 1920s a little boy named Christopher Robin, son of A.A. Milne, received a teddy bear from Harrods. Originally called Edward (the long version of Teddy); he evolved into Winnie the Pooh and a legend was born. Other toys followed – Tigger, Kanga, Roo, Piglet and Eeyore. Owl and Rabbit never really existed, they were made up for the stories. For many years, they lived and played happily in Ashdown Forest, Sussex (the real Hundred Acre Wood) but there are mixed reports as to what happened next. Some say Pooh and his friends were given to the U.S. publisher, E.P. Dutton, but there are also claims that they were just lent to him to help publicize the books Stateside, with the understanding that they would return home after a couple of years. They never did. They are currently on display in the children’s section of the Stephen Schwarzman Library on 42nd Street in midtown Manhattan.

Eeyore was always my favourite

The whole gang is here, except for Roo, who was lost in an orchard a very long time ago, never to be seen again. There’s also a rather curious outsider, an otter by the name of Lottie, who is a blow-in from a modern sequel and looks right out of place. The original cast of characters all show obvious signs of having been well played with (not only by Christopher Robin but also by the family dog, apparently) and Piglet is absolutely tiny – less than 4 inches tall. Their playing days are behind them, though. Age has taken its toll and they are apparently very fragile, so they sit in a glass case in a little room in the children’s library. The walls are decorated with murals, and I was happy to see they eschewed Disney and went instead with a lovely homage to E.P. Shepherd.

Will Pooh and his friends remain here? In 1998 British politicians made an attempt to bring Pooh home, as they detected sadness, but Rudolf Giuliani, the then Mayor of New York, said he’d had a conversation with Pooh who was quite happy where he was. The White House even stepped in to express dismay at the idea of losing this little bear. For the moment, it seems they are staying put in their little glass case in the middle of a big city, far far away from Hundred Acre Wood.

For more on New York, check out Summer Solstice in New York, Another Brick in the Wall, Chelsea Hotel No. 2, And the Chapel Bells were Ringing and Ferryland.

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About ailsapm

Hi there! I’m Ailsa Prideaux-Mooney. I’ve lived in many places, and travelled to many more. I had a lot of fun getting there and being there, wherever there happened to be at the time. I climbed a castle wall in Czesky Krumlov, abseiled down cliffs to go caving in the west of Ireland, slept on the beach in Paros, got chased by a swarm of bees in Vourvourou (ok that wasn’t fun, but it was exciting), learned flower arranging in Tokyo, found myself in the middle of a riot in Seoul, learned to snowboard in Salzburg, got lost in a labyrinth in Budapest and had my ice cream stolen by a gull in Cornwall. And I’m just getting started. If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read so far, I’d love you to follow my travelogue - wheresmybackpack.com - and remember, anyone who tries to tell you it’s a small world hasn’t tried to see it all.
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22 Responses to I met Winnie the Pooh

  1. If the Greeks are demanding the return of the Elgin Marbles, maybe Britain can demand the return of these national treasures 😉

  2. Pamela says:

    Well…I think Pooh and his friends look very unhappy there, far away from Hundred-Acre Wood. Just look at dejected hang of heads! Perhaps Christopher Robin’s son or grandson will fly from Ireland to the rescue?

    • ailsapm says:

      I know that A.A. Milne’s granddaughter failed in an attempt to regain the book rights from the Slesinger family, but I don’t think they’ve ever made any such requests for the stuffed toys. The 1998 attempt to return Pooh to Britain was made by an MP, Gwyneth Dunwoody. Tony Blair, however, decided not to pursue it, as reported by the NY Times here. Another thing to blame Tony Blair for!

  3. Kathryn says:

    Wish I could meet Pooh and all his chums! They MUST come home! 😦
    (Aren’t the drawings beautiful too)

    • ailsapm says:

      They do look a little depressed. The big city cannot compare to Hundred Acre Wood, even with all those lovely murals to remind them of home.

  4. Oh, the original Pooh! (Never cared for the Disney films either – I knew how they should sound in my head from reading – and the film wasn’t it!) Maybe Pooh and company were adventurous and content to be in the big city years ago, but now Pooh looks homesick…as you get older, you wish to go back to the comfortable home of memories…..
    lovely post

  5. Imelda says:

    I love Winnie the Pooh, the original one, the gentle, not loud, one. And my children like the gang too.

  6. I was an Eeyore fan too, and doesn’t he look miserable today? I’m so glad you found them, and that they are safe and protected in the Stephen Schwarzman Library (whoever knew this institution existed? Did you fluke on it Ailsa? I can see you are an inveterate explorer of your city so perhaps you were hunting for them? Lovely post:)

    • ailsapm says:

      How did it take me so long to notice your response, Wanderlust Gene? I overheard someone on the subway talking about Pooh and friends being in New York, so I researched it and tracked them down. How could I resist? 🙂

      • Ah ha! I remember that exhibition you found. That’s how, eh? Thank goodness you found it, otherwise I’d never have known anything about them being there, in New York:) Thanks Ailsa.

        • ailsapm says:

          Hope you get to see Pooh in person for yourself someday soon! xxx

          • New York’s not on the horizon those days Ailsa. When I lived in Canada, I used to go often, and have been several times since – once even stayed, working, for a month – but these days I’m pretty Asia-centric in my travels (except for Venice, of course), and that unfulfilled desire to dance the tango in Buenos Aires. Now, if I can save enough money to do that, New York will be back on the agenda – how I love the vibe of the place, the theatre, dance … And Vlad and Johna have given me a great enthusiasm for the water … 🙂

          • ailsapm says:

            New York never gets boring, that’s for sure! But Asia’s wonderful, I haven’t spent nearly enough time there. So far I’ve only seen Japan and Korea, so have barely scratched the surface of the mysteries of the east. Echoing you, if I can save enough money, I shall be spending some time exploring more of the world I haven’t seen. Dancing the tango in Buenos Aires sounds pretty great too, though, now you mention it 🙂

          • South America is far, except from North America, so perhaps the tango should be moved up on the list?

          • ailsapm says:

            I was thinking the same thing myself 🙂

  7. Jo Bryant says:

    Oh why can’t they just let them go home.

  8. Reblogged this on Amelia and commented:
    I recently asked Ailsa to guest blog for me and due to her travels she was short on time. This normally would disapoint me however she suggested that I reblog this post and I’m happy to do so. Thank you, Ailsa for this amazing piece.

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