Winnie-the-Pooh (2)


Winnie-the-Pooh (2)
Winnie-the-Pooh (2)
Characters, major themes and linguistic features
The Characters
Christopher Robin
the ideal ‘parent’ to Pooh
plays at being responsible
organizational skills (solves his
friends’ problems)
clever, compassionate and brave but
also playful and lazy (likes doing
all the Pooh stories end when he is six
and has to start school
takes its name from a bear that the London
Zoo bought from Winnipeg (>Winnie)...
... and from a Swan Christopher Robin
called ‘Pooh’
has the virtues but also the faults of real children
lovely and always ready to help...
... but also greedy (it’s always time for ‘a little
... and self-centred (he believes that what is good
for him will be good for others too (e.g. on
Eeyore’s birthday)
humble (he says he’s a ‘Bear of Very Little Brain)
and yet a competent writer of light verse and
Piglet is tiny, shy and very fearful
... but also proud about his supposedly
grand family ties:
he claims that the sign ‘Trespassers
W’ signals his grandfather’s property
(‘Trespassers Will); contrast to Pooh’s
modesty (someone else’s name on his
house door: Sanders)
Like an old, self-centred and
hypochondriac relative
self-pitying, melancholic and always
cynical wit, adult-like speech:
“Somebody must have taken [my tail].
How like them!”; “Good morning,
Pooh Bear [...]. If it is a good
morning [...], which I doubt”; “All
except me, as Usual”
Kanga and Roo
Roo is the smallest animal in the
forest, but he is completely fearless
and cheerful
Kanga: the only fully adult
... and the only female character!
a fussy mother, always worried about
Roo’s safety
Owl and Rabbit
they are not based on the toys of
Milne’s son but on animals (>fables)
Owl: pedantic father, the
representation of useless adults’
Owl: preposterous language,
exaggerated and often blatantly
incorrect: “HIPY PAPY
Rabbit: bossy and interested in the
small and trivial details of life
Nonsense in Winnie the Pooh
Every humorous situation in the book is
reached by the logic of nonsense: the
logical pursuit of an idea to the point of
e.g. Pooh and Piglet think they’re
tracking the Woozle but are in fact
following their own footprints:
Nonsense as false reasoning:
When Pooh and Piglet want to catch the Heffalump,
they dig a trap and are sure the Heffalump will fall
into the ‘Very Deep Pit’ because he will be looking at
the sky and wondering if it will rain:
“Piglet said that this was a very good Trap, but
supposing it were raining already? Pooh [...] said
that, if it were raining already, the Heffalump would
be looking at the sky wondering if it would clear up,
and so he wouldn’t see the Very Deep Pit”
Winnie the Pooh and identity
Although critics tend to dismiss the Pooh stories as
stories for children, we find some Alice-like crisis in
the characters’ identity.
People and object change their shape or function
somewhat unpredictably:
Pooh decides to turn himself into a cloud
Pooh’s legs are used as a towel-horse in
Rabbit’s house
Eeyore’s tail is used as a bell by Owl
Piglet pretends to be Kanga, and cannot
get his name back
Differences with Alice
The narrator’s attitude is more detached and cool, the
space is more protected. No verbal attacks, but just
‘silliness’ and amicable behaviour
The tea-parties:
Children’s language
Winnie-the-Pooh shows features that are
typical of children’s language:
difficulties with long words and spelling:
expotition > expedition; Crustimoney
Proseedcake > Customary procedure
play with words: “Help, help, a
Heffalump ... A Horrible Heffalump!... a
Herrible Heffalump! ... Holl, Holl, a
Hoffable Hellerump!”
Children’s language
the use of capital letters is particularly important: e.g.
“a Very Useful Pot”, “a Bear of Very Little Brain”.
Piglet: “It’s a little Anxious ... to be a Very Small
Animal Entirely Surrounded by Water”
the capitalized nouns are names for definite
categories (ontological units)
for children, words are things: they pick up and reuse phrases even if they don’t fully grasp their
If in Wonderland language creates reality, in the
garden there is a safer play with childish language
Text and Illustrations
each verse (graphic
unit) mimicks a
branch of the tree;
this makes it difficult
to read for the reader,
and thus the text
reproduces Pooh’s
effort as he climbs up
the tree
Text and Illustrations
When Piglet is in Kanga’s pocket (Ch. 7):
flying I
Text and Illustrations
illustrations are more
cartoon-like than
Tenniel’s. He uses
pictures in series and
illustrations that
recall comic strips
Space: the Map
At the beginning of the book, the map sets the reader
in an Edenic space:
no large human constructions
harmony with nature
static and ‘paratactical’ world
the map is typical of adventure books: e.g. Treasure
but Milne’s map is non-sequential and open to
multiple readings/interpretations
encourages a ‘poetic’ use of possible explanatory
the map becomes a kind of reference for the child reader,
helping him or her not only to locate the setting of the stories,
but also to remember the stories themselves:
Christopher Robin as ‘surveying’ and as ‘explorer’
The self-centred child: “drawn by me and Mr Shepard
the map in Winnie-the-Pooh depicts a space for enclosure and
‘safe’ play or adventures:
the space of the garden is not threatening, and the map
grants the child some mastery over it
although in the book there are some hints at objects or
animals changing their function (e.g. Eeyore’s tail used
as a bell, or Pooh’s legs as towel-horse), there is no
serious disruption of the laws of physics
Pooh today
1961: Disney buys all the rights
for the Pooh stories
1977: first Pooh animated film:
from Winnie-the-Pooh to Pooh’s
New characters:
the heffalump
Pooh today
Winnie-the-Pooh, philosophy and literary criticism:
Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh (1982)
John T. Williams, Pooh and the Philosophers (1995). Subtitle:
In Which It Is Shown that All of Western Philosophy is Merely
a Preamble to Winnie-the-Pooh.
Frederick Crews, The Pooh Perplex (1963) and Postmodern
Pooh (2001): parody of literary criticism applied to Milne’s
Some examples of titles from the fictitious essays in Crews’
books: “A.A. Milne’s Honey-Balloon-Pit-Gun-TailBathtubcomplex”; “The Fissured Subtext:Historical
Problematics, the Absolute Cause, Transcoded Contradictions,
and Late-Capitalist Metanarrative (in Pooh)”