The Many Faces of Winnie the Pooh

Cover to the original book with illustrations by E. H. Shepard

I grew up with the original books about Winnie-the-Pooh and the other denizens of the Hundred Acre Wood. In fact, the most vivid memory I have of my grandfather (who died when I was seven) is of him reading me the scene with Pooh falling out of the tree and hitting every branch on the way down. I still hear his voice when I read that passage!

The original books by A. A. Milne and illustrated by E. H. Shepard were my first introduction to Christopher Robin and his array of friends. Probably because of that, I’ve always been far more attached to the books than to the Disney animated versions, however cute they may be. It’s also probably why I am not really a fan of Tigger, who is far more disruptive and annoying in the book than in the movies! Thankfully, he doesn’t appear until the second book, so there’s one whole book that’s Tigger-free.

Christopher Robin Milne’s actual toys which inspired the stories

I found some of the observations in this article about the differences between the books and the Disney movies interesting. There are many they missed, but they have a good start. Rabbit’s friends and relations are a constant presence in the books, but basically completely absent from the movies, for example.

The change that Disney made that always bothered me the most as a kid was in explictly making Owl the smartest one instead of Piglet. Now, it’s probably unsurprising that I’m a big fan of Piglet. He’s small, smart, adventurious, but also anxious, and quietly devoted to his friends – all qualities I identify with. And in the books, being the smallest is a big advantage to him because he alone gets to go to school with Christopher Robin (hiding in his pocket) and learn to read and write. I loved this about Piglet because not only did it show that being small could be an advantage, but that education and intelligence were noteworthy.

Disney’s version of some of Milne’s characters

I actually do love the Disney movies about Winnie-the-Pooh, even some of the odd less popular ones (“The Piglet Movie” is one of my favorites because it has my favorite chapter from the books included). Despite the changes that do bother me, I feel like they did a great job time and time again of evoking the feel of Milne’s books. The quiet, relatively safe, but always interesting, chaos of the Hundred Acre Wood is so beautifully animated that it’s hard not to love them and several of the Disney movies about these characters are among the movies I watch when I need to be cozy and comforted.

One of Shepard’s illustrations of the characters from the original books

I will agree with the article about the differences that it’s amazing that the books are in fact far more musical than the movies. I adore Milne’s poetry and I miss the crazy songs Pooh is constantly making up in the books when watching the movies. They did use my favorite of Pooh’s random songs in “The Piglet Movie”, but it doesn’t quite sound in the movie the way it sounded in my head (or when I went around singing it out loud as a kid). I suppose that is the way of songs you first encounter only on paper!

The more it snows,
(Tiddely pom)
The more it goes,
(Tiddely pom)
The more it goes,
(Tiddely pom)
On snowing.

And nobody knows,
(Tiddely pom)
How cold my toes,
(Tiddely pom)
How cold my toes,
(Tiddely pom)
Are growing.

– A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner

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