I have always been a Pooh fan. I remember the books as a child and the wonder they created when the pictures and text danced together upon the pages. They were unlike “regular” books and, because of their creative formatting, little girls and boys would be curious enough to turn and discover something new on the next page and the next. The images blended with the story until neither could be separated from the other. Generations of children were mesmerized by the humble little bear who had no idea how wise he was. As kids, we didn’t know he was wise either. He just seemed to be kind and gentle, as well as continuously in predicaments where it took all his friends helping to work things out.
Now, I can see the genius of the work. Now, I can understand the two brilliant men who brought the characters in the Hundred Acre Wood to life. I went to the High Museum of Art to see the Winnie the Pooh exhibit on Friday. It was a fitting tribute to the artistic ability of both the author and the illustrator. Quotes lined the walls, and framed sketches of the pictures in the books immediately summoned old feelings to the surface of my imagination. Warm and fuzzy doesn’t begin to describe my sentimental journey back in time. The drawing of Pooh holding onto the balloon brought the story of him trying to get the honey to the forefront of my mind. The one of him stuck in Rabbit’s hole did the same. I don’t think I really understood the visual impact the illustrations had on me as a child until “re-seeing” them as an adult.
The quotes were filled with wisdom beyond the understanding of a young child. I think it is one reason the stories have lived so long. Adults appreciate the word play with the characters to teach their young children about life. Here are a few from the bear of very little brain.
“You’re braver than you believe and stronger and smarter than you think.”
“People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.”
“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
“If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.”
“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.”
I could add a million more of the humorous and profound lines to the list and most of us would know them. They are etched in our memories from spending time visiting the Hundred Acre Wood.
When the stories came to life on the television screen, the voice of Pooh was added. It became part of the intertwining of text, illustration, and then audio which made Winnie the Pooh a beloved iconic character loved by millions of children. That unassuming voice communicating honestly with viewers won us over. I haven’t been to the new movie yet. I hope it does justice to the original work.
I think our culture is longing for the simplicity of Pooh these days. We trust his gentle ways and the authenticity of his character. We all relate to the band of friends in one way or another. We know a negative Eeyore or a pretentious Owl. We have Tigger friends, or we bounce around ourselves. Fun, fun, fun, fun, fun. The connection we make to those long-ago characters reminds us of the simplicity of friendship, the uncomplicatedness of love, and the importance of believing in ourselves. We seem to have forgotten those things. We all need to revisit the Hundred Acre Wood. Leave it to a stuffed bear, named Pooh, to revive these things we have been missing. The character who wakes us up is as unassuming as ever, and the perfect vehicle to give us some food for thought…covered in honey of course.