CLOSE
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

10 Fun Facts About Winnie The Pooh

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

To pay tribute to both English author A.A. Milne and his lovable bear, Winnie The Pooh, we've compiled a collection of incredible facts that even the most dedicated visitor to the Hundred Acre Wood might not know.

1. THE CHUBBY LITTLE CUBBY WAS BASED ON A REAL, YOUNG ONE.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

During World War I, a Canadian soldier named Harry Colebourn made a pet of a black bear cub he bought from a hunter for $20. Named Winnipeg—or "Winnie" for short—the bear became his troop's mascot and later a resident of the London Zoological Gardens. There, she was an adored attraction, especially to a little boy named Christopher Robin Milne, son of author A.A. Milne. In fact, the boy loved Winnie so much that he named his own teddy after her.

2. CHRISTOPHER ROBIN MILNE INSPIRED HIS FATHER'S GREATEST WORKS.

In the 1920s, A.A. Milne began writing collections of stories and poems that became the books When We Were Very Young (which introduced a bear named Edward and a swan named Pooh), The House at Pooh Corner, Now We Are Six, and Winnie-The-Pooh. It was these stories where Christopher Robin’s adored toy animals Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, and Roo made their literary debuts. Most of the original toys can be seen on display at the New York Public Library—except for Roo, who went missing in an apple orchard in the 1930s. The likes of Owl and Rabbit were included to loop in some of the fauna that frolicked outside the Milne family home.

3. ILLUSTRATOR E.H. SHEPARD AMBUSHED MILNE FOR A JOB OF DRAWING POOH.

English artist E.H. Shepard. Getty

Shepard and Milne shared a mutual colleague in English humorist E.V. Lucas, who believed the former would be perfect for the tricky task of bringing Milne’s fantasy world to life in delicate drawings. But Milne was reluctant to hire a political cartoonist, so Shepard took the initiative. As recounted by Milne's old neighbor, Laurence Irving, Shepard wandered Ashdown Forest, the inspiration for Milne's mythical woods, and created a portfolio of sketches. Then he turned up unannounced at Milne's home, where he handed over his portfolio to Milne and won his approval.

4. A.A. MILNE WAS A SOLDIER AND A PLAYWRIGHT BEFORE POOH DOMINATED HIS LEGACY.

In World War I, he served in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment before being conscripted to Military Intelligence as a propagandist. His experiences inspired Peace With Honour, which denounced the war. He was an assistant editor at the magazine Punch, which is how he came to get involved with Shepard and Lucas. And between 1903 and 1925, Milne published 18 plays and three novels, all before publishing a word on Winnie the Pooh.

5. WINNIE'S LATIN TRANSLATION IS THE ONLY LATIN BOOK TO EVER CRACK THE NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER LIST.

Titled Winnie Ille Pu, the 1960 release translated by Dr. Alexander Lenard stayed on the coveted list for 20 weeks, and ultimately demanded 21 printings, selling 125,000 copies. This accomplishment spoke in part to the book itself, which the Times called ''the greatest book a dead language has ever known.'' But it's also evidence of Pooh's popularity. The adventures of this honey-loving bear have been translated into more than 50 languages, including Afrikaans, Czech, Finnish, and Yiddish.

6. THE REAL CHRISTOPHER ROBIN RESENTED HIS FATHER, AND POOH.

Christopher Robin Milne, circa 1925. Getty

Being forever the tender little boy in Hundred Acre Wood didn't suit Christopher Robin Milne. Like his father before him, he became a writer, but wrote memoirs of his own life, like The Enchanted Places, Beyond the World of Pooh, and The Hollow On The Hill. In these, he asserted, "It seemed to me almost that my father had got where he was by climbing on my infant shoulders, that he had filched from me my good name and left me nothing but empty fame." Ouch.

7. A PRODUCER WHO PURCHASED THE POOH RIGHTS ADDED HIS SIGNATURE RED T-SHIRT.

For nearly 30 years before Walt Disney began animating the bear, the American producer Stephen Slesinger acquired Pooh's merchandising rights for the U.S. and Canada. The red t-shirt that is now a Pooh signature was drawn in 1932 for an RCA Victor picture record. By the '40s, plush dolls donning the red top were being produced. When his widow, Shirley Slesinger Lasswell, licensed Pooh merchandising to Disney in 1961, the animators decided to keep the look.

8. POOH HAS BECOME ONE OF DISNEY'S MOST POPULAR PROPERTIES.

A Winnie the Pooh poster, circa 1965. Tom Simpson via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In 1961, Walt Disney also purchased the motion picture rights from A.A. Milne's widow, Daphne, and so began a brand that continues to thrive for his company. A series of Winnie the Pooh shorts were released in theaters starting in the late 1960s. In 1977, a trio of these made up Pooh's first theatrical release The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. The 1980s brought two television shows, Welcome to Pooh Corner and The New Adventures of Winnie The Pooh. Then the 2000s offered The Tigger Movie, Piglet's Big Movie, Pooh's Heffalump Movie and the CGI series My Friends Tigger & Pooh. There have also been a slew of straight-to-DVD releases. All this leads to merchandising profits that are said to rival Mickey Mouse's.

9. POOH ISN'T JUST FOR KIDS—HE'S FOR ACADEMICS TOO!

Scholars and philosophers have been pulling from Pooh for inspiration. American author Benjamin Hoff wrote both The Tao of Pooh and The Te of Piglet to explain principles of the Chinese philosophical school of Taoism. Scholar John Tyerman Williams responded with the long but self-explanatorily titled Pooh and the Philosophies: In Which It Is Shown That All of Western Philosophy Is Merely a Preamble to Winnie-The-Pooh and Pooh and the Psychologists. And English professor and author Frederick Crews penned The Pooh Perplex and Postmodern Pooh, which satirized academic trends in case studies.

10. 2011's WINNIE THE POOH FEATURED THREE A.A. MILNE STORIES THAT HAD NEVER BEEN ADAPTED BEFORE.

Made in the style of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, this theatrical release utilized traditional hand drawn animation and was staged within the pages of a book. It also contained seven original songs written by Robert Lopez and his wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez, the writing team that would go on to pen Frozen's Oscar-winning song, "Let It Go." The movie also featured a reprisal of the classic "Winnie The Pooh" theme sung by charming chanteuse Zooey Deschanel.

This article originally ran in 2015.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
George C. Beresford/Getty Images
arrow
literature
12 Facts About Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness
George C. Beresford/Getty Images
George C. Beresford/Getty Images

Joseph Conrad’s 1899 novella about venturing into the moral depths of colonial Africa is among the most frequently analyzed literary works in college curricula.

1. ENGLISH WAS THE AUTHOR’S THIRD LANGUAGE.

It’s impressive enough that Conrad wrote a book that has stayed relevant for more than a century. This achievement seems all the more impressive when considering that he wrote it in English, his third language. Born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski in 1857, Conrad was a native Polish speaker. French was his second language. He didn’t even know any English—the language of his literary composition—until age 21.

2. HEART OF DARKNESS BEGINS AND ENDS IN THE UK.

Though it recounts Marlow's voyage through Belgian Congo in search of Kurtz and is forever linked to the African continent, Conrad’s novella begins and ends in England. At the story’s conclusion, the “tranquil waterway” that “seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness” is none other than the River Thames.

3. THE PROTAGONIST MARLOW IS CONRAD.

The well-traveled Marlow—who appears in other Conrad works, such as Lord Jim—is based on his equally well-traveled creator. In 1890, 32-year-old Conrad sailed the Congo River while serving as second-in-command on a Belgian trading company steamboat. As a career seaman, Conrad explored not only the African continent but also ventured to places ranging from Australia to India to South America.

4. LIKE KURTZ AND MARLOW, CONRAD GOT SICK ON HIS VOYAGE.

Illness claimed Kurtz, an ivory trader who has gone mysteriously insane. It nearly claimed Marlow. And these two characters almost never existed, owing to their creator’s health troubles. Conrad came down with dysentery and malaria in Belgian Congo, and afterwards had to recuperate in the German Hospital, London, before heading to Geneva, Switzerland, to undergo hydrotherapy. Though he survived, Conrad suffered from poor health for many years afterward.

5. THERE HAVE BEEN MANY ALLEGED KURTZES IN REAL LIFE.

The identity of the person on whom Conrad based the story’s antagonist has aroused many a conjecture. Among those suggested as the real Kurtz include a French agent who died on board Conrad’s steamship, a Belgian colonial officer, and Welsh explorer Henry Morton Stanley.

6. COLONIZING WAS ALL THE RAGE WHEN HEART OF DARKNESS APPEARED.

Imperialism—now viewed as misguided, oppressive, and ruthless—was much in vogue when Conrad’s novella hit shelves. The "Scramble for Africa" had seen European powers stake their claims on the majority of the continent. Britain’s Queen Victoria was even portrayed as the colonies' "great white mother." And writing in The New Review in 1897, adventurer Charles de Thierry (who tried and failed to establish his own colony in New Zealand) echoed the imperialistic exuberance of many with his declaration: “Since the wise men saw the star in the East, Christianity has found no nobler expression.”

7. CHINUA ACHEBE WAS NOT A FAN OF THE BOOK.

Even though Conrad was no champion of colonialism, Chinua Achebe—the Nigerian author of Things Fall Apart and other novels—delivered a 1975 lecture called “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness” that described Conrad as a “thoroughgoing racist” and his ubiquitous short classic as “an offensive and deplorable book.” However, even Achebe credited Conrad for having “condemned the evil of imperial exploitation.” And others have recognized Heart of Darkness as an indictment of the unfairness and barbarity of the colonial system.

8. THE BOOK WASN’T SUCH A BIG DEAL—AT FIRST.

In 1902, three years after its initial serialization in a magazine, Heart of Darkness appeared in a volume with two other Conrad stories. It received the least notice of the three. In fact, not even Conrad himself considered it a major work. And during his lifetime, the story “received no special attention either from readers or from Conrad himself,” writes Gene M. Moore in the introduction to Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness: A Casebook. But Heart of Darkness managed to ascend to immense prominence in the 1950s, after the planet had witnessed “the horror”—Kurtz's last words in the book—of WWII and the ramifications of influential men who so thoroughly indulged their basest instincts.

9. T.S. ELIOT BORROWED AN IMPORTANT LINE.

Though Heart of Darkness wasn’t an immediate sensation, it evidently was on the radar of some in the literary community. The famous line announcing the antagonist’s demise, “Mistah Kurtz—he dead,” serves as the epigraph to the 1925 T.S. Eliot poem “The Hollow Men.”

10. THE STORY INSPIRED APOCALYPSE NOW.

Eighty years after Conrad’s novella debuted, the Francis Ford Coppola film Apocalypse Now hit the big screen. Though heavily influenced by Heart of Darkness, the movie’s setting is not Belgian Congo, but the Vietnam War. And though the antagonist (played by Marlon Brando) is named Kurtz, this particular Kurtz is no ivory trader, but a U.S. military officer who has become mentally unhinged.

11. HEART OF DARKNESS HAS BEEN MADE INTO AN OPERA.

Tarik O'Regan’s Heart of Darkness, an opera in one act, opened in 2011. Premiering at London’s Royal Opera House, it was reportedly the first operatic adaptation of Conrad’s story and heavily inspired by Apocalypse Now.

12. THE BOOK ALSO SPARKED A VIDEO GAME.

In a development not even Conrad’s imagination could have produced, his classic inspired a video game, Spec Ops: The Line, which was released in 2012.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Dan Bell
arrow
Design
A Cartographer Is Mapping All of the UK’s National Parks, J.R.R. Tolkien-Style
Peak District National Park
Peak District National Park
Dan Bell

Cartographer Dan Bell makes national parks into fantasy lands. Bell, who lives near Lake District National Park in England, is currently on a mission to draw every national park in the UK in the style of the maps in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Kottke.org reports.

The project began in September 2017, when Bell posted his own hand-drawn version of a Middle Earth map online. He received such a positive response that he decided to apply the fantasy style to real world locations. He has completed 11 out of the UK’s 15 parks so far. Once he finishes, he hopes to tackle the U.S. National Park system, too. (He already has Yellowstone National Park down.)

Bell has done various other maps in the same style, including ones for London and Game of Thrones’s Westeros, and he commissions, in case you have your own special locale that could use the Tolkien treatment. Check out a few of his park maps below.

A close-up of a map for Peak District National Park
Peak District National Park in central England
Dan Bell

A black-and-white illustration of Cairngorms National Park in the style of a 'Lord of the Rings' map.
Cairngorms National Park in Scotland
Dan Bell

A black-and-white illustration of Lake District National Park in the style of a 'Lord of the Rings' map.
Lake District National Park in England
Dan Bell

You can buy prints of the maps here.

[h/t Kottke.org]

All images by Dan Bell

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios