Tom the backroads traveller hosts this weekly meme.
Timeless Thursdays is hosted by Stevenson Que
September 2020 - Toronto ON
Thursday we headed to the ROM, Royal Ontario Museum, to see Winnie the Pooh.
This video was done before lockdown in March. The exhibit we saw did not include those delicious looking honey treats or some of the interactive exhibits.
In 1926, A.A. Milne and E.H. Shepard introduced Winnie-the-Pooh to the world. Yet the bear’s journey into print was a long and circuitous one that crossed an ocean and took a dozen years.
Winnie-the-Pooh’s story begins in White River, Ontario—a railroad town deep in the forest. On August 24, 1914, its small population swelled with soldiers for a few hours during a Canadian Pacific train stopover. Great Britain had entered the First World War earlier that month, and many Canadians answered the call to volunteer. Among the first was Harry Colebourn, a 27-year-old veterinarian from Winnipeg who was travelling with other members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force for six weeks of training at Camp Valcartier in Quebec. Their train stopped to resupply in White River, and Colebourn disembarked with the other men to explore the town.
Most of what we know about his stopover comes from the few words scrawled in his day planner: “Left Pt. Arthur 7A.M. Train all day, Bought Bear $20.” Buying a bear during a layover might sound odd, especially when one realizes this is around $500 in today’s money. Yet regimental mascots were seen as good for morale, so when Colebourn saw a trapper selling a black bear cub, he may have felt it was his patriotic duty to buy it. He named it “Winnie” after Winnipeg.
A playful cub with a sweet tooth, Winnie was a favourite with the troops in Valcartier. In October, she and Colebourn crossed the Atlantic in a ship convoy bound for more training on England’s Salisbury Plain. When Colebourn was about to depart in early December for combat in France, he loaned Winnie to the London Zoo. She swiftly became a crowd favourite and continued to delight a generation of children after she was officially donated to the zoo at war’s end. One of these young admirers was Christopher Robin Milne.
Born in 1920, Christopher Robin was the only child of Alan Alexander Milne and his wife, Daphne. He loved visiting Winnie at the zoo, as evidenced by an iconic picture of him feeding her sweets there. Other photographs taken around this time show him cradling a bear stuffie his parents bought him for his first birthday.
Christopher Robin’s bear made his first appearance as “Mr. Edward Bear” in When We Were Very Young, Milne’s collection of children’s poems published in 1924. It was a commercial success, in no small part because of Shepard’s wonderful illustrations. He drew Edward Bear to look like his own son’s teddy bear, and this style would continue in subsequent books by Milne and Shepard, including The House at Pooh Corner (1928). Meanwhile, Christopher Robin had decided to rename his stuffie “Winnie-the-Pooh”—“Winnie” in reference to the bear at the zoo and “Pooh” after the name of a swan he fed in the park. In 1925, the Milnes bought a country home 90 kilometres south of London. Christopher Robin would take Pooh and the other animals on adventures in the neighbouring woods. These adventures, infused with his father’s own childhood memories, inspired the Winnie-the-Pooh books. Meanwhile, Winnie was still at the London Zoo, thrilling children who got to see a bear that had played a small but crucial role in the creation of books that would sell millions of copies the world over.
Of the stories’ eight main animal characters, Winnie-the-Pooh, Eeyore, Kanga, Piglet, Roo, and Tigger are based on stuffies owned by Christopher Robin. A.A. Milne then added Rabbit and Owl from his imagination. A fictionalized Christopher Robin rounded out the crew. The combination of the nine characters’ personalities is what drives the adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood.
Winnie-the-Pooh: A lovable bear who enjoys honey and singing to himself.
Christopher Robin: The gentle boy who is wiser than the animals.
Eeyore: A glum donkey whom everyone seeks to cheer up.
Piglet: A fearful pig who turns out to be the bravest of the lot.
Kanga: The doting kangaroo mother of Roo, she takes care of the other animals.
Roo: Cheerful and energetic, the joey is always looking for adventure.
Tigger: A bouncy tiger with an exaggerated view of himself but who eagerly helps others.
Rabbit: Confident he is always right, Rabbit likes to boss everyone around.
Owl: Owl thinks he’s the wisest and smartest of all the animals.
Some of the books on display.