A Good Way Out of a Sticky
Cottleston Pie only appears in the book once, but boy does it come
in strong, as one of Pooh's most memorable hums. This particular Pooh song is
inspired by Eeyore's confusing ramble about joy and fun and complaints about no
one remembering his birthday. Pooh is no good at "riddles" so he
Each stanza names a different animal's limitation (e.g. "A
fish can't whistle and neither can I" [Winnie-the-Pooh.6.17]), followed by
the refrain, "Ask me a riddle and I reply: / Cottleston, Cottleston, Cottleston Pie".
To be fair, this is pretty nonsensical. For a bear of very little brain, what
do you expect? But people have gone crazy reading something deeper into this
thing, and we at Shmoop can't help ourselves either.
Full disclosure: Shmoop is not the first to get stuck on the sweet
intellectual taste of Cottleston Pie. Yes, it's true. Benjamin Hoff famously
related it, along with many other portions of the Pooh books, to principles of
At Shmoop, we think that the philosophical weight attached to
Cottleston Pie extends beyond that specific doctrine. To begin with, Milne was
never explicitly Taoist, though he did exhibit some tendencies to lean away
from the dominant Christianity of his time and place. Religious views aside,
this symbol can teach a little something about self-awareness.
Stuffed Bear, Know Thyself.
While Milne may very well have intended this to be a cute little
song acknowledging Pooh's endearing dumbness, there is a subtle wisdom to it.
This song shows that Pooh is aware of the things many of his fellow animals
aren't able to do. He's also keenly aware of his own limitations, i.e. he's no
good at riddles...he's not the sharpest tool in the shed.
Amazingly, Pooh is completely at peace with the acknowledgement of
his own shortcomings. In fact, it seems he doesn't view them as shortcomings at
all. Just like "a fly can't bird," he can't figure out a complicated
problem. This isn't a failure, but rather the natural way of things. A fish
whistling is a ridiculous expectation. A bear of very little brain
understanding Eeyore's foggy metaphors? Not a chance. Thanks in part to the
hype the song has gotten after the book's original publication, Cottleston Pie
has come to represent just this kind of self-awareness and self-acceptance.
Know your place in the world, it seems to say. And if you don't
quite fit in at the moment? No bother, just sing a verse of Cottleston Pie
instead. You'll be happy either way.