to Disney and modern vernacular, we're accustomed to saying that all the Pooh
characters live in the Hundred Acre Wood. To get persnickety (a big word
meaning exactly what it sounds like), the Hundred Acre Wood is a part of the
overall setting of the Winnie-the-Pooh books. There is also the swamp, the
meadow, and, in the last chapter, the enchanted place called Galleon's Lap.
landscape is based pretty faithfully on a real place, Ashdown Forest in England, where the Milne family spent a lot of summers and afternoon teas.
But Milne generically labels the fantastical world "The Forest." This
simple name has a great deal of creative merit, allowing the audience to draw
from their own experiences and associations in imagining the setting in the
book. Sure, it's based on a real place in England, but it could be anywhere. Every
reader can relate to it.
alert: the setting is a metaphor. Here's how we know. In and of itself, the
Forest is not remarkable. It's actually a very common kind of forest. The only "magical"
element about it (save the talking, thinking, singing stuffed animals) comes in
the very last chapter, and is dubbed "enchanted" because for some
reason, no one has ever been able to count the exact number of trees in the
glen. In short, it's no elven
kingdom. But it's very nice.
commonplace nature of the, um, nature in the Forest is actually quite central
to its function as an overarching metaphor for the world of childhood. Children
like Christopher Robin encounter very real, very mundane environments in their
everyday lives. What makes these places "magical" in the eyes of
adults (Milne is, after all, an adult recreating an imaginary world that his
son has built in real life) is the fantasy
that children create from natural settings. Any setting for that matter. How
often do you see a child pick up a stick and turn it into a sword, a wand, a
friend, a shield, a spoon...we could go on. Use your imagination.
makes this wood so clearly a metaphorical space is, most explicitly, the last
chapter. Here, we learn that as Christopher Robin gets older, he has to
physically leave the forest. For good. Bummer. For more on this, check out "What's Up With the Ending?"