Study Guide

Owl in The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh

By A. A. Milne

Owl

The Bookworm

The thing we love most about ourselves here at Shmoop is that we don't take ourselves too seriously. We love books, and we love that you do too. For that reason, we hold fast to the idea that thinking about literature isn't just for stuffy academics.

From up here on our soapbox, we'd like to use this opportunity to tell you that Owl is the opposite. He's so concerned with appearing wise and intelligent that he forgets to actually know anything. Milne doesn't take this to the point of cynicism, however, but uses it to comic effect.

Even though he's widely regarded as the most learned creature in the forest, Milne describes him:

Owl, wise though he was in many ways, able to read and write and spell his own name WOL, yet somehow went all to pieces over delicate words like MEASLES and BUTTERED TOAST (Winnie-the-Pooh.4.29)

Milne's young audience will recognize the mistake in spelling his own name, and will also take pride in the fact that they (at around three- or four-years-old) can spell their own names without making the same mistakes as Owl.

Keeping up appearances

But Owl likes playing the role of the smart one. He speaks in big words, to the point of being unable to actually communicate clearly. Like when he talks to Christopher Robin about the weather: "'The atmospheric conditions have been very unfavourable lately,' said Owl. / 'The what?' / 'It has been raining,' explained Owl" (Winnie-the-Pooh.9.34-36). And he gets excited about showing off his knowledge: "Owl explained about the Necessary Dorsal Muscles. He had explained this to Pooh and Christopher Robin once before, and he had been waiting ever since for a chance to do it again" (House.8.93).