Study Guide

The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh Art and Culture

By A. A. Milne

Advertisement - Guide continues below

Art and Culture

"'What about a story?' said Christopher Robin." (Winnie-the-Pooh.1.10)

It's worth noting that the entire premise of the Pooh books operates around Milne telling improvised stories to his son. This kind of process then dominates how the characters create art throughout the tales. 

"<em>Tra-la-la, tra-la-la, / Tra-la-la, tra-la-la, / Rum-tum-tiddle-um-tum, / Tiddle-iddle, tiddle-iddle, / Tuddle-iddle, tiddel-iddle, Rum-tum-tum-tiddle-um.</em>"(Winnie-the-Pooh.2.2)

Who says poetry has to be about something? Nonsense words and little ditties are valid too. Just ask the post-modernists.

"'Then would you read a Sustaining Book, such as would help and comfort a Wedged Bear in Great Tightness?'" (Winnie-the-Pooh.2.72)

Pooh asks for this when he's stuck in Rabbit's door. This is our first clue from Milne that art is contextual. Different pieces serve different purposes at different times. Different.

"'I shall sing that first line twice, and perhaps if I sing it very quickly, I shall find myself singing the third and fourth lines before I have time to think of them, and that will be a Good Song.'" (Winnie-the-Pooh.8.3)

You know how your teachers always told you to get over writer's block by just writing <em>something</em>, to get the juices flowing? Pooh agrees. 

"And that's the whole poem," he said. "Do you like it, Piglet?"

"All except the shillings," said Piglet. "I don't think they ought to be there."

"They wanted to come in after the pounds," explained Pooh, "so I let them. It is the best way to write poetry, letting things come." (House.2.115-117)

Occasionally Pooh will state pieces of his poetic manifesto. It's a simplified version of a pretty unique aesthetic theory, that the author is more like a vessel through which the art itself flows. 

Written down, like this, it doesn't seem a very good song, but coming through pale fawn fluff at about half-past eleven on a very sunny morning, it seemed to Pooh to be one of the best songs he had ever sung. So he went on singing it. (House.4.20)

Context! Milne straight out admits that this isn't his best work, and that's the point. Because Pooh's artwork is based on moments of inspiration, the context in which it's written (and how it's recited) is an essential part of its quality.

One day, when Pooh was walking towards this bridge, he was trying to make up a piece of poetry about fir-cones, because there they were, lying about on each side of him, and he felt singy. (House.6.3) 

Inspiration can come from pretty much anywhere. What's cool about this is that it shows Pooh, the poet, as a recipient of art, in a way. The presence of the pine cones causes him to write poetry. Art is the result of the world around him. Not quite Robert Frost, but charming nonetheless.

"But it wasn't Easy," said Pooh to himself, as he looked at what had once been Owl's House. "Because Poetry and Hums aren't things which you get, they're things which get <em>you</em>. And all you can do is to go where they can find you." (House.9.4)

This takes Pooh's aesthetic one step further. He has no control over how the poems and hums come to him or where they take him. This mirrors Milne's version of how the tales in the second book come to him, appearing as adventures in dreams that need to be captured in order to write them down.

"Did I really do all that?" he said at last.

"Well," said Pooh, "in poetry—in a piece of poetry—well, you <em>did </em>it, Piglet, because the poetry says you did it. And that's how people know." (House.9.51-52)

The great thing about art is that it can provide a subjective version of things that really happened. And the story that is retold is how people actually remember it. Wonder how tall tales are created? Epic poems originated in part as ways of retelling historical events. Piglet as Achilleus? We like the sound of that. 

Nobody knows. / but he is going— / I mean he goes / (<em>To rhyme with "knows"</em>) […] (House.10.13)

Along with all this emphasis on inspiration, it's easy to be cynical and say that Milne therefore believes that anybody can be a poet. But this simply isn't true. Eeyore proves that to us with his poem, which is the only one in the books not written by Pooh. Sorry Eeyore, it's terrible. 

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...