The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh Coming of Age
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Coming of Age
An INTRODUCTION is to introduce people, but Christopher Robin and his friends, who have already been introduced to you, are now going to say Good-bye. So this is the opposite. (House.Contradiction.1)
This is Milne's announcement at the beginning of his second Pooh book. As readers, our expectations are suddenly shifted from looking for a representation of childhood, to a narrative about how Christopher Robin will change over time.
Last week when Christopher Robin said to me, "What about that story you were going to tell me about what happened to Pooh when—" I happened to say very quickly, "What about nine times a hundred and seven?" (House.Contradiction.2)
Again, in the "contradiction," Milne gives us more specifics about what CR's transformation will entail. While in the first book, he (the narrator) is more than happy to begin a story upon request, in the second book he prompts the shift away from storyland to school-land. And we all know that Storyland is way more fun.
There, still, we have magic adventures, more wonderful than any I have told you about; but now, when we wake up in the morning, they are gone before we can catch hold of them. (House.Contradiction.2)
Unfortunately, growing too old for the imaginary play and stories also means forgetting them. Not only do they occur through dreams instead of intentional narratives, but they also disappear just as easily.
GON OUT / BACKSON / BISY / BACKSON. / C. R. (House.5.11.). […] GONE OUT / BACK SOON / C. R. (House.5.128)
Milne shows us Christopher Robin's intellectual development through these improvements in his literacy. Within the same story, we see him go from emergent literacy's invented spelling to correct spelling and spacing.
By the time it came to the edge of the Forest, the stream had grown up, so that it was almost a river, and, being grown-up, it did not run and jump and sparkle along as it used to do when it was younger, but moved more slowly. For it knew now where it was going, and it said to itself, "There is no hurry. We shall get there some day." But all the little streams higher up in the Forest went this way and that, quickly, eagerly, having so much to find out before it was too late. (House.6.1)
Metaphor anyone? What's interesting here is that Milne doesn't necessarily place judgment on either the vision of childhood or adulthood. With his idealized view of youth, we might expect him to show being a grown-up as all work and worry. But no. There's something good on the other side of Christopher Robin's journey—a confident and steady sense of direction.
Christopher Robin was going away. Nobody knew why he was going; nobody knew where he was going; indeed, nobody even knew why he knew that Christopher Robin <em>was </em>going away. (House.10.1)
Christopher Robin's physical departure from the Forest emphasizes the enormous transformation that children go through from pre-school to school-age years. As members of his childhood world, the other characters have no knowledge of what lies beyond. Being limited to the innocent world of the Forest, they help us recognize CR's need to leave for a bigger and broader world.
Then he began to think of all the things Christopher Robin would want to tell him when he came back from wherever he was going to, and muddling it would be for a Bear of Very Little Brain to try and get them right in his mind. "So, perhaps," he said sadly to himself, "Christopher Robin won't tell me anymore" (House.10.50)
Fittingly, Pooh is the only character who has some insight into the reasoning behind CR's departure. And Pooh's acceptance helps us understand a bit more too. Pooh understands that all this new information is actually important to Christopher Robin, and unfortunately he and the other animals are no longer fit to play the roles that Christopher Robin needs in his friends. We're not supposed to feel bad that Christopher Robin is leaving the Forest. We're supposed to see it as the natural way things go.
"I'm not going to do Nothing any more."
"Well, not so much. They don't let you." (House.10.55-57)
Who are they? Well, teachers most likely. School takes up most of a child's day once he gets to that age, and the freedom that was once given him to play and explore is naturally limited. After all the assurances that growing up really isn't too bad, Milne can't help but take one poke at the idea of adults imposing education and responsibility on their kids.
The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh Coming of Age Study Group
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