Study Guide

The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh Foolishness and Folly

By A. A. Milne

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Foolishness and Folly

"Now, if you have a green balloon, they might think you were only a part of the tree, and not notice you, and if you have a blue balloon, they might think you were only part of the sky, and not notice you, and the question is: Which is the most likely?" (Winnie-the-Pooh.1.58)

Ironically, in assuming the foolishness of the bees, Pooh reveals his own foolishness. Oh, Pooh.

Well, you laughed to yourself, "Silly old Bear!" but you didn't say it aloud because you were so fond of him. (Winnie-the-Pooh.1.84)

Especially in the first few chapters, Christopher Robin responds incredibly positively to Pooh's foolishness. Most of them end with a quote like this, in which CR expresses his love for Pooh immediately after the bear has done something, well, brainless. It's what we love about Pooh.

"It's a very funny thing," said Bear, "but there seem to be <em>two </em>animals now." (Winnie-the-Pooh.3.17)

Pooh's lack of understanding, such as in this case when he and Piglet follow their own tracks around in circles, allows the reader—even a very young child—to be in on the joke while the characters are left in the dark. This is Milne's version of dramatic irony for young audiences. And it's an amazing source of fun.

Illustration after (Winnie-the-Pooh.4.29) shows Eeyore's tail hanging from Owl's door long before either animal comes to that realization.

Okay, so this isn't a quote, but Shepard's illustrations often help expose the folly of the characters. Take this one (and open up the book to look at it), where we see Eeyore's tail hanging on Owl's door. Once again, dramatic irony keeps us drawn in by providing tension that the characters aren't aware of yet. Only this time, it comes from the illustrations. Pay attention to the pictures!

"Bother!" said Pooh, as he got his nose inside the jar. "A Heffalump has been eating it!" And then he thought a little and said, "Oh, no, <em>I </em>did. I forgot." (Winnie-the-Pooh.5.55)

Classic Pooh. We get his catch phrase, we get the drive for honey, we get the imagination, the forgetfulness, even the pondering. He's good at pondering. It goes to show you how much foolishness and folly define Milne's characters. The repetition of this running joke throughout the stories probably adds to the hilarity for young readers.

Then Piglet saw what a Foolish Piglet he had been, and he was so ashamed of himself that he ran straight off home and went to bed with a headache. (Winnie-the-Pooh.5.84)

It's not all fun and games. Milne shows us the downside of being a's embarrassing. 

Christopher Robin began to explain the sad story of Eeyore's Lost House. And Pooh and Piglet listened, and their eyes seemed to get bigger and bigger. (House.1.91)

Here's the realization of one's own foolishness. Milne does it often throughout the books, and in this case he chooses to focus on the physical reaction. As the audience, we already know the story of Eeyore's house, even better than Christopher Robin does, so instead we get to delight in Pooh and Piglet getting up to speed with us. And for once, they know something CR doesn't know. 

Order of Looking for Things 1. Special Place. (<em>To find Piglet.</em>) 2. Piglet. (<em>To find who Small is.</em>) 3. Small. (<em>To find Small.</em>) 4. Rabbit. (<em>To tell him I've found Small.</em>) 5. Small Again. (<em>To tell him I've found Rabbit.</em>) (House.3.29.)

Irony again. In his effort to be official and organized (by making a list), Pooh just ends up making a convoluted plan that makes him seem all the more silly.

"It's quite clear what has happened, my dear Rabbit," he said. "Christopher Robin has gone out somewhere with Backson. He and Backson are busy together. Have you seen a Backson anywhere about the Forest lately?" (House.5.42)

Not even the smart ones are above the folly found in the Forest (we hope the alliteration helped drive our point home). While Owl and Rabbit see their conclusion about Christopher Robin's message as an intellectual triumph, we see their mistake. And we laugh. 

The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh Foolishness and Folly Study Group

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