Pooh and Piglet

Many know Winnie-the-Pooh as one of the most beloved children’s tales of all time. It became popular for its cast of memorable characters and the loveable, honey-obsessed Pooh who learned the values of friendship while on their many adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood. However, many may not be familiar with the story behind the Winnie-the-Pooh books by English author, poet, and playwright A.A. Milne.

A.A. Milne with a young Christopher Robin. Christopher was nicknamed “Billy” at home.

Milne drew inspiration from his son Christopher Robin Milne, whose childhood and animal toys served as story lines for Pooh and his friends. The beloved Hundred Acre Wood was really the Milne’s property: Crotchford Farm in Ashdown Forest, Sussex. When the books skyrocketed into popularity, Christopher Milne found life at boarding school to be considerably more difficult. Students would often bully him for his association with the popular series. Other readers tried to compare the real Christopher Robin to the idealistic one set in the Pooh series, a problem that followed Milne for the rest of his life.

The real Christopher Robin Milne won a scholarship to Cambridge University until he dropped out to join the army during World War II. He later returned to Cambridge to finish his degree in English. In 1951, Independent writes that he opened a bookstore in Dartmouth, sold autographed copies of the Pooh books, and donated the money to Save the Children. His daughter, Clare Milne, was born with cerebral palsy and started the Clare Milne Trust, an organization that supports disability projects and smaller effective charities.

An older Christopher Robin with his wife Lesley.

Christopher Robin Milne died on April 21, 1999, at the age of 75. Sadly, his daughter Clare Milne passed in 2012 from heart complications. Despite the sadness surrounding the story of the real Christopher Robin, the Winnie-the-Pooh books continue to live on in children’s memories to this day. Milne’s case is one such example where it is important to distinguish idealism from reality.

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Christopher Robin Milne’s original toys. They are available on display at The New York Public Library in New York City, USA.

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