Celebrating A.A. Milne in 10 Authentic Quotes

Today is Winnie-the-Pooh Day and author A.A. Milne’s birthday, and as a book blogger it would be wrong of me not to mark such an occasion. The stories of Pooh are loved by millions across the world and are still to be discovered by future generations of children who too will come to love the bear of very little brain. I myself was also charmed by Pooh Bear’s adventures as a child, but as an adult, what I find more compelling is the man behind the stories.  

Winnie-the-Pooh is not without its critics. Many have observed the sugary sentimentality of the books, which has been exhausted by Disney movies over the years. And one of the bear’s biggest critics of all was A.A. Milne himself. Milne resented being referred to as a ‘children’s author’ and felt his previous success as a playwright was eclipsed by the huge success of Pooh. Another critic was the author’s son, the real Christopher Robin, who felt the stories left him with ‘the empty fame of being A.A. Milne’s son’. 

I love children’s literature, and stories such as Alice in Wonderland and The Wind in the Willows I’m probably more passionate about today than I was as a child. But with Winnie-the-Pooh, my interest has dwindled. This isn’t due to Milne’s writing so much, but rather the sickly sentimentality-fest that surrounds the stories. Nowadays, I immediately associate Winnie-the-Pooh with images I’ve seen mothers post on Facebook; a picture of Pooh and Piglet holding hands, accompanied by a cutesy quote such as, ‘How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.’ 

Upon revisiting Milne’s books, these quotes are nowhere to be found. The slushy online representation of Winnie-the-Pooh is completely false, comprising mostly of quotes from the Disney films or just plain made-up musings that have been stamped next to a picture of Pooh Bear. The philosophy of the books is much subtler than this, and has gone on to influence more recent contemplations such as Charlie Mackesy’s The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse. Milne’s writing is quietly thought-provoking, wise and endearing, without being overbearing.  

On reflection, I realised that Milne’s stories are still as magical as they’ve always been, it is the glittery-syrupy-singsong-Disney-version of the character that has lost its charm for me. So, I decided to use this opportunity to celebrate Milne’s real prose rather than the Disneyfied version of Winnie-the-Pooh we’ve become more familiar with. I want to take us back to where it all began, the stories we fell in love with as children. And here it is: 10 authentic actually-in-the-book quotes from Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner. You won’t find these on your mum’s Facebook page.

1. When Piglet just wants to be sure his friend is there

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.

‘Pooh!’ he whispered.

‘Yes, Piglet?’

‘Nothing,’ said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw. ‘I just wanted to be sure of you.’

The House at Pooh Corner, A.A. Milne.

2. When Pooh explains what he likes doing best in the world

‘Well,’ said Pooh, ‘what I like best’ – and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called. And then he thought that being with Christopher Robin was a very good thing to do, and having Piglet near was a very friendly thing to have; and so, when he had thought it all out, he said, ‘What I like best in the whole world is Me and Piglet going to see You, and You saying ‘What about a little something?’ and Me saying, ‘Well, I shouldn’t mind a little something, should you, Piglet,’ and it being a hummy sort of day outside, and birds singing.’

The House at Pooh Corner, A.A. Milne.

3. When the river acts as a perfect metaphor for growing up

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.

The House at Pooh Corner, A.A. Milne.

4. When Christopher Robin reminds us it’s ok to do nothing sometimes

‘But what I like doing best is Nothing.’

‘How do you do Nothing?’ asked Pooh, after he had wondered for a long time.

‘Well, it’s when people call out at you just as you’re going off to do it, What are you going to do Christopher Robin, and you say, Oh, nothing, and you go and do it.’

‘Oh, I see,’ said Pooh.

‘This is a nothing sort of thing that we’re doing right now.’

‘Oh, I see,’ said Pooh again.

‘It means just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear and not bothering.’

The House at Pooh Corner, A.A. Milne.

5. When Eeyore shares this bit of wisdom

‘After all, one can’t complain. I have my friends.’

Winnie-the-Pooh, A.A. Milne.

6. When Eeyore reminds us it’s ok to not be ok

The old grey donkey, Eeyore stood by himself in a thistly corner of the Forest, his front feet well apart, his head on one side, and thought about things. Sometimes he thought sadly to himself, ‘Why?’ and sometimes he thought, ‘Wherefore?’ and sometimes he thought, ‘Inasmuch as which?’ and sometimes he didn’t quite know what he was thinking about.

Winnie-the-Pooh, A.A. Milne.

7. When Piglet understands the value of self-worth

Piglet was so excited at the idea of being Useful that he forgot to be frightened any more, and when Rabbit went on to say that Kangas were only Fierce during the winter months, being at other times of an Affectionate Disposition, he could hardly sit still, he was so eager to begin being useful at once.

Winnie-the-Pooh, A.A. Milne.

8. When Pooh shows us how to love ourselves

‘Oh, Bear!’ said Christopher Robin. ‘How I do love you!’

‘So do I,’ said Pooh.

Winnie-the-Pooh, A.A. Milne.

9. When Eeyore speaks up about his feelings

‘And how are you?’ said Winnie-the-Pooh.

Eeyore shook his head from side to side.

‘Not very how,’ he said. ‘I don’t seem to have felt at all how for a long time.’

Winnie-the-Pooh, A.A. Milne.

10. When Christopher Robin and Pooh realise the inevitability of growing up

So they went off together. But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.

The House at Pooh Corner, A.A Milne.

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