The Real-Life Winnie The Pooh Looked Nothing Like You Think

Photo: Courtesy of NYPL.
When you think of Winnie the Pooh, the image that comes to mind is probably a yellow-colored bear wearing a red shirt and no pants. But originally, the character was inspired by a run-of-the-mill teddy bear. If you saw the original Pooh in a group of stuffed animals, you probably wouldn't give him a second look.
There's not anything particularly whimsical about the original toy. He was purchased at a Harrods department store as a gift for Christopher Robin Milne, the son of A.A. Milne, on his first birthday in 1921. Not long after that, the author began writing children's books starring the bear and his other animal friends. Artist Ernest H. Shepard drew the illustrations for the books, which later served as the inspiration for the Disney version of Pooh so many children know and love.
The original bear wasn't named Pooh, either — his name was Edward. Milne got the idea to name his fictional character Winnie the Pooh after Winnie, a black bear at the London Zoo. Pooh, meanwhile, was a swan in Milne's book of poetry When We Were Very Young. "This is a very fine name for a swan, because if you call him and he doesn’t come (which is a thing swans are good at), then you can pretend that you were just saying 'Pooh!' to show him how little you wanted him," Milne wrote in the book.
That reasoning eventually carried on to Winnie the Pooh, too. In Winnie The Pooh, Milne wrote of the bear, "his arms were so stiff ... they stayed up straight in the air for more than a week, and whenever a fly came and settled on his nose he had to blow it off. And I think — but I am not sure — that that is why he is always called Pooh," Mental Floss explains.
In Goodbye Christopher Robin, out Friday, October 13, you'll get to see replicas of the original friends on the big screen. And if you're in New York City, you can see the whole gang — Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore, and Kanga — on display at the New York Public Library. Unfortunately, you won't see little Roo with his mom; the library explains on its website that the original Roo toy was lost in an apple orchard. Another fun fact? Owl and Rabbit weren't part of the original toy crew; Milne and Shepard created those characters for the fictional series.

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