Winnie the Pooh began as a series of stories based on the imaginary adventures of a boy and his stuffed animals and has become an icon in children’s entertainment. It captures the innocence of childhood and the imagination of youth. For those who grew up in a time before cell phones, Call of Duty, and high-speed internet it is a throw back to an earlier time when parents had to yell for their children to come in at night.
But childhood play isn’t the only thing that’s changed over the years; the style of writing has developed to match the interest of the time, and if you look closely you’ll get a glimpse of the modern day mentality. In books like Winnie the Pooh: The House At Pooh Corner, the writing is predominantly description and dialogue. Action is loosely described or interpreted through context. As I’ve been working on my own writing I’ve examined the structure of current trends in creative writing and discovered that they’ve flipped. The fictional world is filled with action and description and dialogue is much shorter, usually more concise or packed in comfortably with thick layers of the former. I’m not sure why this is the case; maybe it’s because people have shorter attentions spans and are looking for more instant gratification than action can bring, or maybe people have a harder time picturing the stories in their mind without further help. It’s anyone’s guess, but I believe there is a reason why the “classics” are not as commonly read by people for enjoyment, and this has something to do with it.
It’s quite funny how serious people can get while discussing the adventures of Winnie the Pooh since they are some of the least serious stories out there. When I watched the movies as a child I could care less about the structure, the theorized connections between the characters and psychological disorders, or anything of the sort. I just wanted to watch a bumbling bear and his friends do all sorts of silly things and get into all kinds of ridiculous trouble.
When I was younger my favorite Winnie the Pooh character was Tigger. What young boy’s wasn’t? He was fun and goofy all rolled into an orange and black striped ball of energy. That, and I also read a lot of Calvin and Hobbes so that might have influenced it as well. But reading it as an adult (or at all since I only ever watched the movies growing up), Eeyore is by far my favorite. He carries sarcasm into the pages, which slips past the understanding of most children, providing the adults who are reading the stories to their children with entertainment as well. There were a great many enjoyable moments in the stories, but it was Eeyore, and Eeyore alone, who could make me laugh out loud.
When I think about the books that have become the most well known (at least in the United States) they are the books that are borne from multiple layers. A layer for the casual reader, one who seeks simple enjoyment; and a layer for the experienced reader who can find further enjoyment from deeper meaning, exquisite prose, or hidden irony. A. A. Milne created a classic that captured the hearts of many, keeping it simple enough for the child to relate to and revel in the childish adventures, while hiding further enjoyment and potentially deeper analysis for others. Did he do this on purpose? Maybe in part, but since he wrote these stories for his son, I doubt it. But that’s the beauty of great literature. Sometimes hidden depths spring forth through unsuspecting sources like a story about a silly little bear.