Bingo Review 23: Roaring 20s
I didn’t feel like a lot of drama right now; calm reading is good right now for me. So what to do for this square? Like a lot of people, I suspect, I know who-what Winnie-the-Pooh is, but I can’t remember ever having read any of the original stories, the first volume of which came out in 1926. I feel like I must have, but upon picking up that first volume of stories, Winnie-the-Pooh, they weren’t too familiar seeming; unless I’m remembering the cartoon as opposed to the text, and I’m kind of wondering if that’s not it, because I didn’t remember Christopher Robin having as big a role, or the illustrations being more towards the realistic, at least for some characters, like Rabbit and Owl especially.
I did not remember the narrator being as much as character, since the whole collection I had was essentially presented as a father/guardian aka the author telling stories to a young child aka Christopher Robin. There is a lot more back and forth between the story world of the Hundred Acre Woods and the real one than I would have thought, even in the introduction where the author is writing down his stories and conversing a bit with Piglet. The introduction is also interesting because it only somewhat explains Pooh’s name, and it’s actually quite direct about “Pooh is the favorite of course, there’s no denying it, but Piglet comes in for a good many things which Pooh misses;” There’s a lot of meta-ness to be had here; I know there’s plenty of philosophizing that can be done with these stories and characters, but the literary elements could actually be seen as kind of sophisticated.
The basic familiar characters and stories are here, although the collection I had did not include Tigger though and I was a little disappointed about that. But we have Pooh, Piglet, Owl, Kanga and Roo (I only just caught the pun in their names while reading their introductory story), and Eeyore. Pooh likes honey which gets him in trouble, Owl has a reputation for being smart (although maybe he’s considered more intellectual than he actually is), Rabbit is the more practical figure, Piglet gets caught up in the trouble somewhat unfairly, and Roo is the youngster anxious for fun and independence, and Kanga the caring but anxious mom. Pooh and Piglet have balloon-based adventures, Pooh gets stuck a few times, Eeyore loses his tail and has a birthday, Rabbit gets slightly annoyed, and Kanga and Roo are introduced to the group.
I had forgotten or never remembered the extent to which Pooh’s poems/songs come up in the stories. Pooh actually seems to use this as a way to sort of understand things, and then there’s also a presence of words and language when various other characters have to read or write messages or labels. Language is surprisingly meaningful here; maybe it’s because these stories are nearly 100 years old, but the directness of some of the points about reading or spelling are pretty pointed and not usually something you’d see in stories for kids today. Some of the characterizations fit just fine though; Christopher Robin frequently “carelessly” says things, and almost always ends the story with an observation such as “Silly old Bear!” or “Oh, Bear! How I do love you!” He also seems quite interested in the real world about hearing himself and his bear in the stories. These are on the surface very much simple parental stories for a child based in that child’s familiar worlds, and yet at the same time there’s a lot of room for depth to be seen. It’s a peaceful time in the world of the story, though probably because 1926 is part of the calm between WWI and the Great Depression (or the Great Slump as it was known in the UK). It’s an element of this decade that doesn’t seem to be as well known, but it was the part I needed to see right now.