Wei Ni Xiong celebrates his 90th anniversary: that's Winnie the Pooh to you

Updated 2016-10-25 10:26:13 China Daily
Winnie the Pooh and his friends.

Winnie the Pooh and his friends.

In Chinese, he's called Wei Ni Xiong, in Latin it's Winnie ille Pu, in French it's Winnie L'Ourson, and Hungarians know him as Micimacko, but for millions of kids worldwide (and their parents) he's simply Winnie the Pooh, "the bear of very little brain".

The first book with him as the main character appeared in 1926, and that means he is celebrating his 90th anniversary.

A.A. Milne's seminal stories have been translated into nearly 50 languages, including Chinese, Russian, German, French and Spanish, and the books written by Milne have never been out of print, all illustrated by E.H. Shepard.

Yet, amazingly, Milne only published four books featuring the bear:Winnie-the-Pooh, The House at Pooh Corner, When We Were Very Young (poetry), and Now We Are Six, all published between 1924 and 1928.

Much to the indignation of many traditionalists, Walt Disney Productions acquired the rights but doubters' fears have been allayed because Disney's animators based their cartoon version of Winnie on Shepard's original sketches.

To celebrate his birthday, a book is being published which introduces a new character, based on an archive photograph of Milne and his real-life son, Christopher Robin, who is playing with a stuffed toy.

The book is called Winter: In Which Penguin Arrives in the Forest, and it's been written by author Brian Sibley, a confirmed Pooh fan. The illustrations by Mark Burgess faithfully follow those of Shephard's originals in the first book.

Since Pooh arrived, he's appeared in print, on film in an animated version, on television, radio and in audio books. Milne based the character on a stuffed teddy bear owned by his son, Christopher Robin Milne, and the son features in the books as Christopher Robin.The original characters of Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo and Tigger were all based on the real Christopher Robin's soft toys, and the author added Owl and Rabbit from his imagination.

Pooh loves "hunny", writes amusing little poems, and invented the game of Poohsticks, in which he and his friends drop twigs into a slow-moving stream on one side of a bridge and run to the other side to see which twig, or Poohstick, emerges first.

Ashdown Forest exists to this day, a large area of protected open heath in Sussex, some 50 kilometers south of London. It contains many of the landmarks mentioned in Milne's stories, including Pooh's Hundred Acre Wood, actually a part of Ashdown called Five Hundred Acre Wood.

The bridge where Christopher Robin and Pooh played Poohsticks is in Posingford Wood, across a tributary of the River Medway.

The bridge has become a tourist attraction, and visitors collect twigs from nearby woodland and play the game. When the bridge had to be rebuilt, the engineers closely followed Shepard's original drawings.

Ashdown Forest became the site for Winnie-the-Pooh's adventures because Milne acquired a country home at Cotchford Farm, near Hatfield, about 2 km north of the forest.

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