The Story of Winnie the Pooh
During the first World War, troops from Winnipeg (Manitoba, Canada) were being transported
to eastern Canada, on their way to Europe, where they were to join the 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade. When the train stopped at White River, Ontario, a lieutenant called Harry Colebourn bought a small female black bear cub for $20 from a hunter who had killed its mother. He named her 'Winnipeg', after his hometown of Winnipeg, or 'Winnie' for short.
Winnie became the mascot of the Brigade and went to Britain with the unit.
In December 1914, the 2nd Brigade was preparing to move to France in great secrecy. Colebourn decided it was unsafe to take her into battle; so, while passing through London on the way to France on December 9th, 1914, he visited London Zoo and asked them to care for the cub until his return, which he optimistically anticipated would be no longer than two weeks. Of course, 'that war to end all wars' was not to end so quickly. It was not until 1918 that Colebourn returned safely to London. Realising that the bear, now known affectionately by her keepers and visitors as Winnie, was happy and content in her new home, he decided to leave her there.
He formally presented the London Zoo with Winnie in December 1919 where he became a popular attraction and lived until 1934.
He visited her a number of times during the following years to renew his friendship, and the cub grew up to be a big friendly bear who lived and played happily among many thousands of friends, both animal and human, until she died there peacefully on the of 12th May, 1934. In 1921, Harry Colebourn, now a Major, returned to his old unit, The Fort Garry Horse, and continued to serve the needs of animals in the military and as a civilian veterinarian until his death in 1947
The bear was also very popular with Christopher Robin, son of author A.A. Milne. It was his favourite animal at the Zoo, and he often spent time inside the cage with it. The bear was Christopher Robin's inspiration for calling his own teddy bear Winnie.....Winnie the Pooh (this teddy bear started out with the name of Edward Bear). The name Pooh originally belonged to a swan, as can be seen in the introduction of Milne's 'When We Were Very Young'.
A.A. Milne always acknowledged that it was his wife, Daphne, and his young son, Christopher Robin, who inspired him to write the poems and stories - the literary journey began in 1924 when the Very Young Christopher Robin was introduced to an American black bear at the London Zoological Gardens.
A.A. Milne started to write a series of books about Winnie the Pooh, his son Christopher Robin, and their friends in the 100-Acre-Wood. These other characters, such as Eeyore, Piglet, Tigger, Kanga and Roo were also based on stuffed animals belonging to Christopher Robin. The characters, Rabbit and Owl, were based on animals that lived, like the swan Pooh, in the surrounding area of Milne's country home, Cotchford Farm in Ashdown Forest, Sussex. It is this area on which the 100-Acre-Wood was based.
'Winnie-the-Pooh' was published by Methuen on October 14th, 1926, the verses 'Now We are Six' in 1927, and 'The House at Pooh Corner' in1928. All these books were illustrated in a beautiful way by E.H. Shepard, which made the books even more magical. The Pooh-books became firm favorites with old and young alike and have been translated into almost every known language. A conservative figure for the total sales of the four Methuen editions (including When We Were Very Young) up to the end of 1996 would be over 20 million copies. These figures do not include sales of the four books published by Dutton in Canada and the States, nor the foreign-language editions printed in more than 25 languages the world over!
The Pooh-books had also been favourites of Walt Disney's daughters and it inspired Disney to bring Pooh to film in 1966. In 1977 'the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh', the first feature-length animated film of Pooh was released. In 1993, the Walt Disney Company acknowledged that Pooh Bear is second only to Mickey Mouse in their portfolio of the most-loved and trusted characters known to millions of people all over the world. By 1996, after the second release of 'the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh', the Bear of Very Little Brain had proven to be more popular than any other Disney character.
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