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A Boy & His Bear – The Fascinating Stories of the Real Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh

The Bear

Winnie-the-Pooh was named after Christopher Robin’s toy bear who was in turn named for animals he had encountered. The real Winnie was a Canadian black bear that was held at the London Zoo, a place that the family frequented often. Christopher Robin was fixated on the bear. Winnie was in turn named for the city of Winnipeg, Canada, the hometown of Harry Colebourn, the man who brought her to England at the start of World War I.

Winnie, the actual bear for which the toy was named

Harry Colebourn and Winnie in 1914. Via/ Wiki Commons

While in the books an explanation is offered for how the “Pooh” made it into Winnie-the-Pooh’s name – from an incident in which his arms were too stiff and he had to constantly blow to keep flies from landing on his nose – the actual inspiration came again from the real Christopher Robin who had become enthralled with a goose named Pooh while on vacation.

Christopher Robin’s other stuffed animals were also used as inspiration for Milne’s books- Tigger, Kanga, Eeyore, and Piglet. These toys seem quaint by today’s standards, having been purchased at Harrods for the young Christopher Robin in the early ’20s.

Some of the toys have patches in very conspicuous places – showing the lifetime of love they received from Christopher Robin and a traveling career afterwards to boot. The group was sent abroad on tour by Milne in the ’40s and then ultimately donated to the New York Public Library in 1987 and they are still on display at the Children’s Center at 42nd Street in New York City. The lot were restored recently, though the patch on Pooh’s right foot remains as prominent as ever.

Christopher Robin's toys from the Winnie the Pooh Books

The famous toys (pre-restoration) on display at the NYPL. Via/ Wiki Commons

And if you’re now wondering why the Pooh Bear we know from books and movies doesn’t match up with Christopher Robin’s stuffed bear, there is a very good explanation for that. Illustrator E.H. Shepard used his own childhood bear, Growler, for the model instead of Christopher Robin’s bear.

Click “Next Page” to read about the legacy of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories!

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