Following on from my recent post on the new Winnie the Pooh, I had a couple of other things to mention. Firstly, thanks very much to the two people who pointed me in the direction of this Radio 4 programme (accessible UK readers only, I’m afraid) about Winnie the Pooh in Russian (Vinni Pukh, apparently) – its popularity and the changes they made. I haven’t listened to it yet, but what a fascinating idea. I’m going to be big and ignore the fact that the blurb says EE Shepherd instead of EH Shepard…
The other item related to the world of Winnie is no.25 on my 50 Books You Must Read But May Not Have Heard About. That’s right, we’re half way. Let’s go into big font for that, actually.
25. The Enchanted Places
by Christopher Milne
Well, I say The Enchanted Places but I’d actually like to put forward three titles, Christopher Milne’s autobiographical trilogy. The Enchanted Places is the first one, and the most widely available; the second is The Path Through The Trees and the third is The Hollow on the Hill. They all have rather different characters, but should all be read…
Christopher Milne, to start at the beginning, is Christopher Robin, AA Milne’s son and the only human allowed into the Hundred Acre Wood. The Enchanted Places is mostly centred around the Pooh books and characters, and what it was like to grow up as the child millions of children wished and pretended to be. At the same time it is a memoir of his father, honest but affectionate – and, a brief snapshot of what Christopher Robin grew up to be. To quote the introduction, ‘I am making a double appearance, first as the boy I am describing and secondly as the adult through whose eyes I am seeing him’.
There’s a danger that, to the cynical heart, this all sounds mawkish and sentimental, but those are two words I should never apply to Christopher Milne. He writes about meeting journalists, being the star at a pageant, preferring Euclid to a sponge cake – but all with a dry and sensible hat on. Nor, contrary to some widespread belief, does he loathe everything connected with his father – I believe there were some years when he wanted to distance himself, but by the time he wrote The Enchanted Places, he’d changed his mind. For anyone even remotely interested in Winnie the Pooh, I do encourage you to find this memoir – it’s currently out of print, I think, but lots around secondhand. Parts of sad, much will feel nostalgic, all reveals writing talent to run in the Milne family.
I suspect some will have already heard of The Enchanted Places, but it’s less likely that you’ll have read the sequels. I’ll only mention them, but they’re definitely worth finding and buying and loving.
The Path Through The Trees – actually my favourite of the three, this volume looks at Christopher Milne’s time in the army, his marriage, and running a bookshop. I loved the chapters on the different ventures the bookshop made, the decision over whether or not to stock the Pooh books, the customers he got – it would be fascinating if written by any bookshop owner, but Milne’s account is even more interesting.
The Hollow on the Hill – Milne’s first love, Nature, takes centre stage in this volume, writing about the Devon countryside and his garden. I don’t remember this one so well, to be honest, which makes me think I might try and re-read the whole trilogy this year…