What about a story? I said.
Could you very sweetly tell Winnie-the-Pooh one?"
"I suppose I could," I said. "What sort of stories does he like?"
"About himself. Because he's that sort of Bear."
"Oh, I see."
"So could you very sweetly"
"I'll try." I said.
And so I tried.
Winnie-the-Pooh is a British children's book written in 1926 by author A. A. Milne. The original book of stories was, famously, inspired by Milne's son Christopher Robin Milne and Christopher's assortment of stuffed animals, including a teddy bear that became Winnie-the-Pooh, a tiger that became Tigger, and a donkey that became Eeyore. Pooh and his friends live in a Forest inspired by Ashdown Forest in Sussex, where Milne had a cottage. (In the Disney version it is known as the Hundred Acre Wood, but in the original books the Hundred Acre Wood is just one section of the Forest.) Pooh, his friends, and his best friend Christopher Robin have many adventures.
The first book had a sequel released in 1928 titled The House at Pooh Corner. Two books of poems — When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six — include several poems about Winnie-the-Pooh and friends.
For the many adaptations of these books, go this way.
Christopher Robin Milne's original stuffed animals have been preserved◊ and are on public display. (With the exception of Roo, who was lost in an apple orchard around 1930.)
The first book is in the public domain in the U.S. and can be read here.
Winnie-the-Pooh provides example of the following tropes:
- Abandoned Area: Pooh lives in a house with the name "Sanders" over it, despite none of the characters being able to read or spell very well. Piglet lives beside a sign that says "Trespassers W[ill Be Prosecuted]". Christopher Robin lives in a tree and his parents are missing. What happened to all the other humans in the area? Why did they leave?
- Alternate Catchphrase Inflection: Discussed in "A Search is Organdized", when Winnie the Pooh asserts that when a heffalump catches someone, they say, "Ho-ho!" in a gloating sort of way. But if you hum, then they'll say it again, still in a gloating way but less sure of themselves and more surprised, then if you still hum, they'll try to say it a third time but "[turn] it awkwardly into a cough" because "it isn't ho-ho-ish anymore".
- Animal Stereotypes: Played straight with some characters (Tigger is just as strong and fierce as one could expect from a tiger), subverted with others (Owl appears to be the smartest animal in the forest, but he's actually a Know-Nothing Know-It-All).
- Awkward Poetry Reading:
- In "In Which Christopher Robin Takes Pooh to an Enchanted Place and We Leave Them There", Eeyore tries to write a goodbye poem, but it doesn't go well — he simply titles it "Poem", he keeps adding commentary on how good or bad the rhymes are, and at one point, he can't find a rhyme for "is", says, "Bother!", tries to find a rhyme for that, and ends up saying, "Those two 'bother's will have to rhyme with each other. Buther!".
- In "In Which Tigger Comes to the Forest and Has Breakfast", Pooh writes a poem that has the line "Whatever his weight in pounds, shillings and ounces". Piglet doesn't like this line, since shillings are obviously not a weight, but Pooh says that the word "wanted" to be in the poem.
- In "In Which Pooh Invents a New Game and Eeyore Joins In", Pooh tries to write a poem about a fir tree, and comes up with "Here is a myst'ry about a little fir tree: Owl says it's his tree and Kanga says it's her tree", but decides it doesn't make sense as Kanga doesn't have a tree.
- Bad Mood Retreat: Eeyore has his Gloomy Place, where he hangs out a lot because he's often sad.
- Balloonacy: One of the earliest examples of this trope. Pooh attempts to get honey by rolling in mud (to look like a "small, black cloud") and floating on a blue balloon (to resemble the sky). One of the book's most famous illustrations is of Christopher Robin blowing up said balloon. Because this is a story told by a father to his son, Pooh gets airborne despite this.
- Beary Funny: Pooh, who is kind, naive, silly and goofy.
- Big Eater: Pooh. He sure does love honey and can be seen eating entire jars of the stuff, along with other foods besides.
- Big Good: Christopher Robin, the only human, whom the toy animals view as their leader.
- Birthday Episode: In "Eeyore Has a Birthday and Gets Two Presents", it's Eeyore's birthday, but he doesn't have any presents. Feeling sorry for him, Pooh and Piglet give him a present each (honey and a balloon respectively). The honey gets eaten and the balloon pops, but Eeyore likes them anyway.
- Bittersweet Ending: Christopher Robin has to leave the Hundred Acre Wood for what is essentially the last time, since he is growing up and can no longer live out his childhood days in the blissful peace of the Wood. The last chapter revolves around his farewell, and last day spent playing with Pooh, who promises that he will always be waiting in the Hundred Acre Wood should he ever return.
- Black Bead Eyes: E. H. Shepard draws most of the characters with these. Justified, as they are toys whose eyes could literally be made of beads.
- Carrying a Cake: Pooh brings a jar of honey for Eeyore's birthday. A variation in that the honey isn't destroyed by outside forces, but rather he eats it.
- Character Catchphrase:
- Pooh: "Bother!"
- Christopher Robin: "Silly old Bear!"
- Cloudcuckoolander: Just about anyone besides Eeyore is quite screwy and has bizarre ideas. Kanga's a bit more stable, too, if a little overprotective. While Christopher Robin is a bit smarter than the others, he still thinks odd things sometimes due to being a child.
- Counting Sheep: Pooh tries to put himself to sleep by counting Heffalumps, but every Heffalump takes a pot of his honey, and when "the five hundred and eighty-seventh Heffalumps were licking their jaws, and saying to themselves, 'Very good honey this, I don't know when I've tasted better', Pooh could bear it no longer".
- Covered in Mud: Pooh covers himself with mud to disguise himself as a rain cloud to fool the bees while he gets their honey. The bees aren't fooled.
- Cruel Elephant: The Heffalumps are depicted as elephant-like creatures on the illustrations. They are said to be malevolent beings, though their villainy mostly consists of stealing honey. That said, Piglet is utterly terrified of them. Fortunately for Pooh and his friends, everything indicates that they are just imaginary.
- Cryptic Background Reference: "Don't you know what ther means?"
- Deadpan Snarker
- Eeyore is good at making wry comments (his favourite kind seem to be stating that some people can enjoy themselves but not him, telling others not to blame him for things, or commenting on no one feeling sorry for him), much more so than in the Disney version.
- Rabbit has a couple of snarky moments as well, such as "It all comes... of eating too much!" in his debut chapter.
- Distressed Dude: Piglet, in the chapter in which he's Entirely Surrounded by Water.
- The Ditz: Deconstructed. Pooh is the self-proclaimed "bear of very little brain" of the Hundred Acre Wood, and does often act the part. However the entire wood is a Cloudcuckoo Land, with others such as Rabbit and Owl who are regarded (self-enforced) as wise and sensible animals of the wood being outdone by Pooh's Simple-Minded Wisdom (of course, he rarely realises he is outsmarting anyone, and so Hilarity Ensues anyway).
- A Dog Named "Dog": Piglet, Owl, and Rabbit. Played with for Kanga, Roo, and Tigger. Even Pooh is sometimes referred to as "Bear". It's pointed out in the book that his real name is Edward Bear, and Winnie-the-Pooh is just his nickname. (Christopher Robin Milne actually called his stuffed bear Edward. His father got the name "Winnie" from a popular bear at the London Zoo.)
- Dumb Is Good: Winnie-the-Pooh, a bear of "Very Little Brain", and the sweetest, gentlest creature you'll ever meet.
- Early-Installment Weirdness:
- The first book is framed as Milne himself telling the stories to Christopher Robin. This is done away with in the following volume and the official sequels.
- In Piglet's first story, he lies about being afraid. Later stories have him more open about his fears.
- The Eeyore: Trope Namer. Eeyore is perpetually sad, although he can be cheered up sometimes, like when Pooh gives him a pot for his birthday.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: All chapter titles. The first one of the first book was called "In Which We Are Introduced to Winnie-the-Pooh and Some Bees and the Stories Begin", for crying out loud.
- Exercise Excuse: In "Pooh and Piglet Go Hunting and Nearly Catch a Woozle", Piglet jumps because he is nervous, then tries to cover it up by jumping more times to make it seem like he is exercising.
- Fearless Fool: Piglet confesses to being afraid when carrying out the escape from Owl's fallen home, and is assured that makes him even more courageous.
- Feigning Intelligence: Both Rabbit and Owl tend to act smart, but are actually just as scatterbrained as the other characters. The others still treat them as if they were the smartest.
- Fish out of Water: Tigger in the beginning has a hard time fitting in with the rest of the animals, but eventually finds his place and the others (except for Rabbit) grow fond of him.
- Foul Medicine: In The House at Pooh Corner, Roo is often given malt extract as "strengthening medicine", and he's said to think it tastes awful. Tigger, on the other hand, turns out to love it, and he eats it for him.
- Framing Device: The Narrator (A.A. Milne himself) telling his son Christopher Robin bedtime stories, set in the real world where Pooh is a toy.
- A Friend in Need: Pooh helps out Eeyore twice in the first book: he finds Eeyore's missing tail and takes the initiative to tell everyone it’s Eeyore's birthday.
- Functional Addict: Man, Pooh really likes honey. In one story Pooh decides to give Eeyore a pot of honey when finding out that it's Eeyore's birthday. Pooh winds up eating all the honey on the way, and giving Eeyore a Very Useful Pot instead.
- Ghibli Hills: The Forest in which all the characters live.
- Going in Circles: In one story Pooh thinks he is tracking the footprints of a monster, when he is actually following his own footprints in the snow.
- Growing Up Sucks: The end of The House at Pooh Corner, when Christopher Robin has to say goodbye to his toys, since he's not allowed to do "nothing" anymore.
- Hates Baths: Piglet. When he gets washed by Kanga, the first thing he does is look for a puddle to roll around in.
- Have a Gay Old Time: It's somewhat impressive that a character named "Pooh" has managed to endure as long as it has with the same name, since the connotations of the word have changed a lot since the original book was printed. Probably because the toilet humor version is spelled differently. The News Quiz, however, was highly amused with a branding magazine talking about kids having "Pooh on their pyjamas, and Pooh on their facecloths". "Pooh" as an expression of contempt or annoyance still exists in the English language, even if it's not as commonly used as it once was.
- In France, "Pooh" is how the word "Pou", meaning "Louse" is pronounced. Now, nowadays, this is inconsequential, since he's mostly known under the alias of "Winnie l'ourson". In the early French translations of the books, he was known as "Winnie-le-Pouh", which was changed in later printings.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Pooh and Piglet. (Although, seeing as the book contains nothing even vaguely resembling sexuality or romance, it's more like Asexual Life Partners.)
- Hufflepuff House: Rabbit's friends-and-relations, who often get mentioned but don't get much characterization.
- Iconic Sequel Character: Tigger wasn't introduced until the second Winnie-the-Pooh book and is now one of the most popular and recognizable characters from the franchise.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: See Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
- Improbable Food Budget: Where Pooh gets the massive amount of honey is never explained (especially since the only time he's shown trying to get more, at the Honey Tree, he's not particularly good at it).
- Intentional Mess Making: Tigger knocks over a chair on purpose after seeing Roo accidentally knock one over.
- In Which a Trope Is Described: Milne's chapters all have titles like "In Which Pooh Goes Visiting and Gets into a Tight Place."
- Ironic Echo: "Oh, Tigger, I am glad to see you," cried Rabbit.
- Irritation Nightmare: In the story "Piglet is Entirely Surrounded by Water", Pooh's house is flooded with cold rainwater, and the cold goes into his dreams, but the dream renders it as Woozles stealing his fur while he's in the cold East Pole.
- Kangaroos Represent Australia: Averted with Kanga and Roo, who, despite being kangaroos, are never implied to be Australian. Several audiobooks abide by this trope however.
- Karma Houdini: The first book's chapter "In which Kanga and Roo Come to the Forest", Rabbit drags Pooh and Piglet into his kidnapping attempt on Roo, and leaves Piglet at Kanga's mercy. Rabbit and Pooh quickly become friends with the two, while Piglet decides to keep his distance and stay with Christopher Robin.
- Karma Houdini Warranty: The second book's chapter "In which Tigger is Unbounced" has Rabbit drag Pooh and Piglet into another vindictive scheme involving getting Tigger lost in the woods to take his exuberance down a notch. While Tigger, and eventually Pooh and Piglet easily make their way back home, a lost and traumatised Rabbit ends up rescued by Tigger.
- Kids Prefer Boxes: Pooh intends to give Eeyore a jar of honey... and then absentmindedly eats the honey. Eeyore doesn't actually like honey, but he's very happy to be given the empty jar.
- Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Owl (making him thereby a subversion of The Owl-Knowing One) and Rabbit.
- Laser-Guided Karma: A mild example in In Which Piglet Meets a Heffalump. Piglet decides to make Pooh give up his honey as bait out of petty spite (so he doesn’t have to give up his “haycorns”). Pooh gets hungry during the night and decides to check whether the Heffalump has eaten the honey. He goes into the trap and gets his head stuck in the jar. Piglet thinks the Heffalump is in the pit and runs in a panic to Christopher Robin. As a result, Piglet is so humiliated upon discovering the truth, he goes back to bed “with a headache”.
- Late to the Action: "A Search is Organdized [sic] and Piglet Nearly Meets the Heffalump Again" ends with Eeyore searching around. Rabbit asks what he is looking for and Eeyore replies that he is looking for Rabbit's lost friend, a bug named Small. However, Rabbit informs him that Small has already been found (by Pooh, Piglet, and Christopher Robin).
- Literal-Minded and Malaproper: Everything, being based on children's (or dumb/naive characters') logic. For example, the idea that Pooh living "under the name of Sanders" means that he has the word written above his door.
- Living Toys: All of the main cast, with the exception of Christopher Robin (who is a child who owns the toys) and possibly Rabbit and Owl (who are implied to be actual animals rather than toys).
- Mad Libs Catch Phrase: Pooh has "You never can tell with [plural noun]."
- Manchild: Tigger, despite being one of the largest members of the gang, is playful and irresponsible.
- Mythology Gag: In Winnie-the-Pooh Meets the Queen, Christopher Robin, Pooh, and his friends travel to London to meet Queen Elizabeth II for her 90th birthday. At one point, on a bus tour, they pass by Harrods and Pooh feels something familiar about the store. The original Edward Bear doll given to Christopher Robin Milne was from Harrods.
- Never My Fault: Pooh, after inviting himself to lunch at Rabbit's house and eating him out of house and home, gets stuck in his burrow. He proceeds to blame Rabbit for not making his front door big enough. There’s a call-back to this story in The House at Pooh Corner where, humorously, Pooh still refuses to accept that his overeating was the reason why he got stuck.
- Not Where They Thought:
- Story only. In "In Which Eeyore Has a Birthday and Gets Two Presents", Piglet falls over and bursts the balloon he's meaning to give to Eeyore. He doesn't realize that the noise was the balloon popping and thinks he's blown up and been transported to the moon.
- In "In Which a Search is Organdized [sic] and Piglet Nearly Meets the Heffalump Again", Pooh and Piglet fall into a pit and think it's a trap dug by a Heffalump. It isn't, and neither is it the pit they dug back in "In Which Piglet Meets a Heffalump"— it's a separate pit called the Gravel Pit.
- Old Windbag: Owl will often go into lengthy, boring rants about pretty much anything.
- Once Upon a Time: "...a very long time ago, about last Friday, Winnie-the-Pooh lived in a forest all by himself under the name of Sanders."
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Pooh, pretending to be a little black raincloud. In his defense, he's trying to fool insects. They aren't fooled, though.
- Parental Bonus: Many of the jokes will go straight over your average five-year-old's head—while the adult reading the book aloud has a hard time keeping a straight face.
- Phrase Catcher: Pooh is called by various characters and the narrator "a bear of very little brain."
- Picky Eater: Tigger doesn't like honey, haycorns, thistles, or pretty much anything Pooh and his friends offer to him. He finally settles with extract of malt, which was meant to be a strengthening medicine for Roo.
- The Power of Friendship: A major theme. The friendship between Christopher Robin, Pooh, Piglet and the rest of the gang is what drives the story.
- Primal Fear: Piglet has all sorts of phobias.
- Rouge Angles of Satin: Many of the jokes in the books are fueled by these.
- Second-Person Narration: Thanks to the Framing Device of Milne making up stories for Christopher Robin, the first chapter is told from the "you" point of view with Christopher Robin as a character. Afterward, this is abandoned.
- Shoo Out the Clowns: The final chapter of The House at Pooh Corner does away with the lighthearted narrative, opening with “Christopher Robin was going away”. The only aspect of levity comes from Eeyore's “Goodbye” poem, which degenerates into an absentminded ramble. When Christopher Robin is given the poem, Eeyore storms off, and everyone except Pooh quietly disappears. Children listening to the story, like Pooh, will likely not understand the implications of what Christopher Robin is talking about, but the adults will be moved by it.
- Signs of Disrepair: The sign over Piglet's door, reading "Trespassers W", which he claims is short for the name of his grandfather, Trespassers William, or Trespassers Will for short. It's likely that the sign actually read "Trespassers will be shot", or, in modern times: "Trespassers will be prosecuted."
- Silly Rabbit, Cynicism Is for Losers!: Rabbit delivers this to Eeyore after the latter complains about nobody paying attention to him. Rabbit pointedly tells Eeyore that he essentially brings his depressed state on himself because he's not trying. Eeyore has to make an effort to see others instead of expecting them to come to him. Eeyore surprisingly takes this to heart.
- Smorgasbord Test: In "In Which Tigger Comes to the Forest and Has Breakfast", Tigger arrives in the forest and Pooh invites him to breakfast. Tigger can talk but doesn't know what his favourite food is, so Pooh offers him honey, Piglet offers him acorns (or "haycorns" as he calls them), Eeyore offers him thistles, and Kanga offers him many different things. He doesn't like any of them until he tries some extract of malt.
- Sneeze Interruption: Parodied when Owl says, "issue a reward" and Winnie the Pooh thinks he'd sneezed in the middle of his sentence.
- Stock Animal Diet: Honey for Pooh. Many of the other animals also eat one food almost exclusively - "haycorns" for Piglet, thistles for Eeyore, Roo's extract of malt for Tigger, etc, although they don't match the normal foods for their species.
- Surrounded by Idiots: This was A.A. Milne's explanation for why Eeyore is depressed.
- Sweet Tooth: Pooh has a big appetite for honey.
- Think Nothing of It: In the last chapter of the first book, Christopher Robin starts his speech at the party, and Eeyore starts this — before Christopher Robin manages to get it in that it's for Pooh.
- Token Houseguest: Tigger is shown to be living with Kanga and Roo despite not being related.
- Unwise Owl: As depicted in Disney's numerous animated adaptations of the Winnie the Pooh stories, Owl's advice often makes absolutely no sense, subverting The Owl-Knowing One.
- You Say Tomato: Being based on the playacting of a little boy, this is rather common. Notable examples include Woozles (weasels), Heffalumps (elephants), Jagulars (jaguars), Eeyore (Onomatopoeia for the braying of a donkey), Tigger (tiger) and Winnie the Pooh himself (based on Winnipeg, a bear at the London Zoo, and a swan in a pond Christopher called "Pooh").
- Zany Scheme: Several, including Pooh's plans to steal honey and catch a "Heffalump", and Rabbit's plans to kidnap Roo and "unbounce" Tigger.