At the core, the average person craves nostalgia. Think about it. When you think of a favorite memory or specific past time, you most likely associate that with an object. This is why baby showers, birthday parties, and souvenirs are a thing – to celebrate a joyous occasion, but to also provide a footprint of this time.
Thousands of parents sought out that nostalgic beginning, for their newborn babe, with Winnie the Pooh. The loveable bear was more than just a cute nursery theme, it was the bear their child slept with or watched on television. English author A. A. Milne was inspired to create Winnie-the-Pooh from a stuffed teddy bear his son, Christopher Robin Milne, owned. Most followers and fans intravenously assumed that Milne’s dream bear was a loving act based upon a strong father-son relationship. While no one, but Milne’s himself, can vouch for his feelings – the true story of Christopher Robin is not what you’d think.
A.A Milne’s first Pooh book, When We Were Very Young, was published in November 1924, when Christopher Robin was four-years-old. The last book in the collection, The House at Pooh Corner, was published in October 1928. Each book sold hundreds of thousands of copies – making Christopher Robin and Pooh household names. Christopher Robin is on record, in various interviews saying that he liked being famous, until he went away to boarding school at Box Grove School. Then, he was teased and bullied and these circumstances caused him to hate the boy in the book.
Winnie-the-Pooh consumers may feel slighted or perhaps duped by the relationships of the Milne household; however, the reality is it’s all a business. A cute bear, embodied by naivety and occasional pun-filled wisdom, who is best friends with a tender-hearted boy. And just because the inspiration of these characters was derived from real people and objects, doesn’t actually take away from the fact that a bear and a boy shared a special bond.
Some people are good with children and some are not. Christopher Robin has expressed that his father was not someone who invested a lot of time with his son – and that he believes A.A. Milne created the boy in the book because of his disconnect. In fact, Christopher Robin credits his nanny for curating a sense of normalcy during his childhood, he nicknamed the nanny ‘Nou.’ What many people often lose sight of is Christopher Robin’s mother, Daphne Milne, because everyone is fascinated by the actual man who dreamed up Winnie-the-Pooh. There are a variety of viewpoints that Christopher Robin offers. In some interviews he’s said that she was not involved and more occupied with her socialite life. Yet, he also gives her kudos in his book The Enchanted Place by saying, “When a child is small it is his mother who is mainly responsible for the way he is brought up. So, it was with me. I belonged in those days to my mother rather than my father.”
Later though, after his father’s death in 1956, Christopher Robin only saw his mother one more time within her last 15 years of life. However, he was at peace with his relationship – no matter what it was officially classified as. Based on later interviews, during his later years, he appears to come to peace and recognize the ups and downs.
Oddly enough, no matter what accounts are referenced whether they come from his father, mother or himself, it’s apparent that every family has drama. The definitive outcome is how you communicate and handle the obstacles and hurdles that take place. Reports say that his mother refused to see him and others state that it was the other way around – either way, they didn’t have contact for over a decade.
When World War II broke out, Christopher Robin felt compelled to leave his studies and join the army; however, he failed the medical examination. Later, his father used his contacts and helped Christopher Robin with a position as a sapper in the Royal Engineers. After the war, he returned to Cambridge University and was awarded an English literature degree. He did marry Lesley de Selincourt in 1948 and they had one daughter, any old child, named Clare Milne. Their daughter was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and she died in 2012, at the age of 56, from natural causes due to a heart abnormality.
Christopher Robin lived with myasthenia gravis – a long-term neuromuscular disease that leads to varying instances of skeletal muscle weakness. The prognosis affects muscles of the eyes, face, and swallowing. The condition would kill Christopher Robin in his sleep in April 1996, at the age of 75. After his death the media swarmed with descriptions advising his strong standpoints and support of atheism.
So now, the entertainment industry has dug into the Milne family story.One of the first films to showcase the family’s story and curation of one of the most beloved children’s characters is the 2017 film ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin.’ The film focuses primarily on how the Winnie-the-Pooh fantasy assisted in the fall of a father and son relationship. Another film, staring Ewan McGregor, releasing in late 2018 by Walt Disney productions is fittingly titled ‘Christopher Robin’ – and it will depict a grown Christopher Robin and provide a fun take on him rediscovering his imagination with a new live-action exploration. This film will be less focused on the actuality of relationships with real human beings, and more so on the relationships we have with our imaginations and the characters that help mold that.
Our society is fascinated by the sensationalized limelight that celebrities and other notable figures live. The reality is these people are normal people with the same problems and daily issues we all experience. While the Milne family may seem dysfunctional, the estrangement and drama is something millions of families live out on a daily basis. Even though we may associate Christopher Robin’s life as a heart-breaking truth, the actuality is so many people are living with the same truth – they just didn’t dream up a bear with a red shirt.