The International Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh

April 12, 2021 | Myrna

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In 1926, a bear named Winnie-the-Pooh walked out of the Hundred Acre Wood and into readers' hearts. But Winnie’s story began in Canada more than a decade before A. A. Milne published his first Winnie-the-Pooh book. Since the book’s publication, generations of readers around the world have enjoyed Winnie’s adventures.

Our Osborne Collection of Early Children's Books at Lillian H. Smith branch has an extensive collection of Winnie-the-Pooh materials. These books tell the story of Winnie’s Canadian beginnings, instant popularity and international success.

Make sure to check out our page on COVID-19 Impacts on the Toronto Public Library for the latest updates on visiting our branches and accessing our special collections.

Original dustjacket covers of Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner
Original dust jacket covers of Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) and The House at Pooh Corner (1928) by A. A. Milne.

 

Discover Winnie’s Canadian origin story

Did you know that Winnie-the-Pooh was born in Canada? The Osborne Collection's upcoming Albert and Clara Lahmer Memorial Lecture will focus on Winnie's unique Canadian origins. On April 29 at 7 pm, join us for an online lecture with Lindsay Mattick, author of children's books Finding Winnie and Winnie's Great War.

Lindsay is the great-granddaughter of Captain Harry Colebourn, a Canadian veterinarian and soldier. In 1914, Colebourn purchased a small black bear cub at an Ontario train station. Colebourn named the bear after his hometown of Winnipeg and traveled across the Atlantic with Winnie. In England, the real Winnie would meet A. A. Milne and his son Christopher Robin inspiring the character of Winnie-the-Pooh. 

Photography of Lindsay Mattick and book cover of Finding Winnie by Lindsay Mattick
On April 29th at 7pm, Lindsay Mattick will deliver the Lahmer Memorial Lecture on the remarkable true story of Winnie-the-Pooh and her own family history.

 

Winnie was an instant sensation

When Winnie-the-Pooh debuted in 1926, A. A. Milne was already a popular children's writer thanks to the success of When We Were Very Young (1924). Winnie had made a cameo in When We Were Very Young (1924), appearing as Mr. Edward Bear in the poem "Teddy Bear." Within one year, Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) sold more than 180,000 copies and found fans around the world. The book became an instant collectors item. Milne's publisher immediately began releasing limited and deluxe editions for eager collectors. 

Cover and gilt edges of Winnie-the-Pooh deluxe edition
The deluxe edition of Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) was bound in leather with gilt edged pages.

 

Winnie sings a song 

A. A. Milne only wrote two Winnie books, Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) and The House at Pooh Corner (1928). However, many tie-in books and merchandise featuring A. A. Milne's characters were soon produced. The Hums of Pooh (1929) features music and lyrics for 17 songs inspired by verses in A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner. It includes delightful tunes like “Lines Written by a Bear of Very Little Brain” and “Sing Ho' for the Life of a Bear.” Interested in hearing the music for yourself? A 1951 cover of Sing Ho’ for The Life Of A Bear is available on YouTube. 

Cover of The Hums of Pooh
Music for The Hums of Pooh (1926) was written by composer H. Fraser-Simson.

 

Beloved in translation

A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh books were widely translated and read around the world. Translators have risen to the challenge of translating Winnie’s puns and rhymes into many languages.

Winnie’s Latin translation was done by Hungarian polyglot Alexander Lenard. Lenard worked on his translation for seven years, carefully converting the story’s wordplay into Latin. His hard work was rewarded, the Latin Winnie Ille Pu (1960) quickly sold more than 100,000 copies. Released in 1960, Winnie Ille Pu is still the only Latin book to become a New York Times bestseller.

Cover of Winnie Ille Pu A Latin Verion of A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh translated by Alexander Lenard
Alexander Lenard's Latin translation of Winnie-the-Pooh titled Winnie Ille Pu (1960).

 

In Russian translations, Winnie was renamed Vinni-Pukh by translator Boris Zakhoder. Zakhoder translated many English children's literature classics including Mary Poppins (Meri Poppins) and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Alisa v Strane Chudes). Vinni-Pukh I Vse-vse-vse (1967) was Zakhoder's most famous translation. It inspired a 1969 Russian animated adaptation, which was adored by Soviet viewers. Vinni-Pukh (1969) was directed by Fyodor Khitruk, who took a unique approach to the story. Khitruk re-imagining the characters' designs and placed them in child-like backgrounds.

Cover of Vinni-Pukh i vse-vse-vse
Boris Zakhoder's Russian translation of Winnie-the-Pooh entitled Vinni-Pukh I Vse-vse-vse (1967).

 

Further reading

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