Yes, the book’s main characters were based on real life. This calls the question who was the real life Winnie? It was a teddy bear Milne gave his son for his first birthday on August 21st 1921, TIME reports. The first name of that teddy bear wasn’t Winnie, but Edward.
Some time later Christopher and his family visited the London zoo. There they saw a brown bear cub which was called, you guessed it, Winnie. She was named Winnie after the Canadian province Winnipeg and was brought to the London Zoo by a Canadian lieutenant and veterinary surgeon at the beginning of World War I. Christopher loved the real Winnie bear so much, he renamed his teddy bear after her.
In 1924 Milne wrote the introduction to his book When We Were Very Young. There he wrote that Christopher also loved a real life swan. He was feeding the swan every morning and had called him Pooh. So it wasn’t hard to think of a name for the character of the book. Thus Winnie the Pooh was born.
The drawings of Winnie the Pooh and his friends were in fact based on real toys, with the exceptions of Rabbit and Owl who were products of Milne’s own imagination. All of the rest of the drawings were based on Christopher Robin’s actual toys… with the exception of Winnie the Pooh. He wasn’t drawn after the Winnie teddy bear, but after a teddy bear called Growler. It was belonging to the book illustrator Ernest H. Shepard’s son.
Fun fact, that teddy bear, along with the real life toy-prototypes of Eeyore, Piglet, Kanga and Tigger are still preserved to this day. They are living in the New York Public Library and are on display there. If you can’t go there, the library has some pictures and timeline of them right here. You will find out that Eeyore is the biggest stuffed animal in the collection – a stunning 25-inches in height. Probably unsurprisingly Piglet is the smallest at a mere 4 1/2 inches tall.
Christopher Robin played with the toys along with the family dog. This is why the toys are a little worse for wear, but they were loved and played with for a long time. And this is what a stuffed animal loves.
Over the years Winnie the Pooh has given us a lot. He and his friends are still popular to this day. Actually Disney is working on a live action movie about him. Winnie the Pooh has also given us a lot of tips on life. Here are 20 of them.
And of course: Happy Birthday Winnie the Pooh!