The Real Christopher Robin
The most recent movie in the long line of "Winnie the Pooh" movies is called Christopher Robin. It's a sweet movie that I think is worth going to see. If you haven't seen it, you can watch the trailer here. Don't worry, I'll wait while you watch this cuteness...
Of course, after seeing the movie it brought questions to my mind: was there a real Christopher Robin and what was his story? So a bit of reading later and here we are!
A.A. Milne (Christopher Robin's father) was born in 1882. Growing up, one of his teachers was author, H.G. Wells. Milne got a degree in Mathematics, but went on to become a writer. He was friends with Sir James Barrie (the man who created Peter Pan) and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (the man who created Sherlock Holmes). He went on to serve in the British army during World War I & 2 and would have flashbacks to the war.
August 1920, Christopher Robin Milne was born. His mother, Daphne de Sélincourt, had been hoping for a girl, and from his autobiography, it seems as though Christopher resented the fact that she kept his hair long past his ears and dressed him in "girlish" clothing.
The family bought a country home that is believed to date back to the 16th century in Sussex, England just on the edge of a 500 acre forest - inspiration for the "100 acre wood". They enjoyed spending the weekend and holidays there. A.A. Milne would take his young toddler son on walks through the forest and Daphne would often play with young Christopher and his stuffed animals in the woods. The beloved bear that we know as Winnie the Pooh was inspired by Christopher's stuffed bear, Edward. The name "Winnie" came from the bear at the London Zoo named Winnipeg who had been used as a military mascot during the war.
A.A. Milne started writing stories of Christopher Robin and his stuffed animal friends and had a friend draw illustrations. When the first stories were published in the early 1920's, they were an instant hit. Four year old Christopher Robin Milne became quite famous. He loved that his father had written these stories about him and his stuffed animal friends.
This fame seemingly tore the family apart though. As the years went on, his father reportedly disliked just how famous his son had become and refused to write any more children's stories as Pooh Bear had eclipsed all the rest of his writings. Christopher Robin went to boarding school, and after being on the receiving end of bullying classmates grew to hate his father for publishing the works which made his name famous. Side note: while this fictional movie was not about trying to tell the true story of Christopher Robin, I appreciate the fact that it incorporated the idea that boarding school was not a pleasant time for the young boy.
After serving in World War II in the 1940's, Christopher Robin Milne married his cousin on his mother's side. Together he and his wife opened a bookshop...which seems an odd choice considering he didn't want anything to do with the Winnie the Pooh adventures. But it was a successful venture for them. Together they had a daughter named Clare who had cerebral palsy.
Christopher Robin visited his father some while he was sick, but after he died he never visited the family country home again. His mother sold the property and did not remain in contact with her son. She even refused to see him on her death bed 15 years later.
Since then, Christopher wrote a book about his life and found peace with his childhood adventures being published. His stuffed animals have been donated to the New York Public library in New York City and every year over 700,000 people come to see the now famous toys. He died in 1996.
If there's one thing to take away from all of this: life is hard and the magic and simplicity of childhood doesn't last long. If you have young kids, savor these moments. Don't let the harshness of this world drag you down. Find the good, love deeply, and go on an adventure!
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