In the first Pooh story, “Edward Bear” of the earlier poem becomes Winnie-the-Pooh. Pooh was the name the real Christopher Robin had given to a swan. When Pooh becomes a bear, Milne’s reason for the distinctive hyphenated “the” is not known, nor is the significance, if any, of the fact that he lives “under the name of Sanders.” The name may simply ridicule the adult habit of appropriating things in nature by naming them. In Winnie-the-Pooh, versions of children’s animal toys appear in a wood that has been appropriated by animals that have gained the likenesses of people—particularly children.

Milne immediately establishes what became perhaps the most famous Pooh motif, the fact that the little bear eats honey to excess. Eating is often discussed and done in the stories, and in the second story Pooh, after doing his morning “stoutness exercises,” overeats while visiting Rabbit and gets stuck in the hole that is the latter’s doorway, a good example of the application of Pooh’s status as a “Bear of No Brain.” In both stories Christopher rescues the bear, in the second one reading to him for a week while the dieting Pooh grows slender enough to permit his many friends to yank him from the hole.

This pattern predominates in Winnie-the-Pooh. Either Pooh or one of his animal friends faces a problem or an embarrassment, but the wise young human, Christopher, and helpful friends extricate them from their...

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