You know things are never quite as they seem. Lurking in the reeds of the most idyllic of popular stories often lays a darker realty.
I grew up with the world of the Winnie the Pooh books. Not the cartoons. The gentle children’s world painted by the stories and poems of A.E. Milne were part of my childhood. They were stories written for his son Christopher Robin, whom you will know.
My background was a bit troubled and the home life of Christopher Robin seemed, to me anyway, to be a kind of a wooded paradise. It seemed a world where all problems were solved and characters like Winnie the Pooh and Kanga and Roo played in the Hundred Acre Wood through an eternity of warm carefree summer days. I still have my copy of The World of Pooh from the 1950s. Stories from a perfect world written by a perfect father for his son.
“Hush Hush Whisper who dares
Christopher Robin is saying his prayers.”
They are lines that convey a softness and ‘end of day’ peace in which A.E. Milne and Christopher Robin lived at Cochford Farm in Sussex, England. That peace is a fiction. Milne himself was saddened by the fact his children’s book had overshadowed his earlier work as a playwright. As for Christopher Robin, “little boy kneels by the foot of his bed”; he became estranged from his parents. He was an only child who became famous by being a character in his father’s works.
A.E. Milne and his wife grew completely apart from their son in later years. Christopher Robin Milne grew to resent what he saw as an exploitation of his childhood committed upon him by his father. Christopher Robin came to actually hate the books that made him famous. He got his revenge by marrying his first cousin, Lesley de Sélincourt. Christopher’s mother and Leslie’s father, who were brother and sister, didn’t speak for three decades.
‘God bless Mummy. I know that’s right.
Wasn’t it fun in the bath to-night?
The cold’s so cold, and the hot’s so hot.
Oh! God bless Daddy – I quite forgot.”
Christopher Robin finally came to some form of truce and accord with his father and visited him during A.E. Milne’s long illness. When Milne died Christopher Robin had nothing further to do with his mother. She lived for another 15 years and even on her death bed refused to speak with him.
Christopher Robin himself opened a bookstore and did some writing including The Enchanted Places that let him come to terms with his own role in history of children’s literature. “(it) combined to lift me from under the shadow of my father and of Christopher Robin.” Christopher Robin Milne lived until 1996 and died quietly in his sleep at the age of 75. Thus unhappily ended the story of one of the central characters from the world of literature.