When creativity meets execution, an imaginary character is born. While most of the cartoon characters are a result of serendipity or cute imaginations, some are inspired from real life characters too.
Today, we dedicate this space to the birth of our beloved character Winnie-the-Pooh, who was inspired from a true story of a bear.
Written by Lindsay Mattick, the great grand daughter of Captain Harry Colebourn (who found Winnie), this children’s book titled Finding Winnie went on to become one of the best children’s book of 2015. The story was originally written by A.A. Milne for his son Christopher Robin, who you will meet in the story eventually. The illustrations in the book are beautifully and delicately done by the talented Sophie Blackall.
The Story begins…
Mattick recounts the adventures of Colebourn and his little bear to her son Cole (named after Captain Colebourn) and the story beautifully unfolds further.
Harry Colebourn leaves for the war and post his first leg of the train journey, steps down on the White River station to relax his legs where he comes across an aged man with a little bear leashed alongside. Harry assumes that the old man must be a trapper and out of kindness for the bear, offers $20 to the man to hand over the bear to him.
Having convinced the man, he then embarks on his journey with the baby bear. It was August 24, 1914.
How Winnie wins over the soldiers
The Colonel in the train is surprised to see the bear and asks the captain the reason behind bringing on this dangerous creature with him. Before he could respond, the bear stands on his hinds as if saluting the men and instantly wins over everyone.
Harry names the bear Winnie, after his town Winniepeg and the little creature is lovingly nursed by the soldiers.
Winnie as the navigator
Harry and the team arrive at the horse camp in Valcartier where Winnie helps them in their work. The team had been deputed here to heal the horses injured in World War I. He turns into a cute navigator finding and fetching hidden things in the camp.
Colebourn bids goodbye to Winnie
However, the day comes when the soldiers are required to set off to a real war across the ocean. Harry takes Winnie along on the ship but when things seem to turn ugly in the war situation, he is forced to come to a difficult conclusion of leaving Winnie in the London Zoo, which was the safest place for the baby bear.
He drives down to London and bids goodbye to Winnie with a heavy heart.
The story continues…
The little boy Cole gets anxious and wonders if the story would end like this but Mattick responds,
“Sometimes,” I said, “you have to let one story end so the next one can begin.”
“How do you know when that will happen?”
“You don’t,” I said. “Which is why you should always carry on.”
Winnie finds a new friend
Introducing the young Christopher Robin who is finding it difficult to name his stuffed toy bear. He visits the London Zoo with his father and instantly falls in love with Winnie. Their friendship turns into a bond that seems like the sweetest thing ever.
Robin is even allowed to enter Winnie’s enclosure because of their tremendous affection for each other and Blackall does a fabulous job by using her imaginations to draw Robin’s father A.A. Milne lovingly observing his son and Winnie from a distance, smoking his pipe.
Winnie-the-Pooh is born!
The story though ends in the book, but it seems to have taken a special place in the hearts of many. Robin goes on to name his stuffed bear Winnie and that my friends, becomes the protagonist of his dad’s classic book series. Now you know how Winnie-the-Pooh came into being.
You can find an album of vintage pictures of Winnie, Captain Colebourn, Robin and even Harry’s diary at the end. Here are a few of those beautiful photographs…
Images Source- brainpickings.org
Illustrations by Sophie Blackall