Relax. If you’re frantically reaching for your copy of The World of Pooh even now… don’t bother. This little doggerel isn’t to be found anywhere within its august covers. (What?) Yep. Made it up, actually. Just now. All on my little own. Didn’t even bother to consciously imitate Milne’s style, truth to tell.
Because… to the best of my recollection, Pooh and his compatriots don’t celebrate Christmas at any point in their journeys. (I’m NOT including a Disney film --- ack! --- done in the ‘90s entitled Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too. This is not canon i.e. officially created by the author and therefore to be regarded as part of the body of work, just yet another crass attempt by Disney to exploit one of its most lucrative franchises. Ka-ching! Oh, the humanity. I bet Mr. Milne turned over in his grave.) A.A. Milne did write chapters set during winter time, of course, but apparently, merely only “in the bleak midwinter.” Which, on one hand, is rather a shame, I think. On the other… maybe not.
So, at this time of year, with the Yule season full upon us, contemplating how Christmas is celebrated in my own fantasy world of Arrinor and thoughts of Do-I-Want-To-Include-Something-Christmasy-In-The-Narrative, I found myself idly wondering recently: why didn’t Milne include a Christmas for Pooh and Christopher Robin et al?
Part of it may have involved mundane practicalities. Like… aside from Pooh’s well-known obsession (addiction?) with honey… what do the denizens of the 100 Acre Wood actually eat? Are they carnivores? Or vegans who would be horrified at the mere thought of roasted turkey or ham (more likely goose in Milne’s England) or other possible compatriots? (And who would do the cooking? Christopher Robin doesn’t exactly seem like the domestic type to spend hours over a hot stove --- assuming his house-in-a-tree even possesses a kitchen, which seems simultaneously perfectly obvious and yet highly unlikely.)
Also, Milne may not have wanted to introduce something so identifiable with the real world into the 100 Acre Wood, regardless of whether he kept the event to a more secular level --- as does much of society today --- or gone into the religious side of it. Wikipedia says Milne didn’t write much about his religious feelings, so, even though he was writing at a time of militant British colonialist Christianity, he may not have wanted to feed into that. (Kenneth Grahame certainly didn’t in The Wind in the Willows --- which Milne apparently adapted for the stage as Toad of Toad Hall… excising, interestingly, a major pagan episode Grahame had written.) And some people may speculate that including a Christmas episode in Pooh is unnecessary, as there’s already plenty of “peace and goodwill towards all men” in the 100 Acre Wood… although you might want to read my blog post entitled “Rabbit the Racist” if you hold that opinion. You can find it here if you’re interested.
The main reason, though, at least as far as I’m concerned (all my conjectures today are purely that) is an author can’t possibly include everything related to the world he or she creates, and Christmas just may not have figured high on Milne’s Pooh agenda… whatever the reason. People, places, events… there’s only so much that can find a place in any given work, and one of the prime criteria when inclusion is being considered --- especially in this supremely hurried society of ours today, regrettably --- is whether or not it moves the plot forward.
However, I want to speak out against this, quite strongly: one of my favourite “moments” in The Lord of the Rings is Frodo and Company’s encounter with the character of Tom Bombadil in the Old Forest. Now, those of you only familiar with the film version of the story (he said in disdainful/dismissive tones) won’t have the slightest idea what I’m talking about, because Peter Jackson, labouring under the constraints of every film-maker ever to put something down on cellulose, realized it did absolutely nothing to advance the narrative and so promptly discarded it… thereby excising a perfectly marvelous and magical bit of story which lessened his own. Which is A Capital Shame. After all, while we don’t want to go off on endless tangents and side trips offering no insight or enjoyment, I think it’s just as bad for a writer to be obsessed with a stripped down, high octane, relentlessly laser-tight vision when telling a story. Take (some) time to stop and smell the roses. It’s often the small details that make the tale.
“But… you don’t mind that we never delved into Christmas, then?” a growly voice said behind me.
I turned around in my chair. “Of course not, Pooh bear,” I said gravely. “As long as you were always you, doing whatever came naturally, that was Just Fine with me.”
Pooh sighed. “I’m so glad,” he said earnestly. “I would hate to think I wasn’t me, or doing things I would never do.”
“So would I, Pooh.”
“But you talking about Christmas luncheon sounds like a Very Good Thing, you know. And it does put me rather in the mood for Something Sweet To Eat.”
I considered that a moment. “Actually, Pooh, now you mention it, it does me, too.”
“Excellent,” he said approvingly. “So, shall we, then?”
“Shall we what?” I asked, already knowing the answer.
“Why, go in search of a Small Smackerel of Something, of course,” he replied.
“I think that’s a wonderful idea,” I said.
So we did.