Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Milne, A A

(1882-1956) UK writer, humorist and playwright whose greatest successes were the Children's Fantasies classics Winnie-the-Pooh (coll 1926) and The House at Pooh Corner (coll 1928), and the related verse collections When We Were Very Young (coll 1924) and Now We Are Six (coll 1927), forming the Christopher Robin sequence.

AAM developed his skills at Punch magazine, of which he was assistant editor 1906-1918, and occasional short fantasy appears in his collected Punch Humour: The Day's Play (coll 1910), The Holiday Round (coll 1912), Once A Week (coll 1914) and The Sunny Side (coll 1921), assembled as Those Were the Days (omni 1929). Some of this – e.g., thoughts on the geometrical difficulties of attaining a destination via seven-league boots which take literal 21-mile strides – was recycled in his first substantial fantasy, the comic Fairytale pastiche Once On a Time (1917; vt Once Upon a Time 1988 US), based on a lost 1915 play written to entertain WWI troops. Supposedly written for adults but enjoyed by children, this deals amusingly with Ruritanian squabbles complicated by cloaks of Invisibility, a Ring granting Wishes upon certain Conditions, the Transformation of an unworthy prince into an Imaginary Animal composed of lion, lamb and rabbit, etc. In a gambit prefiguring William Goldman's The Princess Bride (1973), AAM addresses the reader in "personal" asides which dispute the imagined official history of those times by one "Roger Scurvilegs".

The extraordinarily popular Christopher Robin stories are set in Ashdown Forest, where AAM then lived; they feature his son Christopher Milne (1920-1996) amid various Talking Animals and animated versions of his Toys. E H Shepard's drawings of all these are inseparable from the prose. The lead character, Winnie-the-Pooh, is Christopher's teddy-bear, and several of his small adventures with Piglet, Tigger, the wondrously pessimistic Eeyore and others are elaborations of childhood games or real-life incidents. While confining himself to language which young children can understand (>>> Diction), AAM describes Archetypes of character and situation which make the stories quotable – and applicable as parables – to an extent perhaps surpassed in fantasy only by Lewis Carroll's Alice books. The Pooh Perplex by Frederick C Crews (coll 1963) illustrates Pooh's protean nature with crushing Satire by providing 12 variously plausible critical interpretations: Freudian, Leavisite, Marxist, as Christian Fantasy with Eeyore as Christ, etc.

Some readers dislike the stories' whimsy and The House at Pooh Corner's sentimental close, which addresses the specific Thinning of a child beginning to put away childish things; but AAM never in fact descends to the baby-talk implied in the notorious dismissal by Dorothy Parker (1893-1967): "Tonstant Weader Fwowed up." Movie adaptations began with Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (1966) from Disney; Pooh's US accent and the new animal "Gopher" were poorly received by lovers of this quintessentially English work. The entire Christopher Robin sequence has remained in print since first publication, leading to such further spinoffs as The Hums of Pooh (with music by H Fraser-Simson 1929), the Latin translations Winnie Ille Pu (trans Alexander Lenard 1958; 1960) and Domus Anguli Puensis (trans Brian Staples 1980), and a facsimile of the original manuscript as Winnie-the-Pooh (1971) – as well as much merchandise, including many Disney rather than AAM ties. Pooh is an industry.

Most AAM plays are nonfantastic. The frothy Make-Believe (performed 1918; in Second Plays coll 1921) comprises three loosely linked Recursive-Fantasy playlets for children, spoofing Fairytale tests of suitors, a Never-Never Land with Pirates (> J M Barrie), and Christmas. The Ivory Door: A Legend in a Prologue and Three Acts (1928 US) is a Fable of Perception and the power of belief over Reality. Legend says that a fairytale castle's eponymous door (whose ivory suggests false Dreams) leads only to death; when the Prince enters and returns unscathed, his own people reject him as "evidently" an impostor or evil Spirit. Toad of Toad Hall (written 1921; 1929), a children's play based on Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows (1908), has, ironically, survived all AAM's original dramatic work. [DRL]

other works: Prince Rabbit and the Princess who Could Not Laugh (coll 1966), children's stories; The World of Christopher Robin (omni 1991), comprising When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six; The Complete Winnie-the-Pooh (omni 1991), comprising Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner; other editions too numerous to list.

further reading: It's Too Late Now (1939; vt Autobiography US); The Enchanted Places (1974) by Christopher Milne; A.A. Milne: His Life (1990) by Ann Thwaite (1932-    ); The Brilliant Career of Winnie-the-Pooh: The Story of A.A. Milne and His Writing (1994) by Thwaite; The Pooh Dictionary: The Complete Guide to the Words of Pooh and All the Animals in the Forest (1995) by A R Melrose.

Alan Alexander Milne


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.