In which we are introduced to Winnie the Pooh and some bees, and the stories begin
It is an unfortunate beginning for our favourite fuzzy hero Winnie the Pooh, because he is bumping down the stairs upside down, tugged along by Christopher Robin. Pooh doesn't seem to mind too much though, so neither will we. We are told that Pooh's proper name is Edward Bear, but Christopher Robin has renamed him as Winnie-ther-Pooh. This confuses his father, who thought that the bear was a boy, and Winnie is of course a girl's name.
But Christopher Robin says "Don't you know what ther means?", so we shall presume that ther means something along the lines of "This Sounds a Bit Like a Girl's Name But Isn't", and there we are.
Christopher Robin would like his father to tell Winnie the Pooh a story, and it is at this point that we get the first real glimpse into Pooh's character:
- "What sort of stories does he like?"
- "About himself. Because he's that sort of bear."
Now, in different circumstances one might say that the sort of bear who likes to hear stories about himself is a rather conceited sort of bear, a rather pompous sort of bear, but of course in these sort of circumstances we couldn't possibly say such a thing. Indeed, a later part of the chapter proves us right not to, because Christopher Robin explains that Pooh doesn't remember things very well, so he likes having the stories told to him because "then it's a real story and not just a remembering".
So now we know that Pooh simply likes to know what he has done and where he has been, which seems only fair. We also have learned that he has trouble remembering things, and this may be one of the main reasons why Christopher Robin often refers to Pooh's lack of Brain.
And so...now that we have the introduction out of the way, the main story begins, and it is set a very long time ago (about last Friday). Pooh is living in a forest under a signpost labelled 'Mr Sanders' - we are not sure why, and the text does not explain why either, so we will guess that the sign has fallen off someone's postbox (perhaps someone called Mr Sanders) and Pooh has chosen to use it so that he can tell the difference between his tree and all the other trees.
On this particular day Pooh is having a little wander around the forest when he hears a buzzing noise coming from a tree. Now, Pooh is sometimes criticised for being a Bear of Very Little Brain, but he immediately acts against type by deducing that buzzing means bees, and bees mean honey - and bears, of course, are rather fond of a little honey now and then. We should all stop and marvel at his reasoning skills for a moment. There we are.
Pooh's next move is slightly less impressive, because he climbs the tree and falls out of it into a gorse bush. But then, we can't all be clever all of the time, and most of us aren't.
Pooh goes to see Christopher Robin and asks him if he has a balloon about him - a balloon, of course, being a thing that would enable a small bear to float up into a tree without fear of gorse bushes. Christopher Robin happens to have two balloons, having been to a party at Piglet's house the day before.
This is, to put it mildly, a rather troubling plot development - has Piglet had a party and not invited Pooh? He has invited Christopher Robin, and allowed him to take a total of two balloons home with him, and he has even invited one of Rabbit's relations who was rather too young to go to a party but went anyway. Surely Pooh was invited too, but if he was, where is his balloon?
I think we will have to assume that either a) Pooh was invited but was not interested in balloons at that point, having not yet found the bees or b) Pooh was invited but was generous enough to give his balloon to someone else, being Just That Sort of Bear. I think we will go for option b).
So, now that that worriment is out of the way, we can return to Pooh, who has chosen a blue balloon to cunningly blend in with the sky, and is rolling around in a very muddy place to disguise himself as a small black cloud, to blend in with the other small black clouds. And once he has become sufficiently muddy he takes hold of the balloon and floats up 20 feet into the air, and Christopher Robin shouts "Hooray!".
- "Isn't that fine?" shouted Winnie the Pooh down to you. "What do I look like?"
- "You look like a bear holding on to a balloon," you said.
- "Not," said Pooh anxiously, "not like a small black cloud in a blue sky?"
- "Not very much."
But Pooh is not deterred because you never can tell with bees. Unfortunately though, Pooh starts to believe that the bees have become suspicious - they may not have completely seen through his cunning plan, but enough seeds of doubt have been sown to cause Bother.
And so Pooh asks Christopher Robin to fetch an umbrella and walk around complaining about the rain, thereby adding an extra dimension to the small-black-cloud (muddy-bear-on-a-balloon) in-the-sky idea, and making the whole scenario rather more believable for the sceptical bees. A final touch is added when Pooh starts singing the Cloud Song, because he realises that a singing cloud is more realistic than a silent one.
Unfortunately, despite this carefully enacted plan, the bees are still suspicious and getting more so; one even lands on Pooh's nose, causing him to "Ow!". Faced with this onslaught, Pooh decides that these are in fact the Wrong Sort of Bees, who will clearly make the wrong sort of honey (perhaps the blue kind, or the kind that tastes like Marmite).
He needs to come down from his great height, but there is an obvious problem - if he lets go of the balloon he will plummet to the ground, probably into a gorse bush. So Pooh says that Christopher Robin should shoot the balloon with his toy gun, and the balloon will then slowly deflate, and Pooh will drift gracefully to the ground.
- "Have you got your gun?"
- "Of course I have," you said. "But if I do that, it will spoil the balloon."
- "But if you don't," said Pooh, "I shall have to let go, and that would spoil me."
Thus persuaded, Christopher Robin aims very carefully at the balloon, and fires. "Ow", says Pooh. Christopher Robin asks if he missed. "You didn't exactly miss", says Pooh, "but you missed the balloon."
So Christopher Robin tries again, and this time hits the balloon, and Pooh floats down to the ground all safe and well. He has very stiff arms though from holding on to the balloon for all of that time, and for the next week his arms stick up straight into the air, and he has to blow flies off of his nose by making a kind of "Pooh"-type puff noise. And that may be where he got his name!
And that's the end of our first story! Pooh never actually manages to get any honey, but he only falls into a gorse bush, gets stung, and gets shot, so things could really have been quite a lot worse. So I would say that that is a victorious chapter for Pooh! On to the next one!