As anyone who’s spent time on the internet will know, there are lots of inspirational quotes and affirmations rattling around in cyber space.
From carefully crafted memes with illustrated backdrops, to basic Tweets that rack up likes and shares; we can’t get enough of comforting, empowering and heart-warming sayings – but one of the most popular sources might at first seem an unlikely one.
Sure, the words of Gandhi and Rumi pop up a lot, along with contemporary wisdom super stars like Brené Brown and Dolly Parton (seriously, a true voice of reason). A very significant proportion though can be credited to none other than a small yellow bear named Pooh.
London-born A.A. Milne had been a prolific writer long before Pooh Bear hit the scene, inspired by his own real-life son Christopher Robin and his stuffed toy bear (originally called Edward). But once the first Winnie-the-Pooh collection was published in 1926, its success defined Milne’s name as one of the most popular children’s authors of all time – and our love for Pooh, Piglet and co has well and truly endured.
Nearly a century on, the original tales have been translated into more than 50 languages and never gone out of print: Pooh and Christopher Robin’s adventures in Hundred Acre Wood are still a solid bedtime story choice. But it’s not just kids keeping the honey-loving bear alive. It’s us grown-ups, who still find deep comfort in Pooh and his pals’ sweet philosophies.
Harriet Collins, 35, a teacher from Dorset – and also my sister! – is one of the biggest Pooh Bear fans I know (unsurprisingly, we shared the same childhood bookshelves). Although her own words are endlessly buoying, in many low moments she’s propped me up with a perfectly-timed Winnie-the-Pooh quote.
One of her favourites – ‘Always remember you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think’ (Christopher Robin to Pooh) – hangs on a wall in a print, a gift from a friend during a challenging fertility journey. And while those words helped her weather the storms, she chose another snippet (this time a quote of Pooh’s) to mark the next chapter.
“’Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart,’ was the opening line to my Christening speech, celebrating my beautiful, tiny, miracle twin babies being born. I was just bursting with pride,” Collins explains. The ‘braver than you believe’ quote, she adds, “has become my mantra in all things, and again something I want for my girls.
“I can remember my dad reading Winne-the-Pooh to me as a child, I remember the book itself, the voices he’d make to dramatise the characters, and how the stories have stayed with me into adulthood.”
Shereen Low, 40, a journalist from London, incorporated a beloved Pooh extract into her wedding speech – ‘If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you’ – and a quick look at Etsy and Pinterest is all it takes to see Pooh quotes star for all occasions.
Pooh calls himself a ‘bear of very little brain’, but as his fans know dearly, he is incredibly wise and has a lot to teach us.
He knows friendship is more important than status and possessions (‘A friend is one of the nicest things you can have and one of the best things you can be’), and his stories embodied the value of simple joys, gratitude and mindfulness long before they became ‘trends’ (‘Don’t underestimate the value of doing nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering’).
One of my favourite things about Pooh and co is that they have their priorities right (“It’s more fun to talk to someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like, ‘What about lunch?'”), and how they deal so simply and beautifully with each other’s off days and moments of doubt and worry. No judging, no over-thinking, no attempting to fix and solve everything. Well, apart from with a stroll, a nap and a bit of honey perhaps.
‘I don’t feel very much like Pooh today,’ said Pooh.
‘There, there,’ said Piglet. ‘I’ll bring you tea and honey until you do.’