My first encounter with the iconic golden bear was, of course, via Disney. Adorable, forever hungry, and my little sister’s favorite, the “silly old bear,” was an epitome of innocence. He taught us so many beautiful things like life is better with “hunny” and “A hug is always the right size”! It is hard not to tear up and smile even today while remembering those bits of wisdom delivered ever so sweetly. So, a few years back, when Disney presented us with another live-action masterpiece Christopher Robin, my interest in Pooh resurfaced. After watching the film, my little sister reminded me of something I had read long back – Winnie the Pooh is a girl! But the skeptic in me decided to go home and dig deeper, just to be sure.
The Origins of Pooh Bear
To find out for sure if Winnie the Pooh is a girl, it is important that we trace the origins of this character. Born in 1926, Pooh was the brainchild of author A. A. Milne and illustrator E.H. Shepard. The creative duo visualized and gave shape to everything about this anthropomorphic teddy bear much before the Disney productions. So, Pooh made a debut in a collection of stories titled Winnie the Pooh. Sequels, poems, and more stories followed in the consecutive years. And it didn’t take too long for the simple teddy to emerge as an iconic children’s favorite.
Milne’s narratives and Shepard’s art included locations and characters based on real-life people and places. Whether it was the naming of Hundred Acre Wood or sketches of the forested landscapes, all can be traced back to actual spots across the English countryside. Even the child Christopher Robin was inspired by Milne’s son Christopher Robin Milne!
In my opinion, this element of reality always enhances the appeal of a storybook. It helps entertain and believe in the idea that the reader can dream of visiting those dreamy places someday. Moreover, considering that the prime readers of these adorable stories were children, it further fills you with joy.
What Inspired Winnie the Pooh?
Short answer – a teddy bear, of course! 🧸
Unsurprisingly, the teddy bear belonged to Milne’s son. In fact, Pooh’s other friends like Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger, Roo, etc., were also inspired by and shared names with stuffed toys owned by the real-life Christopher Robin. But this is where it gets interesting. There was another inspiration behind the name Winnie.
Young Christopher Robin Milne would often visit the London Zoo. He was specifically drawn to a black bear named Winnipeg and a swan named Pooh. Winnipeg was also lovingly addressed as Winnie.
Children’s imaginations can beat ours any day. And Christopher decided to use Winnie as well as Pooh to name his toy! Hence, the famous teddy bear came to be known as Winnie-the-Pooh.
Why Winnie the Pooh Could be A Girl
Christopher Robin Milne’s stuffed bear had no gender. However, its namesake Winnie the black bear in the London Zoo, was a female. It is easy to see why Pooh bear in the storybook could, therefore, be a girl.
Well, if you have read those stories, you are probably smirking because you know what I am about to say next!
Why Winnie the Pooh Could be A Boy
I’d sum up the answer in one word – pronouns!
Throughout the Winnie the Pooh books, the author uses male pronouns like he/him/his. Since those are not gender-neutral pronouns, it is quite safe to assume that Winnie the Pooh’s character was written as a male bear.
What about the Disney Adaptations?
Apart from using male pronouns, as in the original stories, Disney has also always hired male actors to voice Pooh. So, that gives us two reasons to believe that Disney’s Winnie the Pooh is also a boy.
So, what is the Gender of Winnie the Pooh?
Honestly, there could be two answers to this question depending on which bear you are talking about. The original, real-life Winnie was a girl, and she was a black bear from Canada. However, when Winnie became Winnie the Pooh – the golden bear in the books and on-screen, it was a boy.
That makes us wonder what it would be like if Milne had written the character as she was in reality – a rescued female bear cub instead of the golden male one inhabiting the woods. But, on the other hand, it doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. It just gives us a little insight into the background of Pooh bear. And he continues to be a cute and simple representation of a part of our childhoods we wish to hold on to.
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