Everyone loved Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin as a child. If you say you didn’t, you’re probably lying. A.A. Milne’s books Winnie-the-Pooh, Now We are Six, and The House at Pooh Corner were full of adventure and wonder. The stories always taught incredible life lessons, such as the power of positive thinking, gratitude and empathy, and contained some of the most beloved characters in the history of children’s literature. Winnie the Pooh arrived in bookstores in 1926.
But the Christopher Robin featured in Milne’s poems and books wasn’t just a fictional character. He was a real boy, and just so happened to also be Milne’s son. He was born on August 21, 1920. For his first birthday, he was given a two-foot-tall teddy bear who he named Edward.
That beloved bear, along with a living bear at the London Zoo named Winnie and a swan named Pooh, developed into the unforgettable character Winnie the Pooh. In addition, the boy’s other stuffed animals, Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger and Kanga were included within the stories, too. The only exceptions are Gopher, Rabbit and Owl, who were the product of Milne’s imagination.
It’s not just the characters that were recreated for the stories, even Poohsticks Bridge, Roo’s Sandpit and the Hundred Acre Wood were all fictionalized names of real locations in the Ashdown Forrest in Sussex, England.
Interestingly enough, Christopher is thought to have hated being the inspiration for his fictitious character. He even went as far as saying, “One day, I’ll write verses about him and see how he likes it.” He once described his father as someone who took advantage of his only child’s youth to keep the reality of the fact that he was aging at bay.
“When I was three, my father was three,” he wrote. “When I was six, he was six,” adding “he needed me to escape from being 50.”
And despite having wrote such tender tales, Milne was never a man Christopher was able to get close to.
His heart remained buttoned up all through his life.
Photos taken of the Milne family during the 1920s depict just how indistinguishable the drawings of the make-believe Christopher Robin were to the writer’s own son.
However, unlike the Christopher Robin that always had the joy of hanging out in the woods with his awesome friends, he was shipped off to boarding school. In actuality, the boy’s illustrated life was far from the truth.
After finishing boarding school, he was awarded a scholarship to Cambridge University, only to later drop out, join the military, and ultimately opened up a bookstore. It was there that he sold autographed copies of the famous stories, giving the profits to Save the Children.
What’s more, he ended up marrying one of his cousins, Lesley de Selincourt, in 1949. Together they had one daughter.
The real Christopher Robin died in 1996 at the age of 75.
You can view a collection of the original plush toys that inspired the characters at the New York Public Library. The only one missing is Roo, who got lost when Christopher was in his thirties.