The inspiration for Winnie the Pooh came from author A. A. Milne’s son, Christopher Robin Milne. Christopher Robin had a toy bear he’d named Winnie the Pooh after an American black bear he often saw at the London Zoo. Winnie was purchased from a hunter by Canadian Lieutenant Harry Coleburn, who named her “Winnie” after his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba. “Pooh” was a swan that Christopher Robin had met while on a vacation.
The setting of the stories was based on Sussex, England’s Ashdown Forest, and the Hundred Acre Wood was based on Five Hundred Acre Wood. Illustrations featured in Milne’s books, drawn by E. H. Shepard, perfectly capture the forest and many of its sights.
Milne published the first collection of Winnie the Pooh stories in 1926. Four years later, Stephen Slesinger purchased the rights to the stories and for more than 30 years produced Winne the Pooh dolls, records, board games, puzzles, a U.S. radio broadcast, animated features, and a motion picture. Disney purchased the rights to the characters in 1961, creating the Winnie the Pooh that we know and love today. Pooh is one of Disney’s most popular characters.
The game of Poohsticks, introduced in Winnie the Pooh and a Day for Eeyore, was based on a game created by A. A. Milne and Christopher Robin. In the game, each person drops a stick over a bridge and the person whose stick appears on the other side of the bridge first, wins. The game became so popular that the World Championship of Poohsticks race is held every year in Oxfordshire.
Winnie the Pooh is such a popular character around the world that there are streets named after him, one in Warsaw, Poland, and another in Budapest, Hungary.