A Sweet and Gentle Surprise this Wednesday Morning

On this magnificent day in Ottawa – yes- the sunshine, blue sky and perfect temperatures are the perfect antidote for all my previous complaints. It turns out the gardens loved all that rain and cool air and now after four days of sunshine the plants are bursting forth all over.

This being the case, I am already in a state of enthusiasm, when my friend showed me her latest art acquisition. It’s a tender, meaningful piece of a young soldier holding the front paws of  a small bear, standing on hind legs. She says in passing, that is “Winnie.” I  looked dumbfounded and she added, “you know, the real Winnie the Pooh.”

I didn’t know the back story to one of the world’s favorite characters. She briefly explained that the real live “Winnie” was a Canadian bear cub.  This particular bear cub was found and adopted by a young British/Canadian  soldier, Harry Colebourn,  who was also a veterinarian. He named the young cub, Winnie, in honour of his new hometown of Winnipeg.

My friend was on her way out the door when all of this quickly transpired, so I couldn’t ask more. Nevertheless, my curiosity was piqued and I went looking for the history of Winnie the Pooh. I quickly found a lovely piece on a history site with original photos. It is an inspiring story on the ripple effects of one young man’s actions that influenced a small boy and his Father, A. A. Milne.

“You can’t stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometime.” Winnie-the-Pooh

I am often awestruck about ripple effects and how one action leads to untold consequences for both good and ill. We can easily get jaded with all the horrors in the world and overlook, as unimportant, a small act by a man who loved animals. Yet, that series of events resulted in a series of beloved children’s books that brought relief and hope to a war torn world. And have lovingly endured for over 80 years.

“Statues at both the London Zoo and Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park Zoo, of Colebourn holding the hands of Winnie as she stands on her hind legs also offer reminders of the bond between a Canadian soldier and a black bear cub that led to the creation of a literary classic.”

I hope you click on the link below and read this gentle and true background on how Winnie the Pooh came to be.  A simple distraction that warmed up my heart.

The surprising background to Winnie the Pooh

Fun Facts:

CBC website on “90 Wierd and wonderful facts about Winnie the Pooh”

Fact 63) Cambridge University’s Pembroke College Winnie-the-Pooh Society was established in 1993. The Queen is apparently a member. They regularly meet at 4 p.m. every Saturday of the full term to drink tea, eat cake and read from the works of A.A. Milne. The annual membership fee is £2 ($3.35 CAD).

Fact 89) A group of researchers in the pediatrics department at Dalhousie University published a report (you can read the spoof) entitled Pathology in the Hundred Acre Wood in the Canadian Medical Association Journal’s winter 2000 lampoon issue. The satirical article assigns each Milne character at least one psychological disorder. (there have been readers who took it seriously)

Note 1:) My friend’s dad, so I learned, went to the same British school as the author, A.A. Milne. Hence a little more interest in Winnie.

Note 2:) Every now and then I think we can benefit from an obscure, kind and little story that is ordinary and extraordinary at the same time.

Note 3:) I thank you for opening this blog post and I wish you all a great first week of official summer. I hope to enjoy Friday the 21st,  the longest day of the year, outdoors and in a garden. Remember  Pooh’s advice: ” you’re braver than you believe and stronger and smarter than you think.”

3 replies
  1. Mary Ann
    Mary Ann says:

    Thank you for sharing this sweet story, Trudy.
    I loved learning about this!

    Here’s a photograph of Harry Colebourn and Winnie, along with a recording of a 3-minute interview with Colebourn’s great granddaughter, who tells the story:

    And this is one of the statues (in Winnipeg) of Colebourn standing with Winnie

    I will pass on this lovely story, and create some more “ripples”. 🙂
    ~ Mary Ann

  2. Mary Ann
    Mary Ann says:

    . . . And there are several books about the story of the real “Winnie”. Here are two of them:

    “Winnie the Bear,” by M.A. Appleby

    “Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh,” by Sally M. Walker

    And how could I miss this one!
    The book by Colebourn’s great granddaughter, Lindsay Mattick — “Finding Winnie”


    Thank you again for setting me on this trail — it certainly brightened my day!
    ~ Mary Ann

  3. T Boyle
    T Boyle says:

    Hey, Mary Ann:
    You are a resource for all things Winnie. Thanks for going to the trouble of finding these books and interviews. It is kind of you to pass them on for others who have a spot spot for that bear.


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