Brain Pickings

A.A. Milne on Happiness and How Winnie-the-Pooh Was Born


On rainy days and the simplicity of happiness.

Although Alan Alexander Milne (January 18, 1882–January 31, 1956) is best-known for authoring the Winnie-the-Pooh book series, he was also a prolific poet. In 1924, two years before the first Winnie-the-Pooh book, he penned When We Were Very Young (public library) — a collection of poetry for young children, illustrated by E. H. Shepard. In the 38th poem of the book, titled “Teddy Bear”, the famed Winnie-the-Pooh character makes his first appearance — but he had originated as a real-life teddy bear given to Milne’s young son, Christopher Robin, as a birthday present on August 21, 1921. The poem depicts the beloved bear, first named “Mr. Edward Bear” by Christopher Robin, wearing a shirt that was later colored red for a recording produced by Stephen Slesinger — an image that eventually shaped the familiar Disney version of Winnie-the-Pooh.

The third poem in the book is a short gem titled “Happiness” — a wonderful meditation on how little it takes to find happiness. (And, clearly, a giant missed opportunity for Apple.)

John had
Great Big
Boots on;
John had a
Great Big
John had a
Great Big
And that
(Said John)

Complement with a rare recording of Milne reading from his beloved classic.

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