Winnie-the-Pooh is a children’s book written by English author A.A. Milne and published in 1926, though the story is mostly known from the animated adaptations by Disney. The book is written as a collection of stories told by a parent to its son, Christopher Robin, about his beloved stuffed animals. The stories mainly focus on the adventures of a teddy bear called Winnie-the-Pooh, who is Christopher Robin’s favourite toy. Other characters in the book include the small pig called Piglet, the owl called Owl, the rabbit called Rabbit, the kangaroo called Kanga, her son called Roo, the donkey called Eeyore, and the tiger called Tigger (who is first introduced in the sequel, The House at Pooh Corner). Together, these characters embark on many adventures in and around a forest called the Hundred Acre Wood.
All of these characters are charmingly odd, and they all have different quirks and peculiarities. One might laugh these traits off as being silly and childish, that they exist just to entertain; but if we closely examine the behavior of these characters, we discover that they are not simply made up eccentricities, but contain deep insights into human psychology. Because each character in Winnie-the-Pooh shows behavioural signs of some mental disorder. It is as if A.A. Milne created them to represent people who suffer from mental disabilities and illnesses.
For exemple, Pooh Bear, the main character, is not the brightest star in the sky, and he often describes himself as ”a Bear of Little Brain”. This suggests that that he suffers from intellectual disability (ID), a condition characterized by poor planning and problem solving abilities, infant-like behaviour, and lack of social skills—which are all symptoms Pooh displays in the book. His obsession with honey may also be linked to his intellectual disability, as research shows obesity and overeating is of greater prevalence amongst those with ID.
“When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.” – Winnie-the-Pooh
Piglet is often anxious and easily gets nervous in situations where such behaviour is uncalled for. This indicates that he suffers from Generalized Anxiety Disorder, a condition characterized by insistent anxiety and stress. Unlike fear, this anxiety has no legitimacy for other people, and unlike phobias, the anxiety is not bound to anything specific.
Rabbit shows signs of having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), a mental disorder where people feel the need to check things repeatedly, perform certain routines repeatedly, or have certain thoughts repeatedly. Rabbit is very picky and wants things organized and ordered. He dislikes change, as seen when Kanga and Roo comes to the Forest and he makes a plan to force them out. People with OCD often come across perfectionistic, just like Rabbit, who always want things to be done his way.
Owl, the seemingly wise and intellectual, is actually a dyslectic, and also most likely suffers from narcissistic personality disorder. He cannot spell, but he pretends like he can, and he sees himself as being very wise, asserting his own advise and claims above others’.
Tigger, who is highly enthusiastic about everything and is constantly bouncing, suffers from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). People with ADHD have difficulties maintaining attention, are excessively active, and often behave inappropriately for one’s age; which are all behavioral signs Tigger shows.
Eeyore is always pessimistic and negative about everything. He shows signs of major depression disorder, a condition characterized by consistent low mood, low self-esteem, and loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities—symptoms that are all found in Eeyore’s behaviour.
”EEYORE, the old grey Donkey, stood by the side of the stream, and looked at himself in the water. ‘Pathetic,’ he said. ‘That’s what it is. Pathetic.'” – Winnie-the-Pooh
We might laugh at these characters’ amusing behaviour, because after all, they are simply stuffed toys given life through imagination. But in a way, the Hundred Acre Wood reflects reality. It is just like any society, because all societies contain people with mental disorders. Many people suffer from a mental disability; it’s not a weird or abnormal thing. It’s a part of life in this world to either have dysfunctions or encounter people with them. And even if we do not suffer from any disorder, we are still eccentric in some way. None of us are perfect—we are all weird—and that’s just normal. And it’s completely possible to still live a good life.
The characters in the Hundred Acre Wood are having fun. Not all the time, of course, but most of the time, especially when they are together. Even Eeyore cheers up on his birthday when he gets presents for the first time, even though it’s just an empty jar and a broken balloon.
”Eeyore wasn’t listening. He was taking the balloon out, and putting it back again, as happy as could be….” – Winnie-the-Pooh
For this reason, Winnie-the-Pooh is a great book for children. Children need to understand that it’s okay to be odd and different, because everyone is. It helps children to better understand some odd parts of themselves, and helps them sympathize with people who are mentally disabled.
And Winnie-the-Pooh is not only for children, but for adults as well. Getting to know Christopher Robin’s charmingly odd stuffed toys can help us cope with our own psychological issues. We can learn to laugh at the eccentricities that we are ashamed about. And it will grow our empathy, as we understand that we are all different and that everyone has flaws.
And of course, another reason to read Winnie-the-Pooh is because it is such a brilliant and fun book.