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A special –for those still happy to be ´children at heart´!

Posted by cris1923 on March 15, 2009

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While trying to discard papers scattered in my den –totally unsuccessfully must admit—I came across a set of boxes labelled “Postcards”. Rummaging the lot, I found a treasure trove: reproductions of original pencil sketches of the illustrations Ernest H. Shepard made for A.A. Milne´s Winnie-the-Pooh books!1 Couldn´t keep them to myself so please find them attached for your enjoyment as well. To think that the Silly Old Bear´s turned 88 this year and stands just as a lovable and popular as ever, is indeed a pleasure for many of us still ´children at heart´.

 

Whenever I find the need to revisit Milne´s delightful toy animal stories, I rejoice leafing through my paperback editions2 enhanced by the original Shepard artwork — not Disney´s. Have nothing against Walt, though; but what Shepard achieves through his delicate line drawings cannot compare to the animated version. Funny thing is that most people believe Disney to be the original illustrator! Probably because in 1961 he obtained filming rights for them from the Milnes and through a series of featurettes made the English bear known everywhere3.

 

All this got me reminiscing…I just had to go over Christopher Milne´s –a.k.a. Christopher Robin, the child protagonist who inspired the story—autobiography where he tellingly unveils the problems he faced on account of the fame his fictional namesake enjoyed. In The Enchanted Places 4 he says:

 

If the Pooh books had been like most other books –published one year, forgotten the next—there would have been no problem. If I had been a different sort of person there might well have been no problem. Unfortunately the fictional Christopher Robin refused to die and he and his real-life namesake were not always on the best of terms. For the first misfortune (as it sometimes seemed) my father was to blame. The second was my fault (Epilogue, p.177).

 

Ernest H. Shepard , whose delightful artwork gave life also to unforgettable Mole, Toad, Ratty and friends in the unforgettable children´s classic The Wind in the Willows , also felt that overexposure as a result of his popularity for the Pooh drawings had proved a bit of a nuisance for him. A member of the outstanding, first-rate team of artists and regular contributors to Punch5 magazine, he felt that “that stupid bear” had overshadowed his first-rate artistic production6.

 

Fortunately, the “Silly-old-Bear´s” parents did enjoy a sound, if not close relationship. The words Milne inscribed in the book presented to Shepard are proof enough, I think:

 

When I am gone,
Let Shepard decorate my tomb,
And put (if there is room)
Two pictures on the stone:
Piglet from page a hundred and eleven,
And Pooh and Piglet walking (157)…
And Peter, thinking that they are my own,
Will welcome me to Heaven.

 

Contributed by: Cristina T. Grondona White

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5 Responses to “A special –for those still happy to be ´children at heart´!”

  1. Raquel Lothringer said

    Cris,
    John Keats once wrote:
    “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever”
    You have given us “things of beauty for ever”.
    Thanks!!!!!
    Rq

  2. Cris said

    Thanks a lot, Raquel, for your encouraging words! Happy to know one´s own enthusiasms are source of enjoyment to others.
    Cristina

  3. Pat said

    found you!
    thanks for the lovely meal, the delightful chat. And last but not least, the great, (huge!!) books

  4. Linda Rivera said

    7/2/2010 I think I may have found an early childhood sketch by E. H. (Shepard) Could you have a look? It is only signed E H with the number 13 underneath…I would appreciate your advice…Thanks, Linda

  5. cris1923 said

    Hi Linda, you´ve managed to excite my curiosity! Though I´m not an art expert, I´d love to take a peek. Also, d´you happen to remember where you found the sketch? It´d be interesting to know. If you can– please send copy to me.
    Best,
    Cristina

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