I was raised on A.A. Milne. Winnie-the-Pooh, The House at Pooh Corner, When We Were Very Young, and Now We Are Six were staples of my childhood, and their unique language permeated my family’s vernacular. We would often set off on “expotitions” and would find ourselves feeling “a little eleven o’clockish” and wanting a “smackerel of something.”
My mom recently gave me a copy of The Complete Takes of Winnie-the-Pooh, and as my son is nearly four, I figured it was just the time to start reading it to him. It was wonderfully slow going, as he loved to stop and marvel at Ernest H. Shepard’s beautiful illustrations, seeming to drink in the details with joy and admiration, in a way I was unaware he was capable at such a young age. Just last night was our tearful farewell to Pooh. Well, I was tearful. And by tearful, I mean, barely able to read through the weeping as my son patted my hand saying “It’s okay, mommy.”
Revisiting these stories brought to my attention something which I seem to have forgotten, or perhaps it’s just my view as an adult that makes me notice it for the first time. Disney has a history of having done some pretty awful things to Milne’s beautiful stories (the latest of which is that horrible My Friends Tigger and Pooh show that aired a few years back. Darby the girl, solving mysteries, with no Christopher Robin? WTF is that about?) Their recent animated feature is as close to right as they’ve ever been, I think, but they still miss something essential from the books: the true Eeyore. You see, in Milne’s classic tales, Eeyore isn’t just morose. I mean, he’s morose indeed, but Disney leaves out an essential personality trait. Eeyore is at times, pun fully intended, an ass.
He can be mean. Grouchy. He says nasty things. He holds grudges. Granted, it isn’t without reason. Poor Eeyore gets the short end of the stick on a rather consistent basis, and he’s one cross donkey.
Example #1: “‘You’re a real friend,’ said he. ‘Not like some,’ he said.”
Granted, that’s pretty mild. But can you imagine Disney Eeyore saying that?
Or this? “‘The others will be sorry if I’m getting myself all cold. They haven’t got Brains, any of them, only grey fluff that’s blown into their heads by mistake, and they don’t Think[…]’”
Or how about this little lesson on the alphabet? “‘Not O, A,’ said Eeyore severely. ‘Can’t you hear, or do you think you have more education than Christopher Robin?’[…] ‘It means Learning, it means Education, it means all the things that you and Pooh haven’t got.’”
His rant continues: “‘Clever!’ said Eeyore scornfully, putting a foot heavily on his three sticks. ‘Education!’ said Eeyore bitterly, jumping on his six sticks. ‘What is learning?’ asked Eeyore as he kicked his twelve sticks into the air. ‘A thing Rabbit knows! Ha!’”
Perhaps I didn’t pay attention to the Disney cartoons, but I don’t remember seeing this Eeyore.
Come on, Disney. Haven’t you met any three year olds? Grouchy is something they do well. They can handle the real Eeyore.