To explain: fifty years earlier (and for those without sufficient fingers, that was 1926) A A Milne had written a book entitled Winnie-the-Pooh. It was inspired by his son's teddy bear of the same name and it had wonderful decorations by the artist and illustrator, E H Shepard.
Because everyone enjoyed the stories and pictures about Pooh and his friends in the '100 Aker Wood', Mr Milne and Mr Shepard put together another volume, two years later, going under the title of The House at Pooh Corner.
Eighty-something years on - or, to put it another way, nine days ago - we saw the publication of Return to the Hundred Acre Wood, a sequel to Mr Milne's books written by David Benedictus and illustrated (after the style of Shepard) by Mark Burgess.
In view of all of which, I should like to offer my readers, a newly discovered episode in the life of the Bear of Very Little Brain...
In which Winnie-the-Pooh discovers that
whereas they had been two they were now three
whereas they had been two they were now three
Winnie-the-Pooh was counting. The only counting Pooh usually did involved checking how many honey pots there were - or sometimes, disappointingly, weren't - in his cupboard. Today, however, which happened to be his birthday, Pooh was counting books.
"That's strange," said Pooh to himself, rubbing his nose thoughtfully with his paw, "because there have only ever been Two for as long as I can remember (and I can't remember how long that is) but now there are Three which is one more than there ought to be. And that is what I call very strange."
"What is?" asked Piglet who had just arrived at Pooh's house to see whether it was the sort of day when Something Exciting might be going to happen or whether it was just one of those days where nothing really happened which would be even better, provided he and Pooh were together when it wasn't happening.
"It's puzzling," said Pooh, puzzled.
On the table were three books that all looked very similar. Piglet looked at them.
One was called Winnie-the-Pooh, which of course Piglet knew was Pooh's name, although he also knew that it had stories in it about him - Piglet - including one in which for a shortish time he went under the name of Henry Pootle.
The book next to it had rather more words on the cover, but Piglet knew, because Christopher Robin had told him, that it said The House at Pooh Corner and he knew that he was in that book too, especially in a story about how he had done a Very Grand Thing.
And then there was a third book...
"Where did that come from?" asked Piglet, understanding now why Pooh was puzzled.
"Just what I ask myself, " said Pooh.
And just as Pooh was asking himself that question, Owl arrived because he had heard about the very puzzling situation concerning Pooh's Books from Eeyore the old grey donkey (who had heard it from two of Rabbit's Friends and Relations, Late and Early) and decided it was one of those times when Someone with a Mind was called for.
Owl turned the third book round several times so that he could get a good look at it first sideways and then upside down and eventually announced that it was called Return to the Hundred Acre Wood which sounded like a railway ticket that Christopher Robin had showed him once when he had come back from the seaside.
It was just about then that Rabbit bustled in with a very worried look on his face. "Owl," he said importantly and then added "And Pooh," and then, noticing Piglet, "And Piglet... We are not alone!"
Pooh looked round in case maybe Kanga and Baby Roo had come along too or perhaps Tigger had bounced into the room without his noticing, although it was almost impossible not to notice Tigger even when he was trying not to bounce.
"No, Rabbit," said Pooh, "you are mistaken. We are alone, if you can be alone, that is, when there are three of you."
"Four!" said Rabbit crossly. There are four of us here, Pooh, or can't you count?"
"Not very well, lately," replied Pooh, "I was just saying to myself before the rest of you arrived, there used to be only Two Books about me and all of us in the Forest and now there are Three!"
"And that's not the worst of it," said Rabbit, dramatically seizing the third book. "There's a story in here about an Otter."
A what-er?" asked Pooh.
"It's an animal," explained Rabbit, "like us only different. It's a mustelid."
"A Mustard Lid?" asked Pooh, getting very confused.
"Well," said Owl, "that explains it! Everyone knows that Mustard is One of the Hotter Condiments."
"Not hotter," said Rabbit, who was beginning to lose his patience, "Otter! They live in rivers and are related to weasles."
"I think you mean Woozles," put in Pooh who had once tracked a Woozle-that wasn't."
"But, according to this book," persisted Rabbit, "there is an Otter is called Lottie who is supposed to be One of Us."
Rabbit waited for this information to sink in before going on.
"I have conducted a Thorough Check," went on Rabbit, "and asked all my Friends and Relations - including Small who is always going missing and tends to Finds Things Out while trying to find his way back - and all of them say the same thing."
"And what is that?" asked Owl.
"That this character - and, therefore, I suspect, the entire book - is a Fraudulent Deception!"
Piglet was just asking Pooh, in a whisper, what a Fraudulent Deception was and whether it was larger than a Heffalump and had teeth at the sharp end, when Eeyore arrived.
"Does anyone know anything about this new book?" he asked. "Not that I'm bothered, because I don't suppose I'm in it and, even if I were, it would only be by mistake, just because I had happened to wander in, rather like now, and sat down on one of the pages. You don't mind if I sit down, do you Pooh, even though you haven't actually asked me?"
Pooh said Eeyore was welcome to sit down and Eeyore did so, muttering to himself, "A little consideration for others, a modicum of thoughtfulness what does it cost? Nothing and Everything!"
"Of course," said Owl, ignoring Eeyore's interruption, "you could say that Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery."
Leafing through the book and chuckling to himself, Owl added, "For example, there are several things in here said by Eeyore which, as far as I know, he hasn't ever said, but could have and might have done if he'd only thought of them!"
"Typical!" sighed Eeyore. "They take your words and twist them to make them say whatever they want them to say. But what does it matter? After all, it's only Eeyore!"
"Anyway," said Rabbit with an irritated moving-on kind of cough, "the important thing to decide is what are we going to do about it."
"Let's ask Christopher Robin," said Piglet just as Christopher Robin walked through the door.
"About this book," began Pooh, "that wasn't One of the Two but is now a Third..."
"It really doesn't matter much," replied Christopher Robin, "because I learned in sums that three into two doesn't go, so that settles it."
And suddenly everyone felt much happier about everything.
"And, now," went on Christopher Robin, "I really think it's time for a little Smackerel of Something, because today is Winnie-the-Pooh's birthday!"
Which is exactly what they had, except for Pooh who had a Rather Large Smackerel of Something which, in Pooh's case meant the entire contents of a not-exactly-small jar of honey.
And when Pooh tipped up the pot - just to check that the honey went right down to the bottom of the jar, which it usually does, but you never can tell - several largish dollops of honey got dolloped, quite by accident, onto the copy of Return to the Hundred Acre Wood so that the pages got all stuck together and everyone knew, without actually Saying it Out Loud, that they would never have to open it again...
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, POOH BEAR!
Images: Illustrations by Mark Burgess (in the style of E H Shepard) from Return to the Hundred Acre Wood © 2009