To celebrate the 90th anniversary of the creation of Winnie the Pooh, publisher Egmont is releasing an official sequel comprising four new stories by various authors. One of them has thrown a penguin into the mix. This raises some questions.
This news comes via The Guardian, covering The Best Bear in All the World:
Author Brian Sibley was inspired to create the character of Penguin by a little-known photograph of Milne with his son Christopher Robin Milne, in which Christopher is playing with a penguin toy alongside a teddy bear. The latter, which was renamed Winnie-the-Pooh after London Zoo’s Canadian black bear Winnie, was bought by Christopher’s mother Daphne Milne from the Harrods toy department, and was the inspiration for Milne’s best-loved stories set in the Hundred Acre Wood.
At first, your humble blogger recoiled at this. A penguin? What the hell would a penguin be doing palling around with a bear (Winnie the Pooh), a pig (Piglet), a donkey (Eeyore), a rabbit (Rabbit), and an owl (Owl)? This penguin makes no sense whatsoever. Who asked for this penguin?
Then, of course, I remembered the additional characters of Tigger, a tiger, and Roo, a kangaroo, neither of whom have any business in this mix, either. “The thought of Pooh encountering a penguin seemed no more outlandish than his meeting a kangaroo and a tiger in a Sussex wood, so I started thinking about what might have happened if, on a rather snowy day, Penguin had found his way to Pooh Corner,” Sibley told the Guardian.
So now my question is: What the fuck is going on with the ecology of the Hundred Acre Wood? It seems to be your basic English rural area, though it seems to flood very comprehensively under the right circumstances. Are hollow trees a common feature of the English countryside?
Sources (i.e., Wikipedia) say that the Hundred Acre Wood is in fact based on a real-life Hundred Acre Wood in Ashdown Forest of East Sussex, south of London. Apparently it was a deer-hunting forest in the Norman period and remains a free public space:
Ashdown Forest is one of the largest single continuous blocks of lowland heath, semi-natural woodland and valley bog in south east England. Its geology is a major influence on its biology and ecology. The underlying sandstone geology of the Ashdown Sands, when combined with a local climate that is generally wetter, cooler and windier than the surrounding area owing to the forest’s elevation, which rises from 200 feet (61 m) to over 700 feet (210 m) above sea level, gives rise to sandy, largely podzolic soils that are characteristically acid, clay, and nutrient-poor. On these poor, infertile soils have developed heathland, valley mires and damp woodland. These conditions have never favoured cultivation and have been a barrier to agricultural improvement.
I’m no scientist, but none of this appears to explains what a tiger, a kangaroo, and now a penguin are doing in residence. For that matter, why is a tiny pink pig—apparently a domesticated type—roaming the wilderness with a bear? A bear from Canada, by way of a city zoo?
What is happening in the Hundred Acre Wood? Are these animals escaping from somewhere? A poorly run circus, maybe? Or, more alarming, is there a top-secret government lab deep in the heart of the Hundred Acre Wood? Please send any leads, tips or evidence you might have to firstname.lastname@example.org.*
*Don’t actually do this.