Tuesday, July 20, 2010

For ABC WEDNESDAY

“A” is for “A. A. Milne”

I always enjoyed reading “Winnie the Pooh” to my kids; it gave me a chance to act out the parts.

They’ve grown past Winnie the Pooh age now and would no longer be interested, but when they were small they got a kick out of such readings. Pooh, humble and naïve, wasn’t difficult to do. Piglet’s lines were delivered in a higher register, and with a certain amount of controlled squealing, as he was lively and full of spirit. Eeyore was easy; you just dropped your voice an octave or so and added overtones of melancholia and weltschmerz.

So I was interested indeed to read that A A Milne has published a new book of the series: “Return to the Hundred Acre Wood.” Though it seemed a bit odd since A A Milne died a half-century or so ago.

Turns out that it’s a new book in the series all right, but it’s by someone else, David Benedictus. If you’ve got to do a sequel of a classic, his is the way to do it. He has done a remarkable job of capturing the tone, the voice, the spirit of the original work, and the new illustrator does the same – you’d swear the pictures in the new book are by Ernest Shepard, the original artist who turned Milne’s creatures into world-famous icons.

But there’s a question. Should a great classic be rewritten? Why? After all, the original stories are available to today’s youngest generation; the Pooh characters and their activities seem fresh and new to little kids, even though they may be a bit tired and outworn to us oldsters.

The world-wide success of the Milne books has been phenomenal. The Soviet Union – remember the Soviet Union? – put out a postage stamp on the subject, which would have set you back three kopeks in 1988.

And there is today a street in Warsaw named after the bear, in Poland known as “Puchatka.”

They’ve done sequels of classics many times. “Peter Pan” was recreated in this way, and of course there was a huge kerfuffle when a sequel to “Gone With the Wind” was published.

What’s your opinion? Should they have left the original Winnie the Pooh book alone, or is it a good idea to come up with a new, well-done version of the stories?

38 comments:

evalinn said...

Well, why not let them have a try? After all a lot of what we write here in the blogosphere is borrowing each others ideas etc. Although I think I´ll always prefer the original Pooh!

Brigid said...

I too am a big AA Milne fan and I would be really happy to see the original left alone. Some of the language gets changed around when they rewrite classics and I would prefer to let all the future generations read it exactly as it was written.

A little fact I read years ago about the Winnie the Pooh stories is that each of the characters represents a typical child type so that is why we are so drawn to the story.
I often look at my children's friends and smile when I spot a 'Tigger' or an 'Eeyore'.

sheri said...

berowne, i'm with you on this one, for sure! the originals are so gorgeous that they certainly don't need to be redone...unless, of course, they've been read so many times that the pages are difficult to read ;) suffice to say i would purchase a later printing of the same book, though :)
what a great post, well written, and i enjoyed the history behind this cuddly, wonderful bear!

RuneE said...

It all depends: It has been translated to numerous other languages, and if the English language has changed maybe a new "translation" is in order. However, if it is just not politically right with some weird group or other it should not be. Than it is censorship.

Sylvia K said...

I'm with you and Sheri -- these originals don't need to be redone. Interesting and well done post as always, Berowne! Hope you're enjoying a great week!

Sylvia

Mama Zen said...

I prefer that the classics be left alone!

Anna said...

Hmm... My gut reaction is that classics should be left alone. There is something wrong with going in and doing a sequel of a work my a dead author. It feels wrong.

Interesting post, with very thought-provoking questions. Something to return to at a later date, I am sure. The last word is not said about Winnie the Pooh.
Best wishes,
Anna

A is for Anna!

jabblog said...

I think the original illustrations were monochrome so adding colour to them seemed revolutionary. I don't think a classic like this should be rewritten to reflect politically correct thinking, if that's why it's been done. That seems to me like rewriting history or removing individuals from photographs - not a true reflection.

Berowne said...

Sylvia K: "Interesting and well done post as always, Berowne! Hope you're enjoying a great week!"
I am, now that I've received your comment. :-)

Roger Owen Green said...

Literature evolves. Think of all the versions of the Bible. There's King James, but there's alsoo the Revised Standard Version.

Not keen on the GWTW-type remakes, but let the market decide.

ROG, ABC Wednesday team

signed...bkm said...

The original will always be a Classic - but I say go for it..the newer version will stand on its own if it is good...like "Wicked" - on the Wizard of OZ...great post and great question....bkm

Berowne said...

"...great post and great question....bkm"
And great comment. :-)

photowannabe said...

If it isn't broken why fix it?

Annelie said...

I Love Winnie, we read it here in Sweden to. But here he is called Nalle Puh♥

Annelie E, ABC Wednesday

Rockin' Robin said...

Very interesting. I don't think the should have released a sequel. Classics lie in originality of the work itself. Old Pooh will still be fresh to our children no matter what, and the fact that the parents had experienced the connection to those very same characters and very same story lines gives room for families to bond. I get just as frustrated when the remake a good older movie!

Dimple said...

My mother read me Pooh stories, and I read them to my children. I don't think more are needed, however well done they might be.

MorningAJ said...

Excellent question. I'm torn. I think rewrites are OK in principle - but I'd rather they left Pooh alone.

Gramma Ann said...

I like the classic as they are. There are alot of spinoffs of the Jane Austen books. Since I am a Jane Austen fan, I have read a few of them, but, they are never as good as Jane's versions.

Mara said...

I love Winnie the Pooh. Did you know he was born in Harrods? AA Milne bought the original toy bear for his son in that shop.

Sequels and 'versions of' are a different matter. It's as if they can't think of anything original anymore.

LisaF said...

I so much prefer the original Pooh to the Disneyfied version. The drawings are so much more emotional for me.

Linda Frances said...

I'm also a A.A. Milne fan—both stories and poetry. Your words added so many intriguing facts to the photos.

Some of my favorite lines are lines of poetry:

Halfway down the stairs
is a stair
where i sit.
there isn't any
other stair
quite like
it.
i'm not at the bottom,
i'm not at the top;
so this is the stair
where
I always
stop.

I'm not in favor of "tampering" with the English words as they were written. Translators, of course, must attempt to adhere to the spirit and cadence of the story.

Linda
ABC team

Leslie: said...

Did you know that Pooh was named after a bear in the zoo in Winnipeg? ("Winnie the Pooh")

Gayle said...

I think there's room for both. The original will always stand up and the revised might appeal to a different audience who wouldn't otherwise have been aware of the classic.

Hildred and Charles said...

I like Pooh just the way he is, and A.A. Milne captured the times and his characters perfectly. If we must have modern politically correct children's books they should stand on their own, not on the shoulders of the classics.

Jeanne said...

I just hope they're not as bad as the sequel to GWTW--what a stinker.

ds said...

Pooh would most likely consider it a Grand Adventure, and Piglet would tag along. Eeyore would grumble about Some People Not Knowing When to Leave Well Enough Alone. Tigger would simply bounce. I think I'm with Eeyore: leave them in the Hundred Acre Wood, but do visit upon occasion.

Martha said...

Oh, bother! I really don't know what to think!

Tumblewords: said...

Leave them alone, please. There are enough words in Websters and enough drawings on Flickr to create a new book without tampering with the old.

Tattered and Lost said...

I think it has to do with a lazy author and editors simply seeing dollar signs.

These sort of books remind me of fan fiction. Someone has already done the hard work of fleshing out the characters, then someone comes along, and imitating the style, writes their bad version. There's nothing original about them. It's purely for cash.

It's sort of like watching any Law and Order "Ripped from the Headlines" show. Nothing original about them.

K(Banterings of a Basketcase) said...

stories are always re-written- but we can all chose to stick with the original. my favorite joke: what was piglet looking for in the potty? pooh! sorry, couldnt help myself

Wanda said...

Lovely post. Love Pooh. My daughter who is now 40 loved "The Blustery Day" the best. We read that over, and over, and over.........

Berowne said...

What a great series of comments from the ABC WEDNESDAY group. My sincere thanks.

black eyed susans kitchen said...

Have always loved Milne, and Pooh, and Tigger too!

ChrisJ said...

I have the original (not as author's original) "When we Were Very Young" and "Now we are Six".

I have to admit to rewriting an original"Mary Anerley" by R.D. Blackmore, author of "Lorna Doone", but I did it because it was written in the 19 century, was very verbose and the story takes place in the village where I grew up. It wasn't his best writing but it was based on a legend in my village.(Flamborough, Yorks.)I didn't want the story to die and nobody would be willing to wade through all those pages of very fine print today. I did try to stick to the story and keep his writing style (wry humor). It is called the "Tale of Robin Lyth" You can see a little about it on my blog.
So happy to be reminded of Christopher Robin. In general I would say, leave well enough alone. That's what I thought about the modern versions of the Bible until I found my students couldn't understand the KJV. So if for reasons of clarity...

youareuseless said...

I, like most of us here, wish the classics would be left alone. However, it's encouraging in a way when a wonderful book becomes successful enough to invite countless spinoffs. There seems to be a direct relationship between how successful a classic is and how much it will be taken advantage of, unfortunately.

Great post! I loved, loved, loved Pooh as a child. But I always felt the most affinity with Christopher Robin.

Megan

kathew said...

when I was a child my father would read Pooh stories to me and he would laugh and laugh..I didn't quite get what he was laughing at until I read the same stories to my boys...and I would laugh and laugh...stories for all ages! Love this post! Thanks!

Leo said...

oh yes.. for all ages indeed.. i like Winnie the Pooh.. :D my fav character though is Eeyore..!

Amy said...

I know I'm so behind - just catching up. I LOVE A.A. Milne - was so happy this Spring when my grandson, Elliot, turned one, a very good family friend gave him a beautiful edition of Winnie the Pooh. Great choice for A!

 
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