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The Hundred Acre Wood: A Second Look

by Aimee Madsen
Eugene, Oregon
2/7/02

Used with Permission

The is a review of "Pathology...A Neurodevelopmental Perspective on A. A. Milne" by Sarah-the Shea, Ann-the-Hawkins, Janet-the-Kawchuk and Donna-the-Smith, Developmental Pediatrics Dept., and Kevin-the-Gordon. Div. of Neurology, Dept. of Pediatrics, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS.

In this article the authors, a board of developmental researchers at Dalhousie University, reviewed a cast of characters loved by many. They reviewed the characters to be found in Christopher Robin’s Hundred acre Wood as told be A. A. Milne. “On the surface it is an innocent world, but on closer examination by our group of experts we find a forest where neurodevelopmental and psychosocial problems go unrecognized and untreated.” The authors go on to say that they are a group of seriously troubled individuals that suffer from significant disorders.

Winnie-the-Pooh they say suffers not only possible Shaken Bear Syndrome, and morbid fixation on honey, but more serious problems...Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) leading to his obesity and possibly, later, to Tourette’s Syndrome. Piglet clearly suffers from Generalized Anxiety Disorder and needs to be placed on an anti-panic agent. Eeyore suffers from serious Depression, though it is not clear whether this is inherited, or from early trauma. Owl is obviously cloaking his Dyslexia, and Tigger often displays a recurrent pattern of risk-taking behaviors leading the child Roo into danger. They are considerably concerned for Roo’s future in which they see a “...delinquent, jaded adolescent Roo hanging out late at night at the top of the forest, the ground littered with broken bottles of extract of malt and the butts of smoked thistles.” Kanga is overprotective leading to questions of prior run-ins with social services while she raises Roo alone and afraid. Rabbit is overly self-important and his need to organize others with himself at the top is overwhelming. Last is Christopher Robin. He is in obvious need of adult supervision as he spends all of his time talking to animals and possessing a possible future gender crisis.

I personally found this subject an intriguing one not only because of my love of the workings of the mind, but also because I , too, have invited these characters into my home. I have loved these stories and cherished the personalities, always appreciating the seeming glimpse into a young mind. The authors have obviously put quite the time into thinking on this, and they must have a very good thinking spot of their own indeed. I believe, that the authors have a general love of the characters and that this was the reasoning behind their taking a “second look.” They back up these hypothesis very well. They cite Pooh’s constant repetitive counting behaviors and obesity as results and contributors to the OCD. Also they point out the fact that early on he was often taken by the foot and dragged down the stairs on the back of his head, bump, bump, bump, as evidence to the Shaken Bear syndrome.

Piglet, to me, was an obvious diagnosis, but they did back up their hypothesis for the paroxetine with the traumatic event of trying to trap heffalumps. Their diagnosis of Kanga, however, needs to be argued with. There seems to have been no evidence at all that the state was ever involved with her and her son. Roo also seems well-adjusted to me, and while all fatherless children bear some risk of growing up to hard circumstances, I think this is partly waylaid by his attachment to another adult male ‘father-figure.’ Although Tigger has drawbacks and is admittedly impulsive, I think that this is out weighted by his affection towards Roo.

Back to the point at hand. Although the researchers have backed up their point of view well, I think that they have missed the bigger picture and so misdiagnosed entirely. They seem to be working from the premise that the Hundred Acre Wood is real as are the characters in it. Now, do not jump to conclusions. Beyond doubt Christopher Robin is a real boy as evidenced by the fact that he is the source of A. A. Milne’s stories. The problem lies not with the characters themselves and their individual disorders, but with the boy.

I believe that the boy Christopher Robin has never in actuality been to this Hundred Acre Wood. I believe, rather, that the Hundred Acre Wood is inside of the boy. And as for the characters, has anyone but the boy ever met them, or are they, too, inside Christopher Robin’s head?

I believe, upon further review, that Christopher Robin suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder, or MPD. Admittedly this is a controversial statement, but as I have been assured of the reader’s willingness to try new ideas, I proceed. I suggest then that the characters that we have all come to know and love are not the innocent musings of a young boy as they first seem. I believe that these characters are actually the intricate inner workings of a fissured young mind.

I believe Christopher Robin to be the dominant personality. “What leadership there is in the Hundred Acre Wood is simply that offered by one small boy, Christopher Robin...”This seems to be correct, at least in some sense. When Winnie-the-Pooh gets his nose stuck in a honey jar he goes to Christopher Robin. When Christopher Robin cannot find an answer, they go to Owl. This is very probably the personality to which he usually turns for insight, or when he is troubled. Owl, unfortunately, is flawed in that for one he cannot seem to care for the others as much as his own knowledge.

Another typical fissure, or personality is that of a young, innocent child that is unhindered by the knowledge that has caused the original personality to fissure. Christopher Robin has named him Roo. This fact alone puts my mind to ease about the future of the character; he will probably not advance beyond this stage of development. Everyone has a need for this unblemished inner child who is still secure and inquisitive of his surroundings. Also quieting my fears for this young one is the fact that there is another personality seemingly put there just for his protection. Not surprisingly, it takes the form of a mother in Kanga. The fact that she is overprotective could be simply the fact that this is what Roo needs, or that this mother figure knows the information the child is not supposed to know, and wishes to keep him safe from it.

Pooh seems to be the most complex of the personalities, directly behind Christopher Robin himself. He seems to be the one that was subjected to the trauma, since he is the one noted to have a Very Little Brain, and since he is the one that we are told was dragged by the foot down the stairs. He is also the one that shows the most survival instinct as evidenced by his compulsion and fixation on honey (food). Although much of the story concerns the bear, I will say only this: the fact that Christopher Robin sees Pooh as the one that was hurt could be the reason that he has such an affinity towards the “silly old bear.” My concern, however, is that Pooh is Christopher Robin’s most constant companion, by the boy’s will. Christopher Robin seems to hold the hurt close to himself in an attempt to protect it.

Now we come to the personalities and traits that concern me the most. First of all Rabbit. “We note his tendency to be extraordinarily self-important and his odd belief that he has a great many relations (many of other species!) and of friends. He seems to have this overriding need to organize others, often against their will, into new groupings, with himself always at the top of the reporting structure...” Obviously, this child is feeling out of control of his environment and compensating for that by the creation of a personality that can re-organize and get reports of information at will. This is a common fantasy for those that are unable to control their lives. Some turn to self torture like anorexia or bulemia, or self cutting: Christopher Robin seems to revert into himself and create importance and continuity there. My guess would be that the times that Rabbit is most active are the times that Christopher Robin is feeling the most disoriented.

The characters of Piglet and Eeyore are disturbing. Both of the character’s over riding emotions, anxiety and depression respectively, are serious reactions to stress and trauma. Both are suffering from whatever has happened to the core personality and if they are not to come to grips, or at the least to cope with every day living, I fear for Christopher Robin dearly.

Lastly, and most disconcerting of all is the personality or character of Tigger. This is the personality that is the most unpredictable, and so unstable. He often flirts with danger, both in his sampling of everything at his entrance to the Wood, and his seeming need for pushing the limits of safety both in bouncing and climbing trees, and occasionally flying. Although he is “gregarious and affectionate” especially towards Roo, he sometimes ”leads Roo into danger.” My main fear is that on some occasions, when the strain has become too great within the personality structure, one of the personalities fights for control of the whole, sometimes harming the other personalities or even the body. As I see it, Tigger is the most likely for this. Even when asked to spell his name he says,” T. I. Double g. RRRRR!” To me this seems a tad intimidating, and so a cause for concern and careful watching.

The researchers who wrote the article did a wonderful job and jumped the first hurdle to the understanding of Christopher Robin and the stories from the Hundred Acre Wood. They first questioned a widely held thought...that this was normal, and innocent. They did us all a great service in this. They also dare to think, and even to state, that there was a need for intervention and even medication. Bravo! However, I think that they stopped too soon in their analysis. They were correct, I believe, on the inner workings of the characters, but missed the problem of reality. To put it another way they could not see past their own paradigms and so missed the bigger picture.

“Somewhere at the top of the forest a little boy and his bear play. Sadly, the forest is not, in fact, a place of enchantment, but rather one of disenchantment, where neurodevelopmental and psychosocial problems go unrecognized and untreated.”