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Wednesday, February 4, 1998 Published at 16:15 GMT



World

Blair urged to bring home Winnie the Pooh
image: [ Winnie the Pooh and his friends are familiar to three generations of British children (©Walt Disney Corp) ]
Winnie the Pooh and his friends are familiar to three generations of British children (©Walt Disney Corp)

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been given a tough challenge by MPs: free the "Winnie the Pooh Five" and bring them home.

Mr Blair flies to Washington on Wednesday to meet US President Bill Clinton and several MPs want him to raise the fate of Winnie, Tigger, Kanga, Eeyore and Piglet when he meets the leader of the western world.

The original stuffed animals on which AA Milne's stories were based have been incarcerated in a glass case at New York Public Library for 70 years.

Labour MP Gwyneth Dunwoody, who visited the furry exiles a few weeks ago, is to raise their plight in Parliament.

Seek their repatriation

She has tabled a Commons question to Culture Secretary Chris Smith asking what plans he has to made to seek their repatriation.

Mrs Dunwoody said: "They are part of our heritage and they want to come home.

"I saw them recently and they look very unhappy indeed. I am not surprised, considering they have been incarcerated in a glass case in a foreign country for all these years."

She said the first publisher of the books took the stuffed animals over to New York and donated them to the library.

Mrs Dunwoody said: "These were the actual toys on which the illustrator, Ernest Howard Shepard, based his marvellous drawings which brought the stories to life.

Just like Elgin marbles

"Just like the Greeks want their Elgin marbles back so we want our Winnie the Pooh back, along with all his splendid friends and it is about time we got them back.

"This is where they belong. They plainly want to come home after 70 wasted years exile."

Winnie the Pooh was first published in 1926 and has since become one of the most loved books for young readers.

The stories were written by AA Milne, who used his young son Christopher Robin as one of the central characters.
[ image: AA Milne's son, Christopher Robin, pictured in the Ashdown Forest where the book was set]
AA Milne's son, Christopher Robin, pictured in the Ashdown Forest where the book was set

"Bear of very little brain"

The book was set in the Ashdown Forest in East Sussex and Winnie, a "bear of very little brain", was based on a real-life bear of the same name who was once a mascot for a Canadian Army regiment.

The original Winnie was handed over to London Zoo in 1914 when the Canadians were posted to Britain during the First World War.

Milne came across Winnie when he used took Christopher Robin on walks around the zoo.

Winnie the Pooh features a game called Pooh sticks, in which the characters drop twigs from a bridge to race them in the swirling stream below and see which emerges first on the other side.

The original bridge where Pooh sticks was first played by Christopher Robin is at Hartfield, East Sussex.

The branches of nearby trees have been stripped bare by thousands of visitors eager to play the game.


 





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04 Feb 98 | World
World affairs and Winnie the Pooh on Blair's agenda

 
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New York Public Library

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