Now (and forever) we are six Pooh's companion: Christopher Robin Milne passes, but his fanciful childhood endures.

April 25, 1996

THE HUMAN WHO was Christopher Robin died this month, but the real Christopher Robin will live forever in the Hundred-Acre Wood, playing with and consoling Winnie the Pooh and his other animal friends, as long as there are children to sit on a parent's knee and listen in wonder.

The wide-eyed, mop-haired son of British author A. A. Milne inspired the beloved tales about Pooh and Piglet, Eeyore and Tigger and their young companion 70 years ago. They remain enduring children's classics, revitalized for later generations by films of Walt Disney.

Like the stuffed animals that came to life through the pen of the elder Milne, Christopher Robin Milne's charming childhood was a product of imagination. Mr. Milne resented the confusion of his life with that of the ever-young Christopher Robin in his father's books. The popular author was cold and distant, Christopher Robin said, relegating the child to the care of a nurse: "His heart remained buttoned up all through his life," the son recalled.

The childish spirit of the fictional Christopher Robin was that of A. A. Milne, who reflected his own longing for a never-ending, wonder-filled childhood through stories he made up for the son. They were stories for children, all children, and not descriptions or time-softened reminiscences of the author's son.

That the writer's skill did not extend to parenting, as remembered by Christopher Robin, is a shortcoming that many can understand. The impulse may have been there, but found its expression in another course. And generations of other children have been the richer.

For Christopher Robin Milne, who died at age 75, the worldwide legacy of Winnie the Pooh gave him the cachet to pursue his personal adult goals, whether it was promoting Save the Children or preservation of old forest lands. Not a bad gift from a silly old bear.

Pub Date: 4/25/96

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