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  • Katherine Dudley Hoehn

Winnie-the-Pooh characters in real life


hippo head above water at zoo
Is it a heffalump or a hippo at the St. Louis Zoo?

Recently, one of my sons, who heard Winnie-the-Pooh stories from his earliest days, said he'd never read them to his children. This grandmother will be bringing out the books on the next visit because the adventures - the real A.A. Milne books and not the Disney version - are priceless.


When I worked full time, I often thought about how every workplace (or volunteer place) is really the Hundred Acre Wood (where Winnie-the-Pooh and friends live). Then and now, I have little patience with long meetings. Sometimes, I silently name the characters from Winnie-the-Pooh around the table. Everyone can be identified with Pooh or one of his friends or his friend's friends because A.A. Milne expertly captured most personality traits. Sometimes folks take on more than one character.


In most work and volunteer situations, there is more than one female character. In Winnie-the-Pooh, the only female of significance is Kanga. For purposes of this analogy, characters may be male or female.

You know Eeyore. The one who tells you before you inquire that they had a sleepless night, or that they have unexplained aches and pains. Eeyore has all the reasons an idea won't work and an excuse for not having finished on time. But Eeyore can be kind and thoughtful.


Roo is Kanga's progeny. He's tiny and energetic and the youngest of the main characters. While Disney made him a good friend of Tigger, I don't think A.A. Milne saw it that way. In my work places, Roo might have been the enthusiastic receptionist who knew the scoop on everything, got little credit for their work, and was rarely seen at their full height because they were behind a desk all day.


Rabbit shows up midway through the meetings and begins commenting about things already decided but that he missed because he was late and his opinion matters. He always has an excuse for his tardiness and his way is the only way.


Owl does more listening than talking. He or she waits for silence, then sums it all up and leaves everyone wondering why it took an hour of discussion when Owl had the answer all along. But Owl understands that the process and inclusiveness are important. My best boss ever was Owl and it served him, our company, and our country well.


Piglet doesn't have all the answers but he is adorable and a lovely shade of pink. Everyone loves him and sometimes he volunteers for jobs nobody else wants to do. He's the hall monitor during fire drills and saves the day when there is a real fire.


Christopher Robin is sometimes the boss or a department head but often joins in with everyone to play and lets others take charge sometimes. He's more a choreographer than a director because he's a child at heart minus the wisdom of some of the more senior critters who actually live in the Hundred Acre Wood. In the workplace he might be the one promoted a little too soon but he knows enough to ask for help.


Winnie-the-Pooh is lovable but not very smart. He can't be in charge, although others often look to him for guidance because he is so nice. In the workplace, he's the one who knows how to make lunch and dinner reservations and knows who has the best happy hours. He comes out with rather smart quips that sometimes sound deeper than he understands. Although lovable, he has an addiction problem.


Tigger has ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). He's lively and sometimes out of control. His enthusiasm takes over his ability to rationally deal with a situation. He gets everyone excited but has trouble getting the job done without the help of a few lesser characters (such as Bees) who are more task oriented.


Bees in real life are critical to our food supply and a key meter for the health of our environment. In Winnie-the-Pooh, they supply the hive Pooh continually raids in his manic panic to feed his honey addiction. In the workplace, they're the characters whose names you don't always remember but who are the barometers for the organization and the ones who are reliable and work hard.


Alexander Beetle, who is not a main character, is the employee who can't admit his mistakes. In Winnie-the-Pooh, he hid for several days, in a crack, after becoming upset about something. Alexander is sensitive and quits instead of owning up and correcting.


You know a Henry Rush, a beetle presumably related to Alexander, who danced at the harvest festival, kept the cricket game score, and attended the spelling bee. He's the committee member or staffer who volunteers for everything, organizes the Christmas party, gives treats at Halloween, and decorates his work station for the holidays.


Heffalumps are the mysterious animals that, in the A.A. Milne books, are never seen, supposedly elephant-like, and figments of Piglet's imagination. At work, they are the ones who always take extra mints when the receptionist isn't looking, empty the water cooler without replacing the bottle, and explode stinky things in the microwave.


I spent many years as a Kanga. Throughout my career, men were usually in charge, with few women at the table. Once I got to the table, I was still the Kanga. A more senior female colleague once called me out after I introduced myself to the head of the company by first talking about my children, not the credentials they hired me for. "And stop bringing in baked goods. They need to see you for what you bring to the table, not from the kitchen." I took notice, but I don't think I ever got completely out of the caretaking Kanga mode.


As a semi-retired consultant and writer, I now find myself returning to be more of a Kanga, although I am sometimes a Tigger, Bee, or Rabbit. Maybe to my children I am sometimes an Owl. Most often now, I enjoy the camaraderie in the kitchen and behind the scenes more than running the show.


Which resident of the Hundred Acre Wood are you?



A.A. Milne, a playwright, journalist, poet, and storyteller, published Winnie-the-Pooh in 1926 and a sequel, The House at Pooh Corner, in 1928. Milne's son, Christopher Robin, and his toy animals were his inspiration and the illustrations by Ernest H. Shepherd were based on Christopher Robin's real toys.


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7 Comments


Guest
Mar 30

I can relate to such a fun game. Great blog and love your writing style.

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pmcstichweh
Mar 29

I will never again sit in a meeting or a group without thinking of which Pooh character is sitting with me😂😂

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Katherine Dudley Hoehn
Mar 29
Replying to

It's great fun. I started doing it when I worked in Washington. The characters are everywhere. I feel sorry for the people who work from home and don't get that same opportunity to study the personalities.

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loriflemming2015
loriflemming2015
Mar 29

This may be my favorite of all your blogs! So hilarious and so true!!! Love you, my friend!

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listentothemom
Mar 29
Replying to

Awe thanks. It's a fun game to play in a boring meeting!

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Guest
Mar 29

I love your character sketches although I never read Winnie the Pooh. Ever. Maybe it's time! Thank you.

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Guest
Mar 29

Lovely! I am clearly a Tigger, with traces of Kanga still lingering now that my grandchildren are all adults. How did that happen? Thank you for this, I will try to remember it the next time I get stuck in an terminable meeting!

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