A new Winnie the Pooh book hits the stands today, more than 80 years after A.A. Milne’s final classic. “Return to the Hundred Acre Wood” by David Benedictus is the first sequel authorized by Milne’s estate, said The New York Times, and will introduce a “saucy, pearl-wearing” new character called Lottie the Otter.
I would expect this to rile my book-purist heart, but “sequels” written by new authors don’t push my curmudgeon buttons. At worst, they are only irrelevant. Alexandra Ripley’s “Scarlett,” may have been dreadful, for instance, but that didn’t change how I felt about Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With The Wind”.
In Pooh’s case, perhaps the news doesn’t sting because the bear and his friends were long ago Disneyfied and commercialized. Or it might be the example set by comic book publishers, where new writers and artists reinterpret characters and start new storylines, long after the creators have moved on or died.
Besides, the evidence shows that human nature craves sequels as badly as candy, even with books that – like the original Pooh – have the loveliest, most final endings. Just look at how readers write endless stories set in the worlds of the books they love, in the form of unauthorized “fan fiction.” On one main site, fan-fiction.net, the Twilight books alone feature more than 100,000 registered fan-written stories. Harry Potter has more than 400,000; even Gossip Girl topped 5,000.
Winnie the Pooh? His fan fiction category only boasts 14 entries, not all of them relevant or even readable. It doesn’t seem so bad to add one lovingly researched, long-considered work to the authorized canon – otter and all.
Rebekah Denn writes at eatallaboutit.com.