The Canadian Medical Association Journal helps us understand the pathologies behind A. A. Milne’s classic children’s story characters.
We all know the premise of A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh: Boy meets bear, and they have innocent, life-lesson-filled adventures with other animals that don’t wear pants. But what if the cherished characters from the Hundred Acre Wood aren’t actually as happy as they seem? If you don’t want your favorite childhood story to be ruined forever, you probably shouldn’t read any further.
In “Pathology in the Hundred Acre Wood: a neurodevelopmental perspective on A.A. Milne” from the Canadian Medical Association Journal, researchers Sarah E. Shea, Kevin Gordon, Ann Hawkins, Janet Kawchuk and Donna Smith delve into the psychology behind our quirky, furry friends and completely turn Winnie-the-Pooh on its head. Following the standards of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the psychiatrist’s bible) and literary analysis, Shea and co. claim Pooh and the gang are not childish, delightful friends in a fairytale world but “Seriously Troubled Individuals.” Let’s see how:
For starters, Pooh is not just a beloved ball of fluff. His obsession with honey, repetitive counting behavior and fleeting, “little brain” characterization can be associated with a multitude of psychological disorders. The researchers question if Pooh has a case of “Shaken Bear Syndrome,” along with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). “Pooh needs intervention,” they bluntly state.
With his frantic tendency to fear and worry about every little thing, this stuttering, high-strung pig is adorably anxious, but is it serious enough to be diagnosed? Shea and co. believe Piglet’s neuroticism is Generalized Anxiety Disorder, stemming from “emotional trauma he experienced while attempting to trap heffalumps.”
His bouncy tail matches his extra-energetic personality. Even though “bouncing is what Tiggers do best,” the researchers claim his impulsive ways and boundless energy — two key indicators of ADHD — are highly destructive.
It’s not much of a surprise that our favorite melancholic donkey is diagnosed with depression. While the psychological study recommends antidepressants, I think Eeyore would feel much better if he didn’t have that pin for his tail constantly stabbing his rear.
In one of the most far-fetched character analyses, Shea and co. parse Kanga’s overprotective nature as a single mother and Roo’s high chance of failure as a result: “We predict we will someday 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.”
When is the psychoanalysis of children’s story characters appropriate? And when does it devolve into a takedown of something pure and innocent? Was Milne in fact exploring the darkness of mental illness? Or did he just create unique, eccentric characters?
Fair questions, though Shea and co. don’t seem to be performing such analysis as much as they’re poking fun at the ridiculousness it can extend to. With the emphasis on needing to pick apart every facet of literature and the ongoing debate over the medical accuracy of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, one can’t help but question how much analysis is too much analysis.