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Winnie-the-Pooh's Piglet was inspired by Hampshire woman
PIGLET - one of children’s literature’s best-loved characters - is alive and well and living in Hampshire!
Veronica Rushworth-Lund, who has lived in the county for 50 years, was the inspiration for the much loved Winnie-the-Pooh character.
And today she was at Mottisfont Abbey to visit the Winnie-the-Pooh exhibition – and give an insight into the world of Winnie-the-Pooh creator AA Milne and his family.
Veronica’s mother was at school with Christopher Robin’s mum and she and Christopher were lifelong friends.
She has fond memories of Christmas parties at AA Milne’s house in London and weekends spent at the author’s second home at Cochford Farm and Ashdown Forest in Sussex where Winnie-The-Pooh was based.
Veronica at the Winnie-the-Pooh exhibition at Mottisfont
“The characters were a mixture of the toys, the children and AA Milne’s imagination,” said Veronica, who celebrated her 90th birthday earlier this year.
“I think I was Piglet because I was the smallest, the youngest and the pinkest!”
Veronica says that the much-loved children’s books were part of her own childhood, and help bring back memories, from playing Pooh Sticks to hunting for Wuzzles.
“A lot of those expressions, like Wuzzles, were family expressions,” she said.
One of the many traits the young Veronica shared with the loveable pig was an aversion to having her face washed.
“The scene with Kanga trying to wash Piglet’s face is definitely like me,” she said.
“Kanga was very much like Christopher Robin’s nanny. She was very nice but I didn’t like having my face washed and I did make rather a fuss.”
As well as being the inspiration for Piglet, Veronica even dressed up as the character for a play and a pageant.
“I did have bits of the costume in my wardrobe for years,” she said.
But she still has a copy of Winnie-the-Pooh she was given as a wedding present by AA Milne dedicated to ‘The one and only never to be forgotten Piglet, with love from AA Milne”.
She also Christopher Robin’s autobiography dedicated to her from ‘Moon’ the nickname they all knew him by, and another from ‘Blue’, which was AA Milne’s nickname. One is also sighed by EH Shepard who created the beautiful illustrations in the Winnie-The-Pooh books.
Christopher Robin, Pooh and Piglet playing Pooh Sticks - credit The EH Shepard Trust, reproduced by permission of Curtis Brown Group Ltd
Veronica has a deep love for the Winnie-the-Pooh books but not for the Disney version.
“I hate the Disney version – it was a great pity it was ever allowed!” she exclaimed.
“It missed the character of the original animals. There is a lot of wit in the stories and it disappeared in the Disney rendering.”
But she is proud to have been a part of some of the best-loved children’s books of all time.
“They are wonderful children’s books and they are part of our heritage,” she said.
“These books are classics and they deserve to be.”
- Mottisfont’s Winnie-the-Pooh exhibition runs until September 15 and includes family activities.
AA Milne always acknowledged that he was inspired to write his poems and stories.
The Winnie-the-Pooh stories are set in Ashdown Forest in Sussex, England. The Milne family lived in Chelsea but in 1925 they bought a country home near the forest at Cotchford Farm, where they spent weekends and several weeks during summer.
Many of the locations in the stories are recognisable as real places and the drawings by EH Shepard which illustrate the books are often accurate renderings of the landscape.
Milne named Winnie-the-Pooh after his son’s favourite toy, which was itself named after a bear Christopher Robin had seen at London Zoo, while ‘Pooh’ was the name of a swan he had encountered.
Piglet, Tigger, Kanga and Eyore also took their names from Christopher Robin’s toys, while there characters were drawn from his friends.
The first collection of stories about the characters was Winnie-the-Pooh (1926), followed by The House at Pooh Corner(1928). Milne also included a poem about Winnie-the-Pooh in the children’s verse book When We Were Very Young (1924) and more in Now We Are Six (1927). All four volumes were illustrated by E H Shepard.
The books capture the concerns and games of early childhood.
Piglet wasn’t the only character in classic children’s literature to have been inspired by a Hampshire resident.
Alice Liddell lived in Lyndhurst for more than 50 years and was a major figure in village life, but she’s remembered the world over as the little girl who inspired Lewis Carroll to write Alice in Wonderland.
When Alice died in 1934, her relatives asked that she be remembered as a devoted member of the community and the residents of Lyndhurst respected that wish.
Her ashes were buried beside her husband, Reginald Hargreaves, at St Michael and All Angels Church.
Visitors often had trouble finding the family vault, so the church added a plaque.
Her granddaughter Mary Jean St Clair told the Echo that her grandmother was never a celebrity in her time, but enjoyed being feted as the inspiration for Alice.
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