Cynthia's Thoughts: New Pooh Character, Lottie the Otter

A new Winnie the Pooh book hit bookstores earlier this week for the first time since 1928.  This new book, written by David Benedictus and illustrated by Mark Burgess, features a new character, Lottie the Otter.  She’s the second female character (after Kanga) in the franchise. 

The question here is: Was Lottie created because there is a need for another female characters in the series?  After all, she is not a mother, like Kanga. Instead, she is a “smart, elegant” one who wears pearls.  She also has certain “rules” and believes that they must be followed to the “T.”   So, does it matter that there aren’t any other female characters in the series?  Did they have to add one?   Christopher Robin is a little boy.  Most boys prefer their stuffed animals, action figures, etc, to be boys too.  Of course, things might have been different in the 1920s, the time period the book is set. Of course, one can also say that Lottie just happens to be a character who is female.  She does seem very different from the other critters who live in the Hundred Acre Wood – she seems much more enlightened (hey, she even loves to play cricket!) than Eeyore, Pooh, Piglet and the rest – except perhaps Owl.

It seems like it is the sign of the times.  Women, after all, only had just gotten the vote in most western nations when the original Pooh stories were published. Though there have been books with feisty female protagonists (e.g. Anne Shirley in the Anne of Green Gables series), they were generally written by women and catered to a female readership.  The Pooh books, on the other hand, catered to boys and girls.  At the time, it would have been unlikely that boys would want to read anything with too many female characters. Since Kanga is more of a traditional, mother figure, it made sense to add someone who was more independent and serve as a role model for the present day female readers.

Of course, there are those who believe that adding this character ruins the entire concept of Pooh. This is even addressed at the beginning of the book when Eeyore comments that “he’ll get it all wrong.”  But this is another author, who writes in a way that capture’s Milne’s style, and with the approval of the Trustees of Pooh Properties.  In any case,  adding a new character isn’t a bad thing – many movies, books and television shows do this all the time, especially if they’re long-running or franchises.  It only makes sense.  Reading/watching the same characters over and over can get boring.  In any case, Lottie sounds interesting and may even brighten up the constantly depressed Eeyore!