chapter four

In which Eeyore loses a tail, and Pooh finds one

Finally it is time for Eeyore to be introduced. Eeyore is an elderly, grey donkey, who lives alone in a rather thistly corner of the forest - although this is not as bad as it sounds, as thistles are rather tasty if you are a donkey.

However, the rest of Eeyore's life generally is as bad as it sounds, and often worse, because he is rather gloomy, as we can see straight away because he is thinking sadly to himself, rather than thinking happily.

One thing that is in Eeyore's favour (although he probably wouldn't agree) is that, unlike Rabbit and Piglet, he does have a proper name for himself, rather than just Donkey. The word Eeyore sounds rather like the noise that donkeys make when they are talking to each other, so perhaps that is where it came from.

So, at the start of Eeyore's first ever chapter he is just standing by himself thinking a few gloomy thoughts when Pooh happens to pass by. Pooh asks Eeyore how he is, and Eeyore says that he is not very how at all, and he hasn't felt how for a long time.

Pooh says that he is sorry to hear that, and has a good look at Eeyore to see if he can see the problem. And he can - Eeyore's tail is missing! There's nothing there at all now, just a space!

"That Accounts for a Good Deal," said Eeyore gloomily. "It Explains Everything. No Wonder."
"You must have left it somewhere," said Winnie the Pooh.
"Somebody must have taken it," said Eeyore. "How Like Them," he added, after a long silence.

This last exchange is very interesting because it clearly illustrates the different outlooks of Pooh and Eeyore. Pooh's first thought is that Eeyore has simply left his tail behind somewhere - a Bother, but nothing more. Eeyore, on the other hand, immediately assumes that someone has deliberately taken his tail - stolen it, even - which would be far worse than just dropping it somewhere. Pooh assumes the best; Eeyore the worst. But who is right?

Well, Pooh decides to find out, and he sets off on a solemn mission to find Eeyore's tail and return it to him. The first thing that he decides to do is visit Owl, another new character for us to meet, and another who has no name of his own. Owl lives in the Hundred Acre Wood, in a house called The Chestnuts, a rather grand residence.

It is worth noting that on previous occasions, when there has been some kind of problem or bother, it is Christopher Robin who has been sought, whereas on this occasion Pooh has gone straight to Owl. If we look at the previous occasions, Christopher Robin was needed to supply a balloon in chapter one, to help Pooh come unstuck from the Rabbit hole in chapter two, and for comfort in chapter three in the face of numerous Woozles.

So why is it Owl who is required on this occasion? Perhaps it is the nature of the problem - finding Eeyore's tail is a puzzle, or an intellectual challenge, rather than a need for comfort, unsticking or balloons, and so Pooh may instinctively realise that Owl is the best person for the job - for Owl, as we shall soon see, is an Intellectual Animal.

Anyway, we are outside Owl's grand house, which we know is grand because it has both a knocker and a bell-pull, when your ordinary tree would just have one or the other. And underneath the knocker is a notice that says:


and underneath the bell-pull is a notice that says:


These notices are the work of Christopher Robin, the only person in the forest who can really spell, because although Owl is very clever and can even spell his own name (Wol), he goes to pieces if he has to spell complicated items such as BUTTEREDTOAST.

We are a little confused by the second notice, the one underneath the bell-pull, because when would you be knocking on a door if you did not require an answer? But perhaps that is a Special Arrangement that Owl has with someone that we should try not to interfere with.

Pooh reads both of these notices, left to right and then back the other way, and then knocks and pulls the knocker, pulls and knocks the bell-rope, and shouts out to Owl as well, just to cover all his bases.

Owl comes out of his house, and Pooh lets him know what has been occurring and that Eeyore is bereft without his tail. Owl explains what the customary procedure is, and Pooh gets confused at that (understandably) and starts talking about Proseedcake, which sounds rather nice but is unfortunately just the result of Pooh's Misunderstanding.

"For I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words Bother me."

Owl explains that the customary procedure really just means The Thing to Do, and Pooh says that he doesn't mind if it just means that. Owl goes on to explain that the The Thing to Do is to issue a reward, and there is another period of confusion as Pooh thinks that there has been a sneeze, and Owl says he didn't sneeze and anyway you can't sneeze without knowing it, and then he explains about issuing a reward again, and Pooh says that he has just sneezed again.

They move on from this impasse when Owl bellows "A Reward!", and says that they should write a message to tell people that anyone who finds Eeyore's tail will be given something large. The something large makes Pooh daydream about condensed milk and honey, but Owl is still focused on his plan, and he starts to explain the plan in greater detail, going on and on and on, and using bigger and bigger words, until he finds himself right at the beginning of the plan again, with the bit about writing out a note.

Now, Christopher Robin is clearly the best person to write the note, says Owl, because it was he who wrote the signs outside Owl's tree. And he asks Pooh if he has read the signs.

For some time now Pooh had been saying "Yes" and "No" in turn, with his eyes shut, to all that Owl was saying, and having said "Yes, yes" last time, he said "No, not at all" now, without really knowing what Owl was talking about.

Owl is very surprised to hear that Pooh has not read his signs, and invites Pooh to have a look now. So they both go outside to look at the signs, and while they are there Pooh also looks at the knocker and the bell-pull. And then he looks a little longer at the bell-pull, and then a little longer, and there's something about it that he recognises...

Yes, it definitely reminds him of something, so he asks Owl where he got it. Owl says that he just found it in the forest, hanging above a bush, and he had rung it to see if it belonged to someone, but there was no reply, and then it came off in his hand, so he took it home.

Pooh informs Owl that he has made a Mistake, and in fact the bell-pull did belong to someone, and that someone was Eeyore, who was rather fond of it - attached to it, even.

So Pooh picks up the bell-pull and takes it back to its rightful owner, and Christopher Robin helps out by nailing the tail back onto Eeyore. (This sounds a little painful, but Christopher Robin always knows what he is doing, so this must just be the usual way that tails are reattached to donkeys, and we should really pipe down.)

Once the tail is reattached, Eeyore is transformed from a gloomy, sad old donkey into a frisky, frolicking donkey, waving his tail happily and jumping around in the forest. And Pooh is so happy to see this that he comes over a bit funny, and has to go home for a little Sustaining Snack.

And that is the end of chapter four, and Pooh has been a real hero in this one, finding Eeyore's tail and solving the Problem all by himself, not even needing Owl's elaborate plan, which just shows you what kind of bear he really is.

We could also note that, in fact, it was the gloomy Eeyore who guessed right about his tail - someone had indeed taken it, and so his pessimistic outlook was in fact the most realistic outlook. But we shan't worry about that too much because everyone was happy in the end, even gloomy old Eeyore, and there's another chapter coming right up. Here it is now.

Piglet meets a Heffalump

Winnie the Pooh and friends are Trademarks of Disney. Quotes are taken from Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne.