A.A. Milne is best known for his Winnie-the-Pooh stories but he wrote a series called “When We Were Very Young.” I owned this book as a child, and it had been passed down to me from my mother who had it from her mother. In it is a poem entitled “Disobedience” about James James Morrison Morrison (commonly known as “Jim”) and I find the poem startling in it’s adult theme of narcissistic control, entitlement, devaluation and discarding.
James James Morrison Morrison Weatherby George Dupree is a three-year-old in the poem, and as we all know, three-year-olds are ALL about them, and what they want. They have not evolved to the age of reason yet, but this poem feels quite dark to me, with what I now know about narcissism. All the elements are there. JJMM is a grand little boy – just look at his name! He is entitled to obedience simply because he is JJMM.
Deconstructed, JJMM, meets the criteria for NPD. He is manipulative and controlling, he feels entitled, he demands obedience, he is grandiose, he even aligns himself with the King when his mother disobeys him, he shifts blame, and draws his relations into his fantasy, devalues his mother and finally, he discards her, as shown in the last stanza of the poem.
I would guess that JJMM was not a three year old. Milne was writing at the same time P.G. Wodehouse was writing, and the two disliked each other greatly. Wodehouse, however much he disliked Milne, admits to liking his poetry, which he found extremely humorous. P.G. Wodehouse was a great humorist, and delighted in poking fun at Milne’s consistent propensity to take himself seriously.
I can hear the anger in this poem, and even though Milne states that his son inspired all his children’s work, I believe much of Milne’s children’s work was inspired more by his own personality (disorder?) Perhaps. It’s all conjecture, but in re-reading the book, I’m seeing a lot of narcissistic attributes cloaked in the stasis of a six-year-old mind. If you read the Christopher Robin poems, Christopher Robin never ages past 6, and Milne states that he stopped writing children’s literature at about that time because his “inspiration” was “getting too old.”
Six. The age that it is believed narcissistic personality disorder develops.
James James Morrison Morrison Weatherby George Dupree Took great Care of his Mother, Though he was only three. James James Said to his Mother, "Mother", he said, said he; "You must never go down to the end of the town, if you don't go down with me." James James Morrison's Mother Put on a golden gown, James James Morrison's Mother Drove to the end of the town. James James Morrison's Mother Said to herself, said she: "I can get right down to the end of the town and be back in time for tea" King John Put up a notice, "LOST or STOLEN or STRAYED! JAMES JAMES MORRISON'S MOTHER SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN MISLAID. LAST SEEN WANDERING VAGUELY; QUITE OF HER OWN ACCORD, SHE TRIED TO GET DOWN TO THE END OF THE TOWN- FORTY SHILLINGS REWARD! James James Morrison Morrison (Commonly known as Jim) Told his Other relations Not to go blaming _him_. James James Said to his Mother, "Mother", he said, said he: "You must never go down to the end of the town with- out consulting me." James James Morrison's Mother Hasn't been heard of since. King John Said he was sorry, So did the Queen and Prince. King John (Somebody told me) Said to a man he knew: "If people go down to the end of the town, well, what can anyone do?" (Now then, very softly) J. J. M. M. W. G. Du P. Took great C/o his M***** Though he was only 3. J. J. Said to his M***** "M*****", he said, said he: "You-must-never-go-down-to-the-end-of-the-town-if- you-don't-go-down-with-ME!"
— A A Milne
What do we know about narcissists? They have delusions of grandeur, they believe they can control others, they believe they are entitled to special treatment, they align themselves with those who reflect the greatness they believe themselves to project, and when their goals are thwarted, they resort to devaluation and discarding.
The end of this poem shows us exactly how J. J. M. M. W. G. Du P. truly feels about himself. He can’t even speak the word “Mother” since she did something that he believes reflected poorly upon him, rather; all he can absorb of the entire situation is that Mother disobeyed him, thus she is no longer worthy of even being called “Mother.”
He cannot abide the notion that Mother might be an individual unto herself; an individual capable of independent thought and action. The very idea of this is anathema to James James Morrison Morrison, who, it is stated rather early on, is “commonly known as Jim.” JJMM does not at all like being thought of as commonly known. He must be superior to all others. He is not to blame for his mother’s disappearance. No, not he. He lets all and sundry know this. Mother disobeyed him, thus she has now paid for her foolish disobedience. She has disappeared.
“Mother” probably got bloody sick of JJMM’s abuse and split. She hasn’t been seen since because she knows what’s in store for her if she ever allows JJMM back in her life.
I don’t believe this to be a poem about or for a child – it’s simply disguised that way. This poem could be rather autobiographical for A.A. Milne. He was an arrogant somebody, quite full of himself, with a well-documented need for attention and ego-stroking. He had an incredible sense of self-importance as a writer, and felt himself and his writing to be misunderstood by all but a chosen few.
Kinda makes ya go “hmmmm.”