Christopher Robin was Always Six. What About A. A. Milne?

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.

Disobedience

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.”

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9 thoughts on “Christopher Robin was Always Six. What About A. A. Milne?

  1. This is an important find and observation, Ms Pance – the perfect illustration of the control freak :-\
    I always loved this poem when I was a kid because of the rhythm of “JJMMWGDuPree” – never thought of it as an autobiographical expression…..

  2. Who would think of it that way? Seriously! It was in a children’s book, couched in childish language. It was “cute.” Little 3 year-old JJMMWGDuP bossed his mommy around and when she didn’t listen, dammit, just LOOK what happened to her!

    Why…she “disappeared!”

    Bad mirrors are always “disappeared” in one way or another by narcissists, but only after the N is finished destroying them.

  3. Pingback: More A.A. Milne Deconstruction – Winnie-the-Pooh « Dating a Personality (Disorder)

  4. This is basically 100% conjecture. I’d tell you to go read his biography, but you’d probably falsely interpret something in there as “evidence” of his narcissism anyway.

  5. I’ve loved this poem for years and I would agree with our blogger friend that it has an “adult meaning” (at least to me). Poems and literature are always open to interpretation. That is what makes them great. There is a special relationship between a piece of poetry and its reader such that if a poem “says something” to you, that something is “the meaning” independent of what the same poem may have said to another reader or even what the writer was thinking when he wrote it. Frankly, James does come off as very narcissistic and I can see merit in what Mss Crankypance is saying. ….However, my interpretation of the poem is very different from hers.

    To me, this is a story of a sad little boy who lost his mom (probably because she willingly abandoned him). This was traumatizing for little James. Being only three years old, our young Mr. Dupree does not really know how to interpret the event. To any three year old, the world is very concrete. Questions have answers. Mysteries have solutions. Kids tend to be very observant, even if their understanding is limited. James knows, long before this happens, that his mother is flighty and irresponsible. She is clearly glamorous with her “golden gown” and he seems to love her and want her in his life. She is his mom. She is kind and loving and has given every evidence to James that she loves him. However, he feels he cannot rely on her fully. Perhaps she has left before and come back. Perhaps this worry on his part is merely separation anxiety (common in kids up to about 2 years old). However, the way he speaks about his mother indicates that he fears constantly that he will lose her. James tells his mother repeatedly and adamantly that she must never “go down to the end of town” which is representative of any place far away “if you don’t go down with me.” No mention is made of James’ father, which makes it seem likely that Ms Dupree is a single mom. Each time she puts on a “golden gown” or other fancy clothing, she is probably going out on a date “to the end of town.” When she goes on these dates, she never brings James and he does not understand the reason for this.

    One day, James’ worst fears are realized. James’ mother gets all dressed up and goes out “to the end of town.” This time, she does not come back. In James’ mind, there is only one thing that could have stopped his mother from returning to him. She is lost, seriously and irrevocably lost. He was afraid this very thing would happen and now it has. He is not yet old enough to understand the concept of death, so it has not occurred to him that she might have been killed or even injured. She is his mother. She loves him and belongs to him. It is inconceivable that she would leave permanently of her own accord. She must be lost in the vague, mysterious world at “the end of town.” That is the only reasonable explanation. Very young children do not see parents as free entities but extensions of themselves. Therefore, James’s possessiveness of his mom and failure to take into account her free will in this situation does not strike me as symptomatic of mental pathology but simply a natural selfishness of childhood.

    When authority figures in James’ life, represented in the poem by the King and royal family, learn that Ms Dupree is gone, they make appropriate efforts to find her and bring her home. It is unclear if these people are relatives or government officials. How do people try to find lost items and pets? They post missing person signs and offer rewards of course. So this, quite logically, is what “King John” must have done in searching for James’ mom. These efforts are ultimately unsuccessful. Ms Dupree remains lost. “King John” apparently said to another adult he is saddened but unsurprised by what has happened. “If people go down to the end of town, what can anyone do?”
    James misses his mother. There is anger and a trace of hysteria in the last stanza as James James Morrison Morrison Weatherby George Dupree, with the full importance of his long and dignified name, repeats the words he has said so often before to his mother “You must never go down to the end of town if you don’t go down with me!”

  6. Funny reading all the comments about this poem. I actually know the family of James Morrison and have met him many times. He was a friend of Christopher Robin when they were very little. Will be asking a few more questions next time I see them!

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