In the middle of the night, a group of animals and a boy wandered out of the Old Forest, just west of Bree. The boy had neatly cut auburn hair, but a cow’s lick in the back told the trained adult eye that he hadn’t been home in some time. He rode a particularly sad-looking gray donkey that had a tattered pink ribbon tied around his tail. In his arms he held a light brown rabbit.
Sauntering behind the donkey, as if on the prowl for something he didn’t yet realize, was a lean, muscular orange and black-striped beast that would soon be the talk of Bree, for no one had ever seen or heard of anything like it. The best thing that the owner of the Prancing Pony could relate it to in future accounts was that of a giant cat. A giant cat, he will tell you, crossed with a bear. The giant cat’s tail swished back and forth as his golden eyes surveyed their unfamiliar surroundings.
As for bears, one of the animals in the strange traveling menagerie was actually a bear with soft, flaxen fur, and the tattered remains of what looked like a red sweater draping from his shoulders. High overhead, an owl screeched; it flew clockwise above the animals and the boy, then counter-clockwise, then finally descended towards them and landed on the boy’s outstretched arm as if it had done so a thousand times.
The first man they passed in the wee hours of the morning, who was just getting out to till his field, nearly fell backwards as he shouted. The animals stopped, and the boy turned the donkey, rather slowly, to face the first human face they had seen in the whole world.
“Boy! Do you know you have strange beasts following you?”
The boy looked down at his rabbit, and then back at his giant cat and bear, and down again at his donkey. The owl on his shoulder cocked his head to the side and shouted “Who?”
“I don’t know quite what you mean, sir. These animals are my friends.”
“Friends he says!” the man muttered to himself. Then, to the boy, “What is that great orange one there?”
“Oh, he’s a Tigger. He’s the only one in the world.”
“I would like to think so. I’ve never seen anything like it around these parts, to be sure.”
“Do you mean to say you’ve never seen any of these animals, either?’
The man approached the well-trodden path. “Now don’t disrespect your elders, boy. ‘Course I know that’s a rabbit”—he pointed—“and an owl, and a bear, and a mule.”
“You sure are funny,” said the boy. “This donkey here is Eeyore, and that’s a Pooh.”
“Oh, you mean to say you’ve named them. What children won’t think of next?”
“Of course they have names. I told you they’re my friends.” The boy paused. “But can I ask you, sir, where exactly we are? We’re quite lost and a long way from home.”
“Why, you’re halfway to Bree! You must have come over Brandywine Bridge and past the Shire if you’re on this road. Won’t be another 30 miles or so ‘til you reach Bree.”
“Goodness, boy, you really must be lost. Where are you from, Gondor? But even the men there know of Bree, and the Shire…”
“Oh, I’m from the Hundred-Acre Wood.”
“Well, maybe not me, but that’s where my animal friends are from. In fact, not all of them came with me. There’s still Piglet, and Kanga, and Roo. I’m not sure how we got separated. We were going on an adventure to hunt heffalumps and woozles, and then the Wood started to get very unfamiliar you see, and then suddenly we were here, and my friends look a bit different now.”
The man, quite puzzled at this point, scratched his head. “Well I certainly don’t know what a heffabump is, or a weezle, for that matter. But you mean, you’re not from here? Lived here my whole life and ain’t never heard of a Hundred-Acre Wood. And your friends, you say, look different?”
“Yes sir, I mean, they used to be smaller. And they used to talk. I know they can still understand me, but they can’t talk back. But I know from the look in Pooh’s eyes that he’s rather hungry.”
The man gulped as the big yellow bear yawned and showed off his very impressive set of teeth. “Well, uh, I really wish I could help you, boy, and that’s not to say that I don’t believe you, but your best bet is to keep on this road to Bree, and ask around for old Gandalf. He might be able to help you get home. Though, you may have more luck with Radagast, what with your pack of creatures here.”
“Ask for Gandalf? And Radagast?” The boy questioned slowly, committing the names to memory. “Okay, I will! Thank you, mister!” The boy nudged the gray pack mule and it slowly turned and continued to plod on, with the giant beasts following close behind.
The man watched them walk for several seconds before shouting, “Oi, son! I didn’t ask your name, in case anyone comes looking for you!”
Without stopping, the boy turned. “Christopher Robin!” he shouted. “But, I don’t think anyone will come looking for me. Thanks again mister!”