Did a Polish Town Ban Winnie the Pooh?

This much is certain: council members in the Polish town of Tuszyn earlier this month declined to name a local playground after Winnie the Pooh. And yes, one member said the Bear of Very Little Brain is “half-naked,” while another called him a “hermaphrodite.” But now that the story has gone viral in English-language weird news columns several weeks after the fact, one of the council members apparently claims that he and his colleagues were only joking after the debate over the playground name had dragged on too long.

The story began with a Tuszyn council meeting in early November. In a surreptitious recording that one member leaked to local media, Councillor Ryszard Cichy could be heard saying that “the problem with that bear is it doesn’t have a complete wardrobe.” Particularly puzzling was fellow council member Hanna Jachimska’s claim that author A.A. Milne “was over 60 and cut [Pooh’s] testicles off with a razor blade because he had a problem with his [own] identity.” (In fact, the beloved bear’s partial state of dress is largely thanks to Disney animators; in many of the original story illustrations by E.H. Shepard he wears nothing at all. We can find no evidence that either the illustrated ursid or the real stuffed toy that inspired him ever had visible testicles for Milne to slice.)

The anti-Pooh faction also may have been partially motivated by native pride. Cichy pointed out that the Polish bear Miś Uszatek might be a better alternative, and also happens to be “dressed from head to toe.” An article originating with the Associated Press, however, says that “Cichy later told a newspaper that he was joking”–although it does not link to a source or specify which newspaper. Polish media are still reporting on the story as well, but now seem to be focussed more on its surprising worldwide reach rather than the original debate.

While we’re not sure if Pooh is precisely “banned” from the Tuszyn playground, as English-language headlines have phrased it, this would not be his first run-in with censors. Last year when Chinese internet users noticed a striking resemblance between Pooh and their president Xi Jinping, the microblogging site Sina Weibo deleted the cartoon images as quickly as they were posted. The anxiety over Pooh’s naked nether regions also recalls an early Hays Office directive that forced animators to cover up the udders of cartoon cows for most of the 1930s.

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Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.