City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

The Hoose at Pooh’s Neuk by A. A. Milne Translated into Scots by James Robertson

By Irene Brown - Posted on 03 July 2010

Pooh in Scots

A.A. Milne’s belovèd children’s classic, Winnie- the- Pooh, was written in 1926 and has since been translated into many world languages including Breton, Frisian, Catalan and Scots. Following the success of his Scots version, James Robertson has gone on to produce a translation of Milne’s follow up book, The House at Pooh Corner, now with the beautifully assonant title, The Hoose at Pooh’s Neuk.

Milne’s lovingly written stories and poems about his young son, Christopher Robin and his small army of soft animal friends, are quintessentially English with their adventures set in Hundred Acre Wood based on Ashdown Forest in Sussex. Christopher Robin’s toys, Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Owl and, latterly, Tigger, along with Kanga and Baby Roo, are brought to life through Milne’s imagination as he makes the private adventures of a child’s world real through the pages of his books. 

His tales are simple but have an underlying depth and philosophical slant that have given them universal appeal across generations. (There is also, unsurprisingly, a version called The Tao of Pooh).   Each toy has a distinctive character that readers can identify or indeed identify with!

While I can only refer to the many other translations, I am aware of the Disney version of Winnie- the- Pooh, and through it realise the subtle and not so subtle changes that can occur in a translation or adaptation. The characters, through a new language, must subtly change. In the case of Robertson’s translation, however, I believe the new shoe fits perfectly and Milne’s characters coorie in til it juist fine! The poetry writing “Bear wi No Muckle Mense” has managed, dare I say, to improve on his original with lines like,

                        “And the coos are gey near cooin,

                        And the cushie – doos are mooin...”

Pooh is a stout, simple fellow who likes the simple life, punctuating his day with “wee sneysters”.

“I like gabbin wi Rabbit. He speaks aboot wice-like things. ...He uses wee easy words, like “Whit aboot denner?” and “Help yersel, Pooh.”...

The words of the sarcastic and put-upon Heehaw, with his very Scottish ‘ We’ll pay for this’ outlook, could easily have come from the mouth of the likes of Rikki Fulton’s well loved dour meenister, the Reverend I. M. Jolly.

“I widna wunner but that there micht be a guid blatter o hail the morn’s morn. ...”Jist because it’s braw the-day doesna Mean Onythin.”

In fact the tone of the book, like Pooh’s clock being stuck at 5 to 11 (sneyster time), chimes with the surreal worlds of Chic Murray or Ivor Cutler and the Scots language sits well with the understated daftness of it.

“ ‘Sae I’ll hae tae look for the Special Place first. I wunner where it is’. And he wrote it doon in his heid...”

The ‘kent his faither’ mindset, where little praise is meted out, comes through in this very Scottish double negative dialogue among the  3 guid pals,

“‘Teeger’s no bad, when it comes doon tae it,’ said Wee Grumphie, affhaunditly.

‘Aye, he’s no,’ says Christopher Robin

‘Awbody’s no, when it comes doon tae it,’ said Pooh

This book about friendship and innocence, complete with the original enchanting illustrations by E. H. Shepherd,  is a pleasure to read tae yersel or for reading tae the weans. While I don’t always speak Scots, Scots certainly speaks to me and particularly does in this delightful Scots translation.

On Saturday 14th August James Robertson, is appearing at this year’s Edinburgh Book Festival to launch his latest novel, And the Land Lay Still, described as “An Epoch-defining Story of Life in 20th Century Scotland”. 

He can also be heard on Saturday 28th August with Alexander McCall Smith whose new book, Precious and Puggies, that tellsof the well loved lady detective MmaRamotswe’s early days, Robertson has also translated into Scots.

The Hoose at Pooh’s Neuk by A. A. Milne

Translated into Scots by James Robertson

ISBN 978184502294-5 £6.99 Itchy Coo (Black and White Publishing)