Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff


No matter how many times I read this book, it’s always a delightful experience. At it’s core, it’s an explanation of a school of philosophy, Taoism. But the way the author does it, using the childhood favorites books about Winnie the Pooh, is a novel touch and probably makes it more accessible.
There are the expected quotes from mostly Asian history and world literature, but the main form of the book is a conversation between the author(Hoff) and characters from the Pooh books.This is a wonderfully humorous touch.
Taoist thought influenced at least three different religions and philosophies; Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism. Tao(pronounced “Dow”) is the Way of harmony. “…harmony…naturally existed between heaven and earth.” Lao-tse, the Ancient Chinese philosopher proclaims. Man’s interference in nature and the world makes that harmony more remote and it is the job of humans to make every effort to restore that harmony.
Each of the Milne cast represent a tenet of Taoist principles. The main one is the idea of the Uncarved Block. As the author explains, “From the state of the Uncarved Block comes the ability to enjoy the simple and the quiet, the natural and the plain.” Pooh himself is the best example of this. Other characters convey ideas such as busyness, false wisdom and the like. This makes the sometimes elusive ideas easier to pin down, simply by identifying them with, say, Owl or Eeyore.
My favorite part of the book, as I said, were the conversations between the author and the residents of Pooh Corner. They were true to form and often had additional insights. One gem was this realization from Pooh, “If people were Superior to Animals, they’d take better care of the world,”.
This is one of those books which anyone over the age of 10 could read, adults or children. The mixture of beloved characters (with the original illustrations by E.H. Shepard) and a light-hearted overview of a philosophy makes it very appealing. I highly recommend it.

Dutton 1982 176 pp. ISBN-13: 978-0525244585

2 comments on “The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff

  1. I adore this book. It was deeply transformative when I first read it, now over 20 years ago. I highly recommend it for anyone starting on their journey to understanding.

  2. Ayunda
    June 6, 2017

    I used to loooove Winnie the Pooh and I’ve seen this book mentioned here and there all the time. Now I’m definitely gonna pick it up! 😀

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Acknowledgment

  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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