A Tale of Two Maps
A Tale of Two Maps: Ernest H. Shepard’s 100 Aker Wood and Lucille Oille’s Owl Pen
by Ellen Blaubergs
Colour version of the 100 AKER WOOD Map, circa 1970; copy in author’s possession.
A walk down memory lane was unmanageable for many folks who had been looking forward to the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Winnie-the-Pooh travelling exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum last year. We missed the showcase of original manuscripts, letters, photographs and objects related to A. A. Milne’s iconic bear (with a real-life Canadian connection) along with Ernest H. Shepard’s charming illustrations of Pooh and his companions. One of my favourites has always been his map of “100 AKER WOOD” which appears inside the covers of the 1926 edition of Winnie the Pooh.
A good adventure story always has a map. This one, “DRAWN BY ME [Christopher Robin] AND MR SHEPARD HELPED” is sweetly amusing with its phonetic spellings of “100 AKER WOOD”, “RABBITS, FRENDS AND RALETIONS”, “BIG STONES AND ROX”, and others. The homes of Kanga, Pooh, Piglet, Owl, Eeyore, Christopher Robin, Rabbit, and “where the Woozle wasn’t” are all depicted, as is the BEE TREE, SAND PIT WHERE ROO PLAYS along with the “POOH TRAP FOR HEFFALUMPS. Shephard also included a mischievous compass in the upper left corner with the letters “P O O H”. There is charming folk art-quality to the physical landscape of the wood, its pines and oaks, streams, boggy area and “floody place”, sand pit, and rocky area – truly Pooh’s Eden.
OWL PEN/UP MEDONTE WAY Map: Treasure from Owl Pen booklet, (circa 1951); includes excerpts from three Kenneth McNeill Wells books.
In 2019, the Coldwater Canadian Heritage Museum’s (CCHM) seasonal exhibit, Bees, Goats & Gossip: Celebrating the Rural Spirit of the Owl Pen featured a copy of Lucille Oille’s pictorial map of the farm she and her husband, Kenneth McNeill Wells managed on the 10th concession of Medonte Township (Creighton), in the 1940s and 1950s. They called it “Owl Pen.” Originally created for Up Medonte Way by Wells (1951), it was also used for the covers of Treasure from Owl Pen (circa 1951).
Upon close examination, elements in this map are similar to Shephard’s, including a charming variety of animals and landscape features. The Wells family kept pedigree goats. Their chickens, dogs, log home, animal houses, and various tree species are all here. None of the animals on the map are named despite the family penchant to endow their critters with delightful monikers. Two of their goats were Tamarack and Pinecone. Their great horned owl (a rescue), was “the Doctor”, perhaps in honour of Oille’s physician-father; their dogs were Punch and Judy!
Although there is no Bee Tree, there is an OLD BEE YARD and a SMALL BEE YARD. The couple became renowned beekeepers with Wells heading up the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association. Their HONEY HOUSE was considered one of the most up to date in North America. Moonstone Creek flows through the property and we see pastures and scenes of daily rural life. A sense of calm orderliness prevails.
Some fun activities involving these two maps are slated for the CCHM website in 2021. They should evoke fond memories of two literary classics from the first half of the 20th century: one beloved around the world, and one with a distinctly local flavour.