Lines and Squares – A A Milne Chronicles the Children’s Game

Most of us, if you say ‘bear’ and ‘A. A. Milne’ would come up with Winnie the Pooh, otherwise known as Edward Bear who seems to be fond of honey and sitting halfway down the stairs, along with Christopher Robin. But a particularly poem, Lines and Squares doesn’t seem to be about teddy bears, it is about real grizzly bears, who seem to wander the street.

But how can you conjure up this bears? Simple, just stand in the cracks in the pavement. (Ok, in America they are known as sidewalks, but this is an English superstition, ok?) They are called ‘sillies’ who stand on the corners, and understandably so, after all no one wants to be eaten by bears.

The bears seem to act all innocent, as if they aren’t about to gobble children up. But of course they are…

This poem seems to preempt the viciousness of Roald Dahl’s stories where adults get eaten up, but of course there was the famous poem recited by Stanley Holloway of a lion who ate up a boy called Albert. Earlier the Queen of Hearts ordered people’s heads to be cut off in Alice in Wonderland

The actual game goes back a long way, it seems to go back to an ancient belief of not breaking the square-which possibly represented the Earth (which was also believed to have four corners). There is a rhyme which goes:

Step on a crack, break your mother’s back. Step on a line, break your mother’s spine.

Recently the British cartoon programme, Charlie and Lola featured this game.