The Quick 10: Paddington Bear
Don't tell Winnie the Pooh, but he's not the only big shot on the children's book Bear Market "“ Paddington Bear has been charming children and adults alike since 1958. And he has a much cooler wardrobe than Winnie, if you ask me. Here's how Paddington came to be (and what he's been up to in the past few years).
1. Have you ever seen a neglected toy abandoned on a store shelf or tossed aside, unwanted, and felt oddly sorry for it? That's exactly how Paddington Bear came about. Author Michael Bond was roaming a department store on Christmas Eve in 1956 looking for a gift for his wife (tsk, tsk) when he came across a lonely teddy bear all alone on a shelf. Even the last-minute shoppers didn't want him. He felt sorry for the bear and "adopted" him, but the idea of the abandoned bear stuck with Bond. He began writing stories about it mostly for his own amusement before he realized he might have something children would be interested in.
2. Paddington isn't this beloved bear's real name. He has a Peruvian name but tells his adoptive family that no one would be able to understand it (we find out much later that it's "Pastuso"). They decide to call him Paddington, which is the name of the railway station where he was discovered. The bear Bond took home from the department store on Christmas Eve received the same name because Bond and his wife lived near Paddington Station at the time. In fact, they still live in the vicinity.
3. Originally, Paddington wasn't going to be from Darkest Peru. First drafts had Paddington calling "Darkest Africa" home. But after Bond got an agent, the agent informed him no bears exist in Africa. Peru, however, does have spectacled bears.
4. It took about seven years from the time the first book was published in 1958, but eventually the sales of Paddington books allowed Bond to retire from his job as a cameraman for the BBC.
5. I should say he's doing well in retirement: Paddington books have sold more than 35 million copies and have been translated into over forty languages, which surprises Mr. Bond. "I am constantly surprised by all the translations because I thought that Paddington was essentially an English character," he said. "Obviously Paddington-type situations happen all over the world."
6. There's a little statue of Paddington Bear at Paddington Station. He's just the size you would expect him to be. When you're done snapping a photo with him, you can march yourself over to the shop at the station that sells nothing but Paddington Bear gear.
7. Poor Paddington faced a rather grown up situation in 2008. When P.B. goes to report his stolen shopping cart, the police discover that he's in London illegally from Darkest Peru and immigration issues ensue. Bond denies that he was trying to make any particular statement; he says he was just trying to bring Paddington up to date with the times for his 50th anniversary.
8. Of course Paddington adores marmalade, and no reason is ever given for that ("Bears love marmalade" is all we get). But in 2007, he decided to give Marmite a try instead. Although he had been enjoying marmalade for the 49 years prior (always keeping an emergency sandwich under his hat, just in case), it was apparently the right time to try something different and finds a Marmite and cheese sandwich to be "rather good." But don't expect Paddington's favorite fare to be replaced in the books anytime soon "“ it was a one-time advertising promotion and won't be introduced into Paddington canon.
9. Paddington's famous Wellies weren't that famous until the plush version of him came out in 1972. The owner of a small business called Gabrielle Designs decided to make a Paddington stuffed animal for her children because none were on the market yet. Although the bear had received a pair of Wellington boots in 1964's Paddington Marches On, he wasn't necessarily known for them. The Wellies were placed on the stuffed bear's feet just to help him stand upright, and he became known for his colorful boots when the toy became a commercial success.
10. Speaking of Paddington's clothes, here's where the rest of the famous outfit came from: The blue duffle coat was purchased for him by the Browns soon after he went to live with them. After all, you can't have a bear running around naked, can you? The old hat was handed down to him from his uncle, who is still in Darkest Peru with Aunt Lucy. Aunt Lucy is the one who placed the "Please Look After This Bear" tag around his neck.
I have to say, I totally forgot about how much I once loved Paddington until I started writing this. I'll definitely be adding these to our library soon.
Enjoy your weekend! If you want to celebrate in true Paddington style, make yourself some cocoa and a marmalade sandwich sometime this weekend.