This post is the first in a mini-series on iconic British bears. I shall begin with Paddington Brown, the chubby, yellow-brown bear from ‘darkest Peru’ with a penchant for marmalade sandwiches.
Paddington Bear was created in 1958, after author Michael Bond picked up a teddy bear in a store near Paddington Station on Christmas Eve. Originally intended as a gift for his wife, Bond was captivated by the bear, and within 10 days had written a short story about him.
The story goes that Paddington, an orphaned bear from South America, had travelled to London in a lifeboat, surviving only on marmalade sandwiches. When he finally arrived in England, he was dressed in a blue duffle coat and red hat, with a tattered suitcase and a note attached to his coat reading ‘Please look after this bear’.
Paddington is then adopted by the Brown family, and goes on to have numerous adventures in the familiar streets of Notting Hill and Portobello Road. He is said to be incredibly polite and well-meaning, but when he disapproves of somebody’s behaviour, he gives them a long, hard stare, just as his Aunt Lucy told him to..
Aside from the childish appeal of this bear and his adventures, he has often been seen as an icon for the support of immigration. Painted on a wall in Stokes Croft, the sometimes controversial but artistic quarter of Bristol, is a small piece of graffiti reading ‘Migration is not a crime’, beside a stencil of the bear.
Whether a childhood hero or political emblem, Paddington Brown has been hugely influential to British culture throughout the last 55 years. He has been featured on Royal Mail 1st class stamps, and in 2007 he starred in the Marmite UK adverts, where he decides to try a Marmite and cheese sandwich instead of his usual marmalade favourites. He has even influenced the British fashion scene: Tom Brown’s Satchels recently released a collection of leather satchels under the name ‘London Calling’, which includes a mustard yellow ‘Paddington’ satchel with a wonderful vintage appeal, the colour also being reminiscent of the beloved bear’s golden fur.