Paddington, the friendly bear from the deepest, darkest Peru discovered at a London train station, first entered our hearts in 1958. 60 years on, the marmalade-loving bear is as popular as ever, with dozens of books, a TV series and two successful films bearing (pardon the pun) his name.
But where did this iconic children’s literary character come from? You might be surprised to learn Paddington’s origins! Here are 10 fun facts about everyone’s favourite bear (sorry, Winnie!)
1. He was inspired by a lone teddy bear
Paddington came about after author Michael Bond was wandering through a department store on Christmas Eve, 1956, looking for a gift for his wife. All of a sudden, he stumbled upon a lone teddy bear sitting on a shelf. Bond felt sorry for it and purchased it, but he couldn’t get that mental image of an abandoned teddy out of his head. He began writing stories about it, mainly for himself, when it struck that he might have created something special.
2. His name isn’t really “Paddington”
That’s the name his adoptive family gave him, inspired by the train station where he was found, after he told them no one would be able to understand his real name, which we later find out is actually “Pastuso”. Bond and his wife also named their real-life teddy “Paddington” after the station they lived near at the time.
3. He was a surprise success
It took Bond seven years after publishing the first Paddington book to be able to leave his job as a cameraman at the BBC and live from the sales alone. But he had no idea it would be so successful, selling more than 35 million copies and being translated into over 40 languages. “I am constantly surprised by all the translations because I thought that Paddington was essentially an English character,” he once said. “Obviously Paddington-type situations happen all over the world.”
4. He once faced immigration troubles
Yep, Paddington found himself in a sticky situation in the 2008 story “Paddington Spills the Beans”, the police discover he illegally migrated to London from Darkest Peru. “There is this side of Paddington the Browns don’t really understand at all,” Bond explained. “What it’s like to be a refugee, not to be in your own country.”
5. His wellies became famous because of a toy
It’s hard to think of Paddington without thinking of his trademark blue duffle coat, red hat and red wellington boots. But although he did receive a pair of wellies in the books, he wasn’t really known for them. It wasn’t until a designer decided to make a Paddington stuffed toy for her children in 1972 (there wasn’t one on the market yet) and decided to put some red wellies on his feet to help him stand upright that they became a famous part of his outfit.
Image credit: R. W. Alley.