"Mr. and Mrs. Brown first met Paddington on a railway platform. In fact, that was how he came to have such an unusual name for a bear, for Paddington was the name of the station."
opening lines of A Bear Called Paddington
Paddington Bear was created by author Michael Bond in his 1958 children's book A Bear Called Paddington.
At the time, Bond was a writer who had sold some short stories and radio scripts, but was working as a cameraman at the BBC. His agent had suggested he try some writing for children. Bond was inspired with the idea of writing about a bear by a stuffed toy bear that he bought his wife for Christmas 1956, which he had picked up because he felt sorry for it alone on the shelf. His first stories about the bear, though, were originally written more for his own amusement than for publication.
Paddington is described as a small brown bear with black ears who the Browns encounter when they come to pick up their daughter at this London train station. The bear tells the inquisitive humans that he is from "Darkest Peru," raised by his Aunt Lucy who always wanted him to emigrate, and that he stowed away in a ship's lifeboat with a jar of marmalade to live on for the voyage from Peru to England. Mrs. Brown catches sight of a label around his neck saying "Please look after this bear. Thank you," and convinces Mr. Brown that they should take the bear home to live with them and their two children. Since the bear says his name is "a Peruvian one which no one can understand," the Browns give him the English name of Paddington after the place they met him.
All that takes place in the first six pages of A Bear Called Paddington, the first collection of stories about the well-intentioned bear with a knack for causing trouble; before he even leaves the station with the Browns he's covered in jam and spilled tea after they stop in the cafe. But Paddington settles in well with Mr. and Mrs. Brown, their children Judy and Jonathan, and their housekeeper Mrs. Bird, despite his tendency to make a mess. He makes friends with Mr. Gruber, an antique dealer with a store near the Browns' home, but never wins over the Browns' grouchy next-door neighbor, Mr. Curry. Paddington nearly always wears the blue duffle coat Mrs. Brown bought him the day after he arrived at their home, and his uncle's floppy old bush hat (despite Mrs. Brown's attempt to replace it).
The first book was successful enough to lead to a long-running series of story collections:
- More about Paddington, 1959
- Paddington Helps Out, 1960
- Paddington Abroad, 1961
- Paddington at Large, 1962
- Paddington Marches On, 1964
- Paddington at Work, 1966
- Paddington Goes to Town, 1968
- Paddington Takes the Air, 1970
- Paddington on Top, 1974
- Paddington Takes the Test, 1979
- Paddington Here and Now, 2008
Many of the stories have been made into picture books and or recompiled under other titles. A few of particular interest:
- As Bond had been a cameraman on popular British children's TV show Blue Peter, there were two tie-in books involving the bear getting involved with the show: Paddington's Blue Peter Story Book in 1973 and Paddington on Screen in 1980.
- Paddington Rules the Waves was a counting book published specially for the World Book Day 2008.
Paddington has been a mascot for the Action Medical Research charity
in the U.K. since 1976, and has also been in campaigns for the American Red Cross
There was a Paddington stage musical in England in 1973; a different stage show has played in England in the 2000s. Paddington has also been in several television shows. From 1975 to 1987, a stop-motion animation series called "Paddington" was made by the FilmFair company, using a 3-D Paddington doll against flat backgrounds; this was narrated by Sir Michael Hordern. Most of these shows were 5-minute episodes, although 3 half-hour specials were made. In 1989, Hanna-Barbera made 13 episodes of a more traditionally cel animated Paddington show called "Paddington Bear" as part of their "Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera." From 1997 to 2001, a new series, "The Adventures of Paddington Bear," was made by the Canadian company Cinar. He's also appeared in commercials for Marmite in 2008, and a live-action movie (with a computer-animated Paddington) is in the works from Warner Brothers films and producer David Heyman.
There is a lot of Paddington bear merchandise, particularly stuffed bears -- one of which was the first item passed through the space when the English tunnelers working on the Channel Tunnel first met up with their French counterparts digging from the other side. A life-sized bronze statue of Paddington Bear was unveiled in Paddington Station in 2000. And ascorbic pointed me to an instance of graffiti found in Bristol England depicting Paddington with the caption "Migration is not a crime" (pictured at http://www.artofthestate.co.uk/graffiti/graffiti_stencil_bristol_paddington_bear.htm).
Bond, Michael. A Bear Called Paddington. New York: Dell Publishing, 1958.