The Surprising True Origin of Paddington Bear

This weekend, two British institutions – Queen Elizabeth and Paddington Bear – enchanted the world with a surprise skit that opened the Platinum Party at the Palace Tribute Concert outside Buckingham Palace.

But many viewers may not have known the true origins of the bear star, who hails from “darkest Peru” – when in fact he was inspired by Jewish refugee children.

Author Michael Bond, who died in 2017 at the age of 91, decided to write a book about an orphaned cub being sent to England after he spotted a toy bear alone on a shelf in Selfridge department store on Christmas Eve 1956.

“He looked pretty lost,” he told the Sunday Telegraph, so he bought the bear as a stocking filler for his wife and started writing a story about it. Less than two weeks later he had a finished novel which sold for £75.

Bond revealed that in writing the first book, A Bear Called Paddington, he was inspired in part by vivid memories he had of watching Jewish refugee children pass through the train station in his hometown of London, on their way from the Nazis to London Europe before World War II.

Author Michael Bond created Paddington after spotting a toy bear alone on a shelf in Selfridge department store on Christmas Eve 1956.
Author Michael Bond created Paddington after spotting a toy bear alone on a shelf in Selfridge department store on Christmas Eve 1956.
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Paddington's backstory, meanwhile, was inspired by the Jewish children rescued by the Kindertransport operation, which brought young refugees to England before World War II.
Paddington’s backstory, meanwhile, was inspired by the Jewish children rescued by the Kindertransport operation, which brought young refugees to England before World War II.
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The Kindertransport was an organized rescue operation that placed nearly 10,000 mostly Jewish children from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland in British foster homes and farms. They were often the only family members to survive the Holocaust.

“They each had a tag around their neck with their name and address and a small box or parcel containing all their prized possessions. So Paddington was sort of a refugee and I think there is no sadder sight than refugees,” he told The Guardian in 2014.

In the first book, the Brown family finds a bear sitting on a battered suitcase at Paddington station in London, with a note on his coat that reads, “Please take care of this bear.” Thank you very much.” Paddington is an orphaned bear who was sent to the UK by his Aunt Lucy as she moved to the Lima Home for Retired Bears.

Queen Elizabeth and Paddington Bear enchanted the world in a surprise skit that opened the platinum party at the Palace Tribute Concert on Saturday.
Queen Elizabeth and Paddington Bear enchanted the world in a surprise skit that opened the platinum party at the Palace Tribute Concert on Saturday.
Via Reuters
Paddington has been featured in more than 20 books, translated into 30 languages ​​and sold more than 30 million copies.
Paddington has been featured in more than 20 books, translated into 30 languages ​​and sold more than 30 million copies.
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The book also features Paddington’s best friend, Mr Gruber, an antiques dealer and Hungarian refugee, who understands why Paddington sometimes feels like an “outsider”.

Bond is said to have inspired the character from his literary agent Harvey Unna, who died in 2003 at the age of 92.

Unna was born in Hamburg into a Jewish family and was about to become a judge when he was dismissed from the German civil service on racial grounds. He managed to leave Germany and make it to England, where he eventually set up a literary agency and successfully represented Bond.

Paddington has been featured in more than 20 books, translated into 30 languages ​​and sold more than 30 million copies. Actor Ben Whishaw provided his voice for the popular Paddington film and its sequel – while Volodymyr Zelensky, now President of Ukraine, did the voiceover in that country.

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