×

Search form

Power of welcome

The history of Paddington Bear: British icon - and refugee?

Last updated 
Photo: Dave Pearce

Now a British icon, Paddington, a bear from Peru, became popular after the Second World War.  

The man behind the marmalade-loving character, the late author Michael Bond, drew on his wartime memories of evacuees and refugees when he created the much-loved Paddington Bear. 

The author is quoted as saying "Paddington Bear was a refugee with a label - 'Please look after this bear. Thank you.’”

Bond was a child during the Second World War and spoke of seeing child evacuees from London relocated in his home town of Reading, where his parents opened their home. 

BBC Two’s Paddington: The Man behind the Bear revealed that in 2010, in a letter written to Paddington film producer Rosie Allison, Michael told how children also came to his home from Nazi Germany:

“We took in some Jewish children who often sat in front of the fire every evening, quietly crying because they had no idea what had happened to their parents, and neither did we at the time. It’s the reason why Paddington arrived with the label around his neck”. 

This act of compassion doesn’t just give Paddington the safe haven he deserves, but also brings the Browns together in ways they weren’t expecting.

Paddington’s story starts in the jungle of Peru, the film showing how his once peaceful home is destroyed by a huge fire.

With nothing left and nowhere to go, Paddington is forced to make the difficult journey to London, stowed away on a lifeboat in the hope of a better life.

When Paddington arrives, London is not as welcoming as he had expected. He is ignored by almost all passers-by until the Brown family kindly offer him a place to stay. This act of compassion doesn’t just give Paddington the safe haven he deserves, but also brings the Browns together in ways they weren’t expecting.

With 30 million books sold in 30 languages worldwide and two hit films, Paddington continues to teach us the power of welcome. His lesson lives on.

Photos: Martin Pettitt, Creative Commons and Dave Pearce, Creative Commons.