For decades one of England’s most iconic characters has been a very polite bear from Peru. Michael Bond, the creator of the beloved immigrant bear, Paddington, died yesterday.
The author’s death was announced on Facebook today (June 28). Bond was 91.
His first book in the series, A Bear Called Paddington, debuted in 1958, with illustrations by Peggy Fortnum. The now famous bear is from “Darkest Peru,” and was found in London’s Paddington Station by the Brown family, which took him in and gave him his name. (In later books Paddington reveals his name back home was Pastuso.) The bear is usually seen in a red bucket hat and blue duffel coat, sometimes with Wellington boots, and often carrying a beat-up suitcase.
Bond went on to write 20 more Paddington books, and the franchise expanded to include a now iconic stuffed bear toy, multiple TV series, and two films. Paddington 2 comes out this November in the UK.
Paddington is a stowaway and technically an illegal immigrant. After the release of the first movie in 2014, a detailed analysis by lawyer Colin Yeo found that Paddington most likely would have been detained indefinitely if found out.
In creating the polite, disheveled, sometimes misunderstood, but otherwise perfectly ordinary Paddington, Bond helped quietly normalize immigrants to British children. “Paddington is thus presented as enthusiastically assimilating into the dominant culture, and so is a positive and unthreatening representation of an immigrant,” wrote University of Sunderland English professor Angela Smith in 2006, “But he retains enough of his outsider Otherness to render some of the ‘common sense’ elements of British culture open to question.”