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home : • book reviews & literary events : book reviews & literary events
January 21, 2020

2/12/2015 11:32:00 AM
Author Q&A with Paddington Bear Creator Michael Bond
by Carole Burns

Paddington Bear - at least as far as his 89-year-old creator Michael Bond is concerned - is essentially an English character, and the wild popularity of the new film "Paddington" hasn't changed his opinion. From his home in London, Bond, whose newest book is "Love from Paddington," answered questions about his beloved creation.

Where did this character come from?

Paddington started life as a doodle to get my mind working because I had a blank sheet of paper in the typewriter and not an idea in my head.

Why a bear - as opposed to a cat, a mouse or a boy?

I wrote my first story when I was about 20, but Paddington didn't appear until I was 30. During that time, I had written about mice and a number of radio plays about a small boy, and I was looking for something entirely new. We had a small toy bear who had become part of the family, and we found ourselves talking to him. Looking around the room, I found myself wondering what would happen to a real bear if he found himself in Paddington Station.

And why Paddington - aside from the fact that other London train stations - King's Cross, Euston, St. Pancras - don't quite have the same ring?

Apart from the fact that Paddington was our nearest train terminus, the different train companies in England all had their own particular character. Also Paddington serves the west of England, and it had a solid, important sound and a warmth to it.

Paddington Bear is always the same. He doesn't grow up. But the world has changed around him since 1958. What does he think of the world?

I think Paddington has grown up with the world, and he manages at his own pace. He does think that humans make things difficult for themselves often with all the rules and regulations.

Paddington, you wrote once, was "a bear with a strong sense of right and wrong." Of course, the fun part is that he gets a lot wrong, too.

When I say that he has a strong sense of right and wrong, I mean just that - in a moral sense. It is not a question of getting things wrong. He is just accident-prone.

He's "the sort of bear who often got himself into trouble." Do you suppose that's what makes him appealing, too?

The reader can see the problem coming long before Paddington does - half wanting to stop him in his tracks and the other half wanting him to carry on to see how he gets out of trouble. Whenever possible, someone should benefit from Paddington's mishaps - except when they involve Mr. Curry.

How important is his hat?

Paddington is a very polite bear. In that respect, he takes after my father, who never went out without his hat, which he could raise when he saw somebody he knew. He was even known to wear it in the sea when we went on holiday. In Paddington's case, he always keeps a marmalade sandwich under it in case he has an emergency.

The film has been a wild success. Will it change how you write Paddington?

No, not at all. The good thing about the film is that, although it is a much longer story and more ambitious than the stories in the books, Paddington is still himself.

© 2015, Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group

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