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07.07.2017

Bear with Us | Connecting with Culture

Last week the creator of one of the most loved children’s book characters, Paddington Bear, died.

Like many who grew up with Paddington, I have a deep affection for this innocent, chaos-creating character, and was sad to hear that Michael Bond had passed away aged 91.

Yet with every death of a celebrated life comes collective reflection on what that person has brought to our lives. In Paddington’s case, we find not just some marmalade sandwiches but a very moral legacy that is as relevant today as when Bond first created him in 1962.

Bond witnessed the flow of refugees from 1940s Germany and saw British children evacuated to the countryside. His deep empathy for their plight inspired the stories that affirm values we might recognise as Christian: compassion, kindness, and hospitality to the outsider.

Those who exercised these values were the middle-class, comfortably-off Brown family. Most notably it was a woman (Mrs Brown), the children (Jonathan & Judy) and a German refugee (Mr Gruber) who were the first to extend such hospitality. The practical, money-minded man of the house, Mr Brown, was a voice of resistance until, of course, Paddington won his heart too.

No wonder Bond added his (and Paddington’s) name to a campaign against detention of child asylum-seekers in 2009.

We also find in this small, innocent bear a message of the power of vulnerability, courage, and politeness – for Paddington always had impeccable manners – as well as the importance of embracing risk and its accompanying messiness.

Sound familiar? As a parent living in a risk-averse culture, I relate to this, but so too as a follower of Christ – the one who calls us to step out of our comfort zones for the sake of his kingdom.

There is much to be admired in authors who can convey moral messages with such humour and as light a touch as Michael Bond, a man who was as polite and gentlemanly as his imaginary bear.

Michael Morpurgo was right to say Paddington is the Winnie-the-Pooh of our generation, a bear who continues to speak to us even today. I can’t help wondering if he would be giving some of our decision-makers – and maybe even some of us – a very ‘hard stare’!

Siobhan Calthrop

Siobhan writes, tutors and blogs at everyoneelseisnormal.com and attends Forest Town Church, St Albans.

Author

Siobhan O’Reilly Calthrop

Comments

  1. Thank you for this! I managed to miss out entirely on reading Paddington Bear. Your article has nudged me to finally do so.

    By Cynthia Tews - 7th July 2017
  2. Thank you for this thoughtful reflection on Paddington Bear. I too am a huge fan of him and will endeavor to introduce him to my grandchildren at an appropriate time. I despair of some of the modern characters and was aghast to find Despicable Me on T shirts for small children. What is the media thinking about? We need to nurture young children’s minds using role models such as Paddington, & not using negative language which catches on all too quickly. ( Rant over !)

    By elaineife - 7th July 2017
  3. Lovely piece
    Thank you
    [3 cheers for marmalade sandwiches!]

    By Mick - 7th July 2017
  4. Thank you Siobhan, lovely reflection on distant memories of a special bear,

    By Ros Watson - 7th July 2017
  5. Thank you Siobhan for reminding us of the wonderful values and truths that are explored through Michael Bond’s dear Paddington bear. Feel like rereading his stories with fresh insight. Love what you have shared!

    By Helen - 8th July 2017
  6. THANK you Siobhan. A strong message. With possibilities for a Family Service! D

    Dorothy Bridson

    By Dorothy Bridson - 8th July 2017

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