Most people know Paddington Bear - even in Germany: red hat, blue duffle coat, small in stature. For 65 years, Britain's most famous bear has delighted people in the UK and around the world. On October 13, 1958, “A Bear Called Paddington” by author Michael Bond was published, the book was then called “Our Little Bear” in German. Paddington has been world famous for a long time. But with the death of Queen Elizabeth II, he became a national symbol - even though he wasn't even British.
In fact, Paddington comes from “darkest Peru.” A migrant, then, and one who, in his own words, came ashore in a lifeboat. In the heated debate about irregular migration across the English Channel, Paddington threatens to become a controversial figure. Critics emphasize that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's ruling Conservatives immediately pushed the bear away. Tories supporters, on the other hand, praise Paddington as a model of successful integration. "Not all migrants speak English fluently with a distinguished accent, nor have they been obsessed with British culture throughout their lives, nor have they willingly given up their real names because they are too difficult for English people to understand," GQ magazine once commented .
Paddington inventor Bond had a completely different model in mind when he created the little bear just over a decade after the end of the Second World War. He remembered the children who had been sent to the countryside for fear of German air raids. They often had pieces of paper with their names or messages on their clothes - like Paddington.
When the Brown family finds him, there is a note on the jacket: "Please take care of this bear. Thank you." It's a bear because Bond once brought his wife a teddy bear that had been sitting abandoned on a shelf near the train station after which his star was named.
Paddington quickly adapts to life with the middle-class Brown family and makes friends with the local shopkeepers. Extremely correct and polite - he would never dare to address an adult by their first name, as is now the custom in Britain - Paddington wins everyone's hearts. Sure, he's extremely clumsy and therefore causes chaos everywhere. But everyone quickly forgives him thanks to his kindness (with the exception of the evil neighbor Mr Curry, but he always loses out). And finally the bear eats his favorite food – a jam sandwich.
Numerous books, several TV series, two successful films, a third is currently in the works. Plus postage stamps and two statues in London alone, one of which is on platform 1 of “his” train station: Paddington has long been a star. Recently, however, his fame increased even further. On the Queen's 70th anniversary, the real queen drank tea with the animated bear. Of course, this didn't go according to royal etiquette. But that was exactly what people liked, especially because the Queen showed humor and even took out a loaf of jam from her legendary handbag.
But they were touched when Paddington obviously said to the Queen on behalf of everyone: "Thank you, madam. For everything." When Elizabeth died a few months later, mourners didn't just place flowers at their residences. There were so many Paddington figures and jam sandwiches that the royal parks administration publicly asked them not to give up the gifts.
Whether as a model migrant who follows "Britishness" with its over-correct politeness or as a multicultural representative with liberal values - Paddington's success could also lie in the fact that he offers something for everyone. Or as the author Darshita Goyal wrote after the Queen's funeral services: "Now Paddington Brown is no longer a bear - he is a blank screen onto which we project our worries about the future of Britain."
Read in our archive at stern: It's been six months since Queen Elizabeth II's state funeral, her successor Charles has been crowned, and now everyday life begins in the British royal family. One of the first tasks is to look through the estate - which certainly holds many secrets.