Bears at bedtime. What could be nicer than to snuggle up for a bedtime story, featuring your favourite character – the teddy bear? Since the popularity teddies took off in the 1902, there have been endless stories written about these furry friends. Classic bear tales are the ones we hold in our memories and hearts for our whole lives, and love to read to our own children in turn. Here are some of well-loved bears from the past, which may stir some memories.
Baloo Bear – The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling (1894)
The Jungle Book is a children’s classic, in which forest friends care for a little orphaned boy called Mowgli. Published in 1894, with a sequel called The Second Jungle Book in 1894, the bear in the story is described as “..the sleepy brown bear…”. The Hindi word Bhalu was a common name for a number of bear species, and controversy has raged over the exact species Baloo was. Kipling described his diet as consisting “only of roots, nuts and honey”, which is true of the Asian Black Bear, although some thing his sleepiness suggests he is a Sloth Bear.
Disney loved Kipling’s creation and, in their animated film of The Jungle Book, developed Baloo’s character into one of a relaxed, easy-going, loveable brown bear, who teaches Mowgli how to survive in the forest on his wits. His song, The Bear Necessities, is arguably the catchiest tune in the production.
Rupert Bear – Mary Tourtel (1920)
This cute little bear, with his distinctive red jumper and yellow checked trousers and scarf, lived with his parents in Nutwood, a fictional village created by the author of the Rupert character, Mary Tourtel. Her comic strip of Rupert’s adventures first appeared in the Daily Express newspaper in 1920. In 1935, Alfred Bestall took over her role, and what followed was many years of Rupert adventures, with a Rupert Annual as a firm fixture on many children’s Christmas lists. These first appeared in 1936. Rupert’s adventures often occur far away from his home, in magical lands, like King Frost’s Castle or The Kingdom of the Birds. He takes along his chums, Bill the Badger, Ping-Pong the Pekingese, Edward Trunk, Algy the Pug, and Ming the Dragon, amongst others. Raggety is a woodland creature made out of twigs, who provides some conflict, due to his bad temper and irritating habits.
Rupert always ends up back in Nutwood, where everything is back to its warm, cosy, idyllic self. His parents seem very relaxed about his adventures. Do you remember the theme music? For a trip down memory lane, you can hear Jackie Lee sing it here.
Teddy Edward – Patrick and Mollie Matthews (1970’s)
Who remembers Teddy Edward? Teddy Edward looked just like Big Ted on Playschool, or Teddy in Andy Pandy – an archetypal large, jointed teddy bear with golden fur. Teddy Edward went on many adventures, along with his furry sidekicks Jasmine the Rabbit, Snowytoes the Panda, and Bushy the Bushbaby. In 1973, Teddy Edward was made into a television series, narrated by newsreader Richard Baker, and 13 episodes were filmed, often being repeated throughout the 1980s. Teddy Edward’s most unusual adventure was to Timbuktu! He just loved travel. Many little pre-school children adored Teddy Edward’s stories, and but the TV show was just a series of photos from the books shown with narration. How things have changed! Do you remember the theme music? You can watch a very rare clip from one of the episodes, with the music in the background here.
Teddy Robinson – Joan G. Robinson (1939)
Joan G. Robinson was an illustrator, who used a real teddy bear in her stories. Teddy Robinson belonged to her daughter Deborah, and in the books the pair got into numerous scrapes together. Teddy was a lovely character, sometimes shy, sometimes over confident, but always with a plan and an opinion. He spends the night outdoors by mistake, ends up in hospital, plays pirates at the seaside, goes to birthday parties, enjoys Christmas and Sports Days. In short, whatever his young owner does, Teddy Robinson joins in. Many remember the books fondly from their childhoods, particularly the lovely illustrations that accompanied all the stories. He is a truly classic retro teddy bear.
Paddington – Michael Bond (1958)
We all know the story of Paddington Bear, the sweet little Peruvian bear who is discovered at Paddington Station by Mr and Mrs Smith. Michael Bond’s creation has charmed children for decades, due to his innocent charm and propensity for getting into trouble. It is this childlike quality that most endears him to young readers. We see that the good-hearted bear never means to get things wrong, they just go wrong, and his attempts to rectify the problem only seems to make things worse. Through it all, Paddington retains his immaculate manners and positive outlook on life. The books were made into a ground-breaking TV series in 1975. Aimed at younger children than the books were intended for, they used a real teddy bear as a stop-motion puppet, moving around in a 3D space with 2D backgrounds. The other characters were drawn, but Paddington was ‘real’ to children. This had the effect of enhancing their belief in him and firmly positing him as the main protagonist. When his owner, Mr Brown, hands him a jar of marmalade, it transforms from 2D to 3D. Paddington really was a magical bear.