Opinion: Paddington Bear, illegal alien?


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The name, the toggle coat, and the obsessive marmalade consumption might have fooled us all, but it turns out that the adorable anthropomorph Paddington Bear is not an English native, or even a legal immigrant.

After a three-decade-long hiatus, Paddington Bear will return to children’s lit only to find he’s not as welcome as he was in 1958. Back then, Paddington managed to enter quickly into British society, stepping off at a train stop after leaving his home in ‘darkest Peru’ by stowing away. Since he looked sufficiently cute and helpless, labeled with a tag reading ‘Please help this bear,’ he immediately won the affection of an ordinary British couple who took him in, launching several stories’ worth of wacky intercultural and inter-species misunderstanding.


In a new set of stories by 81-year-old Paddington creator Michael Bond, the refugee bear will face questioning by British immigration authorities. But Bond promises that all will turn out well in the end for Paddington who is, of course, a model immigrant, regardless of his legal status. The first words out of his mouth in the television series happen to be ‘Can I help you,’ which of course charms his soon-to-be keepers, the Browns. (And English natives, or American ones, could learn from the Browns’ response -- ‘We were wondering if we could help you.’) Then, of course, he happily adopts the name ‘Paddington,’ since his Peruvian name is apparently too difficult to pronounce, setting a precedent for at least one present-day politician. Paddington joins Mr. Brown for tea, and despite not quite understanding the custom and making a mess of his food, the bear quickly volunteers to clean up. Within a few decades, after winning the affection of generations of kids, he’s even doing what only true Brits can handle -- eating marmite.

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