Paddington Bear is the Politest Bear

Paddington Bear has his own statue at Paddington Station! [Via Wikimedia Commons

Before I picked up A Bear Called Paddington recently, all I could remember about Paddington Bear was that he wore a navy toggle coat and a red hat and came from Peru. I also, unfortunately, remember the time when my sister was in pre-school and I was a little bit older, she brought home some kind of class book that had a line drawing of Paddington in it and I took it upon myself to color him in. My mom was furious and marched me in to apologize to the teacher for defacing school property. Pretty good parenting, but a mortifying memory for me.

It turns out that the Paddington Bear books are extremely lovely stories about an ACTUAL bear who is adopted by the Brown family. For some reason, all this time, I assumed that Paddington was a stuffed, toy bear that could talk (because that makes much more logical sense?) Paddington loves marmelade and is always getting into scrapes. He is also extremely polite.

  • Right from beginning, Paddington shows his good manners when he is introducing himself to Mr. and Mrs. Brown: “The bear raised its hat politely—twice. ‘I haven’t really got a name,’ he said. ‘Only a Peruvian one which no one can understand.'”
  • Paddington demonstrates his respect towards his elders by always addressing adults by their title. Even though they’ve adopted him, he always calls his caretakers Mr. and Mrs. Brown: “Paddington licked his lips. ‘I’m very thirsty,’ he said. ‘Seawater makes you thirsty.’ He picked up his suitcase, pulled his hat down firmly over his head, and waved a paw politely in the direction of the buffet. ‘After you, Mr. Brown.'”
  • While he waits for Mr. Brown to bring them some food and tea, he spies a half eaten bun on the table but the waitress scoops it away befoe he has a chance to say anything: “‘You don’t want that, dearie,’ she said, giving him a friendly pat. ‘You don’t know where it’s been.’
    Paddington felt so empty he didn’t really mind where it had been, but he was much too polite to say anything.”
  • Sometimes, however, Paddington’s attempts to be polite and helpful go awry: “The taxi driver jumped at the sound of Paddington’s voice and narrowly missed hitting a bus. He looked down at his shoulder and glared. ‘Cream!’ he said bitterly. ‘All over me new coat!’ Judy giggled, and Mr. and Mrs. Brown exchanged glances. Mr. Brown peered at the meter. He half expected to see a sign go up saying they had to pay another fifty pence. ‘I beg your pardon,’ said Paddington. He bent forward and tried to rub the stain off with his other paw. Several bun crumbs and a smear of jam added themselves mysteriously to the taxi driver’s coat. The driver gave Paddington a long, hard look. Paddington raised his hat, and the driver slammed the window shut again.”
  • While Paddington is very polite, sometimes he has a hard time actually showing correct etiquette. He IS a bear afterall, and things like eating breakfast in bed can be quite tricky even for well-mannered people: ‘Now, I wonder what she means by that?’ said Paddington. But he didn’t worry about it for very long. There was far too much to do. It was the first time he had ever had breakfast in bed, and he soon found it wasn’t quite so easy as it looked. First of all he had trouble with the grapefruit. Every time he pressed it with his spoon a long stream of juice shot up and hit him in the eye, which was very painful. And all the time he was worried because the bacon and eggs were getting cold. Then there was the question of the marmalade. He wanted to leave room for the marmalade.”
  • He even has quite a disaster on a trip to the theater. His family is helping him take off his coat and get him settled in his seat, but: “‘Mind my marmalade sandwich!’ cried Paddington as [Judy] placed it on the ledge in front of him. But it was too late. He looked round guiltily. ‘Crikey!’ said Jonathan. ‘It’s fallen on someone’s head!’ He looked over the edge of the box. ‘It’s that man with the bald head. He looks jolly cross.’
    ‘Oh, Paddington!’ Mrs. Brown looked despairingly at him. ‘Do you have to bring marmalade sandwiches to the theater?’

Paddington Bear is so charming and funny that it is pretty appealing even to adults that I read the first book the whole way through. It’s always nice to see, too, when a beloved children’s character is also an example of good etiquette.

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