Michael Bond, creator of marmalade-loving children’s favourite Paddington Bear, has died aged 91, his publisher said Wednesday.
HarperCollins said Bond died at his home Tuesday after a short illness.
Ann-Janine Murtagh, executive publisher of HarperCollins Children’s Books, said the duffel-coated, Wellington boot-wearing bear “touched my own heart as a child and will live on in the hearts of future generations.”
The furry adventurer first appeared in A Bear Called Paddington in 1958 — a stowaway from “darkest Peru” who arrived at London’s Paddington train station wearing a sign saying “Please look after this bear. Thank you.”
Adopted by the Brown family, the misadventure-prone bear went on to star in some 20 books, a 1970s television series and a feature film.
The books have sold some 35 million copies worldwide and have been translated into 40 languages, including Latin with Ursus Nomine Paddington.
Born in Newbury, southern England, on Jan. 13 1926, Bond served in both the Royal Air Force and the British Army during the Second World War. He began writing while stationed with the army in Egypt in 1945.
He was working as a BBC cameraman when he created his most famous character.
Bond said he based the character on a teddy bear that he bought for his wife as a stocking stuffer, and named him after the station he used for daily commutes.
Beloved, iconic toy
Today, countless stuffed Paddingtons are for sale in toy stores and souvenir stands around Britain, and a statue of the iconic bear stands at the station.
Explaining the character’s enduring appeal in 2008, Bond said “there’s something about bears which sets them apart from the other toys.”
“I think dolls are always wondering what they’re going to wear next,” he told The Associated Press. “Bears have this quality that children in particular feel they can tell their secrets to and they won’t pass them on.”
Bond was named Commander of the Order of the British Empire at Buckingham Palace on October 27, 2015.
Paddington, a film based on the character, was released in 2014 to critical and commercial success. A sequel, Paddington 2, will be released later this year.
Actor Hugh Bonneville, who plays Mr. Brown in the movie adaptations, said news of Bond’s death came on the final day of shooting for the upcoming film.
Bonneville said Paddington’s “enthusiasm and optimism has given pleasure to millions across the generations.”
“Michael will be greatly missed by his legions of fans and especially by his wife, Sue, his family and of course by his beloved guinea pigs,” he said. “He leaves a special legacy: long live the bear from darkest Peru.”
In addition to the Paddington stories, Bond wrote a series of books about a guinea pig named Olga da Polga and a string of novels for adults about a French detective called Monsieur Pamplemousse.
Bond is survived by his wife and his children, Karen and Anthony.