In the figure of Paddington Bear, Michael Bond, who died this week, depicted the struggles that a new arrival to any land faces.
Illustration from Everett
Long before J. K. Rowling’s exhilarating invention, twenty years ago, of Platform Nine and Three-Quarters—the location at King’s Cross station where students bound for Hogwarts depart by marching full tilt at a wall—another children’s author had imbued another major London railway station with perpetual magic. When Michael Bond, a BBC cameraman and part-time writer, conceived of a story, in the late nineteen-fifties, in which a small bear from South America arrived in London, he chose Paddington Station as the place where the creature would be found, and thence adopted, by an English family, the Browns. Paddington Station—which connects Wales and western England with London—is named for the area of London where it is situated, a settlement dating back more than a thousand years. The precise etymology of the place name Paddington is obscure, though it most likely is of Anglo-Saxon origin, referring to a geographical area ruled by a now-forgotten chief named Padda. The name now belongs, of course, to Paddington Bear, the enduring and beloved creation of Bond, who died this week at the age of ninety-one.