Seven of the best literary bears

Seven of the best literary bears

It’s Hug a Bear Day!

If you’ve read the blog before, you might have caught that I’m a huge Winnie-the-Pooh fan. Well, I’ll confess to you now, that whilst Winnie-the-Pooh might be my favourite literary bear, I love a lot of bears. By which I mean fictional bears, and cuddly bears, and fictional bears that you’d really like to cuddle.

So, as you might imagine, Hug a Bear Day pulls at all bear-loving heart strings.

Many of us grew up with a much-adored teddy bear. The one that had to come everywhere. The one that caused mass family panic when it went missing. The one that genuinely did end up looking “loved” (read: dishevelled). And whether or not you still have that bear – I do, if you were wondering, and have now also adopted my boyfriend’s childhood bear – the cuddly and kindly nature of teddy bears and fictional bears lives on through generations in our hearts and minds, and in our books and literature.

And so to celebrate Hug a Bear Day, without further ado, here are seven of the very best fictional bears.

1. Baloo

baloo bear jungle bookFrom: The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

Created/First appeared: 1894

Baloo started off in Rudyard Kipling’s stories as  is the strict teacher of the cubs of a wolf pack, with “man-cub” Mowgli as his most challenging student. The type of bear he is is up for debate – he might be a brown bear, he might be a sloth bear – but we do know he’s a bear with a good heart.

The Disney adaptation of Baloo that a lot of us will be most familiar with was created in 1967. In this version, Baloo is friendly and even-tempered, and often shirks responsibility – seemingly far removed from the law teacher in Kipling’s book. Baloo is one of Mowgli’s mentors and friends. He is patient and strong; his only weakness is that he’s ticklish.

2. Paddington Bear

paddington bear literary bearsFrom: *Oh-so-many* Paddington Bear books by Michael Bond

Created/First appeared: 1958

Paddington is a friendly bear from deepest, darkest Peru with a love for marmalade. For years we’ve been enjoying his innocence and quirkiness. Michael Bond based Paddington Bear on a lone teddy bear he noticed on a shelf in a London store near Paddington Station on Christmas Eve 1956, which he bought as a present for his wife.

The Paddington books have been translated into 30 languages across 70 titles and sold more than 30 million copies worldwide. Paddington was first made into a teddy bear that we could actually cuddle in 1972. Since then, the Paddington stories have been adapted successfully for both television and film.

3. Old Bear

old bear literary bearsFrom: Old Bear, Little Bear’s Trousers, Jolly Tall, and many others by Jane Hissey

Created/First appeared: 1986

You may remember Old Bear from the 90s television series Old Bear Stories created from the books. The premise is thus: The animals in the playroom remember that Old Bear disappeared long ago… He has been put into the loft! They rescue him and bring him back down to the playroom where he becomes the most respected toy and guides the others in their many adventures.

The television series was very well critically received and won a lot of awards. In 2003 a new Old Bear book was published, Splash, in which toys leave the house and garden for the first time. I remember the Old Bear characters as being rather sweet and comforting.

4. Iorek Byrnison

iorek byrnison literary bearsFrom: His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman

Created/First appeared: 1995

Iorek Byrnison is an armoured bear, similar to a polar bear, but with armour on.

He is a great friend and comrade to protagonist Lyra Silvertongue. Iorek follows a very strict code of conduct, and will not, in any situation, betray a promise he has made. He possesses incredible strength, and like many of his kind is an expert metal-worker. Strong, skilled, and loyal – some brilliant bear traits there!

5. Winnie the Pooh

winnie-the-pooh literary bearsFrom: Winnie the Pooh, The House at Pooh Corner, and other stories and poems by A. A. Milne

Created/First appeared: 1924 as Edward Bear, 1926 as Winnie the Pooh

I have to be careful not to go on about Winnie the Pooh forever – you can read me do that here. First and foremost Winnie the Pooh is a kindhearted, lovable bear, who might lack book smarts, but makes up for it in simple and honest emotional generosity.

Pooh will always be there for you.

In 1966 Winnie the Pooh became a Disney character, but I’ve always favoured the book version myself. Plus, E. H. Shepard’s original illustrations are magical.

6. Lars

lars literary bearsFrom: Little Polar Bear, and other books by Hans de Beer

Created/First appeared: 1987

The Little Polar Bear book series started life in Germany as Der kleine Eisbär. It became better know however, when it was adapted into a television series in the 90s, and was revived again in the early 2000s.

Lars is a young, friendly Polar Bear with a penchant for adventure and often getting into a spot of trouble. He lives with his parents in the North Pole, and floats about on sheets of ice, discovering new things. He’s a cheeky and curious explorer of a bear.

7. Rupert Bear

rupert bear literary bearsFrom: Many comic strips and annuals, first by Mary Tourtel and then from 1935 by Alfred Bestall, and more recently by various artists and writers.

Created/First appeared: 1920

Rupert, affectionately known as ‘Rupes’ in my household, was the bear my boyfriend was brought up with. He (Rupert, not my boyfriend) began life in a comic in the Daily Express newspaper and his popularity grew from there. He exists in many such comics, including the famous Rupert Bear Annuals, and became the main character in a television series in 1967.

Rupert lives with his parents in a house in Nutwood, a fictional idyllic English village. He is a kindly bear who looks after his friends and goes on many wild adventures. He is drawn wearing a red jumper/sweater and bright yellow checked trousers, with matching yellow scarf. Originally depicted as a brown bear, his colour soon changed to white to save on printing costs!


So there you have seven of the best literary bears! Which one is your favourite?

I’d love to hear about your childhood bears and any stories about your time with them!


This post was written by Holly Newson

Picture credit: rhobbs94; Martin PettittSidonie; Paul K; Ian Burt

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