Bears In Children’s Books: A Generational Favourite


Victoria Mileson

Bears are a classic and favourite character among children’s books. It seems bizarre considering that bears are one of the animals that humans fear most. However, bear-related stories have withstood the test of time and have remained both a child’s and adult’s favourite for generations. Victoria talks us through some of the key examples.

Is it because they seem more human than other animals? Maybe the childhood prevalence of the fluffy teddy bear? Or is it simply their unique taste for honey that appeals to the childhood mind?

the story may have begun as a scary and cautionary tale, but people have adapted it to be cosy and comforting

The Story of The Three Bears, now more commonly known as Goldilocks and The Three Bears, originally published in 1837, can be said to have initiated the fascination with bears in children’s books. The famous fairy-tale is a child’s favourite and everyone has their own rendition of it from their childhood.

Robert Southey’s tale began as a frightening story, but over time it has become more about a family, with little hint of the original old woman entering the home of three bears. Back then, Goldilocks was not a pretty, young girl with golden hair. In fact, it was about an old woman who was described as dirty and ugly, and she wasn’t even called Goldilocks. The story may have begun as a scary and cautionary tale, but people have adapted it to be cosy and comforting.

Another favourite story about bears in the children’s books genre is Winnie-the-Pooh. Published in 1926, Pooh is possibly the most well-known fictional bear. No child’s library is complete without A.A. Milne’s stories about Pooh, Christopher Robin and their friends’ adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood. The famous bear was brought to the screen by Walt Disney in 1966 and has since had a successful and lengthy career, with his last on-screen appearance in the 2018 film, Christopher Robin.

Winnie-the-Pooh is generous and kind. Although he is not necessarily book-smart, he offers other lessons to children instead, often about friendship. These characteristics have been carried over into other popular bear-related stories over time.

For example, Paddington Bear- another very successful character- uses his human sense of right and wrong throughout his stories to teach children about morals. The simple pleasures of Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends are mirrored across various Paddington titles. There’s something endearing about a talking bear in a duffle coat, that keeps marmalade sandwiches in his hat, and that maintains his grandad-like mannerisms throughout all of life’s challenges.

life can be so much more interesting when a bear is involved

A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond, published in 1958, has earned itself two films so far with another one in the works. Paddington also has his own Twitter account with over 200,000 followers. His fame has reached an audience that speaks 30 different languages across 70 different titles. The quintessentially British bear with a penchant for marmalade is well-spoken, well-mannered, and good natured. Hailing from Peru and making the rocky journey to Paddington station in London, the polite bear proves how life can be so much more interesting when a bear is involved.

Across the genre, bears in children’s books are kind, charming and a little bit dopey. The challenges they face show the value of positive thinking, and their adventures provide stories with a variety of lessons about life. They all have their quirks, making them all amazing characters that are loved by generations. Perhaps the childhood prevalence has aided the fascination of bears in children’s books, but the stories speak for themselves in creating long-lasting characters.

So, whether it’s a bear with a fascination for porridge, honey, or marmalade, their stories are ‘just right’.

Victoria Mileson 

Featured image courtesy of Giri Trasanto via Flickr. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

In-article image 1 courtesy of @paddingtonbear via No changes were made to this image.

In-article image 2 courtesy of  @pooh via No changes were made to this image.

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