Please look after this dear bear

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The Independent Online
From obscurity in darkest Peru to a starring role in an international auction house sale - Paddington Bear may have reached the pinnacle of his 39-year career.

The Paddington Bear created for the 1970s BBC television series is to be the centrepiece of a sale of toys and dolls at Sotheby's in London on 3 June. The 8-inch bear, complete with duffel coat and floppy hat, is expected to fetch pounds 6,000 to pounds 10,000.

The diffident and eccentric hero of Michael Bond's children's books is a fictional icon. His adventures with the Brown family of Maida Vale have been translated into 22 languages, with worldwide sales of pounds 20m. There is a lucrative market in merchandising spin-offs ranging from cuddly toys to bars of soap.

Paddington was christened by the Browns, who discovered him sitting behind mailbags at the London station with a luggage tag around his neck that read: "Please look after this bear. Thank you."

He had been sent to England by his beloved Aunty Lucy, carrying only a battered suitcase containing his worldly possessions: a photograph of his aunt, a few coins and a jar of his favourite marmalade.

The Browns - Mr and Mrs, together with their children Richard and Judy - took him into their home, where he enlivened family life by getting into a series of amusing scrapes. Bond based the character on a teddy bear that he bought for his wife and on the memory of evacuee children wearing labels around their neck.

The first book, A Bear Called Paddington, was published in 1958. Bond later masterminded the successful television series narrated by the late Sir Michael Hordern. The rights to the programmes were sold last year for nearly pounds 11m.