The story of Paddington Bear unfolds, coincidentally enough, just like one of the adventures of the friendly and polite little fellow from darkest Peru.
There is quite a bit of good fortune brought about by good intentions, curiosity and luck.
As our story begins, our narrator is struggling with a bout of writer's block. To fill the blank sheet of WH Smith notebook paper in front of him, Michael Bond begins to write about the first thing that meets his eye -- a little toy bear he had recently bought for his wife.
He named the little character after the London railway station where Paddington meets his benefactors, Mr. and Mrs. Brown.
"I jotted down the first few words and they caught my fancy," Bond said, "so I wrote what turned out to be the first chapter of a book."
With his wife's encouragement, Bond continued to write a chapter a day for eight days. But the BBC cameraman didn't realize exactly what he had created. Neither did the 10 publishers who turned down the story of the little bear with a friendly curiosity and a note on his collar that says, "Please look after this bear."
Some 40 years later, the accident-prone bear with the floppy, red rain hat and blue duffel coat is featured in 70 books -- with sales of 30 million -- and a new Cinar-animated television series on HBO Family.
"I hadn't really envisioned writing for children, which is a good thing in retrospect," Bond said, "because I wouldn't have made him a real bear."
In fact, Bond's original Paddington had, in addition to his clothes and speaking ability, a very unreal quality -- he hailed from "darkest Africa." However, a publisher alerted the writer that bears are not native to that continent.
So, as Paddington tries to make sense of his environment -- communicated in letters home to his Aunt Lucy- -- he serves as a technically correct inspiration to those who venture to foreign territory, whether abroad or in their own neighborhoods.
"The original story was done intuitively, not in an analytical way," explained Bond, 73, from his home office in the Little Venice section of London. "Once I begin to write, in a way he takes over."
Paddington also infringed somewhat on the life of Bond's oldest child, born two months before Paddington was first published in 1958.
Soon after realizing that her father didn't laboriously type every individual copy of the Paddington books, young Karen found herself toting the tomes to friends' birthday parties.
"I thought, how awful, it looks like we can't buy anything else," Karen Jankel recalled.
The ageless, marmalade-covered character continued to haunt her into young adulthood. "I was in my late teens or early twenties and this man who had asked me to a dance said there was something he always wanted to tell me." As romantic thoughts raced through her head, he continued, "I love your father's Paddington books."
Jankel now works as managing director at Paddington and Co. and has several dozen of the bears around her house. The largest Paddington manufactured is "life-sized" -- 3 feet 7 inches, modeled after the size of a Peruvian bear.
CAPTION: Paddington is featured in HBO Family animated programs and, at right, in a reissued book series illustrated by R.W. Alley.
CAPTION: Author Michael Bond, daughter Karen Jankel and Paddington.