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Friday, April 10, 2015

Cozy & Secure with Paddington Bear: Part 2

As it turned out, my copy of Michael Bond's first novel, A Bear Called Paddington, arrived at a very appropriate time. For last weekend I fell ill with a sick tummy, even though I hadn't eaten a single marmalade sandwich that day. (In retrospect, perhaps that was the problem! For, given Paddington's admiration for marmalade, I imagine it must offer potent medicinal benefits).

That night we reversed our usual practice, and my wife read to me in bed before we turned off the lights. I following her delivery of Bond's prose, and studied the sketches by illustrator Peggy Fortnum. After a few minutes, my eyes sought out each page, and threatened to consume the text before my wife could deliver it. I had to look away, so I could relax, and let Bond's writing (and my wife's reading) ease my pain.

Paddington slips and tumbles onto his tea saucer.
Aside from the initial portion of the film, in which Paddington grows up with his aunt and uncle in Darkest Peru, the plot mirrored the basic structure of the novel. The book starts with Mr. and Mrs. Brown finding a lonely bear in Paddington station, Mr. Brown giving him a cup of tea and a bun while they wait for their daughter Judy's train to arrive, and then the family deciding to take them home with them. When the bear explains his name is unpronounceable by humans, the Browns name him after the train station in which they found him. As everything in England is new to him, Paddington has problems with his food and drink, and ends up wet and sticky. The cab driver doesn't like the idea of transporting the bear home, as he's just cleaned his upholstery, but accedes to the Browns' pleas and the bear's innate charm. Then he is welcomed into the bosom of the Browns' home, where he discovers that taking a bath is a more tricky business than he had envisioned.

Paddington leaps into his bath.
The filmmakers fine-tuned the qualities of their human characters, so Mr. Brown becomes a worrywart who initially refuses to house the bear for more than a night, and Judy seems particularly at odds with her parents. They also inflate Paddington's antics in the bathtub in spectacular fashion: instead of the floor getting covered in water, soap, and shaving foam, a tidal wave roars out when Mr. Brown opens the bathroom door. But while they played fast and loose with the particulars, apart from the origin segment in Peru, they seem to have remained true to the basic plot structure of Bond's novel. Or at least, that's what I can tell you so far, based on the first two chapters of A Bear Called Paddington

Even though Bond's novel exhibits none of the overall tension the filmmakers infused their story with, I can't wait for my wife to read chapters to me. Like Paddington, I look forward to bundling up into our cozy bed, and listening to more of his adventures. Far from being scared, Bond's story, Fortnum's illustrations, and my wife's readings make me feel just like Paddington after being welcomed into the Brown household: cozy, loved, and secure. 

Now, if I can just be patient, and enjoy the story in small, medicinal nightly doses, instead of giving into my desire to grab the book and consume it in one sitting. While doing so might not give me a tummy ache, I want to savor Bond's first novel for as long as possible, and as much as Paddington enjoys his marmalade sandwiches.

Dragon Dave

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