Wednesday 11 November 2020

If You Go Down To The Woods Today...

There will be a picnic for one very special bear - Rupert Bear is 100 this week. He began life as "Little Lost Bear" a children's comic strip in the Daily Express. The artist/storywriter was Mary Tourtel, a children's illustrator [and wife of a staff member] It was a marketing ploy to gain readers from the Mail and the Mirror. Then in 1935, Alfred Bestall took over - Rupert lost the original blue jumper, and gained his red jumper and yellow check scarf.

Every year since 1936, a Rupert Bear Annual has been published at Christmas. I had four or five in my childhood - no idea what happened to them! I have a 2005 one on my shelf - 20p from a sale at Leicester City Library. There have been a number of artists since Bestall gave up in 1974, Stuart Trotter has been doing it since 2008.

The format of the stories was always the same - a picture with a couple of lines of verse below, and then a fuller story running along the bottom of the page. I remember sitting with my parents - reading out the verse to them, and then they would fill in the details. The other great thing about the earlier annuals was that there was always an origami model to make. I remember one of mine had a frog and a waterlily in it.

I think this was the annual containing the story which later inspired Paul and Linda McCartney to write The Frog Chorus in 1983. True fanatics belong to the "Followers of Rupert" club, meeting every year for a festival at which they swap memorabilia, read favourite stories, and watch a play. The play is acted out by the children attending the event [usually these are the offspring of FOR members. There are even married couples who met through belonging to FOR] Check out the FOR website

I don't think Rupert is as popular a bear as Pooh or Paddington, but he is the oldest to star in his own story. [Jungle Book containing Baloo appeared in 1894] Royal Mail are celebrating this centenary by issuing a set of six stamps - which include 2 each of 1st and 2nd class. Bizarrely, only one of these pictures shows the yellow scarf.

Did you have a Rupert Annual at Christmas when you were younger? Do you remember watching the TV series from 1970-77, or the more recent "Follow the Magic" animation from 2008? 
I needed some more stamps, so I tried to get some of these. But the lady in the Post Office said they came out last month, she wasn't issued very many, and they've all gone now. She suggested I go in early on Friday, and get some Star Trek ones instead! 


  1. Ah....Rupert Bear. I do remember him though I don't remember HOW I knew him except that I did. I adored the frog Chorus as a child. I had no idea it was by the McCartneys!!! I always remember being amazed that an older girl I knew had a Rupert outfit and scarf which she wore to play a Munchkin in a production of The Wizard of Oz. Random memory!

  2. We didn't have the Express but I loved my Rupert Annuals (only ever had two!). I know I've got 2 or 3 upstairs that I've picked up secondhand - now going to have another look at them

  3. I'm still slightly bothered by the depiction of animals who are basically drawn as humans with animal heads on (and tails poking through their trousers) With proper hands and feet, not paws.

  4. I don't remember Rupert from when I was a child, but, I remember watching some children's TV shows with him, when my daughter used to watch them.

  5. I've just started reading the original paddington bear - and loving it! Cheers Hope you and your family are all keeping well.


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