Are you an Arctophile?

Are you an arctophile? Perhaps you don’t know what one is; neither did I until very recently, but if you have a great fondness for teddy bears then you can take on the title. I came across the word arctophile when reading Jessica Redland’s blog and books. She used to own a bear shop, (how cool is that?) and one of the shops in her fictional town of Whitsborough is called Bear With Me.

Bears have featured in children’s story books for generations. Daughter enjoyed Michael Bond’s Paddington stories but whilst I do have a fondness for the marmalade sandwich eating ursine, my own early years were dominated by the wonderfully innocent Pooh, and with his simplified view of the world and wise words he remains a great favourite of mine, but only in his intended format. Shepard’s original drawings of A.A. Milne’s gentle soul and his friends are a million miles from the garish Disney cartoon depiction which are probably better known by today’s youngsters.

Ted 1

My first encounter with teddy bears was shortly after I was born though of course I have no memory of meeting them, but those two bears were my constant companions all through growing up and they still live with me.

Unimaginatively called Big Ted and Little Ted (creativity was not my mother’s strong point), they would not have been expensive bears and with several bare patches, a sure sign of much cuddling, have seen better days but still remain much loved.

Ted 4

As a small child I’d look forward every Christmas to the latest Rupert annual and I bought them for my own children for years. I’m not certain that Rupert is really a candidate for arctophilia since he’s not really a teddy bear, but more of an actual bear. What was that? Not real? Shame on you! As I’ve explained to my husband on many occasions, bears do have feelings, you know! When my dad died when I was 24, I was given his car and with it the tiny Rupert figurine (about two and a half inches tall) that had been moved from car to car. I’ve no idea where it came from – probably a toy of my younger brother’s but Dad had held onto it for years. Rupert has been in every car I’ve had since and I like to think that he and my dad keep me safe.

When my younger son was small, all he wanted for Christmas was Holly Bear. He’d seen Holly in Woolworths and developed a strong urge to own him. Every time we were in town he’d insist that we went to look but one day he wasn’t there and Son was distraught! I had to tell him that Father Christmas was sure to know how much he wanted him and had probably done his Christmas shopping in Woolworths! Of course he had, and on Christmas morning we had one very happy boy.

Ted 2

Daughter, like me had two special bears. The first was the now faded Midnight (yes, you guessed, the one on the left). Unlike my boys who had been good sleepers (a hint of the rose tinted specs there?), Daughter did not sleep through the night until she was nineteen months old. From the age of about one year old she’d haul herself up by the bars of her cot shortly after we’d fallen asleep and fling Midnight across the floor. Then she’d begin to shout. “Nit-nite, Nit-nite”…on and on it went until we got up and lay them both down again. This process was repeated at least twice more in the early hours. We tried not putting him in the cot but she was distraught. As she got older and progressed to a bed so Midnight continued to be her bedtime companion now joined by her brother’s cast off Holly Bear. They still live on her bed here at home, both having recently had a smart change of clothing.

Ted 7

When Daughter was nine her school library started selling postcards and each day she’d save the few pence left over from her lunch money until she had enough to buy a card which she would give to me. Each one came from a series of bear pictures and I got my favourite laminated to use as a bookmark. Twenty five years later I still use it. How precious are those possessions that would mean nothing to anyone else.

My children always had lots of books and they were read to regularly but I made stories up too. Daughter loved the one about Barnaby Bear (the gist of which I’ll recount below). One Christmas long after she had grown out of bedtime stories I was in Debenhams and saw a bear which perfectly fitted the picture of the barnaby that we’d conjured up together. I couldn’t resist. After all, getting on for 14 might be too old for Mummy’s made up tales but you’re never too old for a bear. She knew immediately who he was. Recently Daughter acquired a delightful three and half year old stepdaughter and we’ve agreed that Barnaby should move to Bedfordshire to be with them. He’ll be making his way there soon along with a new wardrobe of clothes. And that, in case you wondered when I mentioned it in an earlier post, is why I’ve recently been knitting teddy trousers!

Ted 3

Barnaby: a very short version of a story of varying length dependent on what time daughter went to bed! Barnaby Bear lived in Mr Zippo’s zoo. It was a very small zoo with only five animals so it didn’t make much money so Mr Zippo decided to close it down and go and live in Australia. He visited all the other zoos in town asking them to take one of his animals. They took one each but no-one had need of a bear so Mr Zippo gave Barnaby his bus fare and told him that he’d have to find a new home by himself. Barnaby stayed on the bus until his money ran out. Still with no home a little tear rolled down his cheek as he snuggled down under a hedge for the night. In the morning he peeped out and saw a little girl looking out of the window in the house opposite. She waved to him and he waved back with a damp paw. Mummy said that the bear could come and live with them and they all lived happily ever after. The little girl was, of course, my daughter


  1. Late to the party – again! I’m not an arctophile but as a child, I loved Pooh, Rupert, Paddington and Sooty, as did my younger brother and sister and my sons Does Sooty count? After all, he is a puppet!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, what lovely stories, Eloise! I particularly love that you have the tiny Rupert who goes in each successive car, him and your Dad keeping you safe.
    But I have to confess I’m not a bear fan. Yes, we have one in the summerhouse (that’s his residence, along with Monkey, a PG Tips monkey that my late mother sent away for and it arrived after she’d died – I’m sure she sent for it to give to me) that was our younger son’s teddy bear, and I’d never part with that, but overall, I’m not a bear collector, I don’t have soft toys on the bed or anything like that. I also didn’t enjoy Rupert annuals, I preferred Girl and School Friend. Love Barnaby Bear story!
    Margaret P

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    • I’m sure that Monkey was intended as a surprise gift for you, Margaret! Oh I love the School Friend annual and Bunty too. Barnaby will be making his journey to his new home on Thursday.


  3. I love all these stories. My panda was accidentally left on a small chair in a Mothercare store, many years ago now. Thankfully he was well looked after and was collected the following day and posted back to me. I never let him out of my sight after that : ) I have a soft spot for bears, especially those who look like they are well loved, as I’m sure Barnaby will be. He looks very well dressed. X

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    • Oh Jules – that’s a horror story! So glad that you got Panda back. I used to dread a favourite bear or other creature being lost. Barnaby will be in his new home next week and a certain little girl is very, very excited!


  4. Had a tear in my eye reading your bear-looking-for-a-home story. My eldest still has her dad’s teddy and of course it was hers too. He is 77. My son still has his ted who is 50 years old.


    • That is an old teddy! How lovely.
      Barnaby was sometimes very, very sad, but always happy in the end because he’d found a new home. Sometimes we’d carry the story on and hed visit his old friends in the other zoos.


  5. I didn’t know what an arctophile was! I didn’t have a teddy bear growing up (my favorite stuffed toys were a black cat and a tiger), although, I received a tiny one that had been my step-father’s when I was a pre-teen. When I was in my twenties and working, we were discussing what toys we had as children, and I mentioned I didn’t have a teddy bear as a child; later that year, a co-worker gave me a teddy bear for my birthday. The next thing I knew, my house was taken over by teddy bears of all sizes and colors! LOL. I loved them all, but, eventually, gave them all away. All I have now is a tiny wooden Paddington bear (he’s easy to clean).


  6. What a lot of lovely bears! My daughter still has her childhood bear which was given to her by my P7 sewing girls who saved their money when they realised my departure at Christmas 1974 from their school meant a baby was coming soon! That was nearly 46 years ago and they definitely were more innocent then.I always had a Rupert the Bear annual too. How lovely that your daughter’s stepdaughter will have one of the family bears. Very autumnal here now and the winte duvet has gone on.


    • How lovely to have the girls gift the bear for your baby. I suspect that most people will have happy memories of a childhood bear even if they no longer have him or her. However, my husband tells me that he was never given a teddy. Isn’t that sad?


  7. No I’m not but I did have a rather battered teddy with buttons for eyes called Peter. I don’t know what became of him but probably my mum gave him away. Many years later I have a son called Peter but it was my husband’s suggestion named after his brother. My daughter had a teddy she named peapetals! I don’t know where she got that name from. Little GD has several teddies including two Pooh bears and a Paddington but it is plain Teddy and Eyore which she has to have when she’s tired.

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    • Peapetals, that’s a new one! I once won a bear by guessing his name….Peter. I think I passed him onto a Christmas present charity. Good job I didn’t name my son after either of my childhood bears. Big ted or little ted might have caused a bit of teasing!


  8. I’m sure you can imagine that, as soon as I saw that title appear in my emails, I had to click straight through. Thank you for the mention! I’m loving the story of Barnaby the Bear and his trousers are absolutely adorable. I would definitely say that Rupert Bear falls into arctophile territory as the word is the love of bears as opposed to teddy bears specifically although is typically used now for a collector of teddy bears. It was a real encounter with a bear by President Teddy Roosevelt (who was on an ‘unsuccessful’ bear hunt but refused to shoot the baby bear his team had caught and tethered to a tree) that resulted in the name ‘teddy bear’. There’s a slightly longer story involving a cartoon and a shop but I’m sure you get the gist. Therefore, Rupert as a proper bear would still be loved by an arctophile. Pooh Bear I adore too but I agree with you about the traditional look. I used to stock traditional ones in my shop that looked much more like the E H Shepard illustrations on Milne’s books. Gorgeous.


    • Thank you for taking the time to comment, Jessica. It was down to you, of course, that I wrote the post, though I don’t know why I never got around to doing so before. Love the story about Roosevelt choosing not to shoot the baby bear, and glad to hear that Rupert’s inclusion in the post is justified!

      Liked by 1 person

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