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Trail talk: happy birthday Rupert Bear

Rupert goes Hiking

Having begun life in ‘Little Lost Bear‘- a simple newspaper ‘text comic’, an illustrated story with accompanying text, on 8th November 1920, Rupert Bear went on to become a much loved child’s character.

The first two panels of a Rupert story that appeared in the Daily Express in 1933. Created and drawn by Mary Tourtel, this has gone on to become the longest continuing runing comic series of any British newspaper
Rupert at School‘- the first two panels of a Rupert story that appeared in the Daily Express in 1933. Created and drawn by Mary Tourtel 1920-35 (initials M.T. bottom left), the stories of this little bear are still published in the same newspaper today. Thus making it the longest continuous running comic series of any British newspaper
Rupert Goes Hiking
Rupert goes Hiking. Number 30 in the ‘Little Bear Library’, Published 1933

The Rupert Bear character belongs to a nostalgic world, one where a young bear could sally forth, find adventure and excitement, nothing too perilous, and still return home in time for tea. ‘Rupert goes Hiking ‘ was a 58 panel story that originally appeared in the Daily Express newspaper 27 June 1932 to 1 September 1932 The panels are reproduced at the end of this blog.

Panel from Rupert goes Hiking story
Panel from Rupert goes Hiking story
Rupert Goes Hiking
Rupert goes Hiking. Number 17 in the Woolworths ‘Rupert Bear series’. Published in the 1970s

The story also appeared as one of the 46 books in Mary Tourtel’s popular ‘Little Bear Library’ books. This series had 28 issues and was published between 1928 and 1937. Rupert goes Hiking was number 30, published by Sampson Low in 1933.

Rupert and friends

“you can make Rupert and his friends come to life”

Monster Rupert book

Eighteen of the ‘Little Bear Library’ volumes were later re-published for the Woolworth’s retail chain in the 1970s. In this, Rupert goes Hiking was renumbered 17.

Rupert goes Hiking was also included in one of the ‘Monster Rupert ‘ compilation books published and reprinted in the 1930-50’s. The other three stories included in this volume were: Rupert in Trouble Again, Rupert and the Old Man of the Sea and Rupert and the Wilful Princess. Alongside the stories, coloured figures from story panels could be carefully cut out and the stories acted out by children.

Monster Rupert
The Monster Rupert story and picture book. The cover image is a panel from the Rupert goes Hiking story inside. Published c1950

Though first depicted as a brown bear (with blue shirt and white check trousers), The colour of Rupert’s fur was changed in order to save ink and he began to appear with white fur in his stories, a practice that continues today, however he is normally shown as a brown bear on the covers of the various albums and books in which he features. Since Mary Tourtel, there have been various artists who have drawn Rupert and his adventures. Occasionally, having handed over the illustrator’s reins, an earlier illustrator’s work would be re-used, or they would return to the artist’s chair and contribute to subsequent publications.

Illustrators:

  • Mary Tourtel: 1920-1935
  • Alfred Bestall: 1935-1973
  • Alex Cubie: 1974-1977
  • John Harrold: 1978-2007
  • Stuart Trotter: 2008- present
Rupert and friends

The first Rupert Annual appeared in 1936 and they are still published each year. Many other story books and compilations have also been published.

1961 Rupert annual. Illustrated by Bestall
1961 Rupert annual. Illustrated by Alfred Bestall
1974 Rupert annual, illustrated by Alex Cubie
1974 Rupert annual. Illustrated by Alex Cubie

As well as devising new characters to add to Marys. it was Bestall that was responsible for many of the identifying features of Rupert, not least his red and yellow ensemble. As well as looking more of a cuddly bear than the original, Rupert always had to appear with six horizontal and three vertical stripes on his trousers (with matching scarf) for consistency. Story writers included Mary Tourtel (1920–35), Alfred Bestall (1935–74), Freddie Chaplain (1965–78), James Henderson (1978–1990), Ian Robinson (1990–2002) and Stuart Trotter (2008–present).

So, a hundred years old today, and looking good for it. Happy birthday Rupert Bear. Keep on hiking.

1985 50th anniversary annual, cover by John Harrold
1985 50th anniversary Rupert annual, cover illustration by John Harrold
Album No. 85 published in 2020- Rupert's 100th birthday. Cover illustration by Stuart Trotter
Album No. 85, published in 2020- Rupert’s 100th birthday. Illustrated by Stuart Trotter
Most of Ruperts adventures took place outdoors while he walked, ran, sailed and flew around the countryside surrounding his hometown of Nutwood. Here he walking the riverbank with his friends Edward Trunk, Willie and Rosie. Signed by the illustrator on Ruperts 72nd birthday. End paper from 1992 (72nd anniversary) album
Most of Ruperts adventures take place in the countryside surrounding his hometown of Nutwood. Here he is walking the riverbank with his friends Edward Trunk, Willie Mouse and Rosie. Endpaper signed by the illustrator on Ruperts 72nd birthday

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