It’s amazing how many statues can be found to people and animals who never existed. Children’s stories, in particular, have sparked the imaginations of sculptors for decades. Here, we round up some of the most important from across the world, beginning with a handful from London, where so much A-list children’s literature originates. It’s a list that could have been much longer.
Paddington Bear: Paddington, London
The Peruvian ursine was created by Michael Bond more than 60 years ago, but is only growing in popularity thanks to the recent (and superb) live-action films. The bear got his name after the Brown family discovered him in Paddington Station, and it is there that you’ll find his statue, on Platform 1 (pretty much on the exact spot where he’s first spotted in the 2014 film). Look around the Paddington area for further sculptures of the bear, left over from a trail a few years back.
Peter Pan: Kensington Gardens, London
Peter is one of London’s most famous statues, and certainly the most famous to a fictional character. The statue is over 100 years old, and was commissioned by Pan author JM Barrie himself. It may be a listed landmark today, but the statue has a chequered history. Barrie placed it in Kensington Gardens without any prior approval, a move that drew some criticism. Then, in 1928, the bronze figure was tarred and feathered by unknown vandals. Today, it’s one of the most beloved statues in London (and a great spot for seeing London’s wild parakeets). Numerous other casts of the statue can be found around the world, including in Brussels, Liverpool, Perth and Toronto.
Winnie The Pooh: London Zoo, London
Pooh bear is perhaps most intimately associated with Ashdown Forest in South-East England, which inspired AA Milne’s much-cherished stories. However, two sculptures of the bear can be found within London Zoo. It was here, after the First World War, that a bear named Winnie captured the hearts of Milne and his son Christopher Robin.
Harry Potter: Leicester Square, London
The Boy Who Lived is just one of several sculptures of film characters on show in Leicester Square until 2023. Kids will enjoy tracking down the whole set, which also includes Mr Bean, Bugs Bunny, Mary Poppins, Wonder Woman, Batman and… yet another Paddington statue.
The Gruffalo: All Over England!
You might have heard that there’s ‘no such thing as a gruffalo’, but Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s most famous creation can actually be seen in woods all over England. 15 wooden sculptures of the beast, along with other characters from the stories, have been placed in English woods by Forestry England. Its website has details of where to spot them, along with ‘Gruffalo orienteering’ packs for families to follow. See our roundup of Gruffalo-themed activities.
Desperate Dan: Dundee, Scotland
Dundee is home to DC Thomson and its most famous two comics, The Beano and The Dandy (the latter now sadly defunct). With over 80 years making children laugh, it’s only fitting that the comics’ heroes are celebrated with local sculptures. Dundee city centre includes a statue of Desperate Dan in full stride, with the Beano’s Minnie the Minx brandishing a catapult behind him.
The Little Mermaid: Copenhagen, Denmark
The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen is perhaps the most famous tribute to a children’s character in the world - only Peter Pan comes close. Now best known as a Disney character, the Little Mermaid dates back to a Hans Christian Andersen tale of 1837. Her statue has sat on a rock on Copenhagen waterside since 1913. The mermaid has not had a peaceful life. She has been decapitated and otherwise vandalised on many occasions. In 2015, she made the news again after Facebook’s algorithms objected to her nudity and blocked posts. Some 13 copies of the statue can be found worldwide.
The Little Prince: Northport, New York
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s tale of a space-faring prince remains the best-selling children’s story of all time. It’s spawned many sculptures around the world, including this one outside the public library in Northport, Long Island. Saint-Exupéry moved to New York during the occupation of France in the Second World War, and it is here that he wrote his timeless tale.
Alice In Wonderland: Central Park, New York
A Mad Hatter in Manhattan. This sculptural group featuring Alice, the Hatter and the White Rabbit is over on the East Side of the park, not far from a sculpture of Mother Goose. It was placed in the park in 1959. Many other tributes to Lewis Carroll’s most famous creation can be found around the world. A personal favourite is the subtle bronze in Guildford, England, which captures the moment when Alice first spots the White Rabbit running off to its hole.
Ramona Quimby: Portland, Oregon
The world lost a great talent in 2021 when author Beverly Cleary died at the exceptional age of 104. Her most famous creation Ramona Quimby (Age 8) debuted in 1955, and the stories are still widely read today. The character’s sculpture plays in the fountains of Grant Park, Portland. It’s kept company by the likenesses of other Cleary characters Henry Huggins and the dog Ribsy. Cleary grew up in the area and set the stories in the neighbouring streets.
The Cat In The Hat: Springfield, Massachusetts
Do an image search for Dr Seuss statues and you’ll quickly find that there are many - mostly in the USA. His hometown of Springfield Massachusetts contains a whole sculpture garden, filled with over 30 of his extrovert characters. Perhaps the most impressive is the towering figure of the Cat in the Hat, who looms large over the shoulder of Seuss’s seated likeness. A copy of this bronze can also be found in La Jolla California - the town where Dr Seuss spent the second half of his life.
Images by the author, except for Alice in Wonderland via iStock.
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