When the brown bear, also called "the wild beast " or " king of the animals ", disappeared from our woods, and also the bear trainer with his awkward "dancing bear" no longer wandered from fair to fair, big and little bears appeared in our child rooms. Since the plush bear was created hundred years ago, it is nearly inconceivable that a child in the western world grows up without it. Bears did make children happy. Why? Why does every child need his little bear?

The children's books offered the first answer, because they had removed the wild beasts’ sharp teeth, and made them into a being with a soul. The humanized bear character enriched the children’s imagination; the animal received something reassuring because it could be controlled by the child.

In the oldest fairy tales the bear is a wild animal which lives in caves, sweeps through the woods on four feet, and avoids people. This forest animal had no natural enemies; only the contact with humans brought dangers for both, and was connected with the fight to death, with the biggest courage test, with proving.

Some later fairy tales and old legends point to similarities between the bear and the human in the deep nebulous woods - it came close to the image of a bear-man in whom also an enchanted prince could have been hidden. Every person in fairy tales and stories who was brought up with bear's milk was strong and possessed the supernatural abilities of the growling friend. He was a rescuer and savior to those in need, you could cuddle and scuffle with him, and under his fur you could sometimes find hidden gold.

Goethe imagines in the poem "Lillis of park" that a tender girl's leg would caress him in the bear’s fur. Years later, Heinrich Heine sang of his dancing bear, "Atta Troll" which flees over the Pyrenees Mountains, and reports from there about the political situation in Germany, however, in the end rushes to his downfall.

Two centuries later the author and creator of E. T. writes in his book about a bear that steals a finished manuscript of a novel from a professor and becomes a famous bestselling author. The bear meets the eager film agent Zou Zou in a restaurant in New York. As her the skirt slides up, the bear sees her smoothly shaven legs at which he looks pleasingly, and remarks: "It is a shame you have shaved them... You should allow it to grow..."

Hundred years ago the little bear appeared in the child room, and straight away it stood by the child with its everyday problems and grief. The child identified with it, projected on the one hand own weaknesses as well as needs and hopes onto the bear, on the other hand, encouraged and comforted it in a kind of grateful freedom. A strong personal relationship grew between the child and the little bear, and stretched far beyond the Childhood.
The psychologist Jan Uwe Rogge remembers: "Recently, I went with children on a field trim of several days, the nine-year-old Simon came with a big backpack from which a brown bear peeped, he was missing an eye, an ear hung down floppily, and the other appeared chewed at during the long nights. When I looked at the bear and than at Simon questioningly whether he wants to carry his bear along, he answered quite self-confidently: „ He has bothered me for so long this morning, until I have agreed to take him along!"

The life of a child consists not only of happy moments, but also of affliction, pains and tears - particularly because of fear of the unknown, inexplicable, vague events which are not always understandable for us adults. In such moments the child sees somebody in whom it finds hold, it searches for closeness. Then it presses the little bear in itself, finds in him a companion, the safety and the strength to endure and beat the pain.

I didn’t take up only expensive old, well-preserved bears in my collection; above all I took up companions of several child generations, many loved bears with worn out fur and holes in their paws. With the surely subjective historical choice of the bears I was led mostly by their expression of faith, thus less by their meaning and their place in the history of the toy industry; hope led me that my readers and viewers will rather find time to discover the visible and concealed childhood impressions our forefathers.

Even after a century, the old little plush bear could not have become an adult – it will always remain the embodiment of everlasting childhood.

Ivan Steiger