world's strongest and kindest bear

Swedish kids comic favourite Bamse turns 40

5:44 min

Tuesday sees the fortieth birthday of one of the biggest names in children's literature in Sweden, Bamse the Bear. Despite the fact that unlike characters like Pippi Longstocking or Alfie Atkins he has yet to make the jump into the English language, Bamse is huge in Scandinavia.

Bamse is the world's kindest, and also strongest bear, well, at least when he gets to eat his Thunder Honey, made by his grandmother.

And the character of Bamse is omnipresent if you have small kids in Sweden. Toothbrushes, plasters, dvds, magazines, you name it, Bamse is on it. And he is a very Swedish character.

He first came to light in the late sixties, before getting his very own comic back in 1973, 40 years to the day. He was created by artist Rune Andreasson, based on some earlier bear characters he had come up with. Charlotta Borelius is the comic's current editor in chief, and she says there have been some clear trends in the adventures Bamse has taken part in over the past four decades. In the seventies they were out-and-out adventure stories, she tells Radio Sweden, before turning into more family-oriented tales in the eighties, while fantasy stories dominated the comic in the nineties.

However, Bamse has also been controversial. He has been accused of being a communist by right-wing politicians in Sweden, but Charlotta Borelius would rather call him "a humanist". "He always wants to help others", she says, "And that always leads him out into different adventures".

While the comic continues to sell well, Charlotta Borelius says the publishers are planning to make a digital version of the magazine, and for Bamse fans there is another thing to look forward to this year, the first Bamse movie in years. Called "Bamse och tjuvstaden (Bamse and the city of thieves)" it is due to hit the cinemas this winter.