In the vast realm of children’s television, few series have proven as enchanting and enduring as Bagpuss. The British TV show, which first aired on the BBC in 1974, is a slice of nostalgia that continues to charm audiences today, nearly half a century after its initial release. In 1999, it was voted the most popular BBC children’s programme ever made, and its influence can still be seen in the world of children’s television today. In this Collecting Bagpuss feature, we’ll be taking a look at the history of everyone’s favourite saggy cloth cat explore some of the Bagpuss collectibles and Bagpuss merchandise produced over the years. (Click to view current Bagpuss auctions on ebay).
Created by Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate, Bagpuss was the tale of a “saggy, old cloth cat,” as he was lovingly described in the opening sequence. Bagpuss lived in a magical shop where “nothing was for sale.” The shop, owned by Emily, played host to a fascinating array of characters: Gabriel the toad, a shrewd musical maestro; Madeleine, the rag doll with a flair for storytelling; and the industrious mice on the mechanical mouse organ, to name a few.
Did you know? The opening sequence of Bagpuss featured Emily who was actually Peter Firmin’s daughter (and her real name was Emily)
The episodes, 13 in total, followed a comforting, predictable structure. Emily would find a lost or broken object and bring it to the shop. Bagpuss would then wake up, and with the help of his friends, identify the object, weave a story around it, and repair it if necessary. By the end, Bagpuss would yawn, go back to sleep, and everything would return to its place.
Despite its limited run of only one series, Bagpuss captured the hearts of viewers with its unique blend of whimsy, warmth, and wonder.
The world of Bagpuss revolves around a small, eclectic group of main characters, each with their own unique charms. At the heart of the show is Bagpuss himself, a saggy, old cloth cat who awakens to life and takes on the role of a sagacious elder. There’s Emily, the young girl who owns the shop and brings in the objects that set the stage for each episode’s story.
Gabriel the toad, a wise, banjo-playing creature, often provides the music, while Madeleine, the rag doll with a deep maternal air about her, is the storyteller of the group, spinning tales that captivate the others. Then there are the mice on the mouse organ — industrious, playful, and always up to a task, they lend a lively energy to the proceedings.
A key member of the ensemble is Professor Yaffle, a wooden woodpecker bookend who brings a scholarly, somewhat skeptical presence to the group. Yaffle, with his dry wit and intellectual approach, often questions the magical happenings in the shop, providing a grounding force amongst the whimsy. Despite his initial skepticism, he usually comes around by the end of the story, adding an element of growth and learning to each episode.
The Robert Harrop series of figurines based on the series are excellent re-creating not only the main characters but also some key moments from the series. As with most Robert Harrop figurines they look excellent.
Each character is distinct, but together, they create a sense of camaraderie and friendship that permeates each episode of this timeless series. The characters, each meticulously handcrafted, had a tangible, timeless quality that’s rare in the age of CGI. The whimsical music, enchanting narration, and stop-motion animation were like a storybook come to life, and the narrative themes of friendship, collaboration, and care for objects and each other were subtly embedded in each episode.
The genius of Bagpuss lay in its simplicity. There were no villains to vanquish or grand adventures to undertake. Instead, the series was a celebration of the ordinary and the everyday, viewed through a lens of magic and wonder. This quiet magic, coupled with its strong sense of comfort and familiarity, is perhaps why Bagpuss remains deeply loved.
Bagpuss is a testament to the enduring power of simplicity, storytelling, and imagination. Even as animation technology evolves and children’s programming expands in new directions, the saggy old cloth cat still holds a special place in the hearts of many, proving that sometimes, the simplest stories are the ones that stick with us the most. In a world that often feels increasingly complex and fast-paced, there is something uniquely comforting about returning to the slow, gentle rhythm of Bagpuss’s world. And perhaps that is the true magic of Bagpuss: it invites us, no matter our age, to step back, slow down, and cherish the magic in the everyday.