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Brunhoff Jean (1899—1937), Sesil (1903—2003) and Laurent (b. 1925)
The Story of Babar
Histoire de Babar

Brunhoff  Jean (1899—1937), Sesil (1903—2003) and Laurent (b. 1925) The Story of BabarHistoire de Babar

Babar the Elephant is a French children's fictional character who first appeared in Histoire de Babar by Jean de Brunhoff in 1931 and enjoyed immediate success. An English language version, entitled The Story of Babar, appeared in 1933 in Britain and also in the United States. The book is based on a tale that Brunhoff's wife, Cecile, had invented for their children. It tells of a young elephant called Babar who leaves the jungle, visits a big city, and returns to bring the benefits of civilization to his fellow elephants. After the death of his father, he becomes king of the elephant kingdom. He then has children and teaches them valuable lessons.

Jean de Brunhoff published six more stories before his death in 1937. His son Laurent de Brunhoff, also a writer and illustrator, carried on the series from 1946 onwards with Babar et Le Coquin d'Arthur.

An animated TV series was produced in Canada by Nelvana Limited and Clifford Ross Company, and originally ran from January 3, 1989 to June 5, 1991 with 65 episodes, plus an additional 13 episodes in 2000. The character has also appeared in a number of films, and the Babar stories have inspired musical works by Francis Poulenc and Raphael Mostel.

After Babar's mother is shot by a hunter, he flees the jungle and finds his way to an unspecified big city with no particular characteristics He is befriended by an old lady, who buys him clothes and enrols him in school. Babar's cousins Celeste and Arthur find him in the big city and help him return to the Elephant realm. Following the death of the King of the Elephants, who had eaten a poisonous mushroom, a council of elephants approach Babar, saying that as he has "lived among men and learned much", he would be suitable to become the new King. Babar is crowned King of the Elephants, marries his cousin Celeste, and founds the city of Celesteville. Babar, who likes to wear a bright green suit, introduces a very French form of Western civilization to the elephants, and they soon dress in Western attire.

Among Babar's other associates are the monkey Zephir, the old elephant counsellors Cornelius and Pompadour (Pompadour was created for the Babar TV series), his cousin Arthur, and his children, Pom, Flora, and Alexander. Later, a second daughter, Isabelle, was introduced. The Old Lady comes to live in the Kingdom as an honoured guest. Despite the presence of these counsellors, Babar's rule seems to be totally independent of any elected body, and completely autocratic; however his leadership style seems to be one that works for the overall benefit of his elephant subjects; a form of benevolent dictator.

Besides his Westernizing policies, Babar engages in warfare with the warlike rhinoceroses of a hostile bordering nation, who are led by Lord Rataxes. Much later, in Babar and the Adventures of Badou, Babar has a grandson named the Prince Babar II (Known as Badou).

The series has over 100 licensees worldwide, and the "Babar" brand has a multi-generational following. There are 12 Babar stores in Japan. A global cultural phenomenon, whose fans span generations, Babar stands along side Mickey Mouse as one of the most recognized children's characters in the world. There are now over 30,000 Babar publications in over 17 languages, and over 8 million books have been sold. Laurent de Brunhoff's Babar's Yoga for Elephants is a top seller in the U.S with over 100,000 copies sold to date. The Babar series of books are recommended reading on former First Lady Laura Bush's national reading initiative list. All 78 episodes of the TV series are broadcast in 30 languages in over 150 countries, making Babar one of the largest distributed animation shows in history. Babar has been a perennial favorite for years at the White House Easter Egg Roll.

Since 2001 The Babar franchise has been owned by Corus Entertainment's Nelvana in conjunction with the artist, Clifford Ross. Babar made a nameless appearance in The New Traveller's Almanac (part of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series). Babar and his elephants escort Mina Murray and Allan Quartermain through the African jungle. Mina considers them very polite, but Allan denies that their leader is really wearing a crown.

France, 2006, Babar and a birtday cake

France, 2006, Babar Elephant

Guinea, 1998, Babar Elephant

France, 2006.06.19, Paris. Babar


© 2003-2024 Dmitry Karasyuk. Idea, preparation, drawing up
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