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1001 Stories Collection

The Story of Babar the little elephant

1001 The Story Of Babar
Added on 06th October 2020

Author and Illustrator Jean de Brunhoff
First published 1931
Publisher Editions du Jardin des Modes, Paris

Animals
1001

A little elephant finds himself in the big city.

Story

Babar is a young elephant who escapes from the jungle when his mother is killed by a hunter. Babar finds himself in a city where he is helped by an old lady who teaches him how to live like a human - wearing clothes, driving a car, learning mathematics. When Babar becomes homesick he returns to the jungle where he becomes King of the Elephants and teaches the rest of the Elephants to build houses, wear clothes and go to school.

Why we chose it

The Babar books are illustrated by the author and are widely regarded as early examples of the picture book form where the images are as important as the words. The book was published in large format and the text was handwritten alongside the bright eye-catching illustrations. Babar has remained a popular children's character, in his distinctive green suit, even though critics have condemned the depiction of French colonialism.

Where it came from

The book is based on a story that Brunhoff's wife, Cecile, invented for their children. It was first published in French in 1931 by Editions du Jardin des Modes, owned by Conde Nast, making it the first book published by that company that was not specifically about fashion. The first English edition was published by Methuen in 1934 with a brief preface by A.A. Milne. Jean de Brunhoff published seven Babar stories before his death at the very young age of 37.

Where it went next

After Jean de Brunhoff's death, his son Laurent continued to write and illustrate many more Babar stories. The stories have been translated around the world and were turned into an animated TV series in 1989 that has since been broadcast in over 30 languages. This has helped make Babar one of the most recognised children's characters after Micky Mouse.

Associated stories

Developments in printing technology, together with a change in attitude to childhood helped pave the way for the development of children's picture books such as the Babar stories and other picture books like Curious George, written and illustrated by Margret and H A Rey and first published in 1941.

Added on 06th October 2020

Author and Illustrator Jean de Brunhoff
First published 1931
Publisher Editions du Jardin des Modes, Paris

Animals
1001