Erik Graff's Reviews > The Story of Babar

The Story of Babar by Jean de Brunhoff
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Jul 21, 09

bookshelves: art
Recommended to Erik by: Anne-Lise Graff
Recommended for: children & their friends
Read in January, 1956, read count: 20+

I have no idea if the edition Mother read to me was in English or Norwegian translation--probably the latter, as Mom was still learning back then. In any case, I first recall seeing this book when she and I were in Minneapolis. Dad was about to finish a lengthy training course as an application engineer with Honeywell up there and we were visiting, staying in a downtown hotel memorable for having a tv and a vibrating bed.

Dad drove home with us, stopping in EuClaire, Wisconsin en route to see his grandfather's grave, but for a couple of days at least he was in class and Mother had to entertain me. The tv and bed cost money, so mostly we walked around downtown. (I saw my first real swans in the beautiful parks there!) Back in the hotel, however, I had to be entertained and Babar was it.

I'm sure the first Babar book was with us, not sure if others were as well, but some of them came along eventually. Although I haven't looked at a Babar book for decades, I recall especially his lounging in a suit, his crowning, the old lady who loved him and the pictures of what really young and really old elephants looked like. The old ones troubled me a bit.

Because Mom was Norwegian and just learning English when I was little, most of the books I was exposed to were in Norsk. Because of this and because my own language was sort of indeterminately between English and Norsk until first grade, and, further, because I refused to use Norsk after the trauma of speech therapy in school, my memory of the books from the days before I learned to read is insufficient to the purpose of finding them for review. I remember the stories, the pictures and many of the covers, but I despair of ever being able to find copies of them on the Web. This is quite frustrating because, like most little kids, I went over them alone and with my parents again and again. They doubtless had powerful effects, but without the reality-check of actually seeing the books, I cannot be sure what is real and what is cryptonesia.

One of the larger mysteries is where I got my ideas about relations between the sexes and romance. It wasn't Babar. His domesticity is too simple. It might be East of the Sun, West of the Moon and the Brothers Grimm because I was dreaming of the ordeals of being a prince in a world of threatened princesses as far back as memory serves.
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