Valerie Baber's Reviews > The Story of Babar

The Story of Babar by Jean de Brunhoff
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Nov 05, 2009

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Read 2 times. Last read November 1, 2009.

** spoiler alert **

From the movie "Fletch":

DR. DOLEN How long have you had these pains, Mr. Barber?
FLETCH That's Babar.
DR. DOLEN Two bs?
FLETCH One. B-a-b-a-r.
DR. DOLEN That's two.
FLETCH But not right next to each other. I thought that's what you meant.
DR. DOLEN Arnold Babar. Isn't there a children's book about an elephant named Babar?
FLETCH I don't know. I don't have any.
DR. DOLEN No children?
FLETCH No books. No elephants either. No really good elephant books.

Much like Arnold, I too, have suffered decades of ridiculous comments about my last name and that damned elephant; none of which are have been original or even remotely funny. I’m sure that Mr. Babar and I would be like two little rays of light (that never forget) if we had the opportunity to sit down with each other and unload all the stupidity forced upon us that, for me, began on the playground only a few years after most kids had been exposed to the story of our favorite petite proboscidean.

A huge hit among the uber young since it’s creation in France in1931, I decided to go back to the very beginning book of the series in hopes of developing an adult understanding to the cause of Babar’s success.
The original book, The Story of Babar The Little Elephant, puts us in the jungle with Babar where we see him living happily until a “wicked hunter” kills his mother. This frightens Babar so he runs aimlessly until he ends up in a city where he meets a rich old lady. The woman, apparently having a penchant for young men with large trunks, decides to take Babar in to live with him and gift him with everything he could ever want. Babar lives a life of luxury while he becomes privately educated and achieves good scores with his tutor. But having it all does not fulfill Babar’s spirit entirely. He misses his friends in the forest. It’s at that point that two of Babar’s little cousins come to the city looking for him. Babar tells his sugar momma…I mean, his kind lady-host that he must leave. He promises he will come back. She helps him pack a trunk with all his fine new civilized clothing, which he throws in the car that he’s recently been gifted with and learned to drive. Naturally, he heads back to the jungle. There isn’t enough for three elephants in one little convertible, so the cousins follow behind with their trunks in the air to avoid breathing in all the pollution, of course. Upon their return, we learn that the little elephants did not tell their parents where they were going when they set off to find Babar and the naughty little things get scolded for it. A matter far more serious arises, however, and attention becomes diverted. The old elephant king had eaten a bad mushroom and suddenly died. His role needed to be filled immediately, and having just come back from education and civilization, the community decided Babar would make a fit ruler. Of course, behind all great men are great women, so Babar decides to take a queen. It is perhaps suspicious and questionable that a modern day Babar decides to marry his first cousin, but that’s just what he does. Celeste becomes Mrs. Babar, and after a big wedding, the two set off in a yellow balloon to celebrate their honeymoon and continue their adventures.
The words in the book are big and scarce. The pictures are bigger and colorful and, I admit, fun. There is no character development or realistic plot, but what do you expect from a book written for a 3 year olds? While certain skeptics have their own theories to the actual meaning and issues behind the story, for a child, this is a cute and breezy read, with some very good fundamental lessons provided and plenty of visual stimulation.
In all, I enjoyed the book, and while I’ve had been faced with challenges regarding the similarity of my name to the story’s main character, if it implies to people that I may be some kind of royalty of the wilderness, then perhaps I can overlook the issue. I have, after all, always wanted to be a jungle princess warrior.

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