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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Three Things I Forgot About Babar: Death, Incest, and Shrooming

So today my kids and I crashed the enviable-but-stuffy Brooklyn College library. We didn't exactly get kicked out, but we definitely got enough snarly looks so that at least two out of three of us knew it was time to hit the road. Despite the fact that this particular wing of the library was almost empty, and it was, indeed, the Juvenile Section of a college library, we definitely turned most of the heads in there at one moment or another, and by the point that I was being asked if we could read just one more Dr. Seuss book (kudos to the library for actually having them), we were using our ejector seat buttons.

One of the books we read, for my first time in hmm hmm years, The Story of Babar. Three things I did not remember, in no particular order:

  1. His mom gets killed. Not like Bambi's mother, at an emotional high-point of the story. It's just like, Babar is playing in the sand, he's out with his friends, his mother gets shot by poachers.
  2. He marries his cousin. This is a little less over-the-head shocking, if only because half a dozen pages or so elapse between the line where Babar is visited by "his cousin Celeste" and his grand return to his tribe, whereupon he announces that he and Celeste are to be married. Is this really based on actual true stuff? Do elephants actually marry their cousins?
  3. Um, this:
There's also definitely that uncomfortable undertone of colonialism--something which I did not pick up upon my last reading at the age of five or so--but there's also a weird, snarkily subversive rejection of colonialism on the part of Babar and his clan. I'm not sure if that was intentional, but I'm sure somebody's written a paper about it some time.


Anonymous said...

No really, Babar is some seriously crazy writing for kids. For adults? Kinda fun.

Claudia Alick said...

aaaaand the super racist depiction of Africans. Sometimes it's good to reread the things we enjoyed as children.

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