Babar the Globetrotting Elephant

Continuing our coverage of childhood nostalgia that has inspired us to travel, friend of IT Amelia Mularz sends us a dispatch from the wilds of New York City, where a venerable elephant has taken up residence for the next few months.

In a world inhabited by Bratz dolls, it’s nice to be reminded of an old childhood classic like Babar, the globetrotting elephant. There is a certain sophistication surrounding Babar and his simple green suit that more modern day children’s characters can’t touch (we’re going to ignore for the moment the fact that Babar married his cousin). Now until January 4th, The Morgan Library & Museum in New York hosts an exhibition in honor of the animal kingdom’s most famous world traveler. Drawing Babar: Early Drafts and Watercolors takes visitors back to 1931, when the French painter Jean de Brunhoff first created Babar, then to 1946, when Laurent de Brunhoff took over several years after his father’s death.

The exhibit features the working drafts of each artist’s first Babar book, which makes for an interesting comparison in method between father and son. Not to mention, it’s fun to look back at Babar’s travels from the jungle to a Parisian-like city, on a family vacation around the world, and even into outer space. And after almost 80 years, Babar is still on the road. Just last month Laurent de Brunhoff published Babar’s USA. If only Babar could show those Bratz girls there’s a whole world outside the local mall.

Read More: The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnick recently reviewed the exhibit, and discussed the pro-colonialization interpretation of the books and the way it has fit into the canon of children’s literature from the past century.

Has a storybook character from your childhood inspired you to travel? Let us know in the comments.


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