The Story of Babar

The Story of Babar by Jean de Brunhoff

Introduced by Anne Brichto of Addyman Books (with Hay-on-Wye Booksellers), Hay-on-Wye


This photo is from a colleague’s shop Hay-on-Wye Booksellers, formerly River Wye Books, lies half way between our original shop and the Addyman’s Annexe. I spotted their lovely display of Babar books.

Anyone who lost their mother at an early age loves the adventures of Babar the Elephant. The first story shows you that life can go on even after the loss of that most important person. Every time I passed this window today it made me feel happier. It is such a wonderful collection.


Babar the Elephant is a fictional character who first appeared in 1931 in the French children’s book Histoire de Babar by Jean de Brunhoff.

One evening in 1930 Cécile de Brunhoff invented a story about an unnamed little elephant for her sons Laurent and Mathieu. Her husband, Jean de Brunhoff, an accomplished painter who had never before written or illustrated a children’s book, expanded, illustrated, and published the tale in 1931 as Histoire de Babar. Publication was facilitated by Jean’s brother-in-law Lucien Vogel, director of the French fashion magazine Le jardin des modes, and Jean’s brother Michel, the editor of the Paris edition of Vogue. Jean de Brunhoff’s elegant story, told in simple prose and clear, lush images, was embraced by French readers and was soon translated into English in 1933. In six sequels written before his death at the age of just 37, he continued the story of the good-hearted elephant who lives well, rules benevolently, and does his best to be a good father.

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