A while back, I read Kylie’s parody of Good Dog, Carl, the story of an irresponsible woman who leaves her infant with a dog babysitter. She made this parody for something called The Character Assassination Carousel, created by Nicole of Nicole Leigh Shaw, Tyop Artist. Like me, Nicole liked reading to her kids but often found some of the stories, shall we say, disturbing. So she made fun of them, and her kid laughed, and she was encouraged. It’s like she’s my long lost twin or something. Anyway, when I saw we got to skewer these classic literary characters, I was all up in that! I’m proud to contribute my bit today.
Last week featured Amy of My Real Life with a post assassinating the book Bert and the Missing Mop Mix-Up. Yes, this is a story with stick-up-the-bum Bert from Sesame Street, costarring a mop. Like most children’s books, it’s wildly exciting, at least when she makes fun of it. Check it out.
She graciously invited other bloggers to come see the latest assassination here on Monday. You might notice today is not Monday. Whoops. But, hey, you can’t rush perfection, or memory, so here is my entry The Story of Babar: the Little Elephant by Jean De Brunhoff. This book is a classic, defined by Mark Twain as “A book people praise and don’t read.” Babar was skewered earlier by Robyn of Hollow Tree Ventures in Babar’s Little Girl. But I’m sure you want to know how this whacked up story got started, right? Too bad, here we go.
Babar’s story begins in the wilds of . . . somewhere. He’s just your average baby elephant, getting rocked in a hammock by his mother. Fortunately, he is a test tube elephant (note how long and skinny he is) so he doesn’t break the hammock with his massive weight.
Babar plays with the other elephants. He’s “very good” because he digs in the sand with a shell he holds in his trunk. Yay, good elephant? Look how idyllic and innocent this is. Nothing bad could possibly happen.
Then Babar goes for a ride on Mom’s back. A nice little walk. Until a hunter jumps out and shoots Mom dead! Kapow! Death by page 6, folks. And here I thought Bambi was harsh. My brother and I were so traumatized by Bambi, my mother had to actually get rid of the book so we’d quit freaking the heck out.
Even better, we don’t just get to see the shots fired at mom (it’s believed to be a lone gunman), we get to see her dead carcass lying on the ground. The hunter is not satisfied with several tons of elephant jerky and some ivory jewelry, oh no, he wants to also capture the baby elephant. What a guy. I bet he’s pals with the man in the yellow hat from Curious George.
So the monkey and the bird fly away; thanks for all the help, jerks. Babar runs for it, and then bam, comes upon this modern day town. I’m not sure if he started out in Africa and somehow stumbled upon France, but that’s what it looks like.
So you’re probably thinking the people see this elephant in town and run screaming for their lives, right? You forget, guys, this is France. These guys are unbelievably laid back. They don’t even notice him.
Babar notices them though, and thinks “OMG a human like the one that killed my mom arghhhhhhh!” Haha, just kidding. He thinks that the men are well dressed and that he should be dressed too. Wait, what? My thirteen-year-old daughter who I affectionately call Thing One, asked, “Did Babar get some of that forbidden fruit or something?” Good point. Even though Babar was perfectly happy to run about naked back home, once he gets to “civilization” he suddenly decides he needs clothes. Because the clothes are gonna totally help him fit in? I wonder if the hunter would have freaked him out as much if he’d been wearing fine clothes too.
Never fear, though, rich old lady to the rescue. She’s really called “Old Lady”, by the way. She sees Babar, screams in terror, and runs. Just kidding again! No, she immediately concludes that this poor elephant needs clothes. Right. Not that he should be back in the wilderness, or that he is really hungry and she looks like a snack, but that the animal needs duds! Priorities!
Hey, did you notice that not only did Babar understand Old Lady, but he knew how to talk, and politely too? “Thank you, Madam, for handing over your purse.” This is like when John Smith and Pocahontas meet in the Disney flick and after five minutes they’re having no trouble conversing. Might be because Pocahontas was speaking English with bits of Native American thrown in even before she met Smith. But, wait, that’s another messed up story. Back to Babar.
This also brings to mind another problem. Earlier Babar was this naked elephant and this hunter shot his mom. Now, sadly, many elephants were slaughtered in this fashion. But my point is – why in one panel is a human shooting him, an animal, and in the next he’s hanging around with humans like they’re his peers? Doesn’t this make the hunter a serial killer then, if elephants are just like humans? My head hurts.
Babar goes to the Big and Wide Store to shop for some clothes. It has a creative name.
I certainly hope it’s big. We’re talking a freaking elephant here, although his scale in comparison to humans is kind of hard to tell since it changes from page to page. He gets in the elevator, of course, and my nine-year-old Thing Two says, “I think weight limits are determined by the pound, not the ton.” Yeah, me too. Pretty sure even a freight elevator wouldn’t hold that thing, but, then again, the elephant is clothes shopping, so nevermind.
Babar gets some help finding a suit, which they OF COURSE have in size gigantic. He then goes and gets his picture taken by a photographer, because what else would he do?
Old Lady takes Babar in, even though he won’t call her by her freaking name, and lets him dine with her. He even knows how to use the right fork, etc., because though yesterday he was a naked elephant, he’s not THAT uncivilized. He also gets a pair of elephant BVDs and does squat thrusts with the Old Lady. No, really.
Babar takes a bath and sleeps in a bed, no problem. The Old Lady gives Babar her car too. The book says “She gives him anything he wants.” I bet she does. Have you seen how big an elephant is, even a baby? I’d be doing whatever he asked too.
Babar gets the “My Fair Elephant” treatment. A professor gives him lessons, and then he entertains guests with his tales of the Great Forest, you know, back when he was a savage and stuff. Rich people love stories about savages. Also . . . wait. Great forest? He was in a forest . . . just, whatever.
But Babar is not totally happy because after several years he remembers, oh yeah, Mom is worm food. He misses home, the elephant forest. But then he finds his cousins Arthur and Celeste, who have run away from home. Babar knows how to handle such an emergency. They go shopping! This is so much like a TLC show, it’s unreal.
Babar decides to return home with his cousins. He takes the car. Naturally. The same day the king of the elephants eats a bad mushroom, has a really bad trip, turns green, crumples up, and bites it. Two deaths in 34 pages, woot!
Babar arrives home amid much fanfare from the savage animals who are so happy to see him and worship at his elephant feet. Dude has a car! And designer clothes! Let’s make him king! Sure, why not? I mean, that’s not that far off from how we elect our politicians today. Babar speaks to the huddled masses, and says he’ll accept their offer as long as they let him marry Celeste. You know. His cousin. Cue banjos. The other animals are thrilled with their new king since clearly their last king was not a mental giant.
So they get married and have a big party in the jungle. There are some truly freaked out looking animals in this picture. I wonder if they found some of the former king’s ‘shrooms or something.
So the story ends happily ever after. Babar’s mom is shot, he rips off an old lady in the city, and then he comes home to bring civilization to his people. Oh, and to marry his cousin. They fly off together in a hot air balloon. That can carry elephants. Of course they do. Well, at least we won’t be seeing them again . . . oh, wait. There are sequels. Lots of them. I’m going to be looking for my own balloon now, thanks.
Stay tuned for the next assassin, Michelle of You’re My Favorite Today, coming soon on the Character Assassination Carousel.