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.
Oh, man, this book almost assassinates itself! Crap. Mushroom trips, ivory hunters, elder abuse scams? Well done!
Thanks! And I know – I couldn’t believe how goofed up this book was, and I remember seeing a cartoon with these guys as a kid . . .
I’ve got the “L’Histoire de Babar” as I was a little girl. My parents read it to me and I totally disliked it, I cried for Babar’s mom and I always felt bad when I saw Babar products in our stores ( he was even on yoghurts and ice cream, Babar was everywhere). Think Herbert R. Kohl and Vivian Paley were right as they said the book is morally questionable. But if my parents had told me the story your way I would have had a much funnier childhood :O)
So Babar was like the French version of America’s Barney or something? Wow, that would be awful. My mother liked it. I remember we had a show with this theme song “Ba-bar, Ba-bar, it’s nice to know Ba-bar . . .” No, really, it’s not.
we had the same freaking theme song:
Mon Copain Babar
Roi de mes histoires
Loin de la bagarre
and I thought it’s funny to be a child LOL
This is a kids book? Yikes. I can’t imagine what they take from this.
Only people in suits are civilized, steal from old ladies, don’t eat bad shrooms (maybe not too bad there), oh yeah, and moms can get shot. Good lessons!
I feel so enlightened now. Could you pass the Grey Poupon?
But of course!
1939? Is everyone sure Babar didn’t start ww2, while disguising his murderous quest for revenge behind fine clothes?
Quite possible, that. Weren’t elephants used in a war? At some point? I don’t think they were well-dressed, though.
OMG….I am so disturbed right now. Yet I still wear a grin.
That Babar is one superfreak of an elephant, eh?
I would do anything he wanted, too.
I’m traumatized now, thanks.
Trauma is better when shared with friends.
BAAAHAHA! Well, now I need therapy… nice one!
Thanks. Wow, that book was seriously far out. Imagine reading that to a toddler and getting to page 6 and OMG Mommy’s dead and you’ve just gotten the kid comforted and then DEAD GREEN KING! Yikes. I’m surprised the elephant wasn’t smoking a pipe like in the old Curious George books.
It’s all coming back to me now! I read that as a kid, and all I remembered from it was the green suit, and the fact that The Old Lady didn’t have a name. I insisted that we name her, because that’s just messed up (we called her Edna).
She does look like an Edna. Edna Howell cause she’s rich and all. Poor old lady, getting used by an elephant. Those elephants . . . all the same.
I had never read this story before… and I don’t think there’s any way I could have kept a straight face through it. I will try not to freak out if I am approached by an elephant at Mecca…
I’m betting that little surprises you anymore, what with working at Mecca.
Funny Alice! I’m glad you did this. Shopping does provide the best post traumatic stress therapy known to elephant. If only Old Lady had been there for Bambi. Hey, isn’t it weird that Bambi is a stripper name?
Yes! Bambi is a great stripper name. Also Thumper. But not Babar. I’m not sure why. And of course shopping is great therapy – that’s what the Prez told us to do after 9/11!
Neither is Old Lady. Weird.
Reblogged this on The Life of Kylie and commented:
In which Babar gets what he so clearly deserves: a ride on the Character Assassination Carousel with Alice.
Hilarious!!! I never really read the book but watched the cartoon as a kid. You just don’t realsie how messed up things are until you revisit them as an adult. Like Labyrinth or The Magic Faraway Tree.
I don’t remember the Magic Faraway Tree. Oh, but David Bowie! Loved David Bowie. That was one messed up movie. But David Bowie somehow still looked good in makeup and those ridiculous tights. Maybe because I have a thing for David Bowie.
who DOESN’T have a thing for David Bowie? He is magnificent.
Just spent some time at “The Life Of Kylie’s Blog” Where she’s re-blogged this post. We love this idea of Character Assassination Carousel. We even asked Kylie if we could run a contest where commenters nominate their favorites & you do a random pick! lol. We’re with you! Lay the blame where the blame goes that damn monkey & bird got one coming!! 😉 Shared this on all our networking sites!!
Great! Thank you. I can’t take the credit, this is all Nicole’s doing. If you go to the link I gave, you can read all the other assassinations. They’re hilarious.
Loved the post. Read Babar myself and to my nieces. Also love Tennille. Will follow. Visit me at http://www.tomwisk.wordpress.com
Babar and Tennille – they were true artists.
So here we have an elephant, who is a protege of a 1-percenter, has no problem with marrying cousins and becoming a leader with no prior experience… Is Babar a Republican?
Absolutely. I mean – he’s even an elephant.
That was the first hint,
I now have the image of an elephant in a speedo doing squat thrusts with an old lady burnt into my mind, thank you. No seriously, very funny… thank you.
You’re welcome. It’s hard to get that image out of your head, isn’t it? At least they didn’t show us the back end of him – well, not in the speedo anyway.
Considering Rock-a-bye baby is still a popular lullaby (written in 1916)… Apparently we start our kids out with their OWN deaths then move on to ours (moms).
I don’t know if Wikipedia can always be trusted, but this is an interesting link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock-a-bye_Baby#Origins_and_development
I always thought that was a creepy lullaby. Go to sleeep, la la la, try not to die, oh no you fall, and smash your head and then the cradle fall on top of you la la la . . .
Exactly. Sweet dreams!
And why were they rocking the baby in a tree? That doesn’t sound very safe. Someone call CPS!
They put me on hold. 😉
So many babies in trees, so little time.
Hilarious. Cue the banjos was my favorite line!
It’s just so weird. Why make them cousins? Was there some reason they needed to be cousins? Was it to make it more like real royalty?
Maybe Babar is really just a slick con-man, living out his conman dreams to avoid feeling the trauma of his mother’s death. Seems like a good premise for a dark cable drama. Instead of Breaking Bad, it can be Breaking Babar.
Breaking Babar! I like it! It is pretty dark what with the murders, the drugs, and all those nudist elephants.
I think you just slated me, like the lone hunter did Babar’s mom. I’m sharing this immediately, spreading joy because sarcasm about elephant books is a golden ticket that must be passed around.
Thanks! And golden ticket . . . oh no, now I’m thinking of Willie Wonka. So much horror in children’s lit . . .
I had enjoyed the cartoons as a kid but now I know the back story, it’s like The Jungle Book but in reverse!
[…] to size and have asked that no more pancakes be given to mice, pigs or other vermin. Last month, Alice At Wonderland took a swipe, no, a STAB, at Babar and, frankly, I’m with her: a book with death […]
Wonderful retelling. Really enjoyed it. I was going to get this for a friend’s baby shower… now, not so much. I wonder if there is a picture book of DELIVERANCE?
Haha, you never know! Thanks, I actually liked Babar as a kid, but kids like weird stuff. I didn’t remember how weird until I looked at it again, lol.