Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Babar and Father Christmas

Babar and Father Christmas
Jean De Brunhoff ~ Random House, 1940

Oh, how I love the original Babar books. They are so intriguing and a bit bizarre, particularly to a girl who grew up in small town America. The thinking and the imagination were always so cosmopolitan to me, and the sparks still fly from no matter how old I get. Sometimes it's hard to believe how long ago they were written as they are perfect snapshots of how I thought the world was back then. Idealized versions... almost too modern to actually be vintage. In this holiday story, we find the monkey Zephir excitedly confiding in the elephant cousins Arthur, Pom, Flora and Alexander...

"Listen, listen to this wonderful tale which I've just heard! It seems that in Man's country, every year, on the night before Christmas, a very kind old gentleman with a large white beard, wearing a red suit with a pointed hood, flies over the countryside. He carries with him great quantities of toys and gives them to the little children. They call him Father Christmas. It is difficult to catch a glimpse of him for he comes down the chimney while one sleeps. Next morning the children know he has been there because they find toys in their shoes. Why shouldn't we write him to come here too and see us in Elephant's country?"

When their letters go unanswered, Babar takes it upon himself to journey and find Father Christmas to ask him in person. A series of mistaken identities eventually leads him deep in the snowy forest where he is rescued by Christmas dwarfs.

Upon meeting the man himself and finding out how tired and stressed he is, he invites the old man back to Elephant country to recharge. FC rides zebras, basks in the sun and goes back home ready to take on Christmas like a champ... leaving Babar a red suit and orders on how to get toys to all the children in his own world.

Interestingly, a few years ago I came across a book called The Father Christmas Letters. It is a collection of hand-drawn and written letters that J.R.R. Tolkien's children were lucky enough to receive from Father Christmas during the two decades of their youth, starting in 1920. The look of Tolkien's Father Christmas as well as his intricate, multilayered underground workshop is eerily similar in both cases.

(De Brunhoff's Underground Hideout)

(Tolkien's Underground Hideout)

Who knows if the two ever swapped notes, but it is curious, no? Makes you wonder...

Also by:
Travels of Babar
Babar and Zephir

3 comments:

perilloparodies said...

I love Babar!! such sweet childhood memories. I know him better than I know Curious George. weird huh? fun read.

hungarian said...

Can you please tell me where FC lives according to the English language edition?
I have a Hungarian copy from 1973, which says that Father Christmas lives in Czechoslovakia. That just seems weird.

hungarian said...

Can you please tell me where FC lives according to the English language edition?
I have a Hungarian copy from 1973, which says that Father Christmas lives in Czechoslovakia. That just seems weird.

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