Babar's Kingdom

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Babar's Kingdom
Real-world
Series The Story of Babar
Creator Jean de Brunhoff
Genre Children's books
Fictional
Capital Celesteville
Government Monarchy

Created by Jean de Brunhoff between 1931 and 1937, Babar's Kingdom, also known in French as Le pays des Éléphants (Elephant Land), is a fictional country supposedly in Northern Africa consisting of intelligent elephants, which are usually bipedal and civilized. As its name implies, it is ruled by its first civilized citizen, Babar himself. The political regime seems to be an absolute monarchy, but it is yet unknown whether it is hereditary or elective. The court consists of King Babar, Queen Celeste, Royal Princes and Princesses (Pom, Flora, Alexander, Isabelle and Badou), Pompadour, Troubadour, and Cornelius, who also serves as Secretary of Defense and a Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The capital is Celesteville, which was built by Babar and named after his Queen. The name of the city is sometimes used for the country.[1]

A neighboring country is Rhino Land, ruled by the (sometimes) tyrannical King Rataxes. The relations between Celesteville and Rhinoland had occasionally flared into war, though it is usually just a statement and peace is restored before much damage or casualties are suffered. The elephant army is under the direct command of King Babar (and likewise the rhino army is under the command of Rataxes). Some stories feature the two countries working together against common threats, such as when the area is infiltrated by poachers, and the two will help each other during times of need or crisis. In the television series, after working together to defend the region against a group of poachers, the two countries, along with other nearby animal-controlled territories, form a "united jungle coalition", a concept similar to the United Nations, which prevents major conflicts between the animal countries thereafter. The militaries of the countries are considered simple and rely mostly on simple hand weaponry, such as spears and staffs. Guns are strictly forbidden by all the animals, due to their disgust with the poachers who would use the weapons. Not even Rataxes dares to think of arming his country with such things, after seeing their effects first-hand.

The countries do seem to have at least some trade and commerce with each other, as well as with other kingdoms and countries, both animal and human controlled.

Celesteville[edit]

Celesteville is the capital of Babar's Kingdom. The city is ruled by King Babar and named after his wife, Queen Celeste.

Celesteville is described differently in several places in the series. In the original incarnation, Babar built Celesteville after he returned from France, and began westernizing his kingdom. He named his new city Celesteville, after the female elephant he had fallen in love with. The city lies in the middle of a jungle plain, surrounded by mountains, and is connected to a nearby sea or ocean, and is a port city.

Early on, like the rest of Babar's Kingdom, Celesteville is primarily populated by elephants. Minorities include monkeys, lions, crocodiles, hippos and at least one human. Though they are minority populations, they are treated as equals with the elephants, and are given the same rights, liberties, and respects that the elephants have, and are fully incorporated into the elephant society. However this has drastically changed later on, with the city having a vast number of other animals besides elephants, possibly due to the taming of wild jungle animals.

Known citizens of Celesteville include:

  • Babar - King of Celesteville.
  • Celeste - Babar's wife and cousin (in the books) and the queen of the realm.
  • Arthur - Celeste's Brother, or in the books, Babar's 2nd cousin.
  • Pom, Flora, Alexander and Isabelle - Babar's children. Pom, Flora and Alexander are triplets. Isabelle is the youngest child.
  • Cornelius - an elephant, he is the Prime Minister of the Kingdom. He wears a military uniform and has the role of an entire cabinet, acting as a Minister of Defense and a Minister of Foreign Affairs.
  • Pompadour - an elephant that dresses in 18th century attire, including wig. He usually acts as a Chamberlain to Babar.
  • Troubadour - a companion to Pompadour, but he doesn't speak.
  • Zephir - a monkey, and a personal friend of Babar.
  • Madame (The Old Lady) - a lady that Babar befriended in France, and returned with him when he became king. She taught him many things, and was kind and caring, and in many ways became a surrogate mother of sorts to him. She is the only mentioned human who lives in Celesteville.
  • Truffles - A palace cook.
  • André - A Circus elephant who comes traveling through Celesteville along with a circus and later comes to live with Babar. Later on he joins the circus again.
  • Marie - Flora's friend who ran off when Flora wanted to keep playing hopscotch instead of skipping.
  • Samantha - Thought to be Celeste's friend, Celeste greets her right before her riding accident with Zephir.
  • Felipe - Training to be the leading man in Mademoiselle Soretoza's ballet, but quit after being fed up with Soretoza's behavior.
  • Ursula - Celeste's friend and an actress in "All Played Out".
  • Badou - Babar's grandson and Pom's son.
  • Munroe, Zawadi, Jake, Chiku - Badou's close friends. Chiku is also Zephir's daughter.
  • Lulu - Babar's granddaughter, Badou's cousin.
  • Periwinkinle - The town's doctor; Pom's wife and Badou's mother.
  • Crocodylus - Ambassador of the Alligator and Crocodile kingdom.
  • Dilash and Tersh - Crocodylus's nephews, brought over to make him seem more important.
  • Gallop - A wise old turtle, who lives just outside of Celesteville.
  • Miss Strich - The palace teacher, guide for tourists, and also organizes most of Celesteville's events.
  • Prospero - A water buffalo and a bush pirate. Officially banned from the kingdom, but still sneaks about.

By Babar's decrees, a number of public institutions, schools, hospitals, parks, museums, libraries, an opera house, and other infrastructures have been built. The kingdom has a rail line, and Celesteville itself is connected to a large body of water (presumably a sea or ocean), making it a port city. Vehicle traffic is common in the kingdom, especially Celesteville, but most of the residents still seem to prefer to travel on foot or by bicycle, since many of the city's amenities seem to be fairly close to each other. The city is wired with electricity and phone service, which are commonplace, and there also appears to be a limited amount of radio and television services. Fresh water and sewage systems are also abundant. The kingdom has a policy of free press, and is serviced in large part by newspaper. Literacy and schooling is high, and it appears that nearly 100 percent of the population is educated. Crime, poverty, and the penal system are rarely featured in the series, and are presumed to be rare in Babar's Kingdom.

Babar and his family, as well as his advisors and some royal staff, live in a large palace in the center of the city. The palace is the kingdom's largest structure, contains several stories, dozens of rooms, and a very large garden complex. It also houses a home for madame, the first building completed in Celesteville

Analysis[edit]

The idea of an African going to a Western city and then returning home to pursue an aggressive policy of Westernisation is seen by some as the author's idealized view of colonization. The elephants' happy acceptance of their new culture and roles in society stands in marked contrast to much of the actual French colonial experience. Still, later in the series this aspect of Babar's Kingdom is played down. For instance, the rhinos also seem to have a Western culture, but no backstory is given of Rataxes, who also denies his native roots.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mehren, Elizabeth (1989-12-24). "A Legendary Elephant King of the Forest Has Taken Up U.S. Residency With His Growing Family and His Illustrator". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-14.