Bécassine is a comic strip and the name of its heroine, appearing for the first time in the first issue of La Semaine de Suzette on February 2, 1905. She is considered the first female protagonist in the history of comics.
The character Bécassine is a young Breton housemaid, usually depicted wearing a green dress pastiching traditional Breton peasant costume, with lace coiffe and clogs. She is said to come from Finistère, the area most associated with traditional Breton culture. However, her clothing has non-Breton elements, reminiscent of the local costume of Picardy. She is usually portrayed without a mouth.
Seen as a stereotype and remnant of the contempt with which the Bretons were long seen, she is the typical provincial girl as seen by the more refined city people of Paris, the target audience of the young girls' magazine La Semaine de Suzette. But over the course of the stories, and coupled with the success she has, she is depicted more and more favourably. "Bécassine" is a nickname, derived from the French word for a number of birds of the family of the snipe, which is also used as a way of saying "fool" in French.
Initially made as filler for a blank page, the story, written by Jacqueline Rivière and drawn by Joseph Pinchon, was such a success that new pages regularly appeared, still in the guise of page fillers.
Only in 1913 did Bécassine become the heroine of more structured stories. Still drawn by Pinchon, the stories were then written by Caumery (pseudonym of Maurice Languereau), one of the associates of Gautier-Languereau, the publisher of La Semaine de Suzette. At that time, the character's real name was revealed to be Annaïck Labornez, her nickname coming from her home village, called Clocher-les-Bécasses.
Between 1913 and 1950, 27 volumes of the adventures of Bécassine appeared. Pinchon drew 25 of them, and Edouard Zier the other two. All 27 were credited as being written by "Caumery", but after Languereau's death in 1941, the pseudonym was used by others.
After Pinchon's death in 1953, the series continued with other artists, most notably Jean Trubert beginning in 1959.
With a first appearance three years before Les Pieds Nickelés, Bécassine is considered the birth of the modern bande dessinée, the Franco-Belgian comic. It marks the transition between the illustrated histories, or text comics, and the true bande dessinée. Its style of drawing, with lively, modern, rounded lines, would inspire the ligne claire style which Hergé 25 years later would popularise in The Adventures of Tintin.
After a decline in popularity, Bécassine regained prominence due to the hit single "Bécassine, c'est ma cousine" ("Bécassine, she's my cousin") by Chantal Goya, which sold over three million copies in 1979. It has been replied to by the Breton guitarist Dan Ar Braz with the song "Bécassine, ce n'est pas ma cousine" ("Bécassine, she's not my cousin").
In April 2005, the French Post issued a stamp depicting Bécassine for her centenary. In contemporary Brittany she remains a familiar figure, with Bécassine dolls and ornaments available in tourist shops.
If not otherwise mentioned, Pinchon is the artist, Caumery the artist, and Gautier-Languereau the publisher.
|1||1913||L'enfance de Bécassine||Published by Gautier|
|2||1916||Bécassine pendant la guerre||Published by Gautier|
|3||1917||Bécassine chez les Alliés||Drawn by E. Zier, published by Gautier|
|4||1918||Bécassine mobilisée||Drawn by E. Zier|
|5||1919||Bécassine en apprentissage|
|6||1919||Bécassine chez les Turcs|
|7||1920||Les Cent Métiers de Bécassine|
|11||1924||Les Bonnes Idées de Bécassine|
|12||1925||Bécassine au pays basque|
|13||1926||Bécassine, son oncle et leurs amis|
|14||1927||L'Automobile de Bécassine|
|15||1929||Bécassine au pensionnat|
|16||1930||Bécassine en aeroplane|
|17||1931||Bécassine fait du scoutisme|
|18||1932||Bécassine aux bains de mer|
|19||1933||Bécassine dans la neige|
|20||1934||Bécassine prend des pensionnaires|
|21||1935||Bécassine a Clocher-les-Bécasses|
|22||1936||Bécassine en croisière|
|23||1937||Bécassine cherche un emploi|
|24||1938||Les Mésaventures de Bécassine|
|25||1939||Bécassine en roulotte|
|26||1992||Bécassine au studio||Only published then because the outbreak of the Second World War|
|1921||Alphabet de Bécassine||Also published as Bécassine maîtresse d'école: published out of the main series|
|1927||Les Chansons de Bécassine||Published outside the main series|
|1||1959||Bécassine revient||New series, drawn by Trubert, written by Camille François|
|2||1961||L'Alphabet de Bécassine||Drawn by Trubert, written by Vaubant|
|3||1962||Bécassine mène l'enquête||Drawn by Trubert, written by Vaubant|
An animated film, Bécassine, le trésor viking (Becassine and the Viking Treasure) was made in 2001.
- Anne Martin-Fugier, La Place des bonnes : la domesticité féminine à Paris en 1900, Grasset, 1979 (reprinted 1985, 1998, 2004).
- Bernard Lehambre, Bécassine, une légende du siècle, Gautier-Languereau/Hachette Jeunesse, 2005.
- Yves-Marie Labé, « Bécassine débarque », in Le Monde, August 28, 2005.
- Yann Le Meur, « Bécassine, le racisme ordinaire du bien-pensant », in Hopla, #21 (November 2005- February 2006).