Pages 28–29

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Jean de Brunhoff

Histoire de Babar, le petit éléphant (The Story of Babar), Maquette, pp. 28-29

Wax crayon and graphite
8 1/4 x 6 1/2 inches (21 x 16 cm)

Gift of Laurent, Mathieu, and Thierry de Brunhoff, and purchased with the assistance of The Florence Gould Foundation and the Acquisitions Fund, Fellows Endowment Fund, Gordon N. Ray Fund, and Heineman Fund, 2004

MA 6304
Item description: 

This digital facsimile presents every page of a small, delicate maquette that Jean de Brunhoff created in 1930 or 1931 as he drafted the first book in the Babar series. The maquette, an extraordinary handmade booklet complete with cover and endpapers, text and illustrations, is the prototype for Histoire de Babar, le petit éléphant.

The maquette is written on Johannot et Cie Annonay paper cut down to a page size of 8 1/8 x 6 1/8 inches (20.5 x 15.5 cm) and folded to approximate a book. In some cases de Brunhoff wrote on separate sheets and then pasted them into the maquette, obscuring earlier drafts he had made on the versos. Written and illustrated primarily in graphite, the maquette includes a few watercolor touches and a cover colored in green, yellow, and red crayon. On separate sheets of paper of the same type and size, de Brunhoff also made eleven pages of notes on color choices for his final illustrations.

After he completed the maquette, de Brunhoff returned to his sketchbooks and made significant changes that are reflected in the published book. He continued to revise the text, added a page showing Babar studying with a learned tutor, and, most importantly, subjected the opening and closing of the story to a major overhaul. The maquette opens with the death of Babar's mother; however, de Brunhoff ultimately decided to add a tender three-page opening sequence showing the infant Babar in a hammock and a group of young elephants playing. And while the maquette concludes abruptly with the marriage and coronation of Babar and Celeste, the published book ends with the newly married couple reflecting on their good fortune before taking off for their honeymoon in a yellow balloon.


Babar part pour la forêt. Les mamans préfèrent courir derrière l'auto. Elles lèvent leur trompe pour ne pas respirer la poussière. La vieille dame est à son balcon. / Pendant ce temps le vieux Roi des éléphants est mort après une longue maladie. Il n'a pas d'enfant et les plus vieux des éléphants cherchent un nouveau Roi.


Babar sets out for the forest. The mothers prefer to run behind the car. They lift up their trunks to avoid breathing in the dust. The Old Lady is on her balcony. / Meanwhile, the old elephant king died after a long illness. He does not have children, so the oldest elephants are looking for a new king.

Published version: 

Ils sont partis. . . . Les mamans n'ont pas de place dans l'auto, elles courent derrière et lèvent leur trompe pour ne pas respirer la poussière. La vieille dame reste seule; triste, elle pense: « Quand reverrai-je mon petit Babar? » / [On an added page: Le même jour hélas, le roi des éléphants a mangé un mauvais champignon.] / Empoisonné, il a été très malade, si malade qu'il en est mort. C'est un grand malheur. / Après l'enterrement les plus vieux des éléphants se sont réunis pour choisir un nouveau roi.

They have gone. . . . There is no room in the car for the mothers, so they run behind, and lift up their trunks to avoid breathing the dust. The Old Lady is left alone. Sadly she wonders: "When shall I see my little Babar again?" / [On an added page: Alas, that very day, the king of the elephants has eaten a bad mushroom.] / It poisoned him, and he became ill, so ill that he died. This was a great calamity. / After the funeral the oldest elephants held a meeting to choose a new king.