December 9th – Jean dr Brunhoff

“In the great forest a little elephant is born. His name is Babar. His mother loves him very much. She rocks him to sleep with her trunk while singing softly to him.”

Jean dr Brunhoff

French writer and illustrator Jean de Brunhoff was born on December 9th, 1899, in Paris, France. 

His father, Maurice de Brunhoff, was a publisher. He joined the army at the end of World War I. After the war, he decided to become an artist and went to study at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris in the 1920s.

In 1924 de Brunhoff married Cécile Sabouraud, a pianist. They had three sons. 

Although Jean is best known for his creation of Babar the Elephant, he didn’t actually create the story. His wife Cécile made up Babar as a bedtime story to comfort her sons, Mathieu and Laurent. The boys liked the story so much they asked their father to illustrate it. In 1933 The Story of Babar was published. Cécile felt her contribution was minor, so she did not want her name published on the books, and they are only credited to Jean. 

The couple wrote and published five more stories together until Brunhoff died of tuberculosis on October 16th, 1937, at the age of 37.

His son Laurent became an artist and picked up the Babar series, where his parents left off. In his nineties, he continues to write the Babar series, penning over 50 tales, the latest book Babar’s Guide to Paris published in 2017

Lesson from de Brunhoff

It was through collaboration and the inspiration of his wife and children and dr Brunhoff found his calling and success. That legacy was then picked up and continued by his own son, who spent a lifetime following his father’s well-laid footsteps.

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