Long live King Barbar!
I was ruminating over and over asking myself “who or what can I write about with the letter “B” besides “Barney, the Dinosaur” who is one of my worst nightmares. This is my first post on ABC Wednesdays, so I wanted to write about someone I was really fond of. He didn’t appear to me until I was looking at a statue of Ganesha, the Hindu Elephant god that sits on an altar by my door who smiles benevolently at me. Then it struck me, Babar! I haven’t thought about him for ages, yet he was one of my most beloved friends when I was a little girl. I was blessed to have a mother who loved to read these fantastic books to her children and the “Babar” series was one of these gifts.
Babar was a young elephant who lived in the jungles of Africa with his friends including a mischievous, a large elephant family and a mother who sings lullabies to Babar. One day a hunter shoots and kills his mother and Babar decides after great contemplation to go to the city, gain some wisdom and then return back to his fellow elephants and teach them what he has learned. If this doesn’t sound like the story of the “enlightened one; Buddha” I don’t know what does! Babar is a great archetypal figure for children and adults. Under tragic circumstances, he not only manages to survive but gains courage and strength despite his sadness. A lesson that has stayed with me to this day. I remember holding the shiny red covered books, staring at the sweet and simple illustrations mesmerized and drawn to Babar and his adventures. I remember crying when Babar’s mother was killed and I think that is when I said to myself; “when I grow up, I want to protect animals that are being hunted like Babar’s mother.” And I have in my own ways. The books weren’t written to focus on death and tragedy, but like great fairy tales, Babar teaches us that when tragedy happens in our life, not to give up!
At the age of eleven, my parents had a horrible, bitter divorce leaving me scared, unsure of life and desperate for some company who could understand me. As if there was an elephant guardian angel, I found my childhood books of Babar, who sat with me for hours while the yelling and screaming was going on. I can’t say my fear completely went away after reading “Babar” but I found comfort and a kingdom where kindness, generosity and loyalty were treasured and that was enough.
Babar was born out of a mother’s imagination as a bed time story for her children in the early 1930’s, her husband Jean de Brunhoff wrote a book out of her stories called, “Histoire de Babar” written in their native French. A few years later, the book was translated in Europe and the U.S. immediately capturing children as well as adults.
It’s no wonder that I’ve always been attracted to the Hindu elephant god, Ganesha, known as “Lord of Beginnings, Remover of Obstacles” and “patron god of writers and intellects. I imagine both him and Babar saying to me; ‘lighten up, Wendy. Don’t let your anxiety stop you from living life!’ Has their message gotten through to me? I’ll let you be the judge. My mother passed away over ten years ago, but I still say when I read “Babar”; thank you, mom, for introducing me to one of my closest friends.