Babar’s Celesteville Games


Among the books that we borrowed from the library yesterday was a celebration of 80 years of Babar the Elephant books, which was actually five years ago. I apologise that it’s taken me so long to attend to this book, and in defence I can only point out that half a decade ago I lacked kids and didn’t often read books aimed at them.

However, I’m not sure children should be exposed to Babar’s Celesteville Games anyway.

The Celesteville Games are modelled on the Olympics:

Celesteville had become one of the world’s great cities and this year was hosting the Worldwide Games. Athletes came from all over to complete.

No mention is made of the massive white elephant (no pun intended) infrastructural projects required to support such a set of Games: the unnecessary velodromes, race tracks and stadia that have to be built. Nor is there any mention of a corrupt and opaque bidding process to host the games, where politicians’ glories are paid for in the taxes of the common elephant. If you’re writing a story for children and it involves anything like the International Olympic Committee, you are either writing a warning or you haven’t thought this through properly.

Secondly, it’s a bit suspect that the story is set in Celesteville, when the capital of this country is named after President For Life Babar’s wife, Celeste. Nobody proofing this book had any qualms about the standard modus operandi of a dozen dictators being repeated here, and not being remarked on at all as a bit iffy? The children of today are the diplomats of tomorrow, and Babar is setting back the state of international development by decades by validating this sort of egomania. What’s the betting that every thoroughfare in Celesteville is named Babar Street?

Thirdly, there’s the troubling romance that is the centre of this book. Troubling, because it carries a strong whiff of grooming. Coriander, a skilled athlete, happens to catch the eye of a girl in the crowd, and ‘coincidentally’ later runs into her in a park, where she’s clearly star struck and he uses his image and reputation to further impress her.

Now, we have to remember that Flora is not a young girl, but a fully grown elephant, but she still lives with her parents and is probably fairly sheltered and impressionable. That, or she can’t afford to move out, because Babar’s corrupt regime has ruined the economy with the massive boondoggle for the Celesteville Games and nobody has any money. (Although you’d assume Babar would shower his children with wealth, maybe the relationship is strained because Babar is a racist elephant who detests his daughter’s boyfriend for having ears that aren’t big enough.)

Finally, the wedding comes, and “spontaneously” everyone in Celesteville contributes wedding gifts to what is probably the most affluent family in the country. There’s a parade of mandatory fun and subjugated giraffes have to pull Coriander’s carriage around. Can I make it any clearer how wrong all this is?

La Serpiente loves it though, with the worrying consequence that she may think the activities described therein are normal or good. What can I do to re-educate her?


One response to “Babar’s Celesteville Games”

  1. What can you do to re-educate her ? That’s easy, write her a book re-dressing the rights of the wronged !

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