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By Rampart Stonebridge, updated on March 25, 2024

Laurent De Brunhoff Dead At 98

The world has lost a pioneer in children's literature. Daily Mail reported that Laurent de Brunhoff, the creative mind who significantly expanded the Babar the Elephant series, has died at 98.

In a touching conclusion to a remarkable legacy, Laurent de Brunhoff, the esteemed author behind the global success of Babar the Elephant, passed away following a stroke, leaving behind a world enriched by his imaginative storytelling.

The tale of Laurent de Brunhoff is not just one of continuation but of reinvention and dedication. Born in Paris, Laurent was thrust into the limelight of the literary world at a young age following the death of his father, Jean de Brunhoff, the original creator of Babar. At just 12 years old, he witnessed the profound impact of his father's work, setting a path that he would eventually follow with grace and creativity.

A Legacy Born From Tragedy

Laurent de Brunhoff’s journey with Babar began in Paris, recovering from the ravages of World War II. The original Babar series, created by his father, Jean de Brunhoff, was born from a bedtime story of Laurent’s mother, Cecile de Brunhoff, in 1931. Jean de Brunhoff’s death in 1937 could have ended Babar’s adventures, but the story was far from over.

Laurent decided to carry on the legacy after his father's death and his uncle Michael’s subsequent contribution to two more Babar books. The torch was passed, and so began Laurent’s lifelong dedication to continuing what his family had started.

He undertook it with reverence for his father's work, mimicking Jean's gentle and understated illustration style while introducing Babar to new generations.

Laurent’s Babar journey spanned decades, during which he authored dozens of books that expanded the elephant's universe. Noteworthy titles like Babar at the Circus and Babar’s Yoga for Elephants not only entertained but also provided young readers with lessons on problem-solving without panic, a theme Laurent highly regarded in storytelling.

Global Reach and Controversies

The impact of Laurent de Brunhoff's work stretched far beyond the borders of France and the United States, where he eventually settled in the 1980s. Babar became a beloved character in 18 languages, selling millions of copies worldwide and branching into television and films.

Babar's influence under Laurent’s pen caused the series to face scrutiny, with some critics pointing out underlying themes of racism and colonialism.

Laurent de Brunhoff, however, was never one to shy away from criticism. He expressed regret over certain portrayals in his work, particularly in Babar’s Picnic, indicating a reflective approach to his storytelling and an awareness of the evolving social context in which Babar existed.

Babar, to Laurent, was more than just a fictional character; he often uttered, "Babar, c'est moi," highlighting the deep personal connection he felt with the series. This connection transcended the pages of the books, making Babar an indelible part of Laurent’s own identity.

The Personal Life of a Beloved Author

Behind the scenes of his professional success, Laurent de Brunhoff's personal life was marked by love, loss, and dedication to his craft.

Married twice, Laurent found a long-standing partnership with Phyllis Rose, his wife of 34 years, who shared insights into his creative process, describing Laurent's belief that a good story involves facing adverse situations calmly to reach a positive resolution.

Laurent was a father to two children, Anne and Antoine, and his family life often mirrored the quiet strength and joy found in his Babar stories. Despite his global success, Laurent remained grounded, once noting that his works were created not specifically for children but for his joy—a testament to his genuine passion for storytelling.

His passing on March 22, 2024, marked the end of an era. Laurent de Brunhoff died at his home in Key West, Florida, after a brief period in hospice care following a stroke, leaving behind a legacy that will continue to enchant and educate for generations to come.

Why This Story Matters

The enduringly popular Babar series stands as a tribute to Jean and Laurent de Brunhoff's talent for storytelling and artistic expression. Their combined efforts created a world where kindness, understanding, and adventure flourish, teaching children and adults the value of facing life's challenges gracefully.

Laurent’s last contribution to the Babar series, Babar's Guide to Paris, published in 2017, was a love letter to his birth city and the adventures that can be found within it and beyond. His approach to storytelling, focusing on resilience without panic, leaves a lasting message for readers of all ages.

His death brings reflection on a body of work that transcends mere entertainment, embodying lessons on cultural understanding, compassion, and the importance of family. Laurent de Brunhoff’s Babar will forever be a significant part of literary history, reminding us of the power of storytelling to bridge gaps and bring us together.

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Written By: Rampart Stonebridge

I'm Rampart Stonebridge, a curious and passionate writer who can't get enough of true crime. As a criminal investigative journalist, I put on my detective hat, delving deep into each case to reveal the hidden truths. My mission? To share engaging stories and shed light on the complexities of our mysterious world, all while satisfying your curiosity about the intriguing realm of true crime.

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