Babar the Elephant is a fictional character who first appeared in the French children’s book Histoire de Babar by Jean de Brunhoff in 1931 and enjoyed immediate success. An English language version, The Story of Babar, introduced by A.A. Milne, appeared in 1933 in Britain and the United States.
Babar the Elephant is an allegory of French colonization, as seen by the complacent colonizers: the naked African natives, represented by the “good” elephants, are brought to the imperial capital, acculturated, and then sent back to their homeland on a civilizing mission. The elephants that have assimilated to the ways of the metropolis dominate those which have not.
The true condition of the animals–to be naked, on all fours, in the jungle–is made shameful to them, while to become an imitation human, dressed and upright, is to be given the right to rule. The animals that resist–the rhinoceroses–are defeated.
The Europeanized elephants are, as in the colonial mechanism of indirect rule, then made trustees of the system, consuls for the colonial power. To be made French is to be made human and to be made superior.