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Subject: Cécile de Brunhoff, creator of Babar the Elephant

died in Paris @ 99
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Date Posted: April 08, 2003 5:24:37 EDT

Cécile de Brunhoff, whose husband turned a bedtime tale she told their children into the world-famous stories about Babar the Elephant, died yesterday in Paris. She was 99.

The first tale of Babar, family members said, materialized one night in 1930 when Mrs. de Brunhoff's son Mathieu complained of feeling ill. To soothe him, she told him and his brother Laurent a story about a young orphaned elephant who sets out to visit a city that is clearly Paris. He steals some money and goes on a shopping spree before being persuaded by his cousins to return to the jungle.

The following day the two boys repeated the story to their father, Jean de Brunhoff, an artist and book illustrator. He wrote it down for them and provided pictures. Babar the Elephant was born. But it was not quite the story Mrs. de Brunhoff had first told. In the published version, for example, Babar meets an Old Lady in the city who gives him money for shopping.

Originally, the title page of "The Story of Babar," the first of the Babar books, which appeared in 1931, was to have described the tale as "told by Jean and Cécile de Brunhoff." But Mrs. de Brunhoff had her name removed because she thought her role in Babar's creation minor.

Mr. de Brunhoff went on to write and illustrate seven Babar books. After his death in 1937, his son Laurent, also a painter, decided to continue the series, writing and illustrating more than 40 books about Babar.

Mrs. de Brunhoff studied piano under Alfred Cortot at the École Normale de Musique in Paris and taught there for much of her life.

She is survived by her three sons, Laurent, Mathieu and Thierry.

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