The Emperor’s Old Cloths

Ariel Dorfman;s The Empire;s Old Clothes is a one of a kind book that examines the hidden cultural backdrops of popular children;s literature. Though it is widely known that books such as the Little Prince have profound meanings underneath the basic storyline, it would be a shock for many to discover that even stories of Babar and the Lone Ranger convey hidden biases and cultural significance to its readers. The Empire;s Old Clothes is very descriptive in its arguments and analyzes in detail the significances of each cartoonish episode. Indeed everything from European imperialism to differences in family structure as shown by Babar and Disney are discussed. Darfman;s book illustrates that though Disney stories lacks the imagination and historical accuracy blatant in De Brunhoff;s Babar, they each reflect some cultural truths of their respective cultures.
The French story of Babar written by De Brunhoff is a series of original tales that describe a society of personified elephants. Unlike Disney;s stories, this French story conveys a ;mission civilisatrice;, or a civilizing mission, in which De Brunhoff underlines the stories with lessons on how to grow and mature. On the surface, this mission is similar to the stories about Madeline, the little French girl who always gets herself into mischief, then after having been rescued, teaches her young audience a fun lesson. Babar;s civilizing mission, however, involves more than lessons for children. In his books, the jungle is the continent of Africa, and the town is Paris. The society of brutish elephants is undoubtedly the African society previous to the arrival of The Old Lady, who is the epitome of Western civilization. With these ;geographical disguises;, De Brunhoff civilizes two cultures at once. ;Elephant and children, both small savages, will finally reach a point at which they must as


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