Born in Paris, Jean de Brunhoff was the fourth and last child of a successful publisher. His wife Cecile, whom he married in 1924, was a successful pianist, and also contributed to her husband's success by coming up with the original idea for Babar. The couple had three sons (Laurent, 1925), (Mathieu, 1926) and Thierry (1934), and Babar first appeared as an unnamed baby elephant in a bedtime story told by Cecile to Laurent and Mathieu when they were six and five years old respectively. The next day the boys retold the story to their father, and the expanded and developed result was The Story of Babar (1931).
De Brunhoff managed to produce a total of seven Babar books before his death at the age of 37. Since then, millions and millions of Babar books have been sold all around the world.