The Mermaid's Tale

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Who is Bécassine?

Bécassine is a young provincial Breton girl turned housemaid as viewed by the sophisticated Parisians. In her region it is a common belief that those with large noses are highly intelligent. Bécassine herself however has a tiny nose in keeping with her simple ways and manner.

Her nickname of "Bécassine" is also the name of a small bird that isn't considered very bright. She frequently has misadventures in her travels, hence the nickname. Her real name is Annaïck Labornez.

Bécassine's origins

Bécassine is the earliest female comic strip protagonist. Her first appearance was on 02 February 1905 in the French children's magazine La Semaine de Suzette ("Suzette's Week"). 02 February is therefore considered her birthday.

Bécassine is dressed for misadventure

Bécassine child costume The child version of Bécassine's outfit is quite basic.

She wears a checkered gingham apron instead of a while one. The necklace of her green dress is different and includes a wide white collar and white long sleeved chemise.

In this version of her attire, she carries her red umbrella. Bécassine adult costume

As an adult, Bécassine wears the typical garb of a Breton peasant. Her lapped cap and wooden shoes are distinctive, as are her bright green dress and striped stockings.

During her many adventures around the world, she is never without her famous large red umbrella and checked bundle of her belongings.

Bécassine books

Bécassine and umbrella The character of Bécassine was initially created by Pinchon and Caumery to fill a blank page in the children's magazine La Semaine de Suzette. She was so well-received that she continued to serve as filler until 1913, when she became the heroine of her own comic strips in the magazine. These were the first of the modern bande dessinées (literally, "drawn strips", the Franco-Belgian comics and graphic novels), the popularity of which continues to this day.

Between 1913 and 1939 over 20 French-language comic books of Bécassine's adventures were published by Gautier-Languereau. The series, written by Maurice Languereau (under the pseudonym of 'Caumery') and illustrated by Joseph Pinchon, covers the time of her childhood through her daily life as housemaid and nanny, and a number of adventures as she travels the world.

The books themselves are quite simply illustrated with lineart in four to six colour tones. There is little to no shading or fine detail to the art. Each "panel" is a grouping of characters with a caption underneath, and there are several "panels" per page including an inset or two. That said, the characters are wonderfully detailed and expressive.

Bécassine in many ways resembles Amelia Bedelia, another nanny character who likewise has misunderstood the world around her since her creation in 1963 by Peggy Parish.

The comics featuring Bécassine have been collected into their own volumes and expanded with both a movie in 1939 and an animated film (Le Tresor Viking) in 2001.

L'enfance de Bécassine
Bécassine Pendant la Grande Guerre
Bécassine Chez Les Allies
Bécassine Mobilisée
Bécassine En Apprentissage
Bécassine Chez Les Turcs
Les Cent Metiers de Bécassine
Bécassine Voyage
Bécassine Nourrice
Bécassine Alpiniste
Les Bonnes Idees de Becassine
Bécassine Au Pays Basque
Bécassine Son Oncle et Leurs Amis
L'automobile de Bécassine
Bécassine au Pensionnat
Bécassine en Aéroplane
Bécassine Fait du Scoutisme
Bécassine aux Bains de Mer
Bécassine Dans la Neige
Bécassine Prend des Pensionnaires
Bécassine a Clocher-Les-Bécasses
Bécassine en Croisière
Bécassine Cherche un Emploi
Les Mésaventures de Bécassine
Bécassine en Roulotte
Bécassine au Studio
Bécassine Maîtresse d'Ecole
Les Chansons de Bécassine
Bécassine Revient
Bécassine Mène l'Enquête

These books can be difficult to find since many are out of print. Some great places to buy used books online include:

Other Bécassine collectibles

Bécassine remains a popular character in France and Belgium to this day. Some items which feature her likeness:

Bécassine ceramics in 1.8 scale

Fèves are small ceramic figures which are traditionally included in king cakes. These particular fèves are white ceramic with red detailing. Each includes an image of Bécassine. They fit nicely into a 1/8 scale wooden hutch.

Bécassine stamps

A set of postage stamps featuring Bécassine was printed to celebrate her centennial birthday in 2005.

Bécassine music

Bécassine is the focus of a popular Chantal Goya song, "Bécassine est my cousine". This song even has a karaoke version.

Bécassine dolls

Bécassine doll

18" Minerve doll. Circa 1970s.

Bécassine doll

6" vinyl doll. Circa 2000s.

Bécassine doll

7" bass wood doll, hand-carved by Judy Brown. Signed on back. Dated "05/2017 -- 1".

Bécassine's birthday

Bécassine celebrated her 100th birthday in 2005, and her 110th birthday in 2015 was commemorated with a Google doodle.

Bécassine Google doodle

Further reading

If you would like to learn more about Bécassine, please enjoy the following articles for additional information:

Other bande dessinée

If you would enjoy reading more bande dessinée like Bécassine, please consider some of these other bande dessinée comics:

asterix The Adventures of Asterix series first appeared in Pilote on 29 October 1959. It follows the adventures of a village of indomitable Gauls as they resist Roman occupation in 50 BC.

gaston Gaston is a daily gag comic created in 1957 by the Belgian cartoonist André Franquin for Spirou magazine about the daily life of Gaston Lagaffe. Each comic consists of the traditional "gag" comic format with a half-page strip with a visual punchline to complete the gag.

  other bande dessinée
tintin The Adventures of Tintin is a series of twenty-four comic albums created by Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi. The main character is Tintin, who is a young reporter and adventurer traveling around the world accompanied by his dog Snowy. He is sent on different assignments around the world and in the midst of it becomes involved in dangerous international intrigues.   barbe-rouge Barbe-Rouge is a comic series created by writer Jean-Michel Charlier and artist Victor Hubinon in 1959. It follows the adventures of Barbe-Rouge (Redbeard), who is a pirate of French origin. After a troublesome youth he went roaming the seven seas for gold and fortune on his ship, the Black Falcon.

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