Curious George made his first appearance as a minor character named Fifi in Margret and H. A. Reys’ Raffy and the 9 Monkeys (1939). The illustrated book told the story of a lonely giraffe named Raffy, and the nine monkeys that become his playmates. In late 1939 the Reys began work on a sequel to the book, centered around their curious little breakout star, when the skies began to grow dark over Europe.
Following the Nazi invasion of Poland in September 1939 and France’s declaration of war against Germany, the Jewish-born Reys sought refuge first in the southern region of Gers and later in Normandy, fleeing Paris for the third and last time on June 12, 1940. Despite the difficulties, the Reys were prolific in France, publishing seven books from 1937 through 1939 (three in both French and English) and completing the manuscripts and drawings for at least four others later published in America.
On October 14, 1940, the Reys finally reached New York. Within a month the publisher Houghton Mifflin accepted four of the manuscripts they had brought with them for publication, including Fifi: The Adventures of a Monkey. Houghton Mifflin asked for only one change to the manuscript: to change the name “Fifi,” which was deemed too precious and feminine for the mischievous male monkey. Thus was born Curious George, and the rest is history.*
Learn more in Norman Rockwell Museum’s newest exhibition Curious George Saves The Day: The Art of Margret and H. A. Rey, on view November 12, 2011 through February 5, 2012. The exhibition is organized by The Jewish Museum in New York City, and is drawn from the H. A. & Margret Rey Papers, de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection, McCain Library and Archives, The University of Southern Mississippi. The exhibition is supported through a bequest from the Estate of Lore Ross; additional support for the exhibition’s Stockbridge debut is provided by Barrington Foundation, Inc.; an anonymous donor; Sol Schwartz; and media partner WGBY-TV, Springfield, Massachusetts.
*Further History Lessons:
When Curious George was first introduced in the United Kingdom, George VI was England’s king. To avoid insulting him by having his name also used by a monkey, the character’s name was changed to “Zozo.” His name has also appeared as Peter Pedal (Denmark), Choni Ha’Sakran (Israel), and Hitomane Kozaru (Japan).
The Man in the Yellow Hat has never gone by another name, until the 2006 animated film Curious George, where he is referred to as “Ted.”
THIS IS A TEST…