Ludwig Bemelmans and Madeline

Madeline, the 1939 children’s book written and illustrated by Ludwig Bemelmans, remains one of the major classics in children’s literature. The original story set in Paris, France and presented in rhyme with bright illustrations was named a Caldecott Honor Book in 1940 and was the first of Bemelmans’ books followed by sixteen more. In 1954, Madeline’s Rescue earned a Caldecott medal. An ALA Notable Children’s Book, Madeline is still available in libraries and bookstores today. The animated Madeline began in 1952 as a six-minute film and was nominated for a 1952 Academy Award for Best Animated Short. Today movies and an animated series, The Adventures of Madeline, are available to stream on demand. It is said that the first publisher rejected the story for being too sophisticated for children, making Ludwig Bemelmans another fine example of someone who never gave up on their goals as a creative writer and illustrator.

Key indications in Bemelmans’ birth chart showing his career success include:

Moon in Gemini in the 5th House – The Moon shows how we care for others (as well as ourselves), what we love and find joy in, and our feelings. Gemini is a very social sign and all about communication. Put those together in the 5th House that represents children, entertainment, creativity, and publishing and you have a gentleman who, among other things, adores using his imagination to express stories about and for children.

Exalted Sun conjunct Mercury retrograde in Aries in the 3rd House – (The Sun is the natural ruler of the 5th House and so represents creativity and publishing as mentioned above.) The Sun also represents the self, father, and authority figures. Exalted in Aries, the Sun gives a solid sense of self, a healthy ego, and great ability to lead or initiate projects and goals. The Sun is conjunct Mercury the planet of curiosity, expression, writing, publishing, and business. Mercury retrograde gives a deep mind, active ‘inner world’, and creative thought processes while often making relations with children or business quite challenging. (I wonder if Bemelmans used creative writing, creating stories to share with his daughter Barbara to show his affection in a way that was comfortable to him.) The 3rd House represents the art and craft of writing, formulating stories, and the skill to create plots and storylines. It has to do with abstract thinking, of putting pen to paper and coming up with a draft. A strong or dominant 3rd House gives one the impetus and drive to use their skills to develop something artistic or creative, taking the desire to express from the 2nd House into manifestation through the 3rd. You can see in Bemelmans’ chart how Jupiter rules his 2nd House and aspects it from the 8th House, in the sign of Mercury-ruled Virgo while Mercury sits in the 3rd House with the Sun. The house rulership of Sun and Mercury while the two planets are in a conjunction forms a Raj Yoga, with Sun ruling a Karma house (the 7th) and Mercury ruling a Dharma house (the 5th).

A Strong Venus in the 4th House: Venus is the planet that represents the arts and creativity overall. In his 4th House in its own sign, Venus becomes doubly strong. (Venus gains strength when in the 4th, which is called Dig Bala and when in its own sign, Swarashi.) The strength of Venus gives Bemelmans a strong motivation to connect with people through artistic, creative means. Venus also rules the spouse, in this case Bemelmans’ wife, whose name was Madeline.  The 4th House is naturally ruled by Cancer so there’s an underlying Cancerian, lunar influence here as well, such as nurturing others and having strong family ties.

The three main Nakshatras: The Ascendant, Moon, and Sun in Bemelmans’ chart are all located in nakshatras that favor and support writing and creativity. His Ascendant is in Shatabhishak, an asterism representing writers, quiet and honest personalities, someone who travels for study. Punarvasu is where his Moon is located and this nakshatra represents writers, publishers, writing skills, being of religious mind, friendly, and preferring a simple life. Bemelmans’ Sun is in Bharani nakshatra, also for writers, creative and intelligent people, and those who gain fame and wealth.

If we consider “Madeline” specifically, the beloved character was named after his wife. In Bemelmans’ chart, we see the connection of the spouse with writing through the Sun as ruler of the 7th House (the spouse) conjunct Mercury, ruler of the 5th House (creativity/publishing), in the 3rd House of writing. Mercury also rules Jupiter who aspects the 2nd House (expression) and the 4th House (home) and Venus therein (Venus being the wife). The Moon (ruled by Mercury) is also second from Venus, which supports an overall tender, loving even motherly expression, lunar influences Bemelmans manifested through communication, writing, and publishing that supported his wife and marriage.

We also see Ascendant ruler Saturn aspecting the 7th House of the spouse from the 10th House of career. Saturn is also in mutual aspect with Venus (wife) in the 4th House of home.

With Moon (mothering nature, women in general) in the 5th House with his doubly strong Venus 12th from the Moon, there’s a suggestion here of the nuns and the all-girls orphanage—the setting of the Madeline stories; and Venus rules his 9th House of traditional religion, which we see as the backdrop of the story- presumably a Christian/Catholic orphanage.

Interestingly, Moon is in Gemini, the sign of the twins, duality, and balance and Bemelmans’ Madeline stories always began with “…twelve little girls in two straight lines…”

Lastly, regarding financial success– while I’m unaware of how Bemelmans’ lived and how much money he accumulated, his chart shows Dhana Yogas of wealth, so one could only assume he did quite well for himself and his family. Jupiter is his money planet as ruler of the 2nd and 11th Houses simultaneously. With Jupiter positioned in the 8th house, he made his money supporting his wife and was likely encouraged and inspired by her as well. This position also suggests the inheritance he left Madeline (his wife) which was probably a nice amount given that her husband was not only a successful writer but also an artist. In fact, he first left his ‘day job’ back in the 20s to become a cartoonist. It wasn’t until the late 1930s that the story Madeline was born. In 1999, his daughter posthumously published “My Life in Art”, an autobiography featuring many of Bemelmans’ pen and ink drawings, watercolors, and gauche paintings.

In addition to Jupiter’s financial influence, Bemelmans also has his Venus-Saturn in mutual aspect across the 4th and 10th Houses, which creates a Raj Yoga. (Venus rules his 9th House of prosperity and wealth while Saturn rules his Ascendant.)

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Much more could be said about Ludwig Bemelmans. This article attempted to focus on his writing, specifically his success with Madeline, and was written strictly from his natal chart and a few nakshatras. The transits and his dasha timeline weren’t even explored yet, nor was the divisional chart of the career! Perhaps another day…

It’s always interesting to look at the birth charts of famous artists, musicians, and actors. You can see the influence the planets have on what they get involved with and what projects they gain fame with. Art imitating life? Or planetary Life directing Art?

Renate Maria Bell is a certified Vedic Astrologer, Jyotish Visharada, and approved teacher with the Council of Vedic Astrology. She can be reached at renatembell@aol.com

Image of Madeline, the book courtesy Target via Google search; Image of Bemelmans’ birth chart from Shri Jyoti Star software of which the author is a licensed user

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