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Literature / Le Petit Nicolas

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Le Petit Nicolas (Little Nicolas) is a series of children's books by René Goscinny and illustrated by Jean-Jacques Sempé, about a little French boy and his friends. It started out in 1956 as a comic strip and ran as such through 1958, and then switched to the short-story format it's better known as today until 1965.

The short stories focus on the main character's everyday life and range from causing mischief at school to helping dad paint the kitchen, playing with friends at the junkyard and generally getting into trouble.


In 2009, it was adaptated into a CGI animated series and a live-action movie, both of the same name. A sequel to the live-action Le Petit Nicolas, Les Vacances du Petit Nicolas, came out in 2014.


  • Aborted Arc: The second film is supposed to take place after the first film and most likely in the same continuity, but Nicolas's baby sister, born at the end of the first film is nowhere to be found.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Nicolas' mom, originally light-haired in the illustrations, becomes a brunette in the animated series and the movie (played by Valérie Lemercier).
  • Adapted Out: Maixent is the only boy of Nicolas's gang to not appear in the live-action movies.
  • Aerith and Bob: Alceste, Rufus, Clotaire, Eudes, Geoffroy, Agnan (all very old-fashioned names even when they were first published in 1956)... and Nicolas.
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  • Age-Appropriate Angst: A lot.
  • Amazon Chaser: Nicolas actually considers marrying Louisette in the future because he is very impressed by how she kicks a soccer ball.
  • Art Evolution: Compare the original art with the latest ones; the heads got bigger, the noses less round, the lines thinner...
  • Ascended Extra: Louisette, who originally appeared in only one chapter, becomes a main character in the animated series.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Happens frequently to Nicolas' parents after a harsh argument.
  • Badly Battered Babysitter: Nicolas' one-time babysitter didn't spend a very peaceful night.
  • Big Eater: Alceste IS this trope. Almost every illustration he is in shows him putting something in his mouth.
    • In the second movie, Fructueux eats even MORE than Alceste. And he's rail thin (althougth his tastes in food are a little bit...out there)
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Louisette, who bullies Nicolas while her mother isn't looking and bats her eyelids at her, making her convinced she is being a very nice girl.
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  • Bizarro Episode: In-Universe: One story has a substitute teacher replace the regular teacher. She ends up treating Agnan the Teacher's Pet like a troublemaker and Clotaire (who coincidentally gave a good answer) as the smartest kid in the class, letting him get the maps (usually Agnan's job). By the end of the episode, Agnan is playing goalie in the recess soccer game as the other kids don't want to play with that suck-up Clotaire.
  • Book Dumb: Clotaire doesn't seem less intelligent than the other kids, but he is the last in the class and has horrible grades. The fact that he's rather lackadaisical about his education and is often Asleep in Class probably doesn't help.
  • Canon Illustrations: The book series is forever associated with Sempé's illustrations.
  • Casino Episode: One chapter had Geoffroy bring a roulette at school, and the boys play at gambling... of course, each one is a Sore Loser, conflict erupts and Le Bouillon is furious that children are trying to get in gambling, as it leads to misery and prison.
  • Chromosome Casting: There are very few female characters, and that's just counting the adults. The boys go to a same-sex school and don't care much about girls.
  • Composite Character: Gisèle in the second live-action character is a composite of Gisèle (a rather secondary character in the vacation book) and mostly of Louisette, obvious by her ball-kicking and pigtails.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Le Bouillon, in the school monitor equivalent.
  • Dub Name Change:
    • In the Polish translation, some of the kids' names get changed to exotic-sounding names which are nevertheless easier to read and pronounce for Polish speakers (Geoffroy becomes Gotfryd, Clotaire becomes Kleofas, etc.)
    • The English translation also changed some characters' names, but to more normal English ones. A one-story English transfer student becomes Dutch instead.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: A summer camp monitor tells a story about an evil vizier wanting to replace the Caliph... this little concept eventually became the comic series Iznogoud, authored by Goscinny as well. The previously-mentioned story even gets made into one episode, where the Caliph impersonates a poor commoner to find out what his people thinks of him.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: It first started as a comic series.
    • It's easy to think that all the named recurring boys are the only students of Nicolas's class. However, in the first story, several other boys appear... and are never mentioned again. It seems Nicolas doesn't care about anybody else but his close circle of friends... and Agnan!
  • Exact Words: Nicolas once becomes first of his class during a test... because the entire class is sick at home.
  • Fat Comic Relief: Alceste sometimes plays this role.
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  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Agnan is sometimes this. He is usually ostracized by the others, but more rarely, he is more or less part of the gang.
  • Fun-Hating Confiscating Adult: Le Bouillon tends to be this, and Nicolas's parents. Then again, the boys do tend to be rowdy and disruptive with their toys.
  • Gag Nose: One episode has Nicolas buying a big red plastic nose that supposedly looks like his uncle Eugene's, and he wears it in class, with predictable results.
  • Girly Girl with a Tomboy Streak: Louisette acts like a proper lady but shows Nicolas she is quite good at kicking a football.
  • Granny Classic: Nicolas's grandmother is a kind and fun old lady. The Sempé illustrations all show her asking her grandson to give him a little kiss.
  • Here We Go Again!: Alceste insults Le Bouillon for stepping on his sandwich, and gets expelled from school as a result. He apologizes, returns... and the chapter ends with him insulting Le Bouillon again for making him drop his food. No further development is shown, but he is still in school for the rest of the series.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Makes up about half of the endings.
  • Innocent Inaccurate: Played for Laughs. A lot of the humor comes from Nicolas innocently misunderstanding the adults' behavior.
  • A Lesson Learned Too Well: When the school inspector's visit is announced, the teacher warns the class that they'd better behave and not laugh or fight. Unfortunately, the inspector turns out to be the type to tell jokes and starts his visit with one, which falls completely flat as they kids are obediently silent (for once). By the end of the visit, the inspector is congratulating the teacher on her fortitude.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Averted with Geoffroy, whose family is extremely rich but who is still in with the gang. He has a conflictual relation with them, but then, everyone in it does.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: At the end of Maixent's story where he tries magic tricks, a ball that he intended to make disappear... ends up gone for good.
  • The Movie: Came out in 2009, with Maxime Godard as Nicolas, Kad Merad as his dad and Valérie Lemercier as his mom.
  • Nerd Glasses: Worn by Agnan, and he is the only one with glasses in the class. And these are the reason why the other kids don't punch him in the face as often as they'd like.
    • This is actually explored in one story, which involves Clotaire's parents getting him glasses to see if his bad grades are a result of vision problems. All the other kids start wanting glasses because they think they'll make them smarter.
  • Nerds Love Tough Schoolwork: Agnan, who spends every recess studying.
  • Not in Front of the Kid: Nicolas' mother sometimes says that when she gets into an argument with his father.
  • Not What It Looks Like: A younger school monitor, Mr Mouchabière, is surprised by Le Bouillon for running doing Airplane Arms... even though he was showing the boys what he was scolding them for doing.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Le Bouillon's real name is Mr Dubon, but he is nicknamed "Le Bouillon" (the broth) because he often scolds children by telling them at first "look at me right in the eyes" and broth has bubbles nicknamed "eyes". Even the school's principal accidentally calls him by this nickname - before correcting himself - more than once!
  • Out-of-Character Moment: In the live-action film, Agnan tries to POISON his new teacher with old chocolate because she has replaced the teacher he likes.
  • Pet the Dog: Le Bouillon does this sometimes. Usually a stern authority figure who often threatens the children, he does end up finishing written punishment lines for the boys (so they end out of class earlier) and agrees to pose for a photo taken by Nicolas.
  • The Quiet One: In the second movie, Fructueux rarely talks, and when he does, it's short sentences.
    • He's also The Stoic. Actually, the only moment where he shows any emotion is when the viper is being tossed around. And even then, his reaction is kind of tame when compared to his friends.
  • Sarcasm-Blind: Being a kid, Nicolas usually takes the sarcastic comments of adults literally.
  • Serious Business: Wasting Alceste's food. One story starts when the Bouillon accidentally spills Alceste's food and gets yelled at. Alceste is expelled for a few days (among others, he actually did repeat what he just said when the Bouillon told/challenged him to)... and at the end of the story, the same thing happens again.
  • Shout-Out: In the English translation, the swot Agnan is renamed Cuthbert. This is probably a Shout-Out to Cuthbert Cringeworthy, the swot character in "The Bash Street Kids".
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Blédurt to Nicolas' father, who are always trying to outdo each other until their respective wives bring an end to it.
  • Slice of Life
  • Standard '50s Father: Nicolas's father. Comes home from an exhausting day at the office, just wanting to read his newspaper in peace and quiet...
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Nicolas' father once made the mistake of using this. He regretted it.
  • Stern Teacher: Nicolas's teacher alternates between this and Cool Teacher.
  • Teacher's Pet:
    • Played straight with Agnan.
    • Subverted in a storyline where the class gets a substitute teacher, who favours Butt-Monkey Clotaire over Agnan.
  • Testosterone Poisoning: Nicolas feels so awkward after going to a girly all-girl party that his dad decides to take him see a violent cowboy movie.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Louisette and Marie-Edwige in the animated series.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Marie-Edwige in the animated series becomes somehow nastier...
  • Took a Level in Kindness: ... while Louisette becomes nicer.
  • Unnamed Parent: Nicolas' parents. Goscinny always manages to avoid mentioning their names, even when they're talking with other adults.
  • Unreliable Illustrator: Sempé's illustrations would often contradict the text. Examples include:
    • During the visit at the museum episode, Alceste is described as looking at a "small painting", but the illustration shows the painting being ten times his size. Later, the text says Alceste is carrying it under his arm... which would be quite difficult, now, wouldn't it?
    • During the vacations episodes, a boy called Crépin gets a visit from his parents. He is described as having curly hair. The illustration shows him with straight hair.
    • In another vacation episode, Nicolas and other boys are being bothered by three girls. One of them, Micheline, is described as being fat, and yet the illustrations show the girls all being thin. What is worse, when Micheline is described as slapping a boy, clawing another one and getting her pigtails pulled, a different girl is shown each time... and in the last case, there are suddenly two girls with pigtails, even though they were previously shown with different hairstyles.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Pretty much all of the main kids, who almost always get into fights when they meet. However, they regard it as good fun.
  • You Lie: You could make a drinking game of the number of times a boy calls the other a liar, especially when it is Geoffroy being called so.
  • Women Drivers: One story is about Nicolas' mom trying to get her driver's licence, with such incidents like her claiming she didn't see a tree that jumped into the road. In the end, she passes, but it's so frustrating she swears off driving.
  • Writing Lines: A common punishment in Nicolas' school.