Marlinspike is Tintin’s spiritual home and the very real home to Captain Haddock and Professor Calculus. It was purchased by Professor Calculus for the Captain at the end of their treasure hunting trip in The Secret of the Unicorn / Red Rackam’s Treasure and became the starting point for many of their later adventures.
Will the Real Markinspike Please Stand Up
Herge very rarely invented anything from scratch. When drawing a boat or a plane or a gun he preferred to start with an object and then simplify it. See the Junkers JU 52 in The Broken Ear or the Mayan pyramid in San Theodoros for two of the many examples of this approach. When drawing Marlinspike (Moulinsart in the original French) he copied a French chateau and simplified it.
Below is Château de Cheverny, the inspiration of Marlinspike. Compare it to the image from Red Rackham’s Treasure and it is clear that Marlingspike is Cheverny with the two outermost wings cut off.
Pinning It Down
But where did Herge imagine Marlinspike was physically? Frustratingly, Herge sometimes placed Tintin in very real and identifiable places (even giving map coordinates on one occasion) and at other times, he was incredibly vague to even which country Tintin was in.
What we can workout from the books is that Marlinspike was in Begium. Traffic drives on the right-hand side of the road and the police wear uniforms very similar to the Belgium police. The estate clearly has a lot of land and is surrounded by countryside so it is outside of any city. We know that Tintin lives in Brussels and he travels to Captatin Haddock’s house via motorcycle (Tintin and the Picaros) and via Marlinspike train station (The Seven Crystal Balls). As Tintin never has any luggage with him it safe to assume that Marlinspike is not far outside of Brussels.
The Final Clue
Marlinspike original French name was Moulinsart. According to Tintin and the world of Herge, this is a reversal of Sarmoulin. A small country town in Belgium. Unfortunately it is so small even Google cannot find it. There is no entry for it on Wikipedia either. Is it real but very, very, small or is the existence of Sarmoulin one of Herge’s jokes?