Tintin's Friends

This post is a big thank you various readers such as Stephen, Pro-man, Tom and Pe-ads for your ongoing support.

Since Christmas I’ve had very little time for Tintin due to a number of issues coinciding including a big project I’m trying to get off the ground and my Mother having various chronic health issues. It must also be said that Mounlinsart’s approach to copyright enforcement has made be much less eager to blog on Tintin even when I have the time.

The situation is not likely to change over the next few months but I’m hopeful that by the start of next year, as publicity for the film begins, I will have more time for blogging.

In the meantime, you can help this blog by letting me know of any Tintin news. If you spot anything of interest, please let me know by posting a link in a comment.

Many thanks everyone.


Red Rackham's Treasure, The Secret of the Unicorn, Tintin and Snowy, Tintin's Friends

Herge always relied on coincidences in his stories but in The Secret of the Unicorn, he perhaps relied on them too much.

The Unicorn for Sale

The coincidences start on page one, where Tintin bumps into Thompson & Thomson. The detectives are investigating a pick-pocket who will, by chance, become very important towards the end of book. On page 3 of The Secret of the Unicorn, we have the next two coincidences. Firstly, as Tintin tries to buy the model Ivon Ivanovitch Sakharine also tries to buy the model. Then as those two argue, Barnaby joins in and also tries to purchase the same model.

If having three people (two of them who have been hunting for the model for years) all out shopping in the same place at the same time when the very object they seek happens to be for sale is not coincidence enough, there is more to come. The model is of the Unicorn, the ship of Sir Francis Haddock, Captain Haddock’s ancestors. After this, The Secret of the Unicorn settles down now that Herge has introduced all the characters and established the story line.

The True Unicorn

According to Tintin and the World of Herge, the Unicorn was not based on any specific ship but it was heavily influenced by Le Brillant. This 50 gun warship of the French Navy was built in Le Havre in 1690. A model of the ship can be seen here. Quite why Herge used this ship as the basis for the Unicorn is not clear.

The Secret of the Unicorn makes Captain Haddock unique in Herge’s cast. He is the only character to have any background. There is no mention of Tintin’s ancestry, ancient or modern, or that of any other characters. In fact, it is the only blood relation to a character to feature in the books except the children of various characters (e.g. the Waggs).

It is believed that the pirate Red Rackham in The Secret of the Unicorn was based on the pirate Calico Jack, whose real name was John Rackham. It was Calico Jack’s use of a jolly roger with two crossed swords that popularisied the design of the jolly roger as we know it today. This design was also used in the film Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. This was fitting as Calico Jack was captured and hung in giblet. An image that is also referenced in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.

Pests, Marlinspike and Nestor

As well as having amazing ancestors, Captain Haddock has an amazing vocabulary. Reading his rage induced rants always expands your grasp of language. The Secret of the Unicorn is no exception as Haddock refers to the Thompsons as Phylloxera. This North American aphid like creature was responsible for near destruction of the European wine industry in the late 1800s. Brought across from America by accident, this pest destroyed many of the vines. Only with the introduction of vines crossed with resistant stock from America did European wine production survive.

Marlinspike makes its first appearance in The Secret of the Unicon. Later it is to become Captain Haddock’s and Calculas’ home and base for many Tintin’s adventures. But in the beginning it just a prison that Tintin wakes up in. One of the first things Tintin does in Marlinspike is damage it by combining ingenuity with a convenient wooden beam.

Along with Marlinspike, we also meet Nestor for the first time. Innocently caught up in the nefarious affairs of the Bird brothers, Nestor’s first meeting with Tintin results in a fight and almost ends in Tintin’s murder. Nestor’s saving grace is when, once Tintin is rescued by the Thompsons and Captain Haddock, Nestor replaces the Captain’s bottle of three star brandy. Nestor clearly understands the Captain’s needs and Nestor remains the butler of Marlinspike after it is purchased by Calculus and the Captain.

Red Rackham's Treasure, The Secret of the Unicorn, Tintin's Friends

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.

Chateau De Cheverny Marlinspike Moulinsart

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?

Links, Rumours, Tintin Movie News, Tintin's Friends

Editorial, Ligne Claire (Clear Line), Links, Tintin's Friends

AZ_CaptainHaddock_smThis great image is from the Garen Ewing, a writer and illustrator who is currently doing an A-Z of comic characters. Clearly a big Tintin fan, Garen is writing and drawing a strip cartoon very much in the vein of Herge’s Tintin. The Rainbow Orchid, inspired by authors such as Conan Doyle, Jules Verne, Edgar P. Jacobs and, of course, Hergé, has appeared in print but you can read the entire story (so far) online. I’m about to do that so there goes my work for the rest of the day.

On his blog, he has a good post on the current plan that all children’s books in the UK should be age banded, i.e. labeled with their target age range. This plan is worrying many children authors because so many books appeal across ages. The authors fear that labeling a book like Winnie-the-Pooh as 3 – 6 years or Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy as 10 – 12 years will put off children (and adults) outside of those ranges. As someone who came late to reading due to dyslexia and still regularly reads “children” books I think the authors fears are justified. All readers should be allowed to discover for themselves what is suitable and enjoyable to them without social pressure or fear of stigmatization.


For more on this, see Age Banding and look what image Garen illustrated the story with.

Links, Tintin's Friends

At the end of the year, Evans and his Italian wife, Chiara, hope to visit the Tibetan child they sponsor.

The trip should be less hazardous than the one taken by the person whose story inspired Evans’s passion for the country and its people, the fictitious Tintin created by the Belgian cartoonist Herge.

Tintin became the first fictional recipient of the Dalai Lama’s Light of Truth award on June 1, 2006.

Evans says the story, first published in 1960, “got me interested and really aware of the Dalai Lama situation, and reading about Buddhism and so on. I respect [the Dalai Lama] a lot and feel he has been very unfairly treated.”

Evans gears up for a free Tibet tour

Herge, Links, Tintin and Snowy, Tintin's Friends

Herge’s other comic creations, Quick & Flupke, have been launched in India.

“Even worse will be the Tintin Purists…” is a blog post looking at purists reactions to the Lord of the Rings films. Even if the Tintin Movie is as good an adaptation as Jackson’s LotR then a lot of Tintin fans will complain because their favourite bit has been cut. Personally, I’m going to take the films on their own merit and their general feel. If they are well made films, with good scripts and stick to the general tone of the books, then I will be a very happy Tintin fan.

From The Guardian:

In Tintin’s last-but-one-adventure, Flight 714, our intrepid boy reporter and his friends find themselves on a small and deserted Indonesian island. The first intimation that things may not quite be as they seem comes when a rather bemused-looking but undeniably giant lizard ambles out of the bushes.

“What on earth’s that?” exclaims Captain Haddock. “A monitor,” replies Tintin. “What’s it doing here, pestilential pachyderm?” demands Haddock, displaying his usual grasp of alliteration (and absence of scientific knowledge). “It looks like it’s escaped from the ice age!”

Into the dragon’s den