Tintin and the Extended Essay

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"Tintin is heavily influenced by Hergé’s state of mind. Whether it be the fear felt in World War Two, Hergé’s perception of events in China, or his period of depression, it is all reflected within Tintin. This then provides a very accurate representation of many significant events of the 20th century..."May 2009

Text of Tintin and the Extended Essay












Leschinski 001415-042


How accurate were Herge's depictions of historical events in The Adventures of Tintin? Extended Essay History in English Jonathan Leschinski United World College Costa Rica Candidate Number: 001415-042 Word Count: 3997 May 2009

Leschinski 001415-042


Abstract This essay links real historic events to situations within The Adventures of Tintin, a comic book series by Belgian artist, Herg. The essay establishes what or who Tintin is and analyses its evolution over the span of Hergs life, documenting changes in style and creation methods. The result of the research shows that Herg took meticulous care in constructing the adventures, especially the places depicted, and more so as the series progressed. An investigation of the life Herg is undertaken and clear comparisons become evident between Hergs experiences and those of the character Tintin. The second half of the essay contains close readings of three of the adventures: The Blue Lotus, The Broken Ear, and King Ottokars Sceptre. The Blue Lotus has been chosen because my background research indicated that the adventure is crucial within the series, marking a point in Hergs life when he changed his approach to creating the adventures. Herg now attempts to change the stereotypical imagery seen in his earlier work, resulting in a more informative, accurate adventure - something Herg would continue. The next close reading focuses on The Broken Ear, Hergs first attempt at a fictional setting depicting situations that parallel real historical events. The final close reading is of King Ottokars Sceptre. Also set in a fictional country, the events in Sceptre are an accurate amalgamation of the situations of many real countries facing the expansionist policies of Hitler at the time. Using various cells from the series, and closely analysing the stories, accurate connections can be found between Tintin and historical events. The essay concludes that as Tintin matures, so do the adventures, and they become more historically accurate as the adventures progress. However, inaccuracies are unavoidable throughout due to Hergs views on the events presented.

Word Count: 293

Leschinski 001415-042


Table of Contents

Introduction to Tintin_____________________________________________________1 An analysis of the life of Herg, in relation to Tintin_____________________________3 Close reading of three adventures 1. The Blue Lotus___________________________________________________7 a. A Background of the Mukden Incident, and Japanese Involvement in Mainland China circa 1931 b. Close reading of the Blue Lotus 2. The Broken Ear__________________________________________________11 a. Background of the Gran Chaco War b. Close reading of The Broken Ear 3. King Ottokars Sceptre ___________________________________________14 a. Background of 1934 Anschluss, and surrounding events b. Close reading of King Ottokars Sceptre Conclusion____________________________________________________________18 Works Cited___________________________________________________________20 Works Consulted_______________________________________________________21

Leschinski 001415-042


Introduction The Adventures of Tintin is a series of comic strips (later adapted into book-form) written and illustrated by Belgian artist Georges Remi, under the pen name Herg. First published on the 10th of January 1929 by the catholic Belgian newspaper Le Petit Vingtime, a newly created children's section of Le Vingtime Sicle, it was originally written in French, but has since been translated into over 50 languages. 1 This essay uses the English translations for reference. The protagonist is Tintin, a Belgian reporter for Le Petit Vingtieme (although curiously references to his occupation are rarely made). In early adventures Tintin is accompanied solely by his dog Snowy, but throughout the series many characters are added to the story, including faithful friend's Captain Haddock and Professor Calculus. As with the work of many famous artists, Hergs Adventures of Tintin can be broken down in to periods of the artists life, which are clearly reflected in the books. In the beginning Herg produced the strips week-by-week with no clear direction regarding the story. While Tintin still traveled overseas, Herg's sole references were books, and few secondary sources available to him. Adventures published in this period were Tintin in the Land of the Soviets which Herg sourced from a single book, Moscou sans voiles (Moscow Unveiled) by Joseph Douillet which denounces what were though to be, at least by the author, false Soviet Russian claimsKennedy, Maev. "Museum aims to draw crowds with cartoon boy wonder aged 75." Guardian.co.uk 19 Nov. 2003. . Leschinski 001415-0421

(Red Rackhams Treasure, page 3)

1.1 - Tintin, Snowy and Captain Haddock.

1.2 - Look what the soviets have done to the beautiful city of moscow! A stinking Slum!(Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, page 75)


regarding the success of communism. (Figure 1.2) This adventure, in later years, was much criticised and Herg himself refers to it as a "sin of his youth" 2 The other adventures in this period include Tintin in America, Cigars of the Pharaoh and the colonial, racist Tintin in the Congo. In the next period the comics change dramatically. It is during this time that Hergs first masterpiece3, The Blue Lotus is published. With The Blue Lotus, thanks to a newly found friend Chang, Herg strives to avoid stereotypes and strives for accurate cultural representation. The subtle political commentary present in The Blue Lotus also is also apparent in the next adventures The Broken Ear, and King Ottokar's Sceptre. The Nazi occupation of Belgium caused yet another change. The novels produced during this period were forced away from Hergs newly discovered desire to comment on current affairs, and towards more abstract themes. During this time however, Herg honed his story telling ability. Books published under the German Newspaper for which Herg hesitantly worked, were The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Shooting Star, and the dyad The Secret of the Unicorn, and Red Rackham's Treasure. After the war, Herg completed the previously banned Land of Black Gold, and soon began to use a team of people to create the series. The Herg Studios was made up of different artists specialising in certain aspects in the books, resulting in each being more detailed than ever. Among the adventures produced in this period were the prescient Destination Moon, and Explorers on the Moon. Herg also once more delved back into current affairs with The Calculus Affair. Tintin in Tibet represents the final period which was a direct result of Herg's emotional state, overworked and generally sad. (Figure 1.3) This continues to the(Tintin in Tibet, Page 30)

1.3 - The white of Tintin in Tibet

final finished work, Tintin and the Picaros, in which Tintin (as well as Herg)

2 3

Sadoul, Numa. Tintin et moi. Tournai: Casterman, 1975, p. 75. Farr, Michael. Tintin : The Complete Companion. San Francisco: Last Gasp of San Francisco, 2004, p. 92. Leschinski 001415-042


shows signs of weariness. Each of the adventures has a formulaic predictable outcome; despite this, the aesthetically pleasing and captivating stories are widely loved. To effectively assess the accuracy of the series, the life of the creator, Herg, must be investigated so that correlations may be made. An analysis of the life of Herg, in relation to Tintin Georges Prosper Remi was born on May 22nd 1907, in the small town of Etterbeek, Brussels, Belgium. As a boy Remi attended a school in Ixelles, (Brussels), during German occupation (1914-1918) he is reported to have drawn, in the margins of his schoolbooks, a 'boy hero' who would stand up to the occupying forces. 4 His secondary education was at a catholic college. Remi also joined the Scout movement in 1920. Their ideology would heavily influence his work. Hergs first published work would appear in the Jamais assez, the school's Scout paper, and later in 1923, in Le Boy-Scout Belge, the Belgium Scout movements monthly magazine. It was in 1924 that he began using the name "Herg" to sign his work. 'Herg' is the french pronunciation of "RG" - his initials reversed.5 All formal education, apart from a short-lived attendance at l'cole Saint-Luc art school, was finished in 1925, at which point Herg began work in the subscription department of the newspaper, Le Vingtime Sicle (the 20th Century). In 1928, Herg was put in charge of producing material for the Le Vingtime Sicles new childrens paper - Le Petit Vingtime. After a brief period illustrating The Adventures of Flup, Nnesse, Poussette, and Cochonnet, a strip written by a member of the newspaper's sport staff, Herg was2.1 - Hergby Pierre Assouline, published by Plon

4 5

"Herg - A Short History". 15/10/08 Sadoul, Numa. Tintin et moi. Tournai: Casterman, 1975, p. 13. Leschinski 001415-042 3

asked to create a "Young Catholic Reporter who would fight for good all over the world6 and thus, Tintin was born, albeit a young, naive, primitive version who would evolve immeasurably in the years to come. On January 10, 1929, Tintin's first adventure "Tintin in the Land of the Soviets" appeared in Le Petit Vingtme. Signed under the newly acquired pseudo name, Herg.) Just over a year later on May 8, 1930, the first adventure in to the dark depths of the communist Soviet Union concluded. Tintin et Milous adventures were, in 1930, published along side another creation of Herg's Quick & Flupke, a comic strip Herg produced parallel to Tintin until 1940. By June the same year Herg began