Tintin, the famous belgian reporter, celebrates 80 years today.
I could never miss the chance to congratulate him!!!
I am very attached to Tintin. I had my first contact with the french language through Tintin, trying to read my brothers albums. Then when I was 18 I got my first regular job at a Tintin shop. It was a nice job, where I learned how to overcome my shyness and deal with all kinds of people, which in turned help me a lot to understand human nature, not to judge people for their appearence and to always look on the eyes, smile and be pleasant to the invisible workers who attend me in the shops or at the supermarket.
My favourite character is the Captain Haddock, because, unlike Tintin who is self-rightous but sometimes too perfect, he is a person with a lot of flaws, but has his heart on the right place. Haddock is not the only alcoholic. Milou, aka Snowy, has a particular taste for Whisky, especially the scotch brand ‘Loch Lomond’, and, like Haddock, he also has to face some moral dilemmas, as when, in the album King Ottockar Sceptre, when he has to choose between a tasty bone and the famous Sceptre, a decison on which depends the survival of Syldavia, a small nation somewhere in the Balkans.
Syldavia is threatened by its bigger and stronger neighbour Borduria, a contry dominated by a fascist regime with expansionist ambitions. (I was in Montenegro for first time in May 2006, for the referendum for its independence. There were lots of journalists there and I found it very funny that Montenegro was compared by many among them to Syldavia… an imagined Balkan country as a model for a real one!!!)
Published in 1938, this book can be seen as a criticism of fascism and follows the tradition set earlier in The Lotus Bleu. Interestingly, Hergé was allowed to work during the period of Nazi occupation of Belgium, and this book was not censored, although Tintin in America and The Black Island were. Hergé’s political conservatism is well known and lots of pages have been written about it, in debates about the political contents of his books, the near-total absense of women in his stories, not to mention the mystery of whether Milou was a male or a female dog, etc, etc.
Nowadays, what fascinates me most in Tintin is the possibility that its books offer us to get an insight of the prevailing prejudices of his time and their evolution. The case of Tintin in Congo is paradigmatic of this, with Tintin shooting and even blowing up wild animals and fulfilling is ‘mission civilizatrice’ by lecturing the local children about Belgium (in a later version Hergé depicts him teaching maths). The evolution is clear in The Blue Lotus, where Hergé actually engages himself to fight prevailing prejudices about the Chinese people and to denounce the japanese expansionist ambitions and the behaviour of the West. I could go on, but time is short and after all there were 24 albums!!!
(Oliveira da Figueira, the only portuguese to appear on Tintin’s albums, is the quintessencial portuguese)
Another sign of how much we have evolved since Tintin was created is the famous phrase that Tintin’s public was everyone from 7 to 77. Now that Tintin himself is 80, I imagine him as one of those old men who love to tell stories about what it was like when they were young. I am sure he tells them in a very lively way, getting emotional now and then when he remembers his companions of adventures, Haddock, Milou, the famous opera singer Castafiore, his trip to Tibet in search for his friend Chang, not to mention is account of his trip to the Moon, and how stupid those conspiracy theories about the landing on the Moon being a fabrication of Hollywood…
In a way, Tintin could be the embodiment of the XX Century (which was, by the way, the name of his employer).