Filed under: Tintin
In 2007, as a countdown to my comics pilgrimage in Belgium coming up later this year, I started reading all the Tintin comics in chronological order. (Apart from Tintin in the Land of the Soviets and Tintin in the Congo – good luck finding those issues at the public library.) I took nearly a year’s break from Tintin to read up on my other projects. Now, however, with only four months remaining, the Tintin project has a new urgency. Not only do I have to finish reading all the Tintin books, but I also have to read the six Herge* biographies available at our local libraries. I also want to read other books for side trips in Belgium: a book on Waterloo, a guide to World War sites around the places I am visiting, King Leopold’s Ghost for my visit to Tervuren’s Museum of Central Africa, and probably History of the Low Countries.
(This is in addition to my ongoing medieval reading list and my shelves of birthday and Christmas presents and friends’ loan books. But I can possibly do it if I apply myself and stop goofing off on the internet.)
When I last left off Tintin, I had read The Seven Crystal Balls. This month, to refresh my memory, I re-read it.
Ramon Zarate, whom we know as General Alcazar, the president of San Theodoros, shows up in this book as a knife-thrower. Other recurring characters are the Milanese nightingale Bianca Castafiore, professor Calculus, and inept detectives Thompson and Thomson, the latter without a P, as in Venezuela.
The book begins with Captain Haddock squandering his new found riches on monocles and poor horsemanship. He soon becomes his normal self, with some great insults: bashi-bazouks, body-snatchers, cannibals, caterpillars, gangsters, hi-jackers, hooligans, iconoclasts, jackanapes, kleptomaniacs, mountebanks, nests of rattlesnakes, numbskulls, nyctalops, parasites, pirates, pock-marks, road-hogs, sea-gherkins, steamrollers, tribes of savages, troglodytes, vagabonds, and vampires.
Snowy, meanwhile, has a slightly less painful adventure than in previous books:
- He crashes into the butler Nestor’s foot,
- a black cat attacks him (leaving him with a black eye),
- water is spat into his face,
- he is gagged and removed from the opera,
- he is scared by Rascar Capac’s mummy,
- chased by a fireball into a fireplace,
- gets his face sooty,
- is shot at and has a bone shot out of his mouth,
- chases Haddock’s tough Siamese cat, knocking down a suit of armour and getting the helmet stuck on his head,
- and gets drunk on Haddock’s whiskey.
The sequel, Prisoners of the Sun, has a few new Haddockian insults: anachronisms, guano-gatherers, imitation Incas, pithecanthropuses, politicians, poltroons, savages, terrorists, tin-hatted tyrant, tramps, and Zapotecs. His venom is spared particularly for his nemeses, the llamas of Peru: cushion-footed quadrupeds, filibusters, morons, moth-eaten imitation camels, Patagonians, perambulating fire-pumps, raggle-taggle ruminants, slubberdegullions, and weevils. He does spew a little at other Peruvian animals. The condor gets bald-headed budgerigar, doryphore, and gobbledygook tossed at it; the monkeys are gibbering anthropoids and pithecanthropic mountebanks; an anteater is a four-legged Cyrano, the alligators become loathsome brutes and at one point, a distressed Snowy becomes a sea-lion.
Snowy goes through a few mishaps (a head bonk, a jump from a runaway train on a trestle bridge, a condor kidnapping, a fall over a waterfall and a newspaper wad hit on the head). Most important is that he begins to talk again.
The history of these two books took place during WWII in Nazi-occupied Brussels. The Seven Crystal Balls ran from December 16, 1943 to September 3, 1944, with its sequel starting only two years later on September 26, 1946. Rather like me pausing my Tintin reading binge in late summer 2007 and starting up again in spring 2009. Herge based professor Hercules Tarragon’s house in the first part on a real villa in Brussels. He sketched the seemingly empty house and, as he was about to leave, two grey cars full of Nazi soldiers pulled up to the house. The Germans had requisitioned the house for themselves: it was lucky that Herge didn’t have to explain why he was sketching it.
*Annoyingly, WordPress has recently mutilated all the accent markings I have ever written in my blog posts. I still have no idea how to correct this problem. I can’t save the accent markings, no matter how I insert them. I tried following instructions from those unicode info sites and WordPress help pages, but nothing. And once I do figure it out, this means I will have to re-edit hundreds of posts to un-mangle the accents. I really don’t understand why people keep muttering about WordPress being some sort of god. I find it harder to use than Blogger. The only good thing is perhaps that comments are moderated in a better way. Still, my to-do list since I switched to WordPress, in terms of working out all the kinks, is now so monumental, I almost want to switch back to Blogger. Anyhow, what this all means is that Herge has no accent marking. Boo for WordPress.