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Around the World with Tintin

14 Nov 2017

By Amanda Sheppard


Tintin’s adventures bring him to all four corners of the world, to places shrouded in intrigue – from the USSR to the Tibetan plateau and through lands of make-believe in between, with the routes etched into the minds of Tintin fans the world over.


The adventures of this intrepid young investigative reporter often bring him face-to-face with danger. Cutting his teeth as a journalist, Tintin’s first assignment sees him travel by train from Brussels to Moscow, armed only with a notepad, camera, and his faithful sidekick Snowy by his side, uncovering and reporting on the activities of the Soviet secret police. 


Tintin is a perpetual traveller on the hunt for adventure, wherever it may lead

From east to west and everywhere along the way, Tintin is a perpetual traveller on the hunt for adventure, though readers are only privy to his journalistic process in the first adventure – Hergé, perhaps, choosing to keep the writer’s world private.


Though delivered through the vessel of a children’s comic, Tintin’s early reportage served as one of the first impressions for many Belgian youth on the USSR – a land at the time cloaked in mystery. However, Hergé's publisher Casterman demonstrated a reluctance to continue circulation of Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, fearing its politically charged tale was not only outdated, but may be difficult for a new generation of readers to relate to. But it was precisely the dated nature of the story that would prove to be valuable for historians, as it served as a chronicle of the European social climate at the time. 


Tintin explores not only the west, but also the east and beyond, taking his curiosity to Shanghai in The Blue Lotus during the height of the Japanese invasion of China. He journeys through the punishing Himalayan terrain in Tintin in Tibet, where he’s forced to think on his feet, using his camera’s flash to scare off a yeti as it approaches dangerously close. The intrepid traveller is seldom without his camera, using it not only as a tool to aid his reporting, but also as a lifeline.


Enigmatic though his first few adventures may have been, Hergé did not limit his young protégé’s travels to the confines of a world atlas. Instead, he used them as stepping-stones for further escapades. In King Ottokar’s Sceptre, Tintin travels from Prague to the land of Syldavia – a fictional monarchical Balkan state on the brink of war with neighbouring Borduria. 


Hergé used fictional lands and their leaders to reflect on the events unfolding in Europe before him, choosing to name Borduria’s leader Müsstler, derived from the names of Hitler and Mussolini. In South America, the banana republic of San Theodoros and its neighbouring state Nuevo Rico (both feature in The Broken Ear) were loosely based on the Bolivian and Paraguayan states and the war that had been waged between the two for four years.


Hergé references these fictionalised countries in multiple stories, tying them into the realm of Tintin and making them quintessential components of the world he dedicated his life to constructing. 


But that’s not all. For Tintin, the sky’s truly the limit; Destination Moon sees the teen reporter on a mission to the moon, accompanying faithful friend Professor Calculus on a top-secret assignment to safeguard a government project. Here, Hergé not only speaks of the times; he also moves a step ahead of them, channelling the Cold War rhetoric surrounding the moon landings and propelling them onwards and upwards, some 15 years before Neil Armstrong took his first steps on the moon.


It’s no wonder we all see Tintin as one of the best adventurers of all time.


The HOCA Foundation, in collaboration with The Hergé Museum, presents THE WORLD OF TINTIN  

Wednesday – Sunday, 17 November – 10 December at the new ArtisTree. Due to popular demand, the exhibition will be open daily from 11 – 26 December.

See the Tintin programme page for more details. 


Follow @artistreehk on Instagram for all the #tintin_Artistree action

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