By Amanda Sheppard
Tintin and Politics
Hergé, Tintin’s creator, is credited with creating a world for his boy-reporter that was inherently reflective of his own. Tintin is introduced to the public through the Catholic newspaper Le Vingtième Siècle
– known to be influenced by its religious foundations and thought to carry anti-Bolshevik sentiments. It’s understandable then, where the inspiration for Tintin in the Land of the Soviets
– his first foray – comes from.
Tintin’s political trajectory follows the events that unfold throughout the Second World War. The Black Island
features German villain J. W. Müller (a lawless Nazi doctor), while the amalgamate name of Müsstler in King Ottokar’s Sceptre
is a clear reference to Italian and German leaders Hitler and Mussolini, and a growing fear of fascism.
Hergé’s fictitious kingdom, the land of Syldavia, draws influence from the Italian annexation of Albania (imminent at the time of writing). Hergé reportedly urged his publisher for a timely release of King Ottokar’s Sceptre
to reflect the events of the time.
Change came abruptly in the 1940s, when Hergé moved Tintin to Le Soir
, a Belgian newspaper heavily censored under Nazi occupation. Here he no longer held a sense of personal ideology; nor so could Tintin: the boy-reporter flees Europe for the Sahara in The Crab with the Golden Claws
. When the time comes to return to the continent, Hergé opts to create a timeless Europe (seen in The Secret of the Unicorn
). This is in and of itself reflective of current events, and characteristic of the escapist tendencies of wartime narratives.
Tintin and Colonialism
Attached to the legacy of the naive yet lovable reporter is a somewhat contentious history – particularly with his early adventures. Much like the events of Europe in the 1930s and 1940s, Tintin’s world saw clear ideological allegiances. Many of these reflect a colonial outlook – travelling in Tintin in the Soviet Union
to uncover injustice and play his part in the war against communism, allying against the Imperialists in Japan in The Blue Lotus
, and fighting to protect the fictional Syldavian monarchy in King Ottokar’s Sceptre
Hergé’s most controversial tale Tintin in the Congo
can be seen as an attempt to unite a divided nation through popular culture, and to highlight Belgium’s strength as a colonial power (the Congo remained a Belgian colony from 1885 until its independence in 1960).
Undoubtedly, understanding a bi-product of colonialism within the framework of the modern day reveals uncomfortable truths. To mediate these, Hergé’s second edition of the album removes references to the Congo as a Belgian colony, seeking also to reflect the changing attitudes of the nation.
Hergé is said to have regrets surrounding his first two books and the sentiments contained within their text and imagery, considering them to be “youthful sins”, and ones he would approach differently given the benefit of hindsight. Be that though it may, the works are considered valuable documents for social historians, as a temperature gauge for the Belgian social climate, and as an important way of understanding the colonial mindset and the events that led to a post-colonial world.
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