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The Tintin Miniseries: Tintin and Hergé’s Narrative Style

By Amanda Sheppard

Tintin and Comedy

For Tintin’s creator, narrative approach held equal significance to his unique drawing style, with bouts of humour used to deflect the often challenging and contentious circumstances in which Tintin finds himself. Wise beyond his years, the young journalist tends to leave the jesting to his peers, surrounding himself with comedic characters with a flair for the dramatic.

Perhaps one of Hergé’s most successful methods of using comedy is in its most rudimentary form – slapstick. Pride of place here are Thomson and Thompson, the bumbling detectives for whom trouble is never too far away. Their Chaplin-esque comedy of errors often involves clueless antics, clumsy behaviour and convoluted delays when it comes to problem solving.

The comedic circumstances aren’t confined to physical humour, however. Another narrative technique implemented by Tintin’s prolific creator is achieved with the help of a seafaring friend: Captain Haddock, who leaves behind a life on the high seas. With the teen reporter now permanently by his side, swearing like a sailor is no longer an option; he opts instead for muted expletives of a nautical, nonsensical nature – with “blistering barnacles” and “ten thousand thundering” proving to be much more child-friendly than the unmentionable alternatives.

“Hergé’s dialogue is succinct, yet powerful”

Hergé’s dialogue is succinct, yet powerful – with the delivery of iconic lines like “Thompson with a ‘p’, as in psychology” retold to this day. It is this dry wit and humour that has left a lasting impression on readers, and helped to set Tintin and his sidekicks apart from other crime-busting protagonists that have followed suit.

Tintin and Symbolism

Setting himself the task of creating a fantastical world where a boy-reporter could rid the streets of evil was no mean feat. But Hergé achieved this with apparent ease.

The cartoonist is credited with creating both a character and a universe that were representative of the social climate – a time when tensions were rife. Though remembered most for his unique style of drawing, Hergé’s subtle approach to the narrative weaved throughout The Adventures of Tintin plays an equally important role in creating symbolism and allegory.

In King Ottokar’s Sceptre, Hergé’s villain presents himself as Müsstler, an amalgamation of Hitler and Mussolini in name, and a representative of the Belgian public’s fear of fascism in character. Throughout the narrative, Hergé capably demonised select characters. In Flight 714 to Sydney, Dr Krospell draws parallels with the Angel of Death, Nazi officer Josef Mengele, while notorious American gangster Al Capone takes centre stage in Tintin in America – no disguises necessary.

Hergé deployed subtler techniques through the use of imagery, however. Take, for instance, the Kingdom of Syldavia, which features prominently in King Ottokars Sceptre, The Calculus Affair and Tintin and the Picaros, among other adventures. On the Kingdom’s flag, Hergé depicts a black pelican. Known to be a Christian symbol for sacrifice, the pelican speaks of the way King Muskar II is willing to martyr himself and abdicate the throne for the greater good. The sceptre itself serves as a symbol for power – a concept which is continually wrestled with throughout Tintin’s tales.

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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