Saturday, October 30, 2010

Tintin: A tribute

Charles de Gaulle once said:
"My only international rival is Tintin"
In 1929, an androgynous baby faced reporter made his way into Le Petit Vingtième, a children's supplement to the Belgian newspaper Le XXe Siècle. More than 80 years later, that reporter is a legend and a household name. Tintin was and is more than just a character in a comic. Tintin is a hero; a role model and indeed a paragon whose daring exploits have inspired millions.

In the 20’s and thirties, the average Joe had a really limited knowledge of the world around him. TV had not yet caught on and one could not see anything through a radio. In such a world, tintin’s daring exploits in locations as diverse as Tibet and the Sahara desert were a veritable introduction to Geography for entire generations. They opened the eyes of millions to countries, cultures, landscapes and natural phenomena which were still relatively unheard of. From the sands of the Sahara to bitterly cold mountains of the Himalayas to the Scottish highlands, tintin served as a passionate introduction to planet earth.

Eighty years back, the world was a much worse place than it is now (no matter what elders will tell you convince you otherwise). It was an era of poverty, hunger, depression and yes, racial discrimination. To give you an idea how racially bigoted the world was at that time, let me quote Heinrich Himmler:

“We Germans, who are the only people in the world who have a decent attitude to animals, will also adopt a decent attitude to these human animals, but it is a crime against our own blood to worry about them and to bring them ideals” 
In such an era, the broad mindedness of Georges Remi (tintin’s creator, popularly known as Herge) is frankly, astonishing. This is especially seen in ‘the blue lotus’ where tintin makes a lifelong friend in the Chinese boy Chang, whose life he will later save in ‘Tintin in Tibet’. Chang is modelled on Herge’s real life friend of the same name. In the blue lotus, Herge illustrates how deeply ingrained the notion of racial inequality was even amongst the oppressed through the following lines spoken by Chang when he is rescued by Tintin:

"I'm Chang... But... why did you rescue me?!!?"

The main reason why Tintin is such a role model is that he seems to be a paragon. He leads an enviable lifestyle as a bachelor with an adventurous lifestyle as a reporter. He can fight, fly aeroplanes and is skilled marksman with the pistol. He is kind, generous and essentially flawless. Tintin personifies all of the universal values that are a mirror to everyone's own aspirations. Eternally youthful, the indefatigable reporter continues to conquer the world with unflagging, never-failing vitality. A brilliant supporting cast of characters such as Captain Haddock, Professor Calculus and Thompson & Thomson lend colour, depth, and perspective to tintin’s world.

Not only is tintin flawless, he inspires change in others. When Captain Haddock is introduced into the series in “The crab with the golden claws”, he is a miserable drunken wretch whose ship is used by his first mate, Alan to smuggle drugs. By the time of ‘Tintin in Tibet’, he is a noble man ready to sacrifice his life for tintin.

When was the last time a comic character got a national award? Tintin was awarded Tibet’s highest civilian honour, the light of truth award in 2006 by the Dalai Lama for promoting Tibet thorough ‘tintin in Tibet’

A lasting memory of tintin will be that of him running alongside his faithful dog, snowy, both beaming in eager anticipation of adventure. A powerful image that makes you wish you were in tintin’s wonderful world. Just as you start believing in the reality of his world, you flip over the last page and you are brought back to the cruel reality of this mundane world.


  1. a billion blistering barnacles !! cool

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