TINTIN: NOT KILTY

Well, he’s got red hair and likes a pint. Why Scot­land was the mak­ing of Tintin

The Sunday Post (Dundee) - - FRONT PAGE - By Ross Crae [email protected]

Car­toon star ac­cused of racism but ex­perts say he changed in

Scot­land

‘ It marked a change in terms of Tintin ac­cept­ing oth­ers and be­ing like oth­ers

He had the legs for a kilt, en­joyed a pint, and had a fierce wee dog, if crime-fight­ing re­porter Tintin didn’t have a Scots granny, he should have had.

The car­toon sleuth cel­e­brated his 90th birth­day on Thurs­day after tak­ing on his first mission in the pages of Le Petit Vingtième, the chil­dren’s sup­ple­ment of a Bel­gian news­pa­per, in Jan­uary 1929.

But ex­perts said it was not un­til he took a trip to Scot­land eight years later that Tintin stopped be­ing… well, a lit­tle bit racist.

Tintin and The Black Is­land was pub­lished in 1937, and, ac­cord­ing to Pro­fes­sor Lau­rence Grove, that would sig­nal both a stylis­tic and ide­o­log­i­cal change for the fa­mous Bel­gian.

Read today, ear­lier ad­ven­tures could be seen as racist and an­tiSemitic but Scot­land was the first place where Tintin cre­ator Hergé, born Ge­orges Pros­per Remi, gave his lead­ing man more un­der­stand­ing and cul­tural aware­ness.

Pro­fes­sor Grove said: “That book for me is the one that’s key to the whole se­ries.

“It marked a change in terms of Tintin ac­cept­ing other peo­ple, him be­com­ing like other peo­ple. He goes from look­ing at other cul­tures from the out­side to tak­ing on other cul­tures.”

In­spired by The Thirty-nine Steps, The Black Is­land sees the cun­ning re­porter fol­low a crim­i­nal trail through Eng­land be­fore head­ing north. Tintin and his faith­ful com­pan­ion Snowy head out to sea to an is­land cas­tle to con­front the mas­ter­minds be­hind a forgery plant.

Grove, a pro­fes­sor of French at the Uni­ver­sity of Glas­gow and lead­ing Tinti­nol­o­gist, points to the scene where Tintin dons a kilt as a key in­di­ca­tor of the se­ries’ turn­ing point.

“He’s not say­ing ‘I’m go­ing to tell you what to do’, like pre­vi­ous ad­ven­tures in the Congo or Amer­ica,” he says. “This is Tintin say­ing ‘I’m go­ing to be like you and by do­ing that I’m go­ing to help solve the prob­lem’.

“It’s why I think Tintin could be great for Brexit, if we had a bit more Tintin around us we might get things done a lot more hap­pily. He’s prob­a­bly the per­fect per­son for it – he’s got his own national iden­tity but he’s part of a to­geth­er­ness.”

Grove says the story, which in re­cent years has been trans­lated into Scots as The Derk Isle, also marks a change in the il­lus­tra­tive style of Hergé. First re­leased in Le Petit Vingtième be­tween April 15, 1937 and June 16, 1938, it was put to­gether in a book in 1943.

Grove says: “Stylis­ti­cally, it was the only one that was up­dated twice and the fi­nal ver­sion done for the English lan­guage trans­la­tion is al­most the epit­ome of the clear line style which in­flu­enced Andy Warhol and Roy Liecht­en­stein.

“The Black Is­land is the key story stylis­ti­cally and also ide­o­log­i­cally.”

Tintin’s en­dur­ing ap­peal means that, 90 years on, his ad­ven­tures have been read by mil­lions world­wide and con­tinue to be pop­u­lar.

“When you grow up with it, it changes your out­look on the world,” says Grove, who read the books along­side tales of As­terix and Obe­lix while grow­ing up as part of a fam­ily orig­i­nally from France.

“Tintin is James Bond with­out the girls, the base of all mod­ern fic­tion. He is the one we can all recognise. We can all have an ev­ery­day life as Tintin does as a boy scout or hang­ing around his flat, tak­ing his dog for walks.

“Then some­thing hap­pens which desta­bilises the sit­u­a­tion and he goes off on an ad­ven­ture. He solves the prob­lem then goes back to be­ing nor­mal again. For me it’s ex­actly the same thing as most mod­ern fic­tion, he al­lows us to recognise our­selves in him but also who we want to be.”

Tintin and Snowy stop for a re­fresh­ment as they solve a forgery plan in Scot­land in The Black Is­land

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