TINTIN: NOT KILTY
Experts say comic sleuth’s trip north was a turning point
Cartoon star accused of racism but experts say he changed in
Hehad 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
‘ It marked a change in terms of Tintin accepting others and being like others
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