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Explorers on the Moon: does Wolff die?

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#1 · Posted: 9 Jun 2004 15:13 · Edited by: jock123
Jyrki21 answered jockosjungle (in another thread)...
"Also in Explorer's on the moon, does Wolff die? He goes off into space but he may have found an asteroid with a breathable atmosphere.

Not very likely. :) Actually, Hergé himself has been quoted as saying that he was annoyed that he had to put language into Wolff's suicide note suggesting that he might find a way to survive... he had to do this because of pressure not to spook his younger readers (either at the time or in a subsequent edition, I don't quite remember).

Hergé's wording was something like "Wolff is dead and he knows it.""

The "Tintin et Moi" documentary included stuff about how angry Hergé was at having to include the changes to the note, and blamed it on Catholic Belgian sensibilities, with suicide being seen as a sin.

I think Hergé was wrong on this point; it turns Wolff's note into the equivalent of Captain Oates', "I am just going outside and may be some time". It would be far less emotive if he was just being pragmatic about it, in a sort of, "Oh well, might as well get this over and done with" fashion. The note is meant to comfort the people left behind, drawing their attention away from the hopeless bravery of the act, and works superbly well; I'm surprised that Hergé didn't see it that way too.
Harrock n roll
#2 · Posted: 9 Jun 2004 15:50
I think it's the line "Perhaps by some miracle I shall escape too" in his suicide note which Hergé had to change/add - and which makes it is so implausible. To increase his chances of being picked up by a passing extraterrrestrial spacecraft he would have to be wearing his spacesuit with oxygen - which would defeat the whole purpose: saving oxygen.

Thinking about it I'm not sure why Wolff had to go to the longwinded way in jumping out into space - more dramatic I suppose.
#3 · Posted: 9 Jun 2004 16:07
I think also that Wolff couldn't have handled what would have happened to him when they landed back on earth (had they all survived). Even if Baxter and the authorities at the space centre didn't pursue a case for him helping to smuggle Jorgen abord the rocket and for leaking the rocket plans, I'm sure that Colonel Jorgens associates would have been after him. He probably thought it better to jump into space and leave a note explaining the oxygen situation, that way he would die a hero. (If he did die.)
Trivia Challenge Score Keeper
#4 · Posted: 9 Jun 2004 16:38
An analysis of Wolff's tortured soul must be a psychologist's dream - I'm not one, but it seems to me that by dying so dramatically (I always took it for granted that he does perish) he finally comes into his own. He is by nature one of life's weaklings, cheerful in outward character but possessed of demons that get the better of him and allow him to be easily manipulated. Hergé said something like "Wolff was condemned, and he knew it", and in this respect his story is an absolute tragedy. Wolff, even if he had not encountered the villains and been blackmailed by them, would have remained the kind of person to have been manipulated and pushed around. Only his involvement in the death of Jorgen, and then sacrificing himself for the greater good, shows Wolff to have defied his own destiny and allows him to remembered as a hero to be sympathised with rather than a villain to be reviled. His tragedy is only complete if he does die; I don't think Hergé intended it any other way.
#5 · Posted: 9 Jun 2004 16:50 · Edited by: jock123
Harrock n Roll said:
"I think it's the line "Perhaps by some miracle I shall escape too" in his suicide note which Hergé had to change/add - and which makes it is so implausible."

Implausible, in itself, yes; however I think it strikes the right note of false/ forced optimism which someone in Wolff's position might take (and similar to Captain Oates's use of "may"): perhaps not heroic by nature, but prepared to sacrifice himself when needed, the conceit of the "miracle" is enough to get him through the situation.

He knows it isn't even a vague possibility, but as long as he pretends it is, then he can do it. I'm racking my brains here for other examples as comparisons, but they are escaping me just now. Spencer Tracy at the end of "Captains Courageous" is a possibility - he has absolutely no hope of of survivng an accident, but spends his last moments telling Freddie Bartholomew he might survive.

Nice psychological profile, edcharlesadams!
#6 · Posted: 9 Jun 2004 17:27
Since I sort of started this thread, I'll add my twopence worth...

The way I see it (well the way I see it now after I've thought about it since I mentioned it earlier) was that Wolff felt guilty about having to kill the Colonel, and seemed that way at the time. Although he killed to save others, Wolff never seemed the sort to be able to live with himself for that sort of thing.

It may seem a small point but he does use the word 'miracle'. Perhaps signifying some hope of divine intervention on his part?

Now I'm off to scour every frame of every Tintin adventure post Explorers on the Moon, in the hope of seeing a vaguely Wolff like character in the background.

#7 · Posted: 9 Jun 2004 17:58 · Edited by: tybaltstone
There's a great Tintin picture, in pastels I think, by Francis Masse of a fictional Tintin cover called La Revanche du Professeur Wolff (The Revenge of Professor Wolff). It shows a tundra landscape with Tintin, Haddock, Calculus and Milou approaching a crash-landed sputnik type craft in the shape of Wolff's head, with footprints leading away from it. One can only speculate what happened to Wolff in the moments he stepped outside the rocket to bring this alternative 'reality' into being!

Some marvellous posts on this thread, and some excellent views from everyone - I'm learning a lot from you tintinologists. That half-page sequence in Explorers really adds a huge depth to the Tintin adventures, a great revelation of character.
Moderator Emeritus
#8 · Posted: 11 Jun 2004 02:03
The only real answer is Yes, Wolff does die. He knows he's going to, and he accepts that, either because he can't live with himself after the Jorgen episode[1], or, and I think this fits more with his character, he rightly[2] sees this as atoning for his past mistakes. It is, really, the only way he *could* possibly atone. That it places him in the position of a hero isn't something he would consider -- he doesn't have the imagination, for one thing.

The 'perhaps by a miracle...' I think Wolff would put in, as someone said, as a last bit of optimism to give himself the nerve to do what he did -- when he wakes up Thompson he does seem very unsure about what he's doing.


[1] There's two things that I see would be weighing on his mind -- 'killing' Jorgen, which he seems pretty aghast at; and his betrayal of the others. Personally, I think he'd see the betrayal as worse, even after Calculus (or was it Tintin?) makes his statement about accepting Wolff back among them, as they are all innocent. Jorgen was a ruthless criminal who continually blackmailed and deceived Wolff, and even threatened to kill him at one point.

[2] It's a moral question. I believe Herge put it in with that in mind.
Mull Pascha
#9 · Posted: 4 Feb 2005 14:53
He goes off into space but he may have found an asteroid with a breathable atmosphere.

Yes, but how would he manage to survive. He'd have died of starvation and dehydration anyway.
#10 · Posted: 4 Feb 2005 15:43
An asteroid with a breathable atmosphere, and a café...

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