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Explorers on the Moon: does Wolff die?

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UK Correspondent
#21 · Posted: 3 Aug 2012 13:43
I don't have my copy with me, but I'm fairly sure in Anders Østergaard's film of Tintin et Moi the subject is raised, so logically it's also in the book edition (unless that was one of the things Hergé edited out; seems unlikely though). Interested to find out more...
#22 · Posted: 3 Aug 2012 13:45
Just to clarify, here's the note translated from the original French as it was published in "Tintin magazine" in November 1953:

"When you find these lines, I will have thrown myself out into the void. There is no point in looking for me, you know that I will have gone into space forever. With me gone, you might have enough oxygen to reach earth safe and sound. Farewell, and forgive me for the harm I have done you - Wolff"

Very blunt and final I have to say. The first half of the note does appear to indicate mere suicide (guilt for all his betrayals) and he only dwells on the self-sacrifice in passing towards the end.

The note as written in the book edition:

"By the time you read this I shall have left the rocket... When I am gone, I hope you will have enough oxygen to reach earth alive. Perhaps by some miracle I shall escape too. Forgive me for the harm I have done you - Wolff"

does give more of an impression of giving up his life for the sake of his companions and is more moving (for me at least).

It is possible that the publishers of "Tintin magazine" received letters of complaint over the bluntness of the original note. Hard to tell, because as far as I can see readers' letters were not published in the magazines - unlike some American ones in which readers could debate for months whether or not Doctor Octopus should come back from the dead.

I think that Herge's annoyance was that he did not like the idea of a scientist like Wolff putting faith in unrealistic miracles. He'd already dealt with the subject with Philippulus the crazy prophet in "Shooting Star" who, upon seeing the ball of fire in the telescope, switches from scientist to religious fanatic. Wolff may have been a weak man who could be blackmailed into betraying his friends but he was not crazy.

It's funny how the Catholic church objects to self-sacrifice, especially when we are always being told that Jesus died on the cross in order "to save us all" - though that is not the impressions I get from reading the Bible in which he is arrested, sentenced and crucified with hardly any reference to self-sacrifice in order to prevent a greater catastrophe. Besides which, he for one does come back from the dead anyway. Does anyone know of an actual Biblical story in which someone sacrifices his life for others or is it something that is discouraged?

Moderator Note: While theological debate has its time and place, the issue isn't really within the scope of this discussion, especially as the terms being used throughout this thread are vague and thus a not necessarily entirely accurate picture of teachings of the Catholic and other churches.
Therefore, looking for Biblical examples of self-sacrifice is really too discursive for the subject at hand.

The Tintinologsit Team
#23 · Posted: 23 Aug 2012 07:44 · Edited by: Moderator
Of course Wolff dies. Otherwise his sacrifice has no meaning. That's what makes the incident so moving and tragic.

Yes, he was despondent at his act of betrayal. I don't think that he was driven to suicide because of his role in Jorgen's death. He was shocked at the moment, and it was clear that he had intended to disarm Jorgen and didn't mean for the gun to go off. More than likely it was Jorgen who squeezed the trigger anyway.

But Wolff felt guilty, and he WAS guilty. He didn't realize Jorgen's horrible plan when he smuggled him aboard, but when he pushed that big red start button on the control panel, he committed an unfathomable act of attempted murder. Four men would have perished horribly if Tintin hadn't cut the engines.

Though he was compelled to push that button by Jorgen, it's not as if he had a gun pointed at him at the time. It was an act of cowardice, and the ultimate betrayal.

Wolff was miserable with guilt and shame, and clearly would not have made his desperate final act if he had a clear conscience. Still, his leap into space was only "half" a suicide. It was an act of redemption, a sacrifice to save his friends and atone for his crimes. Thus the villain becomes a hero, and it's one of the most poignant scenes in the entire Tintin series. Haddock's change from suspicion to teary admiration, guides the emotion of the reader.

The "miracle" mentioned in his suicide note was not Hergé's idea, but I still think it fits Wolff's character. It's an absurd hope, of course, and no one was fooled by it. I think that Wolff would have written that in order to spare his friends the pain of thinking that his act was purely suicidal. By adding the "perhaps a miracle" bit, he gives his friends the illusion that there was still some hope, faint though it may be. I seriously doubt that Wolff believed it, or that his friends believed it for an instant, but there can be psychological value in pretending.

Personally, I would have felt cheated by Hergé if Wolff had come back in Flight 714. Wolff's beautiful heroic death would have become nothing but a cheap parody of a noble human sacrifice. I'm glad that Hergé never considered it.

I'd like to add that I read Tintin as a child (in its original French), and I rekindled my love for the books when I read them for my daughter.

She was about 8 or 9 when we read this book together. I was truly proud of her sensitive heart when I read that suicide note, and she burst into tears. I cherish that moment.

P.S. I loved Wolff's post-script. Here's a guy about to commit the ultimate sacrifice, and yet he worries about the wires that he cut for the alarm system. A true engineer to the end.
#24 · Posted: 28 Sep 2012 19:03
When "Explorers" was published in "Tintin magazine" it included a scene which did not make it to the book. This scene had Wolff joining Tintin outside the rocket during Haddock's spacewalk - Tintin having left the rocket without a rope. Wolff explains how Haddock is being dragged into the asteroid's orbit. When Tintin outlines his plan to rescue him, Wolff is appalled, pointing out the risks involved and saying to Tintin: "You have no right to risk all our lives in order to save that of one man."

In a roundabout way, a rather prophetic statement for him to make.
Briony Coote
#25 · Posted: 19 Jan 2014 08:38 · Edited by: Moderator
It's funny how the Catholic church objects to self-sacrifice, especially when we are always being told that Jesus died on the cross in order "to save us all"

There are certainly plenty of verses in the Bible about self-sacrifice for others, anyway. So it seems a bit strange that the Catholic church didn't understand or appreciate that about Wolff, even after Herge tried to explain to them.

Moderator Note: As was pointed out in the Moderator Note to mct16's post from which you quote, this really is a subject too large and too discursive to be tackled here; none of us here is a theologian of the Catholic Church, none of us knows the full discussion taken at the magazine, and to make vague and unspecified assertions such as "there are plenty of verses in the Bible", isn't a substantive development of mct's position, but instead a vague appeal to heresay.
Broadly speaking, suicide is seen as sinful or contrary to the will of God in much of Christianity (not just Catholicism), Judaism and Islam, but there has been great philosophical debate about its definition for centuries, including that which should and shouldn't be seen as martyrdom or justifiable self-sacrifice, so the position can't be as clearly contrary as you are indicating.
If the great minds of religion and philosophy cannot agree on this, it is doubtful that we will make any more than small progress here, so once again we ask, as we did before, that this subject is left here.

Thank you one and all for your cooperation!
The Tintinologist Team
#26 · Posted: 4 Dec 2014 00:53 · Edited by: Moderator
Been looking in on this thread for ages, and thought I'd finally add my pennyworth as to whether Wolff jumped out from the rocket without a spacesuit...

When I read this story as a seven-year old (49 years ago!) I had some thoughts about this, and decided it was most likely that he'd worn a space-suit but without a pair of oxygen cylinders attached (since we know that Tintin and his friends were using the cylinders from the suits to stay alive towards the end).

The air trapped in the suit would have enabled Wolff to cling to life for a brief moment, during which the hoped-for miracle (such as a passing UFO) might occur.

I think that taking steps to keep alive for as long as possible would be in his character!
#27 · Posted: 14 Dec 2014 22:36
I always like to think that Mik Kanrokitoff's UFO buddies found him and saved him...I could be wrong of course, but no harm in speculating.

Whatever the situation, that scene makes me sad every time.

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