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Land of Black Gold: Where does Dr Müller get the stick..?

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Olle E
Member
#1 · Posted: 25 Apr 2010 20:08
In The Land of Black Gold, Dr. Müller beats up Tintin (and Milou), with a stick on p.27. It is obviously not a crafted cane, so he probably did not bring it with him. Moreover, in the 5th frame there is a cracking noise indicating that Müller is breaking something (wooden) to obtain the stick.
The question is where on earth does Müller get the stick in the middle of the desert?

My six-year old spotted it tonight,and I couldn't give him a reasonable answer, so please give us a hand...
Harrock n roll
Moderator
#2 · Posted: 25 Apr 2010 22:36
Well, I would tell your six-year old that although very little vegetation exists in desert regions, there is still some. The stick could have been from a dead Acacia tree, or maybe the remains of a dried up Ghaf tree, an endangered species from the Arabian Desert.

The one thing that bugged me more about that scene was why on earth Müller didn't kill Tintin when he had the chance. Mind you, that probably would have spoiled the story somewhat... :-)
jock123
Moderator
#3 · Posted: 26 Apr 2010 11:04 · Edited by: jock123
That's a very perceptive six year-old you have there, Olle, and in all fairness I think he should get credit for the sharpness of his observation.
I agree with Harrock that the branch would have likely been from something like an acacia tree, but I do see it as a weakness that Hergé didn't actually set up its production, by either showing the jagged remains of a tree amongst the rocks, or by showing dead branches strewn about the ground as Müller and then Tintin move around.

I think we are actually watching the insertion of what I have heard referred to in terms of film as a "utility prop": it may not have existed before, it could disappear immediately, but some item needed by the person on screen will manifest itself for as long as it is required, and no longer.
So, in the movie Jurassic Park, the character Nedry has to wipe his hands, and manages to do it (twice) on a napkin that just magically appears, then disappears, without him having to pick it up or put it down.
There's a similar class of things which, having been established as being there, then vanish if they will impede the action.
The text-book example of that is in Lethal Weapon, when Riggs attaches himself with handcuffs to the man contemplating suicide, makes a big thing out of how they now cannot be separated whatever happens because of the cuffs, and then forces the man into jumping off the building with him - at which point there are no hand-cuffs and they are not falling together...

Update: See luinivierge2010's post here, for another example of a randomly inserted prop, and the explanation why...
Harrock n roll
Moderator
#4 · Posted: 26 Apr 2010 17:24
jock123:
I think we are actually watching the insertion of what I have heard referred to in terms of film as a "utility prop"

I think you're right, it's the old plot device again, like a 'Deus ex machina' (where something appears out of nowhere to help solve a problem). Having looked again at the passage in the book it's not actually clear whether the cracking sound was meant to be Müller tearing a branch from a tree, or something else. In one frame there's the "crack" sound and we see Tintin turning around surprised, and in the next Tintin is being walloped by Müller, making it seem as if very little time had elapsed. Maybe the cracking sound was meant to be Müller stepping on a dried up branch? Or perhaps when the story was originally published in Le Petit V. the crack frame served as a cliffhanger, i.e. the end of that particular strip, so there wasn't much thought given to how it would flow when the book was reset later?

There's a good example of what jock has called the 'utility prop' that I noticed some time ago in The Red Sea Sharks. In the passage where Tintin walks through the Marlinspike gates there are some very dense bushes either side of the pathway leading up to the hall. These bushes seem to have mysteriously appeared from out of nowhere, but they're put there in order to hide Abdullah, who shoots Tintin with a water pistol. But we never see these shrubs in any other vistas of the Hall, believe me, I've checked!
jock123
Moderator
#5 · Posted: 26 Apr 2010 18:07 · Edited by: jock123
Harrock n roll:
perhaps when the story was originally published in Le Petit V. the crack frame served as a cliffhanger, i.e. the end of that particular strip, so there wasn't much thought given to how it would flow when the book was reset later?

Actually this happened at the bottom of the first page of the last two-page spread in the black and white version (appearing in the issue of the 9th of May, which actually carries a picture of Müller swinging his stick at Tintin on its cover) before the strip suspended due to the war. The second B&W page ends with Müller standing over the prone body of Tintin, lying unconscious ("You have meddled in my affairs...!"). After which point, the reader never found out what happened...

This corresponds to the first page becoming frames 1-6 on p.27 of the present edition, and the second page being made up of the two half frames and the following four.

Most of the panels have been re-sized slightly; frame 1 of p.27 of the book version has been substantially re-drawn, with Müller now in a different pose, and he has a fringe of hair round the back of his head in the original, whereas he was later made completely bald. The two half panels have been created from two full frames with slightly different composition, and the frame of Müller pulling away Tintin's head-dress is again a different composition to the way it was originally.

Nothing on the bottom row of p.27 is found in the original version. Two more finished B&W pages remained, but unpublished: beginning with Müller seeing a cloud of dust on the horizon showing he is being chased, he then takes the still unconscious Tintin by horse-back to a remote desert location and dumping him there, rather than the arrival of the Thom(p)sons by Jeep, and Tintin waking up and escaping.

As you said before, ideally he should have shot him at that point, but then we'd probably be Müllerologist.org, studying The Adventures of Müller... ;-)
Balthazar
Moderator
#6 · Posted: 26 Apr 2010 18:08 · Edited by: Balthazar
I agree with Harrock that it's not clear that the CRACK is meant to be the sound of a branch being snapped from an unseen tree. If that was the case, then you'd have thought Tintin would have had time to turn round and point his gun at Muller before Muller had time to finish tearing the branch from the tree, remove extraneous twigs and foliage, and bring it down on Tintin's head. I think your theory that the CRACK is meant to be the sound of Muller's footfall (either stepping on a twig, as you suggest, or displacing a stone) is likely.

It's not like Hergé to be so ambiguous and unclear, especially by this point in his career, when he tended to value clarity for the reader above all else.

I wonder if the stick is meant to be something Muller had left lying around there on a previous visit. It's true that it's not crafted like a cane, but it is very straight — more like a roughly hewn staff than a newly torn-off tree branch. It seems that Muller may have used this place before for switching identity, so it seems possible that he might have some bits and pieces, such as a staff, lying around the place.
jock123
Moderator
#7 · Posted: 26 Apr 2010 18:18
Balthazar:
It's not like Hergé to be so ambiguous and unclear, especially by this point in his career, when he tended to value clarity for the reader above all else.

Given the timing, I think that we can perhaps forgive Hergé for maybe having other things on his mind when he was putting those last pages together...
Balthazar:
I wonder if the stick is meant to be something Muller had left lying around there on a previous visit.

Effectively it is the staff in his branch office then? ;-)
Harrock n roll
Moderator
#8 · Posted: 26 Apr 2010 19:34
I was thinking the same thing as Balthazar; that rocky place in the desert could be a hideout for Dr Müller to change his clothes. And perhaps he keeps a little cache of useful stuff there, like mirrors and sticks, just in case!

jock123:
Effectively it is the staff in his branch office then? ;-)

Certainly when Tintin heard that crack he didn't have time to twig that he was going to end up in a very sticky situation (awww dear, sorry! :-))
Guynemer
Member
#9 · Posted: 11 May 2010 08:49
If you look closely, one end of the stick looks like it has been snapped, so maybe the 'crack' was Müller breaking a branch. However, the stick does look more like a rough staff.

Another possibility would be as follows: maybe Müller planned to throttle Tintin, but found the staff on the way round the corner, left/dropped there by someone else.
jock123
Moderator
#10 · Posted: 11 May 2010 17:48 · Edited by: jock123
Guynemer:
so maybe the 'crack' was Müller breaking a branch.

I think that that is undoubtedly it - however, the question which arises, and which has taxed us here, thanks to the eagle-eyed note-taking of Olle Jr., is: from what was he breaking it?
There is no sign of a supply of trees, dead or alive, in the vicinity, and no obvious source of wood amongst the rocks.

Anton Chekhov, the illustrious play-write had a principle he used when creating a drama, which was: "One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it." Meaning, don't add extraneous detail which the audience need know noothing about, if it doesn't further the plot.

This, it would appear, is an example of the inverse of that principle: "Don't let your baddie break off a ruddy great stick, if you haven't provided him with a tree from which to break it".

Unless there was some health and safety concern inherent in the world of Belgian comic-strips at the time which would prevent it, it seems to me that Hergé could far more easily have had Müller just bop Tintin on the noggin with a rock - there are plenty of those about...

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