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Secret of the Unicorn: Which night is Max talking about?

Serafin
Member
#1 · Posted: 28 Nov 2012 22:16
Why does Max Bird say to Tintin through the speaker "that night when I had your flat searched only the third one was found in your wallet"? Max Bird only gets Tintin's parchment when he kidnaps Tintin. It is clearly daytime when Tintin is kidnapped, and it was earlier in the story when Tintin's flat was ransacked.
Balthazar
Moderator
#2 · Posted: 28 Nov 2012 22:58 · Edited by: Balthazar
Hello Serafin and welcome to the forums!

I've been wondering this same thing for a while, but thought maybe I was missing something. It is quite hard to keep track of who's got which parchment throughout that book, but I think you're right: what Max Bird says doesn't quite tally with the order of events.

I wonder if it's a slip on the translators' part (someone with a French edition could tell us) or whether it's like that in Hergé's original and he lost track a bit himself. (it was being serialised in the wartime Soir newspaper in short instalments, so maybe he slightly misremembered exactly what he'd had happen to the parchments in earlier episodes.
mct16
Member
#3 · Posted: 29 Nov 2012 01:08
Serafin:
it was earlier in the story when Tintin's flat was ransacked.

That was when Barnaby (the fat man in the blue suit) was looking for the parchment - he had previously stolen the model "Unicorn" but failed to find the parchment in it. Snowy later finds the parchment under the desk of drawers.

In the original French, Bird says through the speaker that "Cette nuit, j'ai fait fouiller chez vous" which ought to be translated as "Last night, I had your place searched". As you say, Balthazar, "a slip on the translators' part".

This is how I see it:

Tintin's parchment is stolen by pickpocket Aristides Silk but then recovered by the Thompsons. The Birds already have their own parchment and the one stolen from Sakharine, but then Silk steals Max's wallet which includes the parchments. They suspect Tintin of being the thief and have him kidnapped and locked in the cellar at Marlinspike. Tintin sleeps overnight during which the Birds (or their men) break into the flat (its third burglary) but only find the one parchment there.

Does this clarify things?
jock123
Moderator
#4 · Posted: 29 Nov 2012 14:44 · Edited by: jock123
mct16:
As you say, Balthazar, "a slip on the translators' part".

I doubt it - it’s a fair and accurate rendering of the French, and it’s very much a stretch to say that it should translate as “last night” (I can’t find an instance where Hergé uses “cette nuit” to mean “last night”, although he uses “hier soir” several times in this book).

You would make a much stronger case if you said that the French would have been clearer, had Hergé said “hier soir” here too. As Balthazar says, it appears to be Hergé who lost track a bit, not the translators.

However, there may be method to this, and the use might be intentional: Tintin has been brought to an underground prison, in an unknown location, and as he arrived unconcious he will have no means of knowing what the time is. Perhaps Bird is deliberately disorienting him, as a psychological tactic to get him to say where the other two parchments are (he doesn’t have this information, but Bird doesn’t know that). By saying “that night”, he is not giving away to Tintin how long he has been a captive…
golftangofox
Member
#5 · Posted: 29 Jan 2013 02:51
mct16:
Tintin's parchment is stolen by pickpocket Aristides Silk but then recovered by the Thompsons…

Unfortunately this doesn't tally either.
Tintin has the parchment just prior to visiting Haddock, at the time he is reading the logbook. Between him leaving to visit Haddock & Haddock finishing the story of the logbook, Tintin loses his wallet along with the parchment, stating,
"No it was stolen. It was taken in the bus, on the way here. I remember being jostled"
Therefore none of this makes any sense, as you would presume the pickpocket on the bus was Silk. If that was the case how did Birds get it from Silk?
The only way this could make sense is if you ignore all of the strong presumptions embedded in the story and assume that the Birds had Tintin pickpocketed on the bus or somewhere else on the way to visit Haddock.
Balthazar
Moderator
#6 · Posted: 29 Jan 2013 09:25
golftangofox:
The only way this could make sense is if you ignore all of the strong presumptions embedded in the story and assume that the Birds had Tintin pickpocketed on the bus

It seems possible that the Birds might have hired someone to pickpocket him on the bus. Tintin mentions being jostled, which is obviously a common way to pickpocket someone, but jostling doesn't really seem like Silk's style, from what we see of his pickpocketing technique elsewhere in the story.
mct16
Member
#7 · Posted: 29 Jan 2013 09:52
golftangofox:
none of this makes any sense, as you would presume the pickpocket on the bus was Silk. If that was the case how did Birds get it from Silk?

I don't presume, I know, because Tintin's wallet, stolen by Silk, is later returned following his encounter with the Thompsons when he tries to steal a wallet but is prevented by an elastic band. The Birds never got it from Silk but when they searched Tintin's flat following his kidnapping.

The only connection between Silk and the Birds is that he stole Max's wallet containing his parchment and Sakharine's.

Let's see if we can go through this step-by-step:

Parchment #1 is found by the Birds in a model of the Unicorn at Marlinspike.

Parchment #2 is found by Tintin under his desk of drawers, having fallen out of the model he bought from the market. It is stolen that same day by Silk on the bus.

#2 is recovered and returned to Tintin after the night time encounter between the Thompsons and Silk.

Parchment #3 is stolen by Barnaby from Sakharine and given to the Birds who now have #1 and #3.

Max Bird is in town with #1 and #3 in his wallet which is stolen by Silk, but Bird suspects Tintin is the thief.

The Birds have Tintin kidnapped and his flat burgled. #2 is found and given to Max, who keeps it during his getaway from Marlinspike.

Silk is arrested by the Thompsons. Tintin finds Max's wallet with parchments #1 and #3.

Max is arrested before he can cross the border. #2 is returned to Tintin who now has all three.

I hope this clarifies things.
golftangofox
Member
#8 · Posted: 30 Jan 2013 07:15
Ah yes, you are quite correct. I totally forgot about the Thompsons getting Tintin's wallet back.
Balthazar
Moderator
#9 · Posted: 31 Jan 2013 14:25
mct16:
I hope this clarifies things.

Yep, many thanks for your very clear summary, mct16. I'm sorry to have got sidetracked into bus-jostling pickpocket identity speculation when, as you say, it's clear from the trail of the parchments that it must have been SIlk. (I should have re-read the book before posting!)
mct16
Member
#10 · Posted: 4 Sep 2013 03:49
Jock123
At the beginning of this discussion, you disagreed with my view that there had been "a slip on the translators' part" and stated that:

jock123:
it's very much a stretch to say that ["Cette nuit"] should translate as "last night"

However, you recently raised a separate issue about a scene in "Seven Crystal Balls" in which Haddock gets caught in a man-trap. While Tintin is releasing him, Haddock refers to "ce bandit, cette nuit" and, in the fourth panel of the next strip, Tintin refers to "le bandit de cette nuit" ("The intruder last night" in the English version) while describing how the fugitive of the previous night took refuge in a tree, leaving a bloody handprint in the process.

Tintin and Haddock discover the handprint in the middle of the day. When discussing "cette nuit", they clearly mean the previous night, which is what Max Bird must have meant when talking through the speaker.

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