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Marlinspike: More models for the Captain’s château and the village?

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#1 · Posted: 21 Oct 2010 19:55 · Edited by: jock123
While it is a long established and accepted fact that the Château de Cheverny (minus its side wings) is the original model for Marlinspike/ Moulinsart, I was intrigued to happen upon the website of the Château RiveSarthe, which claims some interesting connections between it and the Captain's country house.

For a start, the château at RiveSarthe is actually itself based on Cheverny - with the side-wings removed! The roof profile seems a little different, but there is no doubt that it bears a striking resemblance to Marlinspike.

Secondly, they say the front steps at Marlinspike actually follow more closely the design of the steps of RiveSarthe, rather than those to be found at Cheverny, and again, I see their point. They also say that the rosy tint of the gravel paths leading to the door are to be found at RiveSarthe, rather than at Cheverny.

Then there are the similarities between names – the “Sarthe” part of the name being pronounced the same as “sart” in French.

They suggest that there might also be a connection between the local village of Malicorne, and Hergé using the name Licorne (French for Unicorn) in the title of the album which introduced the house. The full name of the community is Malicorne-sur-Sarthe, which adds to the notion.

Finally, and in some ways the most intriguing of these links: it’s said that the local antique shop in the village at the time of the books being written, were a couple of brothers who went by the name of Loyseau - not dissimilar to the name Loiseau, which became The Bird Brothers in English…

It would appear that the suggestion that there was any other source than Cheverny has been controversial, judging by some of the debate I have read, but I do find the links made to be at least worthy of thought. The RiveSarthe château freely acknowledge the primacy of Cheverny, they don’t take that away.

It might also help to explain why the village of Sart-Moulin has been so hard to pin down - I’ve never seen any documentation or photographs to back up the assertion that it ever really had existence…
#2 · Posted: 22 Oct 2010 01:00
WOW!! jock123, Good digging, and how close it looks to Marlinspike, actually closer.

I have been in the Château at Cheverny and was truly fascinated as we don't have anything like it is Australia.

What proof do we have that Hergé used Cheverny? Any documentation on this, or is it speculation?
#3 · Posted: 22 Oct 2010 08:21 · Edited by: jock123
What proof do we have that Hergé used Cheverny, any documentation on this or is it speculation.

It seems to be fairly conclusive; the archive contains Hergé’s copy of the brochure for Cheverny, which has as its cover a photograph of a very familiar view of the garden and château, bearing pencil sketches of Tintin and the Captain walking up the path towards it. You can find it on page 106 of Michael Farr’s Complete Companion. The roofline at Cheverny is obviously closer to that of Marlinspike.

As it appears in this book opposite the frame of Captain Hadddock being hit on the head by the ship’s wheel chandelier, and the postcard which provided the source image he used for the fixture, it reminds me that at this time at least, Hergé was often working just a short period ahead of publication.

As Mr. Farr notes, the postcard is actually dated after the story had had begun to appear, so Hergé collected reference material as he went along. Who knows if, in looking for a picture of RiveSarthe he couldn’t find one, but could put his hands on the picture of its model?

Or maybe, having trimmed the wings off, someone went, “Hey! That looks like the château at RiveSarthe!”, and told him the other things.

However, the RiveSarthe connections may be nothing more than coincidence: it isn’t necessary for Hergé to have used anything more than the brochure picture and his imagination.

It also becomes a bit of a circular argument: I can’t really play the “oh, Hergé was pressed for time and made things up as he went, and needed a picture and couldn’t find one” card, if he was also cool and collected enough to have established the link between Malicorne and the Licorne prior to ever starting the story (it’s in the story title after all…).

Then again, Michael Farr also talks on the same page as the Cheverny picture about Sart-Moulin being a town - but if so, I ask, where is it? Using Google Maps I’ve not found anything like a town in Belgium by that name, and what there are couldn’t even really be said to be villages. I can find listings for various windmills (moulin) near places called Sart, and references to a spot in the middle of what appears to be a lorry park in a complex next to a quarry, but no specific place which is conclusively the elusive Sart-Moulin.

Perhaps one day information will come to light which will settle it.

A further thought: I realize that I should state that I'm in no way an expert on French/ Belgian château; it is entirely possible that there are a fleet of similar country houses out there, all of which bear some sort of similarity to Marlinspike. For example, the Château de Villette, at Condecourt, Val d'Oise, north-west of Paris is the stand in used in The Golden Fleece, and it too manages to convey the air of Marlinspike really well (albeit that it has a substantial gate-house and a range of out-buildings to either side of the main building at the front which Marlinspike never had in the books). As a complete aside, the Château de Villette has more recently gained prominance as a location in both the book and the film of The DaVinci Code.
Mikael Uhlin
#4 · Posted: 23 Oct 2010 21:25 · Edited by: Mikael Uhlin
Michael Farr also talks on the same page as the Cheverney picture about Sart-Moulin being a town - but if so, I ask, where is it? Using Google Maps I’ve not found anything like a town in Belgium by that name

On Christmas Eve some 15 years ago, a Swedish radio special was transmitted where a Swedish reporter was looking for Tintin in Belgium. There were interviews with Bob de Moor and Zhang Chongren, and the radio show also identified Sart-Moulin as a hamlet near the town of Braine-l'Alleud in Brabant. They also said that Sart-Moulin changed its name years ago, which may refer to the hamlet becoming a part of the Braine-l'Alleud municipality (since that was the only "new" name given).

The Swedish reporter described the (former) railway station of Sart-Moulin (nowadays an ordinary house) as virtually identical with the one in Moulinsart (shown on page 1 and 2 of The Seven Crystal Balls).

Photos at http://www.wiki-braine-lalleud.be/index.php5?title=Sart-Moulin shows that the stations are NOT identical, but at least similar.

Wikipedia also identifies Sart-Moulin with Moulinsart;
#5 · Posted: 24 Oct 2010 12:56 · Edited by: jock123
Mikael Uhlin:
the radio show also identified Sart-Moulin as a hamlet near the town of Braine-l'Alleud

Eureka! Thank you so much for that, Mikael - it makes so much sense!
Getting a concrete location for the legend is one thing, but looking at the map it is logical in terms of the stories too!

In isolation, saying it is in/ near Braine-l'Alleud in Brabant gives a place for it, but not the sense of it (certainly to a non-Belgian), but looking at it on a map, it’s basically just outside Brussels (sort of south of the capital, not far from Waterloo - indeed part of the battle took place in the countryside there).

So, totally convenient for Tintin to be based at Labrador Road and to hop on a train and pop out to see the Captain, or for him to be able to live at Marlinspike and commute in to the paper for work, or for them both to meet easily for a night at the theatre or pictures.

The photos you supply links to also do indeed show a match for the Marlinspike halt (I’m also charmed by the postcard of the railway bridge, if only because it is so un-picturesque, and what are the two women doing? And the equally mysterious man?).

The location also looks a plausible destination for a young Hergé to have been to - given where he lived in the city, it would be an easy day out from home, or camping with his Scout troop.

I’m tempted to go for a look next time I’m in Brussels!

Update: Having looked into this further, I am grateful to objectiftintin.com for this reference to a note in Le Soir. Apparently Hergé’s father worked for a company, the owner of which had his summer house in Braine l'Alleud; when he took his holidays there, M. Remi was left in charge at the factory, and visited his boss every fortnight to report. And young Georges sometimes went with him…
Mikael Uhlin
#6 · Posted: 24 Oct 2010 16:15 · Edited by: Mikael Uhlin
And when looking at the map, you find Céroux-Mousty (where Hergé had a summer house) some 11 kilometres to the south-east of Braine-l'Alleud and a place called Maransart (!) in between those two locations.
#7 · Posted: 24 Oct 2010 19:14
Mikael Uhlin:
you find Céroux-Mousty (where Hergé had a summer house) some 11 kilometres to the south-east of Braine-l'Alleud and a place called Maransart (!)

That’s another good find there, Mikael, especially showing that names like Maransart might have also inspired Hergé.

This railway map for Ligne 115 shows the relationship between the stations at Braine-l'Alleud and Sart-Moulin.

Although the line is closed (as far as I can tell), you can still see the route that it takes on the Google map - look for the curve of trees just to the north of the Braine-l'Alleud station, and that matches the curve on the rail map. There is still a bridge, as marked on the rail map too (I wonder if it’s the same one as in the postcard photo, with the mysterious ladies?). Sart-Moulin must be in the vicinity, and indeed, by following what I take to be the line along, I came to this point which matches the photographs, and helpfully called Rue de la Gare (Station Road).

You can see the (former) station roof, the large building which stands behind it (also in the old photos) and the place where the level crossing must have been where “Station Road” crosses the track.

It’s also possible to surmise that the route Tintin takes in The Seven Crystal Balls can be seen going off and up to the left from the station, as there is a line of trees which again might indicate a path.
#8 · Posted: 25 Oct 2010 05:54
Jock and Mikael, great piece of detective, work I love it.

With reference to the railway line 115 as stated on the Wiki website.(1961 : mise hors-service de la ligne de chemin de fer 115 de Braine-l'Alleud à Sart-Moulin), the translation does indicate as you can see it was decommissioned back in 1961 and thus was very real indeed.
The whole thing does point to Hergé having used some of his everyday experiences and sites he visited.
#9 · Posted: 25 Oct 2010 14:20 · Edited by: jock123
Jock and Mikael, great piece of detective work I love it.

Thanks; I can’t speak for Mikael, who’s injection of data got this particular ball rolling, but I can’t take any real credit for this myself.

It’s more a case of just trying to get this sort of information available in English, when to all intents and purposes it is already available elsewhere.

Back at the Google map, I was intrigued to see that when I moved from the photo to the map mode, that - if Tintin did indeed walk away from the station as pictured, and headed onwards - you can actually see a river or stream. If you look at the photo view, it is again marked by the line of trees.

In the original B&W newspaper version of Seven Crystal Balls, on the way from the station Snowy chases a butterfly, and in doing so, ends up in a stream or a pond.

In the colour album version this brief gag was left out.

Later in the same story, and actually first published as the start of Prisoners of the Sun in Le Journal Tintin, another related gag was left out of the album version, taking place between Tintin leaving the hospital and walking up the drive at Marlinspike “the next day” (now p50 of Seven Crystal Balls).

Tintin was shown arriving by bus at a stop called “Moulinsart Eglise” (Marlinspike Church), then walking 3km (shown on a route marker) to the château. He is so engrossed in his newspaper that he fails to notice the approaching stream, and walks into the water (Snowy is not so foolish this time, and crosses on a little plank bridge).

So it could be that the model for this stream is the one shown on the map, which would place Marlinspike Hall somewhere beyond that.

Another possibility which occurs to me is that Tintin’s bus stop is somewhere else with a real-life counterpart, in the approximate position required: it seems there is still a bus stop at Braine-l’Alleud Chapelle, on a service designated 115, suggesting it is related to the former rail-line. What if Hergé substituted eglise for chapelle (church for chapel), and that was where Tintin arrived? In that case there is another stream or river close to hand into which he could have fallen.

Furthermore, a 3km walk could take you somewhere like the fields or woods beyond the Chaussé Tubize, around the Chemin de la Bruyère d’Alconval, which is within striking distance of Sart-Moulin/ Moulinsart station - could this be the road on which Marlinspike lies?

I have to note that the area appears to be much more industrialized now than it was in the days when Hergé had Tintin walk through it: the way across the fields from the station is largely given over to a sewage farm, not a sea of golden corn-fields, and my proposed route from Moulinsart Eglise is by way of what may be light industrial units…
Mikael Uhlin
#10 · Posted: 25 Oct 2010 21:07
I agree with Jock - most of the info was out there, it just required some googling :-)

It's pretty interesting, though, since Hergé often used real sceneries in his work (like the villa of Tarragon/Bergamotte in The Seven Crystal Balls, most Swiss locations in The Calculus Affair and so on).

Regarding that church in the magazine version of Prisoners of the Sun, it's got a very special looking tower (at least in my opinion), and I'm pretty sure there's some real church somewhere in Belgium with a tower like that.

The church tower is also visible in The Seven Crystal Balls (page 2), in The Calculus Affair (page 1), The Castafiore Emerald (pages 47, 50 and 52) and in several christmas illustrations collected in Benoît Peteers book Tintin and the World of Hergé.

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