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The world of Tintin in WWII

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#1 · Posted: 22 Dec 2004 16:41
Branched off from the discussion on Dr Müller's nationality: Harrock n roll wrote: Much has also been made of the fact that in the original Black Gold from 1939 he's a German trying to sabotague British oil interests
That's a great point.
It's quite interesting that the second world war aspect was changed (e.g the 'Tommies' and the Spitfires in the desert) to the Arab controlled Khemed.
This was due to the Petit Vingtième being closed as Belgium was occupied, and when Hergé re-address the book, I expect changed it due to the sensitivities of post-war Europe.
Therefore the Tintin series sort of sweeps the Second World War under the carpet.
We never ever hear about it, but then in 'The Calculus Affair' we see a book entitled German Research in World War II.
This raises a lot of questions...
Would Calculus have inevitably been involved in Einstein's research?
Would he have been involved on the German side?
My brother's wife's grandad was a Czechoslovakian nuclear physicist, and was captured by the Russians, and he worked with the Allies.
If Calculus was the genius who put man into space, surely he would have been involved in one side's research?
The mentioned book belongs to the Italian (Axis) Professor Topolino, so Cuthbert is sharing his work in ultra-sound with an ex-Axis Professor.
Did Cuthbert have a shadowy past? Any suggestions?
Also wasn't Krollspell (Flight 714) a concentration camp doctor?
John Sewell
#2 · Posted: 23 Dec 2004 01:46
"Therefore the Tintin series sort of sweeps the Second World War under the carpet."

...And even today, the fact that he did still leads to those tired old accusations that Hergé by remaining in Belgium and drawing new Tintin stories, at best, makes him guilty of ignoring the war, and at worst, an active collaborator.
It's terribly unfair, and there would no doubt have been a different view (and some pretty different books in the series) had he fled to an allied or neutral country, and produced some defiant "Tintin vs the Nazis" storylines!

The whole Wartime period of Tintin fascinates me, to be honest - the little things like the nationalities of the scientists and the original use of Americans as villains in Shooting Star hint at the strife of the time, but by and large, there's not much in there to suggest a World War going on.
Tintin's able to travel to Arabia, desert islands and the like, seemingly without running the risk of having his plane shot down or his ship torpedoed.

Amazing, too, that the censors failed to pick up on the pre-War condemnation of the Nazis in Sceptre, whilst at the same time supressing America and Black Island, presumably for showing Tintin consorting with the "enemy"! I think that's one little victory Hergé could chalk up against the occupiers of his country.

"Did Cuthbert have a shadowy past? Any suggestions?"

Interesting point! I'd tend towards saying probably not - when we first meet him, his inventions are more eccentric than sinister. His clothes-cleaning machine is less than successful (as the Captain finds out) and his submarine initially collapses under his weight. That said, the Nazis may well have shown an interest in the working MK II sub, as it would be quite handy for subterfuge and secret missions!
Generally though, in his first few appearances, he shows no other obvious signs of his later Moon-conquering genius.
Just as well really, as at least he seems to be allowed to enjoy the quiet life at Marlinspike, instead of being snaffled by the US or Soviet space programmes.
Somewhere along the line he makes a huge leap in terms of his abilities - maybe he accidentally invented a 'smart drug' and tested it on himself! ;)
#3 · Posted: 23 Dec 2004 02:11
Supposedly, WW II was averted in The Land of Black Gold...
But as you point out, there are a lot of inconsistencies within Tintin regarding both WWII and the Cold war, paralleled with the Bordurian/ Syldavian adventures, and of course The Shooting Star, which seems to have caused the most controversy.
#4 · Posted: 23 Dec 2004 09:30
supposedly, WW II was averted in The Land of Black Gold
So how in the Calculus Affair does Professor Topolino have a book entitled German Research in world War II if the war was averted?
I've been thinking a little more on the subject: if Borduria and Sydavia were based on the German annexation of Austria, where does this leave Germany?
It's this paradox that leads into even more confusion with the Cold War aspect.
WWII was such a massive, world-shattering horror that it affected every one, even Tintin. Obviously, yes, we all know the background as to why the Tintin series took the course it did during the war, but Hergé must have had it planned in his head (or on paper?) the causes of the history behind The Calculus Affair.
I suppose it's just one of those questions that I would have liked to have picked Hergé's brain about.
Even though it's never explained, when Hergé was planning the book he must have thought about this. It would have been inevitable.

his inventions are more eccentric than sinister. His clothes-cleaning machine is less than successful (as the Captain finds out) and his submarine initially collapses under his weight.

I actually thought about this as I was writing the thread. But that's another story.
As you say John - he must have taken a 'smart pill'!
UK Correspondent
#5 · Posted: 23 Dec 2004 12:52
Just a little point, but in the French edition of "The Red Sea Sharks", the commander of the USS Los Angeles says, on P54, "The war's over, isn't it ?" ("La guerre est finie, non ? ..."). This was changed to a comment in English about the commander being unaware there was a war on. The original French version clearly alludes to WWII, which fits in with the inconsistency of the "German Research During WWII" book.
#6 · Posted: 23 Dec 2004 14:18
Okay. Here's another spanner in the works.
If The Secret of The Unicorn came out in 1942, a book which has no references what so ever about the war, could it be it was set before the war?
It cannot be set during the war, as bobbing around in a boat in the middle of the atlantic during that time would have been extemely dangerous, and forbidden.
This would upset the chronological order of the whole series.
It would also mean that Marlinspike Hall was obtained pre-war.
The only explanation would be that Unicorn was a view into the future of a post-war Tintin world.
An escapism from the reality of occupation.
#7 · Posted: 24 Dec 2004 07:52
So how in The Calculus Affair does Professor Topolino have a book entitled [i]German Research in World War II if the war was averted?[/i]

Well, by the time The Calculus Affair came around, Hergé had already changed the Land of Black Gold backdrop into the British withdrawal from Palestine in 1948, so technically the Israeli war of independence was now the conflict which was "averted".
Of course, as I just mentioned in the Müller thread, the war had already happened by the 1950 publication date, so I don't know how many people were fooled. :)
#8 · Posted: 29 Dec 2004 19:19
Therefore the Tintin series sort of sweeps the Second World War under the carpet.
I don't know how anyone can say that...
Why was WW2 swept under the carpet in the world of Tintin? Because Belgium was occupied by the Nazis and Hergé wasn't allowed to ink any adventures that commented on the situation in occupied Belgium.
And I would think that after surviving the destruction and misery that WW2 involved, neither Hergé nor Tintin's fans would want to read a Tintin adventure post-war that took place in WW2.
Calculus having a shady past? A potential Nazi scientist? As much as I enjoy delving into Tintinology, I think some people are reading too much into this!
UK Correspondent
#9 · Posted: 29 Dec 2004 23:59
I think the reason that WWII isn't mentioned in the series (apart from the obvious censorship issue) is the same as why Tintin's sexuality is never mentioned, or family - that it's irrelevant. I'm not saying that the war was irrelevant - of course not, it was a landmark of the 20th century - but in the context of Tintin, it had no need to be there.
"The Calculus Affair", whilst set against the Cold War background, never alluded to it as such.
Russia and the US never got a mention. It was just the atmosphere.
Plus when the truth about what Hitler had really done - the *whole* truth - the idea of setting a story against such an event would be unthinkable for The Adventures of Tintin.

Also let's not forget that an adventure set against WWII is going to invariably be biased toward one side or another, and regardless of what generation is reading the book, they're not going to be too impressed with seeing their country pulled to pieces.
Hergé was only able to parody real events by using fictional countries, so he couldn't offend anyone (but somehow there's always someone left to be offended).

And if Calculus had been in Belgium at the time - or France, or any of the states under Nazi control - he'd have been recruited for the Nazi war machine, without any doubt.
#10 · Posted: 30 Dec 2004 09:30 · Edited by: Moderator
I don't know how anyone can say that... Why was WW2 swept under the carpet in the world of Tintin?
I think you misunderstood Skut. I didn't ask why. I said:
Therefore the Tintin series sort of sweeps the Second World War under the carpet. In plain and simple English I was saying how come there is a book in The Calculus Affair' entitled German Research in World War II, when the rest of the series avoids the issue.
It contradicts itself.
And as to reading into it too much, I thought this forum was to enable Tintinologists to discuss the world of Tintin, not to just say, "Wohoo! I love Tintin!"
Getting back on track, that's a good point Richard, about Russia not being mentioned in the 'Cold War' antics of the 'Calculus Affair'.
It also incorporates there 'Who stole Calculus's rocket' theories.
Where do Syldavia and Borduria stand in WW2?
They were based on Germany and Austria in 'King Ottokar's Sceptre'. I would be interesting to find out where the geography of the countries are in relation to a map of Europe.
In 'Hergé and Tintin, Reporters' there is a sketch Hergé made of Tintin's Orient journey, and also maps of Tintin's Red Sea excursions, so I wonder if somewhere in the archives there are sketched maps of Europe, with Sydavia and Borduria sandwiched in the middle?

Moderator Note: It takes two to tango, as they say, so perhaps it isn't fair to lay the blame for misunderstanding at the door of others; perhaps more clarity is needed? You have taken a very broad brush to a large number of areas, both factual and fictional, and not made clear on which you are concentrating (if indeed you are). It's one thing to search for practical solutions to matters of internal history within the series, but a) it might be necessary to concede that there isn't an overarching scheme, and b) that dealing with matters which try to include the real-world's WWII in the series might require a great deal of sensitivity.

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