Tintin in Welsh Book Launch - 6 November, 2008

06 November 2008

Tintinologist Michael Farr at the Tintin in Welsh Book Launch
Michael Farr
Photograph: © Huw John.

On the 6th November 2008, Tintin was published in Welsh for the first time in over 25 years. As a Tintinologist.org correspondent, I was invited along to the official launch at Borders bookshop in Llantrisant, approximately 15 miles from Cardiff, the capital city of Wales. The event not only promoted the brand new Welsh editions of Cigars of the Pharaoh (Mwg Drwg Y Pharo) and Flight 714 (Awyren 714 I Sydney), but also included presentations from the publishers, translators and even Michael Farr!

I arrived at the launch a few minutes early, in order to meet the publishers, who turned out to be very enthusiastic about the books and their potential appeal to a Welsh-speaking audience. They felt the earlier events of the day had been extremely successful; a number of groups of schoolchildren had attended to see the books and to hear Michael Farr give some talks aimed at a younger audience, which had been very well received.

Michael Farr and Oliver Battrick
Michael Farr and Dafydd Jones (Translator of the latest Welsh edition Tintin books)
Photograph: © Huw John.

I was then introduced to Michael Farr, who was very friendly and unsurprisingly, remarkably knowledgeable about both Tintin and Hergé. I explained that I was a big fan of his reference books. He quickly responded, “Well I’m a big fan of Tintin!” In fact, his enthusiasm for Tintin was inspiring, and it was quite something to have the opportunity to talk about the books with one of the world’s most respected authorities on the subject, and it was great to discover that he’d heard of Tintinologist.org. We chatted about a number of Tintin-related issues, including the previous Welsh editions, out-of-print since the 1980s. However, during the evening it emerged that the new editions of the books had incorporated several revisions, most notably alterations to characters’ names. For example, Snowy, previously known in Welsh as “Smwt” shall henceforth be referred to as “Milyn”. This is an interesting change, since “Smwt” is obviously reminiscent of “Snowy” in English, whereas “Milyn” (meaning “small animal”) is clearly closer to the original French “Milou”. As a point of interest, the Thompsons have been translated as “Parry-Williams” and “Williams-Parry”, named after two notable Welsh poets of the twentieth century. Michael Farr and I also discussed the universal appeal of Tintin as a character and even the upcoming movie, which, according to Michael, is now being funded by Sony, so at least that’s still going ahead.

Tintin in Welsh Book Launch
Michael Farr speaking to a captive audience. (The chap in the black jacket on the right is Tintinologist Oliver Battrick.)
Photograph: © Huw John.

Michael’s talk consisted of focusing on characters and buildings from the Tintin books and illustrating the way in which they were influenced by individuals that Hergé had known and photographs which he had acquired.  Hergé’s methodical collecting of articles was highlighted throughout, and a number of points were raised that I was previously unaware of, for example, Hergé meeting his former girlfriend (the inspiration for Snowy’s French name “Milou”) again later in life (at a book signing) and that Michael Farr himself had met Chang.

Television reporters were also present at the launch as the event was featured live on the Welsh language programme Wedi 7 that evening on S4C, the Welsh language television channel.

A most enjoyable evening was rounded off with book signings - I even managed to receive a Tintinologist-specific inscription from Michael Farr: “Tintin is the key to the Tintinologist!”