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Tintin and the Picaros: Dating the story

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#1 · Posted: 4 Sep 2021 18:26 · Edited by: Moderator
The calendar in page 3 frame 4 shows the month February 1968 in Tintin and the Picaros adventure. The month shows 29 days.

First days of the weeks are Sunday. Adventure begins on Sunday 4 th February.

4th February - First page (adventure begins)
5th February - p4 f4 - Next morning
6th February - p9 f8 - Next morning
8th February - p9 f10 - Two days later
9/10/11th February - p10 f4-5-6 - Next morning /The following day /And the day after
14th February - p11 f7 - Three days later
15th February - p20 f1 - Next morning
18th February - p23 f1 - Three days go by
19th February - p25 f1 - Next morning
20th February - p35 f4 - The next morning
21st February - p53 f2 - The morning after
22nd February - p54 f6 - The next afternoon (key date, carnaval begins)
23rd February - last page f1 - Next day
25th February - last page f10 - Two days later (adventure finishes)
#2 · Posted: 4 Sep 2021 23:22
The calendar in page 3 frame 4 shows the month February 1968

I can see that it's February in a leap-year, but I'm not sure that the year would be 1968 - why not 1972, or even 1976?
The styles shown in the book in the clothing and decor definitely look later than 1968, but perhaps the most indicative thing that places the story later than the sixties is that Belgium only started broadcasting TV in colour in 1971.
Now, I know that Hergé jumped the gun once before with giving Britain colour TV too early in The Black Island, but I'm not sure that he'd make the same mistake twice! ;-)
#3 · Posted: 4 Sep 2021 23:32 · Edited by: Levent
Week scheme are not same with February 1972 or 1976. It is only same with February 1968. Perhaps Hergé started to draw it in 1968, then TV scenes colored after Belgian TV started colour broadcasting in 1971.
#4 · Posted: 5 Sep 2021 23:29
Perhaps Hergé started to draw it in 1968

There's certainly no record of that being the case.
It's possible that Hergé intended it to be a gag - either Rock Bottom/ Mondass insurance have dud calendars, or that Wagg is parsimonously reusing an old planner?
#5 · Posted: 6 Sep 2021 04:26
Funny you ask this question. I would expect the book to be dated somewhere in 1970-71. Maybe in the Tintin universe Belgium might have launched color TV earlier, presumably 1967-68 or something. It cannot be 1968, as Flight 714 To Sydney was set in that year, as far as I am concerned.
UK Correspondent
#6 · Posted: 6 Sep 2021 12:11
Looking closely at Wagg's calendar on page 3, frame 4, I think the month actually ends on the 30th. The last week of the month starts on the 26th (the 2 is cut off by the edge of the frame).

If we assume that the calendar is modelled on a real year, and since there are only four months with 30 days and being a European calendar its weeks most likely start on a Monday – then the closest possible options would be November 1973 or April 1976.

The latter happens to be the same month the story finished serialisation in the Journal Tintin, but pleasing publication synchronicity aside that's too late, unless Hergé chose to set the book in the (near) future.

I therefore think Wagg's calendar is showing November 1973, so if were to assume Tintin and the Picaros takes place in 1976 (the year it concluded its run in the magazine and publication in book form) then that's a very subtle background joke about Wagg not having changed his calendar for quite some time.
#7 · Posted: 6 Sep 2021 13:23
I see (1)8 over of first day of last week. If it is November 1973 that starts by Monday, then it must be 19, but not (1)8.
#8 · Posted: 6 Sep 2021 13:47 · Edited by: Balthazar
I agree that the month shown on that calendar has 30 days rather than 29 (though I definitely needed my reading glasses to check that!) which means the month shown is an April, June, September or November. I don't think we can assume that the weeks of each line start on a Monday though. That seems to be the most common set-up for calendars these days, at least here in the UK, but from a quick google search of old calendars just now, I saw an Air France one from 1976 that has the weeks starting on a Sunday at the start of each line, so maybe that was quite common arrangement then everywhere. But maybe all variations were equally common, and if so, I don't think we can know with any certainty which days of the week the dates relate to, without the days at the top of Wagg's calendar being visible.

While the fact that the month shown isn't February could be a subtle background joke about Wagg not having remembered to flip over his calendar since at least the previous November, I'm wondering if a simpler explanation might be that the opening page of Picaros was originally drawn with Tintin motorcycling through a summer countryside scene before someone realised that with the adventure taking place in the run up to a Latin American Carnival (which happens just before Lent, of course) the story had to be set in February, with that opening scenery then redrawn accordingly. So maybe the drawing of Wagg's calendar drawing is an unaltered leftover from that, with the month intended to be either June or September. (The original summer countryside scene shows a field of wheat, I think, so perhaps someone with agricultural knowledge could guess which month it looks most like from its height!)

That's all assuming that this level of accuracy and thought was put into this tiny rendering of a calendar at all; but it's possible that it was, with Hergé and Bob de Moor (his main assistant on this book) being renowned for their attention to accuracy and realism with the background details.
UK Correspondent
#9 · Posted: 7 Sep 2021 09:57
it's possible that it was, with Hergé and Bob de Moor (his main assistant on this book) being renowned for their attention to accuracy and realism with the background details.

It's this point I keep coming back to. I don't really think the calendar is supposed to show November 1973 any more than the book is specifically set in 1976, but I do wonder if it's meant to depict the November prior to the story's February. It's the prominence of such an apparently innocuous background detail in one of the few books in the series where events can be dated precisely... Of course, it could also just be a background detail to suggest Wagg is telephoning the Captain from his office.

a simpler explanation might be that the opening page of Picaros was originally drawn with Tintin motorcycling through a summer countryside scene

I wondered that too. I suppose I like the idea there are jokes still to be discovered!
#10 · Posted: 10 Sep 2021 12:53 · Edited by: Balthazar
I suppose I like the idea there are jokes still to be discovered!

Absolutely! And it's always nice to newly notice background details, whether they're humorously and narratively significant or not.

And thanks to Levent for starting off this interesting thread and these trains of thought. Having been inspired to re-read Picaros last night, and paying attention to the way the dates of the adventure are specified by that Carnaval poster they drive past on the way to the countryside villa, I had the sudden realisation that we can actually establish the year from this, because most traditional Latin American/South American carnivals end at the start of Lent – specifically at midday on Ash Wednesday, I discovered on looking that up – and because the date of Ash Wednesday is quite different each year, moving over a range of some weeks in relation to the similarly moveable date of Easter, of course.

The poster tells us that the Carnaval dates are 22, 23 & 24 February, and I've found that the only year between the late 1960s and the late 1970s on which Ash Wednesday fell on Feb 24 was 1971 (with most other years in the likely period for this book not even being very close).

1971 seems to works OK in terms of details like the colour TV transmission (assuming Belgium introduced that at the start of that year rather than midway through!), the Boeing 747 they fly home in (which according to Wikipedia entered service in 1970) and clothing fashions such as the outfits of the members of the Dripping Tap pop group. But I'm not suggesting that this Ash Wednesday date detail necessarily means that Hergé particularly intended it to be specifically dated to 1971, and thus to be read as something that occurred four or five years in the past by the time the story was published in the mid-seventies. But perhaps he was first sketching that Carnaval poster in 1971 and looked up the date of Ash Wednesday for that year to use as a realistic and reasonably typical sort of date.

Or maybe it was just random! Time and chronology in the world of the Tintin books seem to rather flexible compared to that of the real world.

(Or maybe General Tapioca doesn't approve of the Carnaval dates shifting around annually and has pinned them down to the same dates each year since taking power!)

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