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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Tintin Volume 2
Age Range: 9-11
Tintin and Snowy return with three new action-packed stories in the second volume of Tintin’s adventures. In Tintin in America Tintin reports under fire whilst helping bring down Chicago gangsters and in The Cigars of the Pharaoh and The Blue Lotus Tintin’s relaxing sightseeing holiday turns into a cross-continental fight against a mysterious drugs cartel as Tintin pursues smugglers across Egypt, Arabia, India and China. Helped by the ever valiant Snowy, Tintin shows his usual bravery and resourcefulness as he saves the day. This volume also sees the introduction of two of the series recurring good characters, Thomson and Thompson as well as acquainting us with one of Tintin’s worst and most villainous recurring enemies.
Tintin’s adventures in Volume II are just as exciting as his escapades in Volume I and Hergé’s storytelling just gets better. The stories are well-plotted and exciting and some of the plots start to become more complex and serious. However, Hergé has an excellent sense of humour and keeps the stories light with lots of comic moments and funny characters. Snowy’s gently cynical commentary and the mad antics of Professor Sarcophagus and Zloty are perhaps some of the funniest elements.
Whilst the stories nearly all stand up by themselves, it also starts to become apparent in this volume that we are dealing with a series as characters both good and bad recur and the tales start to follow on from each other with references to other adventures. The Blue Lotus is perhaps one of the few stories that should definitely be read in order as it is the second part of the adventure that Tintin embarks on in The Cigars of the Pharaoh and has a lot of carry-over references and characters. In particular, the ever-amusing Thomson and Thompson make their first appearances in these two stories, with hilarious consequences.
The aspect in which these stories most show improvement is in the character of Tintin. Whilst the plot occasionally picks up too many strands, the stories are a lot smoother, slicker and more sensitively written than those in Volume I. Hergé depoliticised Tintin later in the series, making him an explorer rather than a reporter when the Nazis occupied Belgium to avoid real-life political trouble, but even in these stories Tintin seems less outspoken and a good deal calmer than he did previously. Hergé also wanted to keep Tintin a fairly neutral character, and this is also apparent in these stories, although Tintin is loyal, defends himself and sticks up for others against wrongdoing. The settings of the stories and Tintin’s reasons for visiting probably help. Only one of the three stories sees Tintin on a reporting job and it focuses on organised crime, rather than seeing Tintin examine political corruption.
Although Hergé again explores Colonial settings in The Cigars of the Pharaoh and The Blue Lotus, these are not countries colonised by Belgium as the Congo was in Tintin in the Congo, which leads to a problematic relationship between coloniser and colonised in the story. Hergé has also been careful in his depiction of the natives. The Chinese, Japanese, Arab and Indian characters in the stories do not appear as caricatures and nearly all of their speech bubbles are written in perfect English, with accents, accented or broken English and foreign expressions used only occasionally for effect. In a great leap forward from Tintin’s Colonial outlook in the first stories, we see Tintin stand up against racism in The Blue Lotus.
Overall, the series keeps improving and is equally enthralling to audiences of all ages. Hergé manages to keep the action child friendly with no swearing, no graphic violence (people very rarely get badly hurt in Tintin, a bit like The A-Team) and almost unilaterally happy endings. He still manages to put sufficient meat into the stories so that older children and nostalgic readers can enjoy Tintin without feeling childish. Since the comic was originally serialised in a newspaper for children, the clever pitching of the story content was probably originally born from the necessity of keeping a wide age range of children amused. Still eminently readable today, Tintin is perfect if you have a taste for adventure and a love of travel or just fancy some nostalgia – some of the stories have a lovely vintage feel about them since they depict trains planes and automobiles, political movements, empires and modes of dress now gone but not quite forgotten.
Abby Phillips (2011)