Land of Black Gold

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Land of Black Gold
(Tintin au pays de l'or noir)
Tintin and Snowy are driving Dr. Müller and Thomson and Thompson in a jeep across the desert.
Cover of the English edition
  • 1950
  • 1972 (remake)
Series The Adventures of Tintin
Publisher Casterman
Creative team
Creator Hergé
Original publication
Published in
Date of publication 28 September 1939 – 8 May 1940 (unfinished) / 16 September 1948 – 23 February 1950
Language French
Publisher Methuen
Date 1972
  • Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper
  • Michael Turner
Preceded by Prisoners of the Sun (1949)
Followed by Destination Moon (1953)

Land of Black Gold (French: Tintin au pays de l'or noir) is the fifteenth volume of The Adventures of Tintin, the comics series by Belgian cartoonist Hergé. War is looming in Europe, fueled by concerns over oil supplies. Tintin sets off for the Middle East, where he hopes to unmask those responsible for the plot.

The story began to be serialized in black and white in Le Petit Vingtième, children's supplement to the conservative newspaper Le Vingtième Siècle ("The Twentieth Century"), in 28 September 1939, shortly after the completion of the eighth Tintin volume, King Ottokar's Sceptre. However, in May 1940, Nazi Germany invaded Belgium, closing down Le Vingtième Siècle, leaving Hergé unemployed and Land of Black Gold unfinished.[1] After the war, Hergé restarted the serial in a new colour version in Tintin magazine from 16 September 1948 to 23 February 1950, publishing it in book form later that year. Over two decades later, in 1971, parts of the story were again redrawn to move the setting from the British Mandate for Palestine to the fictional state of Khemed.


Car engines are spontaneously exploding all over the country. The reason is narrowed down to the petrol used in the cars which is tampered in some way to cause an explosion. As a result most forms of transport from cars to airlines are cutting down on fuel usage, thus affecting the economy.

Furthermore political tensions are heightening, leading the world to the brink of war, and Captain Haddock is mobilised in anticipation of an outbreak of hostilities. Following different leads, Tintin and Thomson and Thompson set off for Khemed on board a petrol tanker. Upon arrival, the three are framed and arrested by the authorities under various charges. Thomson and Thompson are cleared and released, but Tintin is kidnapped by the Arab insurgent Bab El Ehr but manages to escape them by shamming dead.

In the course of his adventures, Tintin re-encounters an old enemy Dr. Müller, whom he sees sabotaging an oil pipeline. He reunites with Thomson and Thompson and eventually arrives in Wadesdah, the capital of Khemed, where he comes across his old friend, the Portuguese merchant Oliveira da Figueira. When the young son of the local Emir Mohammed Ben Kalish Ezab, Prince Abdullah, is kidnapped, Tintin suspects that Müller (who is masquerading as an archaeologist under the name of Professor Smith) is responsible. He pursues Müller in hopes of rescuing the prince and gets into his study. After an incident involving sneezing powder he is able to knock out Müller. He ties him up, gags him, and hides him behind the sofa. He then rescues the Prince and later captures Müller. Captain Haddock comes along near the end of the book, but it is never explained how this happens. In the process he discovers the doctor to be the agent of a foreign power responsible for the tampering of the fuel supplies, having invented a type of chemical in tablet form that increases the explosive power of oil by a significant amount. Thomson and Thompson find the tablets and swallow them, thinking them to be aspirin, causing them to belch continuously, and grow long hair and beards that change colour.

After analysing the tablets, Professor Calculus comes up with remedies for Thomson and Thompson and a means of countering the affected oil supplies, though, while carrying out his tests, he half-destroys Captain Haddock's Marlinspike Hall, earning the Captain's fury.

Word play[edit]

Faisal II of Iraq, aged five, who served as an inspiration of Abdullah

Many of the names of characters and places in this album are puns in Brusselier dialect:

"Boum !", an iconic song by Charles Trenet, appears in parody as the car breakdown repair company's advertising jingle, which plays on Thomson and Thompson's car radio at the very beginning of the story.[2]

The character of Prince Abdullah was inspired by the King of Iraq, Faisal II, who became king in 1939 aged three.[3]

Publication history[edit]

The first version[edit]

Part way through the serialisation of the previous Tintin adventure, King Ottokar's Sceptre, in May 1939, Hergé moved to a new house in Watermael-Boitsfort.[4] However, following the German invasion of Poland, he was conscripted into the Belgian army and temporarily stationed in Herenthout. Demobbed within the month, he returned to Brussels and began Land of Black Gold.[5] He was re-mobilized in December, and stationed in Antwerp, from where he continued to send the Tintin strip to Le Petit Vingtième. However, he fell ill with sinusitis and boils and was declared unfit for service in May 1940. That same day, Germany invaded Belgium, and Le Vingtième Siècle was shut down part way through the serialisation of Land of Black Gold.[6]

Hergé began working on the story before World War II and early pages were published in Le Petit Vingtième. The atmosphere of impending war throughout the adventure reflects the concerns of the time.

The original version was set in the late 1930s in the British Mandate for Palestine and the conflict between Jews, Arabs and British troops. In this version, the Jewish Irgun played a small but important part. The head of the Irgun disguises himself as an Orthodox Rabbi (as did Menachem Begin, the real historical head of the Irgun, during this period[citation needed]). Upon his arrival in Palestine, Tintin is arrested by the British authorities when compromising documents are found in his cabin, of which he knew nothing. He is then kidnapped by members of the Irgun who have mistaken him for one of their own. They realise their mistake when their real associate, Finkelstein, arrives at their HQ. He bears some resemblance to Tintin, though he has a nasty and unpleasant smirk on his face.

Before they can decide what to do with him the Zionists' car is stopped by a roadblock of rocks and barrels. As they clear it, Arab gunmen emerge from a nearby wheat field and take Tintin, whom they too believe is the Zionist activist, into the desert. (This scene was inspired by a photo Hergé had in his archives showing two British soldiers from a road convoy dismantling a similar obstruction while other troops have their rifles and machine guns pointed at a wheat field.[7])

Tintin meets Sheikh Bab El Ehr, the Arab insurgent who is fighting the British and the Jews. Meanwhile the Zionists are captured and interrogated by British officials.[8]

Following the takeover of Belgium by Germany in 1940, Hergé decided that it would be wiser to drop this story whose political context would not have appealed to the German censors. It ceased publication at about mid-adventure when Tintin, after his first confrontation with Müller, is caught in a sandstorm.[9]

Hergé moved to the collaborationist newspaper Le Soir and during the war years Tintin's adventures focused on non-political issues such as drug smuggling (The Crab with the Golden Claws), scientific expeditions (The Shooting Star), intrigue and treasure hunts (The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham's Treasure) and a mysterious curse (The Seven Crystal Balls).

Controversially, The Shooting Star also included Jews shown in a bad light (see Tintin and the Jews).

Tintin et Milou au pays de l'or liquide (Tintin and Snowy in the Land of Liquid Gold) published in the paper La Voix de l'ouest in 1945, showing Tintin's kidnap by Zionists and subsequent capture by Arabs.

French editing[edit]

Meanwhile, in occupied France, the story had been published in the weekly Catholic magazine Cœurs Vaillants (Brave Hearts). All references to Zionists and Arabs were removed from the speech bubbles, though the illustrations remained unchanged, and Tintin's double, Finkelstein, was given the more French-like name of Durand. The scene where a British plane flies over the Arab camp was not included. This was presumably in an effort to avoid trouble with Marshal Pétain's censors.[10]

In 1946 the story appeared in the French Catholic paper, La Voix de l'ouest (The Voice of the West, a local paper published in Brittany in the west of France). The story was renamed Tintin et Milou au pays de l'or liquide (Tintin and Snowy in the Land of Liquid Gold).

Although Pétain had long since gone it still included much of Cœurs Vaillants' edited version: the British were referred to as "the police"; some cursing remarks made by a Jew about Arabs who have blocked the road were not included; and Tintin's Zionist-lookalike was still named Durand.

Tintin magazine[edit]

Meanwhile Hergé restarted the story from scratch in Tintin magazine in 1948. It was redrawn, colourised and given more detailed panels, but the scenes with the British and the Irgun kidnappers remained. Tintin's double was now given the more Jewish-sounding name of Salomon Goldstein. His unpleasant smirk was removed and he was given the look of a charming young man.

By now, Captain Haddock was an important part of Tintin's world, and he was therefore added to the conclusion of the story: no explanation as to how he suddenly turns up to rescue Tintin in Müller's bunker is given in the story, and his frequent attempts to explain his involvement which always end up being interrupted by some other happening act as a running gag. This is the final book in the series in which Haddock is absent for most of the book. Nestor the butler makes a cameo and Cuthbert Calculus and Marlinspike Hall are also mentioned. This version was published in book form shortly afterwards.

The final version[edit]

Twenty years later when the story was due to be published in English the state of Israel had long been up and running. Methuen felt that the scenes of British troops in Palestine made the book dated. Hergé and his assistant Bob de Moor rewrote the album resetting the story in a fictional Arab state called Khemed. It was published in 1972 and it is this version that is most commonly available in most countries today.

The changes that were made to the illustrations started from the point where, at night, Tintin checks over the oil tanks at the dockyard and overhears a conversation between two suspicious men. This continued with the scenes on the oil tanker, the events at the city-port and Tintin's meeting with Sheikh Bab El Ehr. They ended at the point when Thomson and Thompson attempt, in bathing suits, to swim in a lake that turns out to be a mirage. A page in which Thomson and Thompson go from mirage to mirage and end up crashing into the only palm tree for miles around was unchanged but moved to another location. Before and after that the illustrations remained for the most part unchanged.

Some changes were made to the text in order to remove references to the British presence in the Middle East by Emir Ben Kalish Ezab and give him the air of an actual ruler of a kingdom rather than the appearance of a local ruler.

Other changes included:

Scene 1950 edition 1972 edition
Both editions include a lot of Arabic script. The Arabic is based on the artist's imagination. The writing is genuine Arabic.
Thomson and Thompson are told by their boss to join the crew of the petrol tanker Speedol Star and Tintin joins them aboard. The Thompsons are to look out for a spy among the crew. They wear dark sailor suits, suitable for fancy dress, and even smoke pipes. The ship's layout is very basic and Tintin's radio is one big machine. The Thompsons are to check over the growing tension in the Khemed civil war. Their suits are blue, but even more outrageous, with Titanic written on the caps. The layout of the Speedol Star is more detailed and Tintin has more sophisticated radio equipment, catching the atmosphere of an actual oil tanker.
The Speedol Star arrives in the Middle East. Tintin and Thomson and Thompson are arrested by the authorities. It turns out that O'Connor, the sailor who tried to dispose of Snowy, had nothing to do with the case of the exploding oil, hence Tintin following a false trail. The ship arrives in Haifa (called Caiffa in the 1938 version[7]). The nature of the documents found in the tampered coat rake in Tintin's cabin is not revealed. Papers found in the Thompsons' possession appear to indicate that O'Connor was the spy they were supposed to look out for. The Thompsons refer to the British lieutenant as "Admiral". The ship arrives at Khemkhah (Khemikal in the English version), port of Khemed. The documents in Tintin's cabin suggest that he is there to arrange the delivery of arms to the rebel Sheikh Bab El Ehr. O'Connor (renamed MacPhee) was a drug smuggler. The Thompsons refer to the Arab sergeant by his proper rank.
While escorted through the streets by soldiers, Tintin is kidnapped by insurgents who knock them out with a canister of sleeping gas. He ends up the prisoner of Sheikh Bab El Ehr. The kidnappers are Jewish Irgun who then come across a roadblock and are ambushed by Arabs who take Tintin, tied up with rope, to Bab El Ehr. He is furious with his men because Tintin is not Finkelstein, whom the Sheik knows has arrived to help the Irgun against the Arabs. The Irgun are captured by the British and admit their own mistake. Sheikh Bab El Ehr's men kidnap Tintin because they believe that he is due to supply them with weapons. When Tintin denies this, the Sheik takes his anger out on his informant whom he accuses of telling him lies. (The Jews do not appear and neither does Finkelstein.)
A Hawker Hurricane fighter flies over Bab El Ehr's camp, dropping leaflets. The plane has Royal Air Force markings. Bab El Ehr warns that anyone reading the leaflets will be shot on the spot. The plane is from the Khemed Air Force. Bab El Ehr laughs away at the leaflets, claiming that none of his men can read.
Tintin meets Emir Ben Kalish Ezab and they discuss Bab El Ehr, Müller and the opposing oil companies. Sheik Bab El Ehr wants to get the British out of the country (there is a heavy reward for his capture). Emir Ben Kalish Ezab regards him as a fanatic, but states that the Sheik is merely a suspect in the attacks on the oil pipelines. Ben Kalish Ezab comes across as merely a local ruler who has a deal with an unnamed British oil company and will not sign a deal with Müller's non-British company. Bab El Ehr and Ben Kalish Ezab are rivals for power. The Emir is convinced the Sheik is behind the attacks. He is also the actual ruler of a country, Khemed. The rival companies are Arabex and Skoil Petroleum. The Emir's hostile relationship with Müller is unchanged.
Abdullah is kidnapped and a letter is sent to the Emir in which Bab El Ehr claims responsibility. The note tells the Emir to drive the British out of the area. The note tells the Emir to drive the Arabex oil company out of the area.
Tintin goes to Wadesdah where Müller resides. Wadesdah is described as a small town. Wadesdah is described as the capital of Khemed.



  1. ^ Thompson 1991. pp. 90–91.
  2. ^ Historia 2012, p. 43.
  3. ^ Historia 2012, p. 40.
  4. ^ Peeters 2012, p. 102.
  5. ^ Assouline 2009, p. 63; Peeters 2012, p. 102–103.
  6. ^ Assouline 2009, pp. 63, 65; Peeters 2012, pp. 106–107.
  7. ^ a b Tintin: The Complete Companion by Michael Farr, John Murray publishers, 2001
  8. ^ Scans from the 1950 colour album at the Wayback Machine (archived October 18, 2010) (in Dutch)
  9. ^ The Pocket Essential Tintin (Pocket Essentials, 2002; ISBN 1-904048-17-X )
  10. ^ La Distinction, Swiss magazine, issue 81, 25 November 2000


  • Farr, Michael (2001). Tintin: The Complete Companion. London: John Murray. ISBN 978-0-7195-5522-0. 
  • Hergé (1972) [1950]. Land of Black Gold. Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner (translators). London: Egmont. ISBN 978-1-4052-0814-7. 
  • Giezbert, Franz-Olivier, ed. (2012). Les Personnages de Tintin dans l'Histoire: les Événements qui ont inspiré l'Œuvre de Hergé II. La Libre Belgique-Historia. 

External links[edit]