Prisoners of the Sun

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This article is about the Tintin book. For the 1990 Australian film, see Blood Oath (1990 Australian film). For the 2013 film, see Prisoners of the Sun (film).
Prisoners of the Sun
(Le Temple du Soleil)
Tintin, Snowy, Captain Haddock, and Zorrino come across Inca mummies in an underground tomb.
Cover of the English edition
Date 1949
Series The Adventures of Tintin
Publisher Casterman
Creative team
Creator Hergé
Original publication
Published in Tintin magazine
Date of publication 26 September 1946 – 22 April 1948
Language French
Publisher Methuen
Date 1962
  • Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper
  • Michael Turner
Preceded by The Seven Crystal Balls (1948)
Followed by Land of Black Gold (1950)

Prisoners of the Sun (French: Le Temple du Soleil) is the fourteenth volume of The Adventures of Tintin, the comics series by Belgian cartoonist Hergé. Tintin and his friend Captain Haddock continue their efforts to rescue the kidnapped Professor Calculus, through Andean villages, mountains, and rain forests, before finding a hidden Inca civilization in the Temple of the Sun.

The story was first serialized in Tintin magazine from 26 September 1946 to 22 April 1948 before being published in book form the following year. Prisoners of the Sun is the second volume in a two-part adventure begun in The Seven Crystal Balls (1948). The two books were adapted into a 1969 film, Tintin and the Temple of the Sun by Belvision. It has been also adapted into two episodes of the 1990s television series The Adventures of Tintin, a video game, and a musical stage production.


Young reporter Tintin, his dog Snowy, and friend Captain Haddock arrive in Callao, Peru. There, they plan to intercept the arrival of the Pachacamac, a ship aboard which their friend Professor Calculus is being held by kidnappers. Tintin boards the ship, where he learns from one of the captors, Chiquito, that Calculus is to be executed for wearing a bracelet belonging to the mummified Incan king Rascar Capac. The abductors evade the police, and take Calculus to the mountains. Tintin and Haddock pursue them to the mountain town of Jauga, where they are aboard a train that is sabotaged in an attempt to kill them. Tintin befriends a young Quechua boy named Zorrino after protecting him from bullies. A mysterious Quechua man observes this act of kindness, and gives Tintin a medallion, telling him that it will save him from danger. Zorrino informs Tintin that Calculus is being taken to the Temple of the Sun, which lies deep within the Andes, and offers to take them there.

Finally, Tintin, Haddock, and Zorrino come upon the Temple of the Sun—and stumble right into a group of Inca who have survived until modern-day times. They are brought before the noble Prince of the Sun; on the left stands Chiquito, on the right stands Huascar, the mysterious Quechua Tintin encountered in Jauga. Zorrino is saved from harm when Tintin gives him Huascar's medallion, but Tintin and Haddock are sentenced to death for their sacrilegious intrusion. The Inca prince tells them they may choose the hour that the Sun himself will set alight the pyre for which they are destined.

Tintin and Haddock end up on the same pyre as Professor Calculus. Tintin has, however, chosen the hour of their death to coincide with a solar eclipse, and the terrified Inca believe Tintin can command Pachacamac, their god, the Sun. The Inca prince implores Tintin to make the Sun show his light again. At Tintin's command, the Sun obeys, and the three are quickly set free.

Afterwards, the Prince of the Sun tells them the seven crystal balls used against the Sanders-Hardiman expedition members who had excavated Rascar Capac's tomb contained a "mystic liquid" obtained from coca, which plunged the seven explorers into a deep sleep. Each time the Inca high priest cast his spell over seven wax figures he could use them as he willed, as punishment for their sacrilege. Tintin convinces the Inca prince the explorers wished only to make known to the world the splendours of their civilisation. The Inca prince orders Huascar to destroy the wax figures and at that moment in Europe the seven explorers awaken.

After swearing an oath to keep the temple's existence secret, Tintin, Haddock and Calculus head home, while Zorrino remains with the Inca.


Tintin's Andean adventure was marked on the cover of Tintin magazine no. 1

The idea of a lost Incan city had been adopted from Gaston Leroux's 1912 novel, The Bride of the Sun,[1] in which the idea of an eclipse also appeared.[2] In turn, the idea of European explorers discovering a lost city had been found in H. Rider Haggard's She: A History of Adventure (1887) and Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar (1916).[3]

Hergé's principle source in obtaining information about the Andes was Charles Wiener's 1880 book Pérou et Bolivie ("Peru and Bolivia"), which contained 1,100 engravings from which Hergé could base his own illustrations.[4] In this way, small details about Andean costume and material culture could be accurately copied.[5] Some of the ceremonial costume worn by the Incan priest was based upon a colour painting of Mexican Aztecs produced by Else Bostelmann for the National Geographic Society which Hergé had a copy of in his files.[6] He ensured that his depiction of the Peruvian trains was accurate by basing them upon examples found in a two-volume picture encyclopedia of railways published by Librarie Hachette in 1927.[6] Hergé sent his assistant, E. P. Jacobs, to the Cinquantenaire Museum to study its collections of Incan material,[5] and also used Jacobs as a model for several of the poses that characters adopt in the story.[5] He had a striped poncho specially made, which he then made Jacobs model.[5] Hergé later concluded that the scene in which Tintin hoodwinked the Inca with his knowledge of the sun was implausible, suggesting that solar worshipers with a keen knowledge of astronomy like the Inca would have been well aware of the sun and its eclipses.[7]


The story began serialisation in Le Journal de Tintin under the title of La Temple du Soleil on 26 September 1946.[8] It began on what is now page 50 of the book volume of The Seven Crystal Balls, and included a page containing a resume of the story so far, presented as if it were a press cutting.[9]

Hergé accompanied each strip with an explanatory block of text about Inca society, titled "Qui étainet les Incas?" ("Who were the Incas?"). Covering issues such as geography, history, and religion, each bloc was signed in Tintin's name.[10] On 17 June 1947, the serialisation of the story paused after Hergé disappeared, hoping to escape the stress of work. Editors of Tintin magazine posted a sarcastic notice in the magazine stating that "Our friend Hergé is in need of a rest. Oh, don't worry, he's fine. But in refusing to marshal his forces to bring you a new episode of The Temple of the Sun each week, our friend is a little over-worked."[11] He disappeared again in early 1948, this time for six weeks. Angered, the editorial board decided to command other artists and writers to continue the story, a threat which made Hergé return to work.[12] The story culminated in the issue on 22 April 1948.[13] As with previous adventures, it then began serialisation in the French Catholic newspaper Cœurs Vaillants, from 30 November 1947.[8]

After the story had finished serialisation, the publishing company Casterman divided it into two volumes, Les Sept Boules de Cristal and Le Temple du Soleil, which they released in 1948 and 1949 respectively.[8] To fit into the 62-page format, a number of scenes were deleted from the story's publication in book form. These included a scene in which Tintin chases away a cat aboard the Pachacamac, Haddock drawing a picture of Tintin on a wall, Haddock chewing coca provided by Zorrino, Tintin shooting a jaguar, and Haddock discovering gold nuggets under the Temple of the Sun but being unable to take them back with him.[14] Farr noted that none of these scenes were "integral to the narrative", and that their removal improved its structure.[15] The reformatting also led to an error in the depiction of the solar eclipse. In the original magazine serialisation, Hergé had depicted the sun moving in the correct direction for the southern hemisphere; for the book publication, the drawings had been altered, with the sun now moving in the incorrect direction.[16]

The book was banned by the Peruvian authorities because in the map of South America contained within it, a region whose ownership was disputed by Peru and Ecuador was shown as being part of the latter country.[3]

Critical analysis[edit]

Michael Farr described both The Seven Crystal Balls and Prisoners of the Sun as "classic middle-period Tintin", commenting on their "surprisingly well-balanced narrative" and the scant evidence of Hergé's turbulent personal life while writing them.[17] He felt that the inclusion of paranormal elements to the story did nothing to make the narrative less convincing.[18] Farr opined that the Inca costumes were drawn with "a care and flamboyance that would do great credit to a major opera house production", while the Andean landscapes were "worthy of a Cecil B. DeMille film spectacular".[5]

Benoît Peeters noted that Prisoner of the Sun was one of the Adventures to have "most caught the imagination", something that he attributed to its "exceptional setting or the strength of the plot".[19]

Harry Thompson noted that like Red Rackham's Treasure, Prisoners of the Sun was "an epic journey conditioned by the suspense of not knowing what will happen at the end", although he thought that that unlike Red Rackham's Treasure, the latter story "successfully transfers the fear of its unknown adversaries from the first part of the adventure into the second".[20] He also thought that despite all the tribulations Hergé faced while creating it, "the pacing, the retention of suspense right to the end, and the fine balance of humour and drama" do not betray the story's troubled development.[20]

Jean-Marc Lofficier and Randy Lofficier believed that the two story arc represents "one more leap forward in Hergé's graphic and narrative skills" as a result of the transition to full colour double pages as the initial means of publication. They thought that this improvement was particularly evidence in the scenes of the treck through the Andes in Prisoners of the Sun.[16] They stated that with Prisoners of the Sun, the story had switched into "Hitchcockian thriller mode", a similar technique that he had adopted into a number of previous adventures.[16] They described the character of Zorrino as "basically a Peruvian version" of Chang Chong-Chen, a character introduced to the series in The Blue Lotus.[3] They described the story as "a philosophical parable, perhaps a hidden reflection of Hergé's spiritual yearnings", in this way anticipating the themes that he would make use of in Tintin in Tibet.[21] Ultimately, they awarded both halves of the story arc five out of five.[21]


In 1969, the animation company Belvision Studios, who had produced the series Hergé's Adventures of Tintin (1956–57), released an animated film, Tintin and the Temple of the Sun, which was adapted from The Seven Crystal Balls-Prisoners of the Sun story arc.[22] Directed by Eddie Lateste, it was written by Lateste, Michel Greg, Jos Marissen, and Laszló Molnár.[22] Music was by François Rauber and Zorrino's song was composed by Jacques Brel.[22] The film saw the addition of a character not present in the original book, the Incan princess Maira, who befriended Zorrino.[22]

In 1991, a second animated series based upon The Adventures of Tintin was produced, this time as a collaboration between the French studio Ellipse and the Canadian animation company Nelvana. Prisoners of the Sun was the twelfth story to be adapted and was divided into two thirty-minute episodes. Directed by Stéphane Bernasconi, the series has been praised for being "generally faithful" to the original comics, to the extent that the animation was directly adopted from Hergé's original panels.[23]

A video game was made based on this book.

A stage musical was also made and premiered in Antwerp on 15 September 2001 [1].

External links[edit]



  1. ^ Farr 2001, p. 121; Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 57.
  2. ^ Goddin 2009, p. 133.
  3. ^ a b c Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 57.
  4. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 136; Farr 2001, p. 121.
  5. ^ a b c d e Farr 2001, p. 121.
  6. ^ a b Farr 2001, p. 124.
  7. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 136; Farr 2001, p. 116.
  8. ^ a b c Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 55.
  9. ^ Peeters 1989, p. 82.
  10. ^ Peeters 1989, p. 82; Farr 2001, p. 123.
  11. ^ Thompson 1991, pp. 132–133.
  12. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 133.
  13. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 134; Farr 2001, p. 123.
  14. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 135; Farr 2001, p. 123; Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, pp. 57–58.
  15. ^ Farr 2001, p. 123.
  16. ^ a b c Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 58.
  17. ^ Farr 2001, p. 115.
  18. ^ Farr 2001, p. 116.
  19. ^ Peeters 1989, p. 83.
  20. ^ a b Thompson 1991, p. 134.
  21. ^ a b Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 59.
  22. ^ a b c d Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 89.
  23. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 90.