Red Rackham's Treasure

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Red Rackham's Treasure
(Le Trésor de Rackham le Rouge)
Tintin and Snowy are riding in Calculus' shark submarine, marveling at the marine life around them.
Cover of the English edition
Date 1944
Series The Adventures of Tintin
Publisher Casterman
Creative team
Creator Hergé
Original publication
Published in Le Soir
Date of publication 19 February 1943 – 23 September 1943
Language French
Publisher Methuen
Date 1959
  • Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper
  • Michael Turner
Preceded by The Secret of the Unicorn (1943)
Followed by The Seven Crystal Balls (1948)

Red Rackham's Treasure (French: Le Trésor de Rackham le Rouge) is the twelfth volume of The Adventures of Tintin, the comics series by Belgian cartoonist Hergé. The story was first serialized in Le Soir Jeunesse, the children's supplement of Belgium's leading francophone newspaper Le Soir, between February to September 1943, during the German occupation of Belgium. Completing the story arc begun in The Secret of the Unicorn, the comic tells the tale of young reporter Tintin and his friend Captain Haddock, as they launch an expedition to the Caribbean to locate the treasure of the pirate Red Rackham.

Red Rackham's Treasure was a commercial success and was published in book form by Casterman shortly after its conclusion. Hergé folowed it with The Seven Crystal Balls, while the series itself became a defining part of the Franco-Belgian comics tradition. Red Rackham's Treasure has been cited as one of the most important installments in the series for marking the first appearance of eccentric scientist Cuthbert Calculus, who became a core character of the series. The story was adapted for both the 1957 Belvision animated series, Hergé's Adventures of Tintin, for the 1991 animated series The Adventures of Tintin by Ellipse and Nelvana, and for the Hollywood movie The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011).


Reporter Tintin and his friend Captain Haddock plan an expedition to the Caribbean aboard a fishing trawler, the Sirius, to search for the treasure of the pirate Red Rackham. Reading the documents authored by Haddock's ancestor, Sir Francis Haddock, the duo believe the treasure to be aboard the sunken 17th century vessel, the Unicorn.[1] An eccentric, hard of hearing inventor named Professor Cuthbert Calculus offers to aid them with the use of his shark-shaped one man-submarine, but they decline his assistance. Setting sail, they are joined by the police detectives Thomson and Thompson and soon discover that Calculus has stowed away on board, bringing his submarine with him.[2]

Reaching the Caribbean, they discover an unknown island on which they find a statue of Sir Francis Haddock. Tintin deduces that this had been produced by the extinct natives of the island, and that the wreck of the Unicorn must be nearby.[3] They locate the wreck using Calculus' submarine, and recover various artefacts from it, but do not find the treasure. Among the artefacts is a strongbox containing old documents that reveal that Sir Francis Haddock had been the owner of the Belgian estate at Marlinspike Hall (the Hall had been the abode of the antagonists, the Bird brothers, in the previous adventure).[4] Back in Belgium, Calculus purchases the Hall using funds from the sale of his submarine design, and gives it to Haddock. Tintin and Haddock then search the house's cellars, and Tintin realises that Francis Haddock's original message referred not to the Caribbean, but to a statue with a globe there in the cellar; inside the globe, they discover Red Rackham's treasure.[5]



German soldiers in eastern Belgium in 1940. Red Rackham's Treasure and its sequel were both written under German occupation.

Amid the German occupation of Belgium during World War II, Hergé had accepted a position working for Le Soir, Belgian's largest Francophone daily newspaper. Confiscated from its original owners, the German authorities permitted Le Soir to reopen under the directorship of Belgian editor Raymond de Becker, although it remained firmly under Nazi control, supporting the German war effort and espousing anti-Semitism.[6] After joining the Le Soir team on 15 October 1940, Hergé created its new children's supplement, Le Soir Jeunesse. Appointed editor of this supplement, he was aided by old friend Paul Jamin and the cartoonist Jacques Van Melkebeke.[7] Some Belgians were upset that Hergé was willing to work for a newspaper controlled by the occupying Nazi administration,[8] although he was heavily enticed by the size of Le Soir's readership, which reached 600,000.[9] Faced with the reality of Nazi oversight, Hergé abandoned the overt political themes that had pervaded much of his earlier work, instead adopting a policy of neutrality.[10] Without the need to satirise political types, Harry Thompson observed that "Hergé was now concentrating more on plot and on developing a new style of character comedy. The public reacted positively."[11]

Red Rackham's Treasure was to be the second half of a two-part story arc that had begun in the previous adventure, The Secret of the Unicorn. This arc was the first that Hergé had utilised since Cigars of the Pharaoh and The Blue Lotus (1934–36).[12] However, as Tintinologist Michael Farr related, whereas Cigars of the Pharaoh and The Blue Lotus has been largely "self-sufficient and self-contained", the connection between The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham's Treasure would be far closer.[13]


Calculus was visually based upon the scientist Auguste Piccard (pictured)

Red Rackham's Treasure introduced Professor Cuthbert Calculus to The Adventures of Tintin, who became a recurring character.[14] Hergé had made use of various eccentric professors in earlier volumes of the series, such as Sophocles Sarcophagus in Cigars of the Pharaoh, Hector Alembick in King Ottokar's Sceptre, and Decimus Phostle in The Shooting Star, all of whom prefigure the arrival of Calculus.[15] The character's deafness had been inspired by a colleague whom Hergé had worked with years earlier at Le Vingtième Siecle.[16] Visually, Calculus was based on a real scientist, the Swiss inventor Auguste Piccard, who had been the first man to explore the stratosphere in a hot air balloon in 1931. Hergé had observed Piccard walking about Brussels on a number of occasions, however the character of Calculus would be notably much shorter than Piccard.[17] Hergé named this character Tryphon Tournesol; while the surname meant "sunflower", the forename was adopted from a carpenter named Tryphon Beckaert that Hergé had encountered in Boitsfort.[18] Tryphon Tournesol was later renamed Cuthbert Calculus in an English translation and Balduin Bienlein (meaning "Little Bee") for the German translation.[18]

Calculus' shark-shaped submarine was visually based on a real American submarine; Hergé had seen a picture of this in a German newspaper.[19] The diving suit worn in the story was also based on clippings that Hergé had accumulated, while the dockside bar depicted by the cartoonist is also based on an illustration that he had collected.[20] The tribal effigy found on a Caribbean island by Sir Francis Haddock was based on a Bamileke tribal statue from Cameroon that Hergé saw in a museum.[21] The Sirius, which had appeared before in The Shooting Star, was named after the SS Sirius, the first ship to cross the Atlantic Ocean solely under steam power, but was based on another ship called the John-o.88 which Hergé had sketched in Ostend docks.[22] The instance in the story in which a shark swallows the camera is based on a real account from the American underwater photographer Otis Barton, which Hergé had encountered in a French illustrated magazine.[20]

The brief appearance of Dr Daumière, who warns Haddock to cease drinking alcohol, was an allusion to Hergé's own physician, Dr Daumerie.[23][a] Hergé made a comical reference to the French comedian Sacha Guitry in the story by adverrtising a play by Guitry titled Me in which Guuitry himself plays every role.[25] The adventure was the first to depict Tintin wearing a white shirt under a blue sweater; this would go on to become the character's iconic costume.[25] Red Rackham's Treasure contained one of Hergé's two favourite illustrations from The Adventures of Tintin.[26][b]


Le Trésor De Rackham Le Rouge began serialisation as a daily strip in Le Soir from 19 February 1943.[28] The title of the new adventure had been announced in an advertisement in the newspaper two days previously.[29] In Belgium, it was then published in a 62 page book format by Editions Casterman in 1944.[30] To fit the story into the 62-pages required by the book publishers, certain scenes of the original strip were edited out and some panels were cropped or enlarged. The speech bubbles and the fonts were made smaller and there were some changes in the text which, in some cases, toned down the aggression of the characters: in the original strip, when confronting the so-called descendants of Red Rackham, Haddock announces that he fancies killing them all in combat and, once they have fled, Tintin expresses satisfaction. In the book Haddock's words are changed to his claiming to feel the boiling blood of his ancestor, Sir Francis, and Tintin makes no comment on his methods.[31]

Rather than immediately embark on the creation of a new Tintin adventure, Hergé agreed to a proposal that Le Soir's crime writer, Paul Kinnet, would author a detective story revolving around Thomson and Thompson. Titled Dupont et Dupond, détectives ("Thomson and Thompson, Detectives"), Hergé provided the illustrations.[32]

The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham's Treasure were the first two Adventures of Tintin to be published in English-language translations for the British market. Published by Casterman, these two editions did not sell well, and have since become rare collector's items.[33] They would be republished for the British market seven years later, this time by Methuen with translations provided by Michael Turner and Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper.[18] Farr claimed that Red Rackham's Treasure would be the best-selling story in The Adventures of Tintin,[13] while Harry Thompson referred to The Secret of the Unicorn-Red Rackham's Treasure arc as "the most successful of all Tintin's adventures".[34]

Critical analysis[edit]

Tintinologist Harry Thompson asserted that the Secrets of the Unicorn-Red Rackham's Treasure arc marked the beginning of the third and central stage of "Tintin's career". He furthermore stated that in these two stories, Tintin has been converted from a reporter into an explorer to cope with the new political climate.[12] He asserted that in this story, Hergé "abandons the complex plotting of The Secret of the Unicorn, in favour of an episodic style of adventure not seen since the early books".[35] He further draws attention to the arrival of Calculus in the story, describing him as the "third and final member" of Tintin's "family".[35] Thompson was also critical of the use of colour in the story, stating that much of it looks better in black-and-white, as it was originally printed in Le Soir.[36]

Photograph of a middle-aged man speaking into a microphone.
Hergé biographer Benoît Peeters considered Red Rackham's Treasure to be "an unforgettable book".

Hergé biographer Benoît Peeters asserted that both The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham's Treasure "hold a crucial position" in The Adventures of Tintin as it establishes the "Tintin universe" with its core set of characters.[37] He felt that while religious elements had been present in previous stories, they were even stronger in The Secret of the Unicorn and its sequel, something which he attributed to Van Melkebeke's influence.[38] Peeters believed that Red Rackham's Treasure was "an unforgettable book" because it is the volume in which the "family"—meaning Tintin, Snowy, Haddock, and Calculus—all come together.[39] Fellow biographer Pierre Assouline echoed this idea, noting that Hergé had "settled" the three characters in their new home.[40] focused on the character of Calculus, noting that the idea of the eccentric professor was "so universal that it would be inaccurate to point to any one source", suggesting possible influences from Charlie Chaplin and Hergé's own father.[41] For Assouline, the professor embodies "the gentle madness and subtle humour in comic strips".[40] He added that both Red Rackham's Treasure and its predecessor "reveal Hergé at a new level in his art", and suggested that the reason for their popularity lay in the fact that they were "the visual continuation of a literary universe that stretches from Jules Verne to Pierre Benoit".[40]

Jean-Marc Lofficier and Randy Lofficier asserted that The Secret of the Unicorn-Red Rackham's Treasure arc represents "a turning point" for the series as it shifts the reader's attention from Tintin to Haddock, who has become "by far, the most interesting character".[42] They claim that the introduction of Calculus "completes the indispensible triangle that imbues Tintin with its mythic quality."[42] Asserting that here, Hergé's "art has reached a degree of near-perfection", they awarded it five stars out of five.[43]

Tintinologist Michael Farr asserted that the scene in which Calculus was introduced was "a comic tour de force" marking the start of the "rich vein of humour" that the character brought to the series.[18] Noting that unlike The Shooting Star, this two-book story arc contains "scarcely an allusion to occupation and war", he praised the arc's narrative as "perfectly paced, without that feeling of haste" present in some of Hergé's earlier work.[20]

In his psychoanalytical study of the Adventures of Tintin, the academic Jean-Marie Apostolidès characterised the Secret of the Unicorn-Red Rackham's Treasure arc as being about the characters going on a "treasure hunt that turns out to be at the same time a search for their roots."[44] He stated that the arc revolves around Haddock's ancestry, and in doing so "deals with the meanings of symbolic relations within personal life".[45] Highlighting that Calculus was one of many eccentric scientists to have appeared in the series, he nonetheless emphasises his difference by noting that Calculus approaches Tintin, rather than Tintin approaching him, as the young reporter had done with previous scientists.[46] Commenting on the introduction of Calculus' shark submarine, he states that it "allows them to cross a boundary previously restricting human beings and to penetrate into another universe, the one beneath the seas that holds secrets hitherto unknown."[46] Ultimately, he believes that by the end of the story, "the family structure is in place", with Calculus representing a father figure with financial control, and Haddock and Tintin, who have become brothers through their joint adventure, adding that with the aid of Francis Haddock, "the ancestor", they are given a home at Marlinspike Hall.[47]

Literary critic Tom McCarthy highlighted what he perceived as scenes in Red Rackham's Treasure which reflected common themes in The Adventures of Tintin. He pointed out that in being a stowaway aboard the ship, Calculus was one of many stowaways in the series,[48] and that the treasure represented the theme of jewels and precious stones which also cropped up in The Broken Ear, Tintin in the Congo, and The Castafiore Emerald.[49] He stated that Tintin's misreading of the parchments was one of a number of calculation mistakes that the character makes in the series,[50] and suggested that the scene in which the shark submarine pushes between Haddock's buttocks was a form of sexual innuendo referencing anal sex, highlighting similar innuendo in The Broken Ear and The Crab with the Golden Claws.[51]


In 1957, the animation company Belvision produced a string of colour adaptations based upon Hergé's original comics, adapting a number of the Adventures into a series of daily five-minute episodes. Red Rackham's Treasure was the fifth story to be adapted in the second series (and the eighth to be adapted overall), being directed by Ray Goossens and written by Michel Greg, himself a well known comic book writer and illustrator who in later years would become editor-in-chief of the Journal De Tintin.[52]

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. Adapting 21 of the stories into a series of episodes, each 42 minutes long, Red Rackham's Treasure was the tenth story to be produced into the series, although this ran half as long as most of the others. Directed by Stéphane Bernasconi, the series has been praised for being "generally faithful", with compositions having been actually directly taken from the panels in the original comic book.[53]

A 2011 motion capture feature film The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Peter Jackson was released in most of the world October–November 2011, and in the US on 21 December 2011.[54] The film is based partly upon The Secret of the Unicorn and partly on both 'Red Rackham's Treasure and The Crab with the Golden Claws.[55] A video-game tie-in to the movie was released October 2011.[56]


The shark-shaped submarine on the book's cover was the inspiration for "Troy," the real-life shark-shaped submersible constructed by aquatic film-maker and oceanographic explorer Fabien Cousteau, the grandson of Jacques Cousteau.[31]

In the 1979 American drama film Kramer vs. Kramer, Dustin Hoffman's character, Ted Kramer, is shown reading Red Rackham's Treasure to his son.[57]



  1. ^ In the English translation, Dr Daumière becomes Doctor A. Leech.[24]
  2. ^ The illustration is contained in the upper left frame on page 25.[27]


  1. ^ Hergé 2002, pp. 1–4.
  2. ^ Hergé 2002, pp. 5–21.
  3. ^ Hergé 2002, pp. 21–32.
  4. ^ Hergé 2002, pp. 33–58.
  5. ^ Hergé 2002, pp. 59–62.
  6. ^ Assouline 2009, pp. 70–71; Peeters 2012, pp. 116–118.
  7. ^ Assouline 2009, p. 72; Peeters 2012, pp. 120–121.
  8. ^ Goddin 2009, p. 73; Assouline 2009, p. 72.
  9. ^ Assouline 2009, p. 73; Peeters 2012.
  10. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 99; Farr 2001, p. 95.
  11. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 99.
  12. ^ a b Thompson 1991, p. 112.
  13. ^ a b Farr 2001, p. 105.
  14. ^ Peeters 1989, p. 76.
  15. ^ Peeters 2012, p. 147.
  16. ^ Goddin 2009, p. 119.
  17. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 118; Farr 2001, p. 105; Assouline 2009, p. 91; Peeters 2012, p. 147.
  18. ^ a b c d Farr 2001, p. 106.
  19. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 119; Farr 2001, p. 112.
  20. ^ a b c Farr 2001, p. 112.
  21. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 119.
  22. ^ Farr 2001, p. 111; Goddin 2009, p. 120.
  23. ^ Goddin 2009, p. 120.
  24. ^ Hergé 2002, p. 11.
  25. ^ a b Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 54.
  26. ^ Thompson 1991, pp. 119–120.
  27. ^ Hergé 2002, p. 25.
  28. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 52; Goddin 2009, p. 116.
  29. ^ Goddin 2009, p. 116.
  30. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 52.
  31. ^ a b A la recherche du trésor de Rackham le Rouge (French for "In Search of Red Rackham's Treasure") by Hergé, with comments by Daniel Couvreur and Frédéric Soumois, published by Editions Moulinsart in November 2007, ISBN 978-2-87424-160-4
  32. ^ Goddin 2008, pp. 128, 130; Assouline 2009, p. 94.
  33. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 121; Farr 2001, p. 106.
  34. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 113.
  35. ^ a b Thompson 1991, p. 118.
  36. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 120.
  37. ^ Peeters 2012, p. 143.
  38. ^ Peeters 2012, p. 144.
  39. ^ Peeters 2012, p. 146.
  40. ^ a b c Assouline 2009, p. 92.
  41. ^ Assouline 2009, p. 91.
  42. ^ a b Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 53.
  43. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, pp. 54–55.
  44. ^ Apostolidès 2010, p. 30.
  45. ^ Apostolidès 2010, p. 136.
  46. ^ a b Apostolidès 2010, p. 145.
  47. ^ Apostolidès 2010, p. 146.
  48. ^ McCarthy 2006, p. 79.
  49. ^ McCarthy 2006, p. 97.
  50. ^ McCarthy 2006, pp. 22–23.
  51. ^ McCarthy 2006, p. 109.
  52. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, pp. 87–88.
  53. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 90.
  54. ^ Huddleston, Tom (17 October 2011). "The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn Movie Review". Time Out. Archived from the original on 30 January 2015. Retrieved 10 November 2011. 
  55. ^ The Daily Telegraph 2011.
  56. ^ Ubisoft 2011.
  57. ^ Trelease 2006, p. 121.


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