Red Rackham's Treasure

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Red Rackham's Treasure
(Le Trésor de Rackham le Rouge)
Cover of the English edition
Date 1944
Series The Adventures of Tintin
Publisher Casterman
Creative team
Creators Hergé
Original publication
Published in Le Soir Jeunesse
Date of publication 19 February 1943 – 23 September 1943
Language French
ISBN 2-203-00111-9
Publisher Methuen
Date 1959
ISBN 1-4052-0623-3
  • 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. Tintin and Captain Haddock believe that the treasure of pirate Red Rackham is in the remains of the sunken ship, the Unicorn, and they launch an expedition to find it.

The story was produced during the German occupation of Belgium and was first serialized in Le Soir Jeunesse, children's supplement to Belgium's leading newspaper Le Soir, from 19 February 1943 to 23 September 1943 before being published in book form the following year. Red Rackham's Treasure is the second volume in a two-part adventure begun in The Secret of the Unicorn (1943).

The book is notable for its introduction of main character Professor Calculus. It is the best-selling book in the Tintin series.


In the previous adventure, The Secret of the Unicorn, Tintin and Captain Haddock discover three parchments revealing the location of the Unicorn, a 17th-century navy ship commanded by Haddock's ancestor Sir Francis Haddock. The Unicorn was scuttled by Sir Francis while battling the pirate Red Rackham for his treasure. Tintin and Haddock believe that the pirate's treasure is in the remains of the sunken Unicorn.

Tintin and Captain Haddock hire a fishing trawler, the Sirius, to search for the treasure. As the crew prepare for the search, their plans are discovered and publicized by the press, forcing Tintin and Haddock to deal with numerous strangers claiming to be Red Rackham's descendants and insisting on a share of the treasure. They are quickly driven away by Haddock, who reminds them he is the descendant of the man who killed Red Rackham.

Another petitioner is Professor Cuthbert Calculus, an eccentric and hard-of-hearing inventor who offers the use of a special shark-shaped, electrically powered one-man submersible to help search for the sunken ship without being bothered by the numerous sharks in the area. The treasure hunters turn him down and prepare to embark.

Before Tintin and the Captain clear the port, the two detectives Thomson and Thompson join the crew to protect their friends from the possible threat of the rival treasure hunters, the Bird brothers. Shortly after departure, Tintin and Haddock discover that Calculus has stowed away on board. The professor has stashed the unassembled parts of his submarine in the hold, removing the Captain's crates of whisky in the process. Despite initially threatening to throw Calculus into the hold on bread and water, Haddock grudgingly decides to keep him along for the trip.

Tintin and Captain Haddock reach the location stated in Sir Francis Haddock's parchments. Initially, the party cannot find anything at the coordinates (20°37′42″N 70°52′15″W / 20.62833°N 70.87083°W / 20.62833; -70.87083, off the Mouchoir Bank), but then Tintin hypothesizes that Sir Francis Haddock used the Paris Meridian instead of Greenwich (which would yield 20°37′42″N 68°32′1″W / 20.62833°N 68.53361°W / 20.62833; -68.53361, off the Navidad Bank). Sure enough, the ship reaches an unknown and uninhabited island. As they come ashore to explore it, the Captain stubs his toe on a piece of wood protruding from the sand, which is excavated and turns out to be the remains of Sir Francis Haddock's jolly boat. As they penetrate into the interior of the island, they encounter numerous skulls, which Tintin deduces are the remains of the island's cannibalistic former inhabitants. There is also a magnificent pagan icon of Sir Francis, and numerous parrots that repeat the Haddockian argot, which an amused Tintin realizes has been passed down for generations.

Calculus's submarine proves useful in searching for the sunken Unicorn. While facing complications like shark attacks, they discover a strongbox of old documents, the figurehead of the ship, and to Captain Haddock's delight, a large supply of vintage Jamaican rum. When the crew spots a large wooden cross on the island, Tintin believes it could be "the Eagle's cross" mentioned in Sir Francis' parchments marking the treasure's location, until he realizes they are following a false lead. There are further dives to the wreck, but the crew are unable to find the treasure itself and they go home disappointed.

Calculus's examination of the documents from the retrieved strongbox allows him to determine that Sir Francis Haddock was the owner of the large estate of Marlinspike Hall, the former home of the Bird brothers. Upon this discovery, Tintin insists that Haddock must purchase the estate, which is up for auction. Calculus, who has received large sums of money from the government after a profitable sale of his submarine design, helps his friend acquire his family home.

After purchasing the Hall, Tintin and Captain Haddock explore the cellars of the main house. Amongst the Bird Brothers' cluttered antiques they find a statue of Saint John holding a cross. Tintin suddenly shouts out, "The Eagle's cross!" as he remembers the Saint is called "The Eagle of Patmos". At the statue's feet is a globe. On it, Tintin locates the island where Sir Francis Haddock was marooned. He touches that point and discovers it to be a trigger button—the globe springs opens and Red Rackham's treasure is found hidden inside. The story concludes with the various artifacts salvaged from the Unicorn on display in the Maritime Gallery in Marlinspike Hall, as Tintin, Haddock, and Calculus reflect on their happy ending. Professor Calculus, whose semi-deafness is an ongoing source of humour, quotes "All's well that ends well."


The story was originally published as a daily strip in the newspaper Le Soir between 19 February and 23 September 1943 under the title "Aventures Extraordinaires de Tintin et Milou" (French for "Extraordinary Adventures of Tintin and Snowy"). It was published in book form in 1944 and translated into English in 1959.

By the time Red Rackham's Treasure had finished appearing in Le Soir, Tintin's next adventure, The Seven Crystal Balls, was not yet ready for publication. Crime writer Paul Kinnet came up with a storyline which starred Thomson and Thompson and had them investigate the disappearance of their farmer friend, on whose farm they can be seen working at the end of the book in much the same way as they did on the Sirius.[1] However this idea was never used.


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.[1]

Differences between newspaper strip and comic book[edit]

In order to fit into the 62-pages required by the book publishers, certain scenes of the original strip were edited out and some panels were cropped or made bigger.

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.[1]

In the newspaper strip, the sailor caps worn by the Thomson and Thompson displayed the name "Redoutable" (French for "Ruthless"). These were taken out in the book version.[1]

Scenes from the strip that did not appear in the book edition included:

  • the shopkeeper warning Haddock that breaking the mirror is a bad omen and that he should give up his plans (in the book edition Haddock himself believes it to be a bad omen, while the shopkeeper merely demands to be paid for the broken mirror);
  • In the port scene, Snowy's tail is hit by Haddock's match after the Captain's finger catches fire. Haddock then turns to Thomson and Thompson and makes his statement that he is afraid of nothing and that they sail at dawn;
  • Haddock, examining one of the steel plates in the hold, comments that it wasn't a bomb after all when a sudden bang can be heard behind them. However it's just the door closing suddenly;
  • When digging at the foot of the cross, Thomson and Thompson finds what they think is the treasure, a silver button, only for Haddock to tell him that it's just a button from Sir Francis' clothing and calling him a "freshwater sailor";
  • Before dragging Calculus off to see Haddock about the Marlinspike parchment, Tintin calls the Captain who mutters: "Calculus?... that phenomenon can go westwards", a reference to the professor's insistence that the treasure is westwards, as per his pendulum.[1]

Scenes that were drawn for the book edition included:

  • Haddock being helped to his feet by Thomson and Thompson and Tintin after going through Calculus' clothes-brushing machine;
  • Tintin commenting on the irony of finding the treasure in Marlinspike Hall "right under our very noses" after going halfway across the world to find it.[1]

Some of the panels were redrawn for the book edition in order to cover half-a-page rather than a small panel. These included:

  • The scene where Tintin, in his diving-gear, first approaches the Unicorn;
  • The scene in the Maritime Gallery at Marlinspike, redrawn to include Snowy chewing a bone, an anchor and the three models of the Unicorn on a glass panel with a book and some of the parchments (the original panel only had a single model on a wooden case).[1]

Translation differences[edit]

A joke in the book involves Thomson and Thompson re-doing Captain Haddock's navigational calculations, but their ignorance causes them to place the ship in a fanciful location far from its real one. In the original French version, Captain Haddock mockingly explains that they place them in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. The Methuen English translation alters this to Westminster Abbey, London; America's Golden Press translation alters it to St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York.

When making their way back to the ship with the idol of Sir Francis, Haddock, his hand trailing in the water, recites the opening lines of "The Galley of Count Arnaldos" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. In the original French, he quotes from Alphonse de Lamartine's "Le Lac" ("The Lake").[1] The Spanish translation portrays him quoting José de Espronceda's "Canción del pirata" (Pirate's Song).


Belvision animation, 1957[edit]

In 1957, the animation company Belvision produced a string of colour adaptations based upon Hergé's original comics, adapting eight of the Adventures into a series of daily five-minute episodes. Red Rackham's Treasure was the eighth such story to be adapted, 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.[2]

Ellipse/Nelvana animation, 1991[edit]

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.[3]

Hollywood movie, 2011[edit]

The 2011 motion capture feature film The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn incorporates the conclusion of the book, but when Haddock and Tintin manage to find a portion of the treasure in the globe of St. John of Patmos, in Marlinspike Hall, they also find a map to find the rest of the treasure where the sank.


In his analysis 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."[4]


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.[1]

In the movie Kramer vs. Kramer, Dustin Hoffman's character reads this book to his son.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i 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
  2. ^ Lofficier and Lofficier 2002. pp. 87–88.
  3. ^ Lofficier and Lofficier 2002. p. 90.
  4. ^ Apostolidès 2010. p. 30.

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