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. 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."


Red Rackham's Treasure was to be the second part of a story arc that had begun in the previous adventure, The Secret of the Unicorn; this was the first two-part arc that Hergé had utilised since Cigars of the Pharaoh and The Blue Lotus (1934–36).[1] However, as Tintinologist Michael Farr related, the connection between these two 1940s stories would be far closer than the earlier two-part arc, in which the stories were largely "self-sufficient and self-contained".[2]

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.[3] However this idea was never used.

Red Rackham's Treasure introduced the character of Professor Cuthbert Calculus to The Adventures of Tintin, who would go on to become a recurring character.[4] 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.[5] 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. Hergé had observed Piccard walking about Brussels on a number of occasions, however the character of Calculus would be notably much shorter than Piccard.[6] 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.[7] Tryphon Tournesol was later converted to Cuthbert Calculus in an English translation and Balduin Bienlein (meaning "Little Bee") for the German translation.[7]

Calculus' shark-shaped submarine was visually based on a real American submarine; Hergé had seen a picture of this in a German newspaper.[8] 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.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11][3] 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.[9]

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.[12] 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.[12] Red Rackham's Treasure contained one of Hergé's two favourite illustrations from The Adventures of Tintin.[13]


Le Trésor De Rackham Le Rouge began serialisation as a daily strip in Le Soir from 19 February 1943.[14] In Belgium, it was then published in a 62 page book format by Editions Casterman in 1944.[14]

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.[3]

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.[15] 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.[7]

Tintinologist Harry Thompson referred to The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham's Treasure as "the most successful of all Tintin's adventures".[16] Farr claimed that Red Rackham's Treasure would prove to be the best-selling of all Adventures of Tintin.[2]

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.[1] 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".[17] He further draws attention to the arrival of Calculus in the story, describing him as the "third and final member" of Tintin's "family".[17] 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.[18]

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.[19] 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.[20] 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.[21]

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".[22] They claim that the introduction of Calculus "completes the indispensible triangle that imbues Tintin with its mythic quality."[22] Asserting that here, Hergé's "art has reached a degree of near-perfection", they awarded it five stars out of five.[23]

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.[7] 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.[9]

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."[24]


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.[25]

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.[26]

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 Unicorn sank.


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.[3]

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



  1. ^ a b Thompson 1991, p. 112.
  2. ^ a b Farr 2001, p. 105.
  3. ^ a b c d 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
  4. ^ Peeters 1989, p. 76.
  5. ^ Peeters 2012, p. 147.
  6. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 118; Farr 2001, p. 105; Peeters 2012, p. 147.
  7. ^ a b c d Farr 2001, p. 106.
  8. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 119; Farr 2001, p. 112.
  9. ^ a b c Farr 2001, p. 112.
  10. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 119.
  11. ^ Farr 2001, p. 111.
  12. ^ a b Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 54.
  13. ^ Thompson 1991, pp. 119–120.
  14. ^ a b Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 52.
  15. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 121; Farr 2001, p. 106.
  16. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 113.
  17. ^ a b Thompson 1991, p. 118.
  18. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 120.
  19. ^ Peeters 2012, p. 143.
  20. ^ Peeters 2012, p. 144.
  21. ^ Peeters 2012, p. 146.
  22. ^ a b Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 53.
  23. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, pp. 54–55.
  24. ^ Apostolidès 2010. p. 30.
  25. ^ Lofficier and Lofficier 2002. pp. 87–88.
  26. ^ Lofficier and Lofficier 2002. p. 90.


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