The Castafiore Emerald
|The Castafiore Emerald
(Les Bijoux de la Castafiore)
Cover of the English edition
|Series||The Adventures of Tintin|
|Published in||Tintin magazine|
|Issues||665 – 726|
Date(s) of publication
|1 July 1961 – 1 January 1963|
|Preceded by||Tintin in Tibet (1960)|
|Followed by||Flight 714 (1968)|
The Castafiore Emerald (French: Les Bijoux de la Castafiore) is the twenty-first volume of The Adventures of Tintin, the comics series by Belgian cartoonist Hergé. Conceived as a narrative exercise, Hergé wanted to see if he could maintain suspense throughout sixty-two pages of story with no villains, exotic locations, guns or danger, and with a clearly deceptive solution. Consequently it is a story rich in comic setpieces, red herrings, mistaken interpretations, false tracks, pseudo-disappearances, and colourful characters. This is the only Tintin story in which the characters remain at their home at Marlinspike Hall and do not venture to another part of the world.
Captain Haddock and Tintin are walking through the countryside when they come across a Romani community camped in a garbage dump. They investigate and upon learning that the community chose that site on account of being forbidden by the police to use any other location, the Captain invites them to the grounds of his estate, Marlinspike, over the objections of his butler Nestor.
Shortly afterwards, Bianca Castafiore, the famous opera diva and scourge of the Captain, decides to invite herself to Marlinspike for a holiday. All manner of mayhem ensues. For some time, one of the marble steps leading to the foyer in Marlinspike Hall has had a plate-sized chip; Nestor has been waiting for the repairman, who has been fobbing the Captain off. Upon hearing of Bianca's impending visit, Haddock rushes to pack for a trip away from Marlinspike, figuring now would be a good time to visit Milan (which he had never done, precisely to avoid Bianca). In his haste, Haddock misses the step, which, just moments before, he had been sanctimoniously warning Nestor and the others about. He sprains his ankle as a result. The doctor arrives, examines the Captain, and insists upon putting the foot and ankle in a cast while imposing a minimum of a fortnight (two weeks)'s bed rest. As a result, the Captain uses a wheelchair for all but the last couple of pages. The broken step becomes a running gag for the rest of the comic, and every character, with the exception of Castafiore, slips and falls down the step at least one time.
Castafiore has brought her luggage, her slippers, her pyjamas, her entourage and a parrot for the Captain called "Iago". Not unlike the parrots featured in Red Rackham's Treasure, the creature manages to pick up some of the Captain's argot, much to his chagrin. He narrowly averts having to share his study with Bianca and her piano, managing to convince her to locate the instrument, along with her somewhat rebellious pianist Wagner, in the maritime gallery. Wagner, it turns out, indulges a penchant for gambling by making furtive runs into the local village to place bets. Increasing the Captain's problems, two over-zealous Paris Flash reporters concoct a story claiming that Haddock and Castafiore intend to get married (following a misinterpreted conversation with the very hard-of-hearing Professor Calculus), and an avalanche of congratulations from friends from all over the world pour in for several hours.
Soon after Captain Haddock discovers to his horror the rumors of his engagement spread by the tabloids, he is forced to accommodate an entire television crew, who occupy Marlinspike Hall for several hours while conducting an extensive interview with Castafiore. A few days later, Castafiore's most prized emerald goes missing, and all eyes turn to the Romani. But they are vindicated when, in a deliberately anti-climactic dénouement, the culprit turns out to have been a magpie, in reference to Rossini's opera The Thieving Magpie. As soon as the emerald is found, it is (temporarily) lost once again by the detectives Thomson and Thompson, only to be found again a few frames later by Snowy, who calls it a "brandyball".
Inspiration and cultural references
- The book alludes to the well-known French weekly Paris Match in its depiction of reporters from 'Paris Flash', and jibes at its reputation for the questionable accuracy of the articles.
- It also mentions a fashion designer named Tristan Bior, based upon Christian Dior.
- The incident of the unwelcome band playing outside Marlinspike was based on a similar experience of Hergé's who was also obliged to serve them with drinks. To add insult to injury they gave a toast to "Spirou", Tintin's most direct rival.
- Hergé also gave a TV interview at around the time he was working on the story.
Notes and references
- The thief responsible for the disappearance of the titular Castafiore Emerald is revealed in the opening panel of the story.
- Tintinophile (French)
- Hergé in an interview with Numa Sadoul
- Tintin The Complete Companion by Michael Farr, ISBN 0-7195-5522-1, ISBN 978-0-7195-5522-0[page needed]
- Interview on Québécoise television, translation at tintinologist.org