The Crab with the Golden Claws

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The Crab with the Golden Claws
(Le Crabe aux pinces d'or)
Book cover. Tintin, Snowy, and Captain Haddock ride camels in the desert.
Cover of the English edition
  • 1941 (black and white)
  • 1943 (colour)
Series The Adventures of Tintin
Publisher Casterman
Creative team
Creators Hergé
Original publication
Published in Le Soir Jeunesse
Date of publication 17 October 1940 – 18 October 1941
Language French
ISBN 2-203-00108-9
Publisher Methuen
Date 1958
ISBN 1-4052-0620-9
  • Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper
  • Michael Turner
Preceded by King Ottokar's Sceptre (1939)
Followed by The Shooting Star (1942)

The Crab with the Golden Claws (French: Le Crabe aux pinces d'or) is the ninth volume of The Adventures of Tintin, the comics series by Belgian cartoonist Hergé. Commissioned by the Belgian newspaper Le Soir for its children's supplement Soir-Jeunesse, it was serialised weekly, and then daily, from October 1940 to October 1941. The story tells of young Belgian reporter Tintin and his dog Snowy, who travel to Morocco to pursue a gang of international opium smugglers.

The Crab with the Golden Claws was published in book form shortly after its conclusion. Hergé continued The Adventures of Tintin with The Shooting Star, while the series itself became a defining part of the Franco-Belgian comics tradition. In 1943, Hergé coloured and redrew King Ottokar's Sceptre in his distinctive ligne-claire style for Casterman's republication. The Crab with the Golden Claws introduces the recurring character Captain Haddock, who became a major fixture of the series. The story was adapted for both the 1956 Belvision Studios animation Hergé's Adventures of Tintin and for the 1991 Ellipse/Nelvana animated series The Adventures of Tintin.


Tintin is informed by Thomson and Thompson of a case involving the ramblings of a drunken man, later killed, found with a scrap of paper from what appears to be a tin of crab-meat with the word Karaboudjan scrawled on it. His subsequent investigation and the kidnapping near his apartment of a Japanese man interested in giving a letter to him leads Tintin to a ship called Karaboudjan, where he is abducted by a syndicate of criminals who have been hiding opium in the crab tins. Tintin escapes from his locked room after Snowy chews through his bonds and Tintin knocks out a man sent to bring him food. He leaves him bound and gagged in the room. Tintin encounters Captain Haddock, an alcoholic sea captain, who is manipulated by his first mate, Allan, and is unaware of his crew's criminal activities. Tintin hides in the locker under the bed and defeats Jumbo, the sailor left in the cabin, as Tintin is thought by Allan to have climbed out of the porthole back into the store-room. He blows open the door, then finding it empty goes back to the Captain's room, where he finds Jumbo tied to a chair and gagged. Escaping the ship in a lifeboat in an attempt to reach Spain after sending a radio message to the Police about the cargo, they are attacked by a seaplane. They hijack the plane and tie up the pilots, but a storm and Haddock's drunken behaviour causes them to crash-land in the Sahara, where the crew escapes.

After trekking across the desert and nearly dying of dehydration, Tintin and Haddock are rescued and taken to a French outpost, where they hear on the radio the storm apparently sunk the Karaboudjan. They travel to a Moroccan port, and along the way are attacked by Tuareg tribesmen, defending themselves with French MAS-36 rifles. At the port, Captain is kidnapped by members of his old crew after he sees the disguised Karaboudjan. Tintin meets Thomson and Thompson who got his message and went to the port, they find the crab tins are being sold by the wealthy merchant Omar ben Salaad, who Tintin tells Thomson and Thompson to discreetly investigate. Tintin tracks down the gang and saves the Captain, but they both become intoxicated by the fumes from wine barrels breached in a shootout with the villains. Haddock ends up chasing a gang-member from the cellar to an entrance behind a book-case in Salaad's house. Upon sobering up, Tintin discovers the necklace with the Crab with the Golden Claws on the now-subdued owner of the wine cellar, Omar ben Salaad, and realizes that he is the leader of the drug cartel. After Tintin captures Allan, who has stolen a boat to try escaping, the gang is put behind bars. The Japanese is freed when the Police arrest the ship-members, and reveals he is a Policeman, and was trying to warn Tintin of the group he was up against. The sailor drowned at the beginning was about to bring him opium, but was eliminated by the gang.



"It is certain that Raymond De Becker sympathized with the National Socialist system... I admit that I believed myself that the future of the West could depend on the New Order. For many people democracy had proven deceptive, and the New Order brought fresh hope. In Catholic circles such views were widely held. Given everything that happened, it was naturally a terrible error to have believed even for an instant in the New Order."

Hergé, 1973[1]

As the Belgian army clashed with the invading Germans in May 1940, Hergé and his wife fled by car to France along with tens of thousands of other Belgians, first staying in Paris and then heading south to Puy-de-Dôme, where they remained for six weeks.[2] On 28 May, Belgian King Leopold III officially surrendered the country to the German army to prevent further killing; a move that Hergé agreed with. Belgium was placed under occupation. Hergé followed the king's request that all civilians who had fled the country return and arrived back in Brussels on 30 June.[3] There, he found that his house had been occupied as an office for the German army's Propagandastaffel, and also faced financial trouble, as he owed back taxes yet was unable to access his financial reserves; he was lent the funds by Casterman's Lesne.[4] All Belgian publications were now under the control of the German occupying force, who refused Le Petit Vingtième permission to continue publication.[5] Instead, Hergé was offered employment as a cartoonist for Le Pays Réel by its editor, the Rexist Victor Matthys. However, Hergé perceived Le Pays Réel as an explicitly political publication, and thus declined the position.[6]

Instead, he took up a position with Le Soir, Belgian's largest Francophone daily newspaper. Confiscated from its original owners, the German authorities had permitted Le Soir to be re-opened under the directorship of De Doncker, although it remained firmly under Nazi control, supporting the German war effort and espousing anti-Semitism.[a][7] After joining the Le Soir team on 15 October, Hergé was involved in the creation of a children's supplement, Soir-Jeunesse. Appointed editor of this supplement, he was aided by old friend Paul Jamin and the cartoonist Jacques Van Melkebeke.[8] The first number of Soir-Jeunesse was published with a large announcement across the cover: "Tintin et Milou sont revenus!" ("Tintin and Snowy are Back!").[9] Some Belgians were upset that Hergé was willing to work for a newspaper controlled by the occupying Nazi administration; he received an anonymous letter from "the father of a large family" asking him not to work for Le Soir, fearing that The Adventures of Tintin would now be used to indoctrinate children in Nazi ideology, and that as a result "They will no longer speak of God, of the Christian family, or the Catholic ideal... Can you agreee to collaborate in this terrible act, a real sin against Spirit?"[10] Hergé however was heavily enticed by the size of Le Soir's readership, which soon reached 600,000, far in excess of what Le Vingtième Siècle had reached.[11] He did however abandon the overt political themes that had pervaded much of his previous work, instead adopting a policy of neutrality.[12]


The Crab with the Golden Claws began serialisation in Soir-Jeunesse on 17 October 1940.[13] However, on 8 May 1941, a paper shortage caused by the ongoing war led to the Soir-Jeunesse being reduced to four pages, with the length of the weekly Tintin strip being cut by two thirds. Several weeks later, on 3 September 1941, the supplement disappeared altogether, with The Crab with the Golden Claws being moved into Le Soir itself for 23 September, where it became a daily strip. As a result, Hergé altered his pace at which the narrative moved, as he had to hold the reader's attention at the end of every line.[14] As with previous Adventures of Tintin, the story was subsequently serialised in France in the Catholic newspaper Cœurs Vaillants from 21 June 1942.[13]

A 1943 copy of Le Soir dating to the occupation

Following serialisation, the story was collected together and published in book form by Editions Casterman in 1941, representing the last black-and-white volume to be released. For this collected edition, Hergé decided to re-name the story, initially considering The Red Crab before settling on Le Crabe Aux Pinces D'Or (The Crab with the Golden Claws).[15] Hergé however was annoyed that Casterman had sent the book to the printers without his final approval.[16] Nevertheless, as a result of Le Soir's publicity, book sales markedly increased, to the extent that most of the prior Adventures of Tintin were reprinted as a result.[17] Two exceptions were made; the German authorities forbade the reprinting of Tintin in America and The Black Island because they were set in the United States and Britain respectively, both of which were then in conflict with Germany.[18]

The serial introduced the character of Captain Haddock. Haddock made his first appearance in Le Soir adjacent to an advert for the anti-Semitic German film, Jud Süß.[19] Hergé chose the name "Haddock" for the character after his wife, Germaine Remi, mentioned that it was "a sad English fish" during a meal.[20] The inclusion of a Japanese police detective as an ally of Tintin's in this story was probably designed to counter-balance Hergé's portrayal of the Japanese as the antagonists in his earlier story, The Blue Lotus, particularly given that the German government was allied to Japan at the time.[21] The use of Morocco as a setting was likely influenced by The White Squadron, which Hergé had read in 1936.[12] The depiction of the French Foreign Legion in North Africa was possibly influenced by P.C. Wren's novel Beau Geste (1925) or its cinematic adaptations in 1926, 1928, and 1939.[22]

Whereas Hergé's use of Chinese in The Blue Lotus was correct, the Arabic script employed in The Crab with the Golden Claws was fictious.[23] Many of the place names featured in the series are puns: the town of Kefheir was a pun on the French Que faire? ("what is to be done?") while the port of Bagghar derives from the French baggare (scrape, or fight).[23] The name of Omar Ben Salaad is a pun meaning "Lobster Salad" in French,[24] while the name of the drug smuggling ship, Karaboudjan, is a variation of the Turkish word Karabucan, meaning " this black spirit" [25]

In February 1942, Casterman suggested to Hergé that his books be published in a new format; 62-pages rather than the former 100 to 130 pages, and now in full colour rather than black-and-white.[26] He agreed to this, and in 1943 The Crab with the Golden Claws was re-edited and coloured for publication as an album in 1944.[27] Due to the changes in how the adventure had been serialised at Le Soir, the ultimate product at this juncture was only 58 pages long, and thus Hergé filled the four missing pages with full-page colour frames, thus bringing it up to the standard 62-page format.[28] In the 1960s, the book was published in the United States with a number of changes. In the original, the sailor Tintin leaves bound and gagged in Captain Haddock's cabin, and the man who beats Haddock in the cellar, are black Africans. These were changed in the 1960s to a white sailor and an Arab due to objections by American publishers of having blacks and whites mixing together.[29] However, the accompanying text was not changed, and so Haddock still refers to the man who beat him as a "Negro" in the English version.[29] Also at the request of the Americans, scenes of Haddock drinking directly from the bottles of whiskey on the lifeboat and the plane were taken out.[29][30] Casterman republished the original black-and-white version of the story in 1980, as part of the fourth volume in their Archives Hergé collection.[13] In 1989, they then published a facsimile version of that first edition.[13]

Critical analysis[edit]

Hergé biographer Benoît Peeters described the story as a "rebirth" for The Adventures of Tintin and described the addition of Haddock as "a formidable narrative element", one which "profoundly changed the spirit of the series".[31] Elsewhere he asserts that it is the appearance of Haddock which "makes this book so memorable" and that he is tempted to define the book by the fact that it is that character's début.[32] Fellow biographer Pierre Assouline commented that The Crab with the Golden Claws had "a certain charm" stemming from its use of "exoticism and colonial nostalgia – for the French especially, evoking their holdings in North Africa."[33] Michael Farr asserted that the arrival of Haddock was the most "remarkable" element of the story, offering the series "tremendous new potential".[34] He also thought that the dream sequences reflected the popularity of surrealism at the time, and that the influence from cinema, in particular the films of Alfred Hitchcock, is apparent in the story.[35]

Jean-Marc Lofficier and Randy Lofficier described the story as "a thinly-disguised remake of Cigars of the Pharaoh", an Adventure of Tintin which had been first serialised in 1934. Both feature the smuggling of opium, in crab tins and cigars respectively, and "desert treks, hostile tribes and, at the end, the infiltrating of a secret underground lair."[22] They also opined that artistically, the story represented "a turning point in Hergé's career", because he had to switch to a daily format in Le Soir, although as a result of this they felt that the final third of the story "seems rushed".[22] Stating that the inclusion of a Japanese detective investigating drug smuggling in the Mediterranean makes no sense within the context of 1940s Europe, they ultimately awarded the story three out of five stars.[36]

"As a fun exercise, try to do a 'vulgar' scan of the whole oeuvre. You will pick up on the scenes in The Crab with the Golden Claws where Haddock, delirious with dehydration, pictures Tintin as a bottle of champagne ready to gush and Tintin, himself dreaming that he has been trapped inside a bottle, screams as the Captain, wielding a giant corkscrew, penetrates and screws him."

Tom McCarthy, 2006[37]

Literary critic Jean-Marie Apostolidès of Stanford University commented that The Crab with the Golden Claws witnessed Tintin's "real entrance into the community of human beings" as he gains an "older brother" in Haddock.[38] He also believed that the recurring image of alcohol throughout the story was symbolic of sexuality, which is otherwise absent. In particular, he believed that there was a strong homoerotic subtext between Haddock and Tintin, represented in the two delirious sequences; in one, Haddock envisions Tintin as a champagne bottle frothing at the top (thereby symbolising an ejaculating penis), while in the other, Tintin dreams that he is trapped inside a bottle, with Haddock about to stick a corkscrew into him (thereby symbolising sexual penetration). However, Apostolidès notes, in both instances the pair are prevented from realising their sexual fantasies.[39] Literary critic Tom McCarthy concurred with Apostolidès on this point, also highlighting what he perceived as homoerotic undertones to these two scenes.[37] He also noted that in this Adventure, the manner in which a chance finding of a tin can on a Belgian street leads Tintin into the story is representative of the repeating theme of Tintin the detective that is found throughout the series.[40]


In 1947, the story was adapted in a faithful manner into a stop motion-animated feature film of the same name, produced by Wilfried Bouchery for Films Claude Misonne.[41] It was first shown at the ABC Cinema on 11 January 1947 for a group of invited guests. It was screened publicly only once, on 21 December of that year, before Bouchery declared bankruptcy and fled to Argentina. All of the equipment was seized and a copy of the film is currently stored at Belgium's Cinémathèque Royale.[citation needed].

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. The Crab with the Golden Claws was the fifth 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.[42]

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, The Crab with the Golden Claws was the seventh story to be produced into the series, with the story spanning two episodes. 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.[43]

A motion capture film titled The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Peter Jackson was released in the US on 21 December 2011. The film was released in Europe at the end of October 2011. Parts of the story are taken from The Crab with the Golden Claws including the meeting and first adventures of Tintin and Captain Haddock, the Karaboudjan, the flight to Bagghar and the crab cans. The main plot including drug-smuggling is gone.[citation needed] A video-game tie-in to the movie has been announced at E3, 6 June with an unknown game release date.[citation needed]



  1. ^ The Le Soir published during the occupation are known as the Le Soir volé (Stolen Le Soir) as it was published without the approval of its original owners who resumed publication after the war.


  1. ^ Peeters 2012, pp. 117–118.
  2. ^ Assouline 2009, p. 66; Goddin 2009, p. 69; Peeters 2012, pp. 111–112.
  3. ^ Assouline 2009, p. 67; Goddin 2009, p. 70; Peeters 2012, pp. 112–113.
  4. ^ Assouline 2009, p. 68; Peeters 2012, pp. 113–114.
  5. ^ Assouline 2009, pp. 68–69; Goddin 2009, p. 70; Peeters 2012, p. 114.
  6. ^ Peeters 2012, pp. 114–115.
  7. ^ Assouline 2009, pp. 70–71; Peeters 2012, pp. 116–118.
  8. ^ Assouline 2009, p. 72; Peeters 2012, pp. 120–121.
  9. ^ Farr 2001, p. 92; Assouline 2009, p. 72; Peeters 2012, p. 121.
  10. ^ Goddin 2009, p. 73; Assouline 2009, p. 72.
  11. ^ Assouline 2009, p. 73; Peeters 2012.
  12. ^ a b Thompson 1991, p. 99; Farr 2001, p. 95.
  13. ^ a b c d Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 45.
  14. ^ Peeters 1989, p. 66; Thompson 1991, p. 102; Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 45; Assouline 2009, p. 78; Peeters 2012, p. 125.
  15. ^ Farr 2001, p. 95; Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 45; Assouline 2009, p. 79.
  16. ^ Peeters 2012, p. 126.
  17. ^ Assouline 2009, p. 79; Peeters 2012, p. 126.
  18. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 98.
  19. ^ Peeters 2012, p. 124.
  20. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 100; Assouline 2009, p. 74.
  21. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 100.
  22. ^ a b c Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 47.
  23. ^ a b Farr 2001, p. 95.
  24. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 46.
  25. ^ "What does Karaboudjan mean". Crab with the golden claws. Tintinologist. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  26. ^ Farr 2001, p. 95; Goddin 2009, p. 83.
  27. ^ Farr 2001, p. 95; Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 45.
  28. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 102; Farr 2001, p. 95.
  29. ^ a b c Thompson 1991, p. 103; Farr 2001, p. 96.
  30. ^ Tintin Crosses The Atlantic: The Golden Press Affair by Chris Owens at
  31. ^ Peeters 2012, pp. 124–126.
  32. ^ Peeters 1989, p. 66.
  33. ^ Assouline 2009, p. 73.
  34. ^ Farr 2001, p. 92.
  35. ^ Farr 2001, p. 96.
  36. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, pp. 47–48.
  37. ^ a b McCarthy 2006, p. 109.
  38. ^ Apostolidès 2010, p. 115.
  39. ^ Apostolidès 2010, p. 118.
  40. ^ McCarthy 2006, p. 18.
  41. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 87.
  42. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, pp. 87–88.
  43. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 90.


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