The Shooting Star

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The Shooting Star
(L'Étoile mystérieuse)
Book cover. Tintin and Snowy in the bottom left corner look up, surprised, at a giant, red-and-white mushroom at the right.
Cover of the English edition
Date 1942 (colour)
Series The Adventures of Tintin
Publisher Casterman
Creative team
Creators Hergé
Original publication
Published in Le Soir Jeunesse
Date of publication 20 October 1941 – 21 May 1942
Language French
ISBN 2-203-00109-7
Publisher Methuen
Date 1961
ISBN 1-4052-0809-0
  • Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper
  • Michael Turner
Preceded by The Crab with the Golden Claws (1941)
Followed by The Secret of the Unicorn (1943)

The Shooting Star (French: L'Étoile mystérieuse) is the tenth volume of The Adventures of Tintin, the comics series by Belgian cartoonist Hergé. Tintin and Captain Haddock form a ship's crew and set off to the Arctic Ocean with an eccentric scientist on an international race to find a meteorite that has fallen to the Earth.

Hergé's Franco-Belgian comic was first serialized in black and white in Le Soir Jeunesse, children's supplement to Belgium's leading newspaper Le Soir, from 20 October 1941 to 21 May 1942, during the German occupation, then later that year was the first of the Tintin albums to be published in colour. The book has attracted criticism for its alleged antisemitism.


A giant meteorite approaches the earth, causing a heatwave of such degree that it melts the asphault on the streets. Professor Decimus Phostle observes it from his observatory, while a self-proclaimed prophet, Phillippulus, predicts the end of the world. The meteorite misses the earth, but a fragment of it plunges into the Arctic Ocean. Professor Phostle determines it is made of a new material which he names Phostlite, and sets off to find it with a crew of Western European scientists, as well as Tintin and his dog Snowy, in a ship helmed by Captain Haddock.[1]

However, unknown to the Aurora expedition, another team has already set out aboard the polar expedition ship Peary, backed by a financier from São Rico, Mr. Bohlwinkel. The expedition becomes a race to be the first to land on the meteorite. Bohlwinkel attempts to sabotage the Aurora expedition by getting a henchman to plant a stick of dynamite on the ship on the eve of departure, but it is found and thrown overboard. While crossing the North Sea, the Aurora is almost rammed by another of Bohlwinkel's ships, but Haddock manages to steer his ship out of the way. Further setbacks occur at the Icelandic port of Akureyri, when Captain Haddock is informed that there is no fuel available. He is furious, but then he and Tintin come across an old friend of his, Captain Chester, who reveals that there is plenty of fuel and that the Golden Oil Company (which has a fuel monopoly) is owned by Bohlwinkel. The three of them devise a plan to run a hose from Chester's ship, Sirius, to the Aurora and thus trick Golden Oil into providing them with the fuel they need.

Coming close to catching the Peary, the Aurora then receives an indistinct distress call from another ship and has to turn round in order to help. Inquiries by Tintin lead him to realise that the distress signal is a fake designed to further delay them. Resuming the journey, they then intercept a cable announcing that the Peary expedition has reached the meteorite but not actually claimed it yet. Tintin uses the ship's seaplane to parachute on to the meteorite and plant the expedition flag, beating the crew of the Peary by seconds. The Aurora expedition has won the race.

Tintin makes camp while the ship's over-exerted engines are repaired. The next day he discovers the remarkable properties of Phostlite: his apple core instantly grows into an enormous tree full of oversized apples, and a maggot turns into a massive butterfly. Tintin is menaced by a giant spider and huge, exploding mushrooms before rescue arrives. Then a sudden seaquake shakes the meteorite to its core; the young reporter and Snowy retrieve a rock sample and jump to safety as the meteorite sinks into the sea.

The triumphant expedition's return is reported on the radio. Bohlwinkel listens at first in frustrated silence, but then gets concerned at the news that law enforcement agencies are closing in on him over his attempts at destroying and delaying the Aurora. Back on the ship itself, as they prepare to dock, the Captain announces that they are short on one vital commodity—whisky.



The story was serialized during the Nazi occupation of Belgium in World War II, and the book contains antisemitic depictions of Jewish characters. Le Soir itself was publishing a variety of anti-Semitic articles at the time, calling for the Jews to be further excluded from public life and describing them as racial enemies of the Belgians.[2] On 27 May 1942, a week after The Shooting Star began serialisation, the occupied government proclaimed that all Jews in Belgium would have to wear a yellow star on their clothing, and in July the Gestapo began undertaking raids on Jewish premises. They would subsequently be deported to death camps, with around 32,000 Belgian Jews being killed.[3] Hergé later recalled that "I saw very few Jews wearing the yellow star, but finally I did see some. They told me that some Jews were gone; that people had come for them and sent them away. I didn't want to believe it."[4]

A German Arado 196 seaplane used by Hergé as inspiration for the type used by Tintin in the book

Hergé later asserted that The Shooting Star revolved around the theme of "the rivalry for progress between Europe and the United States."[5] Although not disliking Americans themselves, he exhibited a strong dislike of U.S. big business,[6] and had exhibited anti-American themes in a number of his previous works, namely Tintin in America.[7] During the serialisation of the story, in December 1942 the U.S. joined the Allies in the Second World War, with Germany declaring war on them.[8] Reflecting this political trend, all of the scientists featured in the story were from Axis or neutral countries.[9] However, as Harry Thompson noted, the only two nation-states in Europe not fitting into those two categories at the time was the Soviet Union and United Kingdom, and that furthermore the characters of Haddock and Chester were British.[6] The hydroplane on which the expedition travels was based on a German Arado 196-A.[10]

In most of the Tintin books involving sea travel, Hergé was careful to obtain as much data concerning the ships involved in the adventure as possible. Aurora was based on the actual ship RRS William Scoresby and the Peary was most likely another Antarctic RSS ship, RSS Discovery.[11] Hergé later claimed that Aurora was probably unseaworthy.[12]

The Swedish expedition member Eric Björgenskjöld (seen on the right of the panel in which Professor Phostle is given the flag to plant on the meteorite) physically resembles a real person: Auguste Piccard, who was Hergé's inspiration for Professor Calculus.[13] Lofficier and Lofficier noted similarities between The Shooting Star and Jules Verne's 1908 novel The Chase of the Golden Meteor. As in Hergé's story, Verne's novel featured an expedition to he North Atlantic to find a meteor fragment which contained a new element. The competing expedition teams were led by an eccentric professor and a Jewish banker, and Verne's novel had a Doktor Schultze to Hergé's Professor Schulze—both from the University of Jena. Hergé claimed not to have read more than one of Verne's novels, although it may be that this influence had been passed on to him through Jacques Van Melkebeke.[14]


"All I actually did was show a villanous financier with a Semitic appearance and a Jewish name: Blumenstein, in The Shooting Star. But does that mean there was anti-Semitism on my part? It seems to me that in my entire panoply of bad guys there are all sorts; I have shown a lot of "villains" of various origins, without any particular treatment of this or that race... We've always told Jewish stories, Marseillaise stories, Scottish stories. But who could have predicted that the Jewish stories would end as we know now that they did, in the death camps of Treblinka and Auschwitz?"

Hergé to Numa Sadoul[15]

Biographer Pierre Assouline noted that there was a "remarkable correlation" between the anti-Semitic nature of Le Soir's editorials and the depiction of Jews in The Shooting Star.[8] The character of Blumenstein was also based such anti-Semitic stereotypes, having a bulbous nose and being an avaricious, manipulative businessman.[16] In Le Soir, Hergé featured a gag in which two Jews hear the prophetic news that the end of the world is near. They rub their hands together in eagerness, with one commenting "Did you hear, Isaac? The end of the world! What if it's true?". The other responds: "Hey, hey, it vould be a gut ding, Solomon! I owe my suppliers 50,000 francs, and zis ay I von't haf to pay vem!" Hergé omitted this scene when publishing the story in book form.[17] Hergé had recently provided illustrations for Robert de Vroyland's Fables, a number of which had been based on anti-Semitic stereotypes, reflecting the racist nature of much of the book.[18] Hergé later dismissed concerns over the Jewish caricature of Blumenstein, saying, "That was the style then."[8]

According to Hugo Frey, the antisemitism in The Shooting Star played into the political situation in Belgium a the time; within months of the story's publication, legislation was passed to collect and deport Jews from Belgium to German concentration camps. In contrast, Matthew Screech says Blumenstein was an anti-American stereotype, not anti-Jewish one.[19] Similarly, Tintinologist Michael Farr asserted that Blumenstein was "more parodied as a financier than Jew".[20] Conversely, Lofficier and Lofficier asserted that both anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism was present, asserting that it is the United States and International Jewry who were the "ruthless opponents" of Tintin.[21]


One of the politically-loaded images. Initially, the antagonists were Americans (top), while later editions feature the flag of the fictitious country São Rico (bottom).

The Shooting Star (in the original, L'Étoile Mystérieuse, or The Mysterious Star[22]) was serialized daily in the newspaper Le Soir from 20 October 1941 to 21 May 1942.[23] Tintin's previous adventure, The Crab with the Golden Claws, had been serialized weekly until the demise of the newspaper it appeared in, Le Soir Jeunesse, and continued daily in Le Soir; The Crab had ended serialisation the day before The Shooting Star began.[22] The Shooting Star was the first Tintin adventure to be serialized daily in its entirety.[22] As with previous Adventures of Tintin, the story was subsequently serialised in France in the Catholic newspaper Cœurs Vaillants from 6 June 1943.[24]

On page 20 of the published book, Hergé included a cameo of the characters Thomson and Thompson, as well as Quick and Flupke.[21] He also introduced Captain Chester, who would be mentioned in later adventures, and Professor Cantonneau, who returns in The Seven Crystal Balls.[25]

The Shooting Star was published as a colour album by Casterman in September 1942.[26] Unlike the previous books in the series, because it was printed immediately in colour, it did not need to be totally redrawn.[27] It was the first volume of the Adventures of Tintin album to have been concived of at the start as the standard fixed length of 62 pages with colour throughout.[28] The 176 daily strips from the original serialization were not enough to fill up the 62 pages Casterman had allotted the book, so Hergé added panels, such as the half-page panel on page three of a giant telescope.[20] Hergé had wanted to include a small gold star inside the "o" of "Étoile" on the cover page, but Casterman refused, deeming it too expensive.[29]

In 1954, Hergé set about making various changes to the story for its re-publication. Aware of the controversy surrounding the anti-Semitic depiction of Blumenstein, he decided to rename the character; he named the character Bolhwinkel after bollewinkel, the name of a candy shop in Brussels dialect. However, he later discovered that by coincidence, Bolhwinkel was also a Jewish name.[30] Trying to tone down the book's anti-American sentiment, he also changed the United States to a fictional South American nation called São Rico, substituting the U.S. flag flown by the Peary's crew to that of the fictional state.[31] In 1959, Hergé made a list of changes to be made to the artwork in The Shooting Star, which included altering Bohlwinkel's nose, though the changes were indefinitely postponed.[4]

Reception and legacy[edit]

"The Shooting Star remains to this day a blot on Hergé's record. How did the man who had so eloquently defended the Native Americans in Tintin in America and the Chinese in The Blue Lotus, who only three years before denounced fascism in King Ottokar's Sceptre, become a propagandist for the Axis remains hard to understand. It did not have to be that way."

Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier [21]

Hergé biographer Pierre Assouline remarked that Hergé's attention to accuracy lapsed in The Shooting Star: neither a comet nor an asteroid approaching Earth would cause a heat wave, nor would it have floated on the surface of the ocean, but would have plunged into its depths, leaving a massive tsunami in its wake.[8] He also noted that the concept of madness was a recurring theme throughout the story, and that there was "an unreality in the whole adventure".[8] Fellow biographer Benoit Peeters asserted that The Shooting Star was "of great power and brilliant construction".[5] Elsewhere, Peeters noted that the book was "notable for the entry of the fantastic into Hergé's work."[32]

Jean-Marc Lofficier and Randy Lofficier thought it a "sad moment" in the series' history due to its anti-Semitism, awarding it one out of five stars.[7] Nevertheless, they felt that the "pre-apocalyptic ambience is stark and believable", and that the giant mushrooms on the meteor were a "strange anticipation" of the mushroom-clouds produced by the atomic bomb.[21] Focusing on the characters of Professor Phostle and Philippulus, they asserted that both resembled Professor Sarcophagus from Cigars of the Pharaoh and that the former was "in the Jules Verne tradition" of eccentric professors.[33]

Tintinologist Harry Thompson described The Shooting Star as "the most important of all Hergé's wartime stories", having "an air of bizarre fantasy" that was unlike his prior work.[34] He also thought that the character of Professor Phostle was a protoype for Professor Calculus, who would be introduced later in the series.[35] Fellow Tintinologist Michael Farr asserted that the apocalyptic setting of the story reflected the mood in Europe at the time, which was engaged in war.[22] He notes that the story's "opening pages" are "unique in his work for the feeling of foreboding they convey", and that "Hergé daringly eschews the strip cartoonist's recognised means of denoting a dream, deliberately confusing the reader."[22] He also felt that the "flow of the narrative is less accomplished" than in other stories, with "spurts and rushes followed by slower passages, upsetting the rhythm and pace."[36]

Nazi apologists and revisionists such as French Holocaust denier Olivier Mathieu used The Shooting Star as evidence that Hergé was an anti-Semite and had Nazi sympathies.[37]



  1. ^ Peeters & Kover 2011, p. 132.
  2. ^ Assouline 2009, p. 82; Peeters 2012, p. 134.
  3. ^ Assouline 2009, pp. 81–82; Peeters 2012, p. 135.
  4. ^ a b Peeters 2012, p. 135.
  5. ^ a b Peeters 2012, p. 132.
  6. ^ a b Thompson 1991, p. 107.
  7. ^ a b Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 51.
  8. ^ a b c d e Assouline 2009, p. 81.
  9. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 107; Farr 2001, p. 100; Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 50.
  10. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 50; Farr 2001, p. 100; Peeters 2012, p. 133.
  11. ^ Nygård 2013, pp. 120–128.
  12. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 110; Peeters 1989, p. 71.
  13. ^ Remy 2012, p. 22.
  14. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 49.
  15. ^ Peeters 2012, p. 134.
  16. ^ Assouline 2009, p. 81; Peeters 2012, p. 133.
  17. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 49; Peeters 2012, p. 133.
  18. ^ Peeters 2012, pp. 131–132.
  19. ^ Frey 2008, pp. 28–30.
  20. ^ a b Farr 2001, p. 100.
  21. ^ a b c d Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 50.
  22. ^ a b c d e Farr 2001, p. 99.
  23. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 48; Frey 2008, p. 28; Assouline 2009, p. 80.
  24. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 48.
  25. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 109; Farr 2001, p. 99; Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 49.
  26. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 48; Frey 2008, p. 28.
  27. ^ Remy 2012, p. 23.
  28. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 108; Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 48.
  29. ^ Assouline 2009, p. 83.
  30. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 108; Farr 2001, p. 100; Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 49; Peeters 2012, p. 135.
  31. ^ Thompson 1991, pp. 107–108; Farr 2001, p. 100; Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 49; Peeters 2012, p. 135.
  32. ^ Peeters 1989, p. 70.
  33. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, pp. 48–49.
  34. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 106.
  35. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 109.
  36. ^ Farr 2001, p. 103.
  37. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2011, p. 59.


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