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(s) 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.


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

The Shooting Star (French: L'Étoile Mystérieuse, "The Mysterious Star") was serialized daily in the newspaper Le Soir[2] from 20 October 1941 to 22 May 1942[3] in black and white.[citation needed] 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 Shooting Star was the first Tintin adventure to be serialized daily in its entirety.[2]

The Shooting Star was published as a colour album in September 1942.[4] It was the first Tintin album to be in colour,[2] and the first Tintin story that was restricted from the start to what would become the standard fixed length of 62 pages.[5] The previous stories had all been about 110 pages long in their original incarnations due to the size of the panels.[citation needed] 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.[6]

The story was serialized during the Nazi occupation of Belgium in World War II, and the book contains antisemitic depictions of Jewish characters. Tintin's rival in trying to reach the meteor is an avaricious, manipulative Jewish businessman with a bulbous nose named Blumenstein in the original serialization. Blumenstein's caricature and characterization were typical of anti-Jewish stereotypes in Europe of the period. In a scene published 11 November 1941 (but left out of the book collection), two grotesquely caricatured Jewish characters hear Tintin talk of the end of the world; one of them laughs, as he says it means he will be free of his debts. 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.[7] Hergé later dismissed concerns over the Jewish caricature of Blumenstein, saying, "That was the style then."[8]

Blumenstein's name was changed to Bohlwinkel after the war, and was depicted as coming from the fictional country São Rico. Hergé said the name Bohlwinkel came from a word in the Brussels dialect, bollewinkel, which means "a little candy shop". Later, he said, he learned Bohlwinkel was a real Jewish name. In 1959, Hergé made a list of changes to be made to the artwork to alter the artwork in The Shooting Star, which included altering Bohlwinkel's nose, though the changes were indefinitely postponed.[9]

References to God were removed from the English-language version to avoid offending the church. In the original French, in the scene depicting Philippulus at the top of the ship's mast, Captain Haddock claims that he is the only master of the ship after God and orders Philippulus to climb down. But Philippulus rejects this by claiming it is he who is the only master after God. Tintin also claims to be the voice of God the Holy Father when he uses the megaphone to tell Philippulus to climb back down.[citation needed]

Reception and legacy[edit]

Tintinologist 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]

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.[10]

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.[11]

Points of interest[edit]

  • The atmosphere of doom and foreboding that occupies the early part of the story very much conveys the feelings of the time, when World War II was still at its height.[12][page needed]
  • 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 Peary was most likely another Antarctic RSS ship, RSS Discovery.[13] Hergé later claimed that Aurora was probably unseaworthy.[12][page needed]
  • 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.[14]


  1. ^ Peeters & Kover 2011, p. 132.
  2. ^ a b c Farr 2011, p. 99.
  3. ^ Frey 2008, p. 28; Lofficier & Lofficier 2011, p. 54.
  4. ^ Frey 2008, p. 28.
  5. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2011, p. 54.
  6. ^ Farr 2011, p. 100.
  7. ^ Frey 2008, pp. 28–30.
  8. ^ a b Assouline 2009, p. 81.
  9. ^ Peeters & Kover 2011, p. 135.
  10. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2011, p. 55.
  11. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2011, p. 59.
  12. ^ a b Farr 2011.
  13. ^ Nygård 2013, pp. 120–128.
  14. ^ Le Tournesol illustré by Albert Algoud, Casterman

Works cited[edit]

External links[edit]