Tintin and his dog Snowy, by Hergé
|First appearance||Le Petit Vingtième (Tintin in the Land of the Soviets) (10 January 1929)|
Tintin [tɛ̃tɛ̃] is a fictional character in The Adventures of Tintin, the series of comic albums written and illustrated by Belgian artist Hergé. Tintin is the protagonist, the eponymous hero of the series. He is a reporter and adventurer who travels around the world with his dog Snowy.
Character history 
Tintin debuted in Le Petit Vingtième on 10 January 1929. He was largely based on an earlier character created by Hergé, a chubby boy-scout named Totor (Tintin, however, is slender). The comics starring Totor, Les aventures de Totor, chef de patrouille des Hannetons (The Adventures of Totor, Leader of the Cockchafer Patrol), appeared in the magazine Le Boy-Scout Belge between 1926 and 1929.
In the later comic book series, Tintin is a young reporter who is drawn to dangerous international intrigues in which his quick thinking, bravery and chronic good luck save the day. Almost every adventure features Tintin sent off to investigate an assignment, but rarely does he actually turn in a story without first getting caught up in an adventure. Although the strip was Belgian, Hergé was inconsistent or vague about assigning Tintin a nationality, depicting him instead as broadly European. In some of the early books, like Tintin in the Congo or The Black Island, a Belgian identity is fairly explicit. In The Secret of the Unicorn, the reader can unmistakably recognise the streets of Brussels at the beginning of the story. In the television series, Tintin states that he and Snowy are from Brussels in the episode of The Crab with the Golden Claws. Brussels is also explicitly mentioned as Tintin's home address in Tintin in the Land of the Soviets. In later adventures, as with other aspects of his character's history and family, Tintin's nationality is usually not directly stated, although some of the street scenes in The Red Sea Sharks have been identified as happening in Brussels.
Readers and critics have described Tintin as a well-rounded yet open-ended character, noting that his rather neutral personality—sometimes labelled as bland—permits a balanced reflection of the evil, folly and foolhardiness which surrounds him. His boy-scout ideals, which represent Hergé's own, are never compromised by the character, and his status allows the reader to assume his position within the story, rather than merely following the adventures of a strong protagonist. Tintin's iconic representation enhances this aspect, with Scott McCloud noting that it "allows readers to mask themselves in a character and safely enter a sensually stimulating world."
Tintin is an intelligent and imaginative character with good powers of deduction. However, while in deep thought, he tends to be absent-minded and fails to notice things around him. He seems to know multiple foreign languages and reads extensively on a variety of subjects. He is skilled at driving automobiles (including a tank), riding horses or motorcycles, and flying aeroplanes and helicopters. Despite his generally delicate and unassuming appearance, Tintin is quite athletic and possesses great physical strength, often getting into fights where he is able to knock out enemies much larger than himself with a single blow. Although he is small as opposed to the other characters, he is an excellent swimmer, has been shown to be a skilled mountaineer, has been shown to do yoga, and can survive falls that would normally cause serious injuries.
Tintin's age is never accurately revealed within the comics. Other characters treat him as a worldly young adult, as shown by the absence of concerns like parents or school, as well as by his wide solo travels all over the globe. He's old enough to enter a pub and drink a beer (The Black Island) and old enough to live alone with his dog in his own apartment. However, he is still referred to as a "young boy", and a "puppy" in The Crab with the Golden Claws. A 1979 television interview with Hergé settled the matter, when Hergé stated that when he first thought about Tintin, the character was 14 or 15 years old, and by the time of the interview stated: "but now, let's say that he is 17." In one shot in the television series episode The Secret of the Unicorn, Tintin's passport states his birth year as 1929 (the year of his print debut).
Tintin has no family members: any mention of a mother, father or siblings is noticeably absent. He makes no mention of his family throughout the series. Nowhere is it implied that he is an orphan; it could be argued that he meets his family between adventures. Tintin's lack of relatives is irrelevant to his adventuring; it is the adopted family of friends he makes through his exploits that make up his family unit.
Unlike other characters such as Captain Haddock or Professor Calculus, Tintin has no discernible past prior to the beginning of the series. Whereas Haddock can recall a particularly fierce storm at sea or Calculus can boast of his athletic past, Tintin's roots prior to Land of the Soviets are never discussed (although in 'The Black Island,' he mentions always loving puzzles). His companions encounter old friends like Captain Chester or Hercule Tarragon, yet Tintin only meets friends or enemies whom he met in previous adventures.
Even the name "Tintin" remains a mystery. Whether it is a first name or a surname is unknown. It is a known hypocoristic form of Augustin. A possibility is that it is not actually the reporter's real name, but rather a pseudonym that the character uses to protect his identity while writing columns for his newspaper, Le Petit Vingtième. At the time when the stories first came out, journalists' usage of pseudonyms was commonplace. The possibility that it may not be his real name is also hinted in Cigars of the Pharaoh when Tintin is accused of poisoning one of a notable sheik's servants. Having been captured and brought to his tent, the enraged sheik demands Tintin's name. Tintin's characteristically placid answer is: "My name? It won't mean a thing to you... but at home they call me Tintin." A simpler theory for his name is the fact that Franco-Belgian comics at the time generally had heroes with eccentric, memorable single names that could pass off as first names or surnames. Many people tend to think of "Tintin" as a surname, but it is likely that Hergé meant to keep it a mystery. Hergé was a great admirer of Benjamin Rabier and may have derived the name (and hairstyle) from Rabier's Tintin lutin (1897). There also have been theories that Tintin is a nickname for Martin or Augustin. One last theory holds that the name "Tintin" signifies nothing, pointing to the character's cryptic nature. As Paul LaFarge writes,
Tintin was a word before it was a name; it means 'nothing,' and the phrase faire tintin loosely means "to go without." Hergé's boy reporter does not bear the name by accident.
In The Crab with the Golden Claws, when a Japanese man is about to drop a letter in Tintin's letterbox (and gets kidnapped just then), one can notice the name of Hergé, on the adjacent letterbox, suggesting that the writer himself was Tintin's neighbour.
Throughout much of the series, Tintin's attitude is characterised by inquisitive tendencies and a noble, forgiving nature. While his idealism earns him the admiration of many people he meets, it also places him in danger on occasion and serves as a foil to the more sceptical demeanour of other characters such as Captain Haddock. And unlike nearly every other character he meets, Tintin can be relied upon to remain calm and cool-headed, even in the worst of circumstances. Only on very rare occasions, such as after Haddock's drunken antics threatened his friends' lives (Explorers on the Moon), does Tintin actually lose his temper.
Tintin's political views are generally ambiguous in many of the books and specific expression of his opinions are rare. While in earlier books such as Tintin in the Land of the Soviets and Tintin in the Congo Tintin is characterised as a proud Belgian Catholic, later books avoid specific mention of his views (see Ideology of Tintin). His opinions appear to change over time, though in many situations he can be classified as a pacifist, reflecting a dislike of war. At the beginning of Tintin and the Picaros, he is seen wearing a motorcycle helmet with a peace symbol on it.
Towards the end of the series, Tintin's character changes to a degree. In later stories, Tintin no longer actively seeks out adventure but is rather forced into a situation by events beyond his control (such as being kidnapped or motivated to rescue a friend). This is especially evident in Flight 714 and Tintin and the Picaros, where Tintin's loss of enthusiasm for adventure is apparent, and his youthful idealism appears to have been replaced by a somewhat more cynical outlook. There has been much debate among readers and critics about this shift in characterisation, as these final adventures have received varying and sometimes negative responses. Critics argue that these books represent either a late period of eccentricity, or puzzling disappointments, while others claim that Tintin's shift represents a more complex depiction of his character. Hergé commented upon this change, noting that in the late phases of his career, "Tintin has lost control, he is not on top of events anymore, he is subjected to them." However, in the unfinished album Tintin and Alph-Art, Tintin regained much of his old adventurous personality, actively investigating suspicious events and murder threats.
The earlier version of Tintin was apparently inspired, at least in part, by Hergé's younger brother, Paul Remi, a career soldier. Tired of being referred to as "Major Tintin" by his colleagues, Paul later shaved his hair and adopted a more Erich von Stroheim look. Hergé subsequently used Paul's appearance as a model for the villainous Colonel Sponsz in The Calculus Affair. Tintin and Sponsz, although physically very different, have actually quite similar hair spikes.
Hergé may have also been inspired by a Danish boy scout and later actor Palle Huld, who was 15 years old when he travelled around the world and wrote A Boy Scout Around the World. In the book he describes his tour to the Soviet Union, America, China, and Africa, and about the dramatic adventures he experienced. It was translated into eleven languages and it was certainly read by Hergé. Palle Huld died in 2010 at the age of 98. The similarities between Tintin and Palle Huld are striking, not only in their clothing and posture, innocent charisma, open smile, optimism, and forward spirit, but also in their more elusive similarities: the boy without family or background, lonely, asexual, and strikingly impersonal.
However, the inspiration for Tintin may also have come from a fellow student of Hergé's from St. Boniface named Charles, who had adopted a style of plus fours and argyle socks which caused him to be the subject of no little ridicule. Harry Thompson notes the inspiration may be tinged slightly, suggesting that if "Hergé had been one of the laughers, an element of guilt was involved."
The first three adventures of Tintin visit places visited by photographer-reporter Robert Sexé, recorded in the Belgian press from the mid to late 1920s. Sexé was born in 1890 in La Roche-sur-Yon in Vendée in Western France. Janpol Schulz wrote a biography of Robert Sexé titled "Sexé au pays des Soviets" (Sexé in the Land of the Soviets) to mimic the name of the first Tintin Adventure. This was published in 1996.
Robert Sexé has been noted to have a similar appearance to Tintin, and the Hergé Foundation in Belgium has admitted that it is not too hard to imagine how Hergé could have been influenced by the exploits of Sexé. At that time Sexé had been round the world on a motorcycle made by Gillet of Herstal. René Milhoux was a Grand-Prix champion and motorcycle record holder of the era, and in 1928, while Sexé was in Herstal speaking with Léon Gillet about his future projects, Mr. Gillet put him in contact with his new champion, Milhoux, who had just left Ready motorcycles for Gillet of Herstal. The two men quickly struck up a friendship, and spent hours talking about motorcycles and voyages, Sexé explaining his needs and Milhoux giving his knowledge on mechanics and motorbikes pushed beyond their limits.
Thanks to this union of knowledge and experience, Robert Sexé would head off on numerous trips throughout the world, writing countless press accounts. The General Secretary of the Hergé Foundation in Belgium has admitted that it is not too hard to imagine how a young George Rémi, better known as Hergé, could have been inspired by the well-publicized exploits of these two friends, Sexé with his trips and documentaries and Milhoux with his triumphs and records, to create the characters of Tintin the famous travelling reporter, and his faithful companion Milou (Snowy).
Hergé himself has noted that Tintin existed as his personal expression, and although he recorded in 1947 that he knew "Tintin is no longer me, that, if he is to go on living, it will be by a sort of artificial respiration that I will have to practice constantly and which exhausts me, and will exhaust me more and more", he was also fond of stating "Tintin, c'est moi!" ("Tintin, that's me!").
Shortly before his death, former Belgian Nazi collaborator Léon Degrelle created controversy by stating that the Tintin character was originally based on himself. Degrelle had indeed known Hergé during his early career as a journalist, but this allegation is generally considered a fabrication of the notorious self-booster Degrelle.
Tintin actors and publicity stunts 
Young people have often played the part of Tintin in real-life events staged by the publishers as well as in plays and movies. The first time "Tintin" appeared "live" was in a publicity stunt held towards the end of the publication of the first adventure, Tintin in the Land of the Soviets in Le Petit Vingtième. It was announced that "Tintin" would be at the Gare du Nord station in Brussels on 8 May 1930.
Fifteen-year-old boy scout Lucien Pepermans was chosen by his scout leader to play the part. Pepermans dressed as a muzhik and he and Hergé travelled to the station by train. They were expecting only a handful of readers but instead found themselves mobbed by a whole horde of fans. Some seventy years later, in 2000, Pepermans, now living in an old folks' home, was guest of honour at a meeting of the Amis d'Hergé ("Friends of Hergé"), hosted by Jean-Pierre Talbot.
On 9 July 1931, another scout, 14-year-old Henri Dendoncker, dressed in African safari gear and played the part for Tintin's return from the Congo. He and a fox terrier, representing Snowy, were accompanied by Hergé, ten Congolese and other boys dressed as Quick & Flupke. During World War II, Dendoncker served with Britain's SOE. Captured by the Germans, he survived the concentration camps, was decorated by the Queen and became a British citizen under the name "Dark".
René Boey played the part to mark the return of Tintin from America on 13 November 1932. The last such publicity stunt was done in October 1935 with Charles Stie "returning" from Shanghai and The Blue Lotus.
Actress Jane Rubens was the first to play Tintin on stage in April 1941. The plays, written by Jacques Van Melkebeke, included Tintin in India – the Mystery of the Blue Diamond and Mr Boullock's Disappearance. She was later replaced by 11-year-old Roland Ravez, who also lent his voice to recordings of the Cigars of the Pharaoh and The Blue Lotus. Another voice actor was Maurice Sarfati. Jean-Pierre Talbot played Tintin in two live-action movie adaptations: Tintin and the Golden Fleece in 1961 and Tintin and the Blue Oranges in 1964. English actor Russell Tovey played the role at the London Barbican Theatre during the 2005–6 season of a Young Vic adaptation of Tintin in Tibet.
Canadian actor Colin O'Meara voiced Tintin on an animated adaptation of the stories, which originally aired on HBO and subsequently Nickelodeon. Tintin is played by Jamie Bell the 2011 performance-capture film which merges plots from several books. He is voiced by Adam Howden in the video game based on the film.
Tintin 75th anniversary silver coin 
Tintin and his dog Snowy were the topic of a silver collectors' coin, the 10 euro 75 years of Tintin Anniversary commemorative coin. A portrait of Tintin and Snowy can be seen in the obverse side of the coin.
Philip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials, commented that Tintin was one of his favourite characters due to "his blankness" and "lack of depth" as it makes him "an empty page on which adventures can be drawn".
Further reading 
- Lane, Anthony. "A Boy's World: the Tintin Century". The New Yorker, 28 May 2007, pp. 46–53.
- The official Tintin site
- Tintinologist.org – long-established English-language fan site.
- Tintin Books
- Spielberg's Tintin – Comics2Film
- Tintin in different languages
- Fictional flags in the Tintin stories
- BBC news story about translation of Tintin into Hindi
- BBC news story about the history of Tintin
- The Economist, "A very European hero"
- Serial Creative Director – tintin
- Tintin at the Internet Movie Database
See also 
- Tintin in the dock – The Guardian, Manchester; Saturday 30 January 1999; page T.008
- Faces of the week – BBC News, Friday 16 December 2005
- McCloud, Scott (1993). Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. Kitchen Sink Press. ISBN 0-87816-243-7.
- Tintin and the Picaros (Casterman, 1976).
- Hergé (1979) (in french). Tintin at Home. http://www.viddler.com/explore/whoisit88/videos/8.
- "Euro coin honours Tintin and Snowy". BBC News. Thursday 8 January.
- LaFarge, Paul. "Much Ado About Nothing," Bookforum (Summer 2008), p. 19.
- Flight 714 (Casterman, 1968).
- Sadoul, Numa; translated by Michel Didier (February 2003). "The Hergé Interview". The Comics Journal 1 (250): 180–205.
- The World of Tintin Conference 2004 – Doyle, Simon, Saturday 15 May 2004
- Dagens Nyheter: "Riktiga" Tintin är död
- DN: Palle Huld: Jorden rundt i 44 dage
- Thompson, Harry (1991). Tintin: Hergé and his creation (First ed.). Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-52393-X.
- The Vendéen Tintin, automated translation from Le journal de la Vendée, 16 April 2007
- "Writer tracks down Tintin's real life inspiration" The Guardian (Manchester); 17 May 1999; Paul Webster; p. 15
- Hergé & Tintin: Discover a world of Tintinology – Gravett, Paul, originally from The Comics Journal, 2003
- Farr, Michael (March 2004). "Thundering Typhoons". History Today 54 (3): 62.
- Ce mysteriéux Monsieur Hergé ("That Mysterious Mister Hergé"), published by La Dernière Heure in 2003
- Short biography of Hergé based on his interviews with Numa Sadoul
- Archived article on Henri Dendoncker at the Le Soir website
- Hergé’s Adventures of Tintin at the Barbican Theatre
- "The 100 favourite fictional characters... as chosen by 100 literary luminaries". The Independent. 3 March 2005. Retrieved 2 February 2011.