Tintin and the Picaros

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Tintin and the Picaros
(Tintin et les Picaros)
Tintin, Snowy, Haddock, and Calculus are running towards us, into the jungle, with the view of an Aztec pyramid in the background.
Cover of the English edition
Date 1976
Series The Adventures of Tintin
Publisher Casterman
Creative team
Creator Hergé
Original publication
Published in Tintin magazine
Date of publication 1 September 1975 – 1 January 1976
Language French
Publisher Methuen
Date 1976
  • Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper
  • Michael Turner
Preceded by Flight 714 (1968)
Followed by Tintin and Alph-Art (1986)

Tintin and the Picaros (French: Tintin et les Picaros) is the twenty-third volume of The Adventures of Tintin, the comics series by Belgian cartoonist Hergé. Smelling a rat, Tintin at first refuses to become part of this new adventure, in which his friends Captain Haddock and Professor Calculus join General Alcazar and his small band of guerrillas, the Picaros, in the jungle of San Theodoros. The last completed Hergé adventure, several of the characters have undergone notable changes: Tintin no longer enjoys adventuring and has abandoned his trademark plus fours for bell-bottoms, Captain Haddock can no longer drink alcohol and General Alcazar's masculinity is ridiculed by his new domineering wife.[1]

Historical context[edit]

Tintin and the Picaros is set in the historical context of the Latin American liberation movements of the 1960s. General Alcazar was inspired by the Cuban revolutionist, Fidel Castro. Alcazar's guerilla band was based on Castro's barbudos (Spanish for bearded men). In fact, Hergé originally thought of calling Alcazar's men Bigotudos (“mustachioed men”). Interestingly, the inspiration for General Alcazar's wife Peggy came from one of the women leaders of Ku Klux Klan.[2]


Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro (left, photographed in 1972) served as the inspiration for General Alcazar

Tintin, Captain Haddock and Professor Calculus hear in the news that Bianca Castafiore, her maid Irma, pianist Igor Wagner and Thomson and Thompson have been imprisoned in San Theodoros for allegedly attempting to overthrow the military dictatorship of General Tapioca, who has yet again deposed Tintin's old friend General Alcazar, this time with the help of the Kûrvi-Tasch regime of Borduria. The trio themselves are soon accused of allegedly taking part in the conspiracy, but are later invited by Tapioca to Tapiocapolis, the capital of San Theodoros, to hear their side of the story and clear them of all charges if they are innocent. While the Captain and the Professor accept the invite, Tintin decides to stay back at Marlinspike, as he is suspicious of the nature and reason of the invite.

At Tapiocapolis, the Captain and the Professor are received warmly by Colonel Alvarez, aide-de-camp to General Tapioca and are accommodated in a luxury apartment in the outskirts of Tapiocapolis, which is bugged (though the duo don't realise it immediately). The Captain soon finds out that they are being imprisoned after he is restricted from doing normal activities (such as buying tobacco on his own at night). Later, Tintin joins them due to the need of trying to rescue Castafiore, her entourage and the Thompsons. A few days later, Pablo, (who had saved Tintin's life in The Broken Ear), meets the trio and reveals that Colonel Sponsz, the former Chief of the Bordurian secret police ZEP who has now been posted as Technical Advisor to Tapioca, was responsible for framing the entire plot to trap them in revenge for his humiliation at their hands in Borduria (from The Calculus Affair) and also adds that Alcazar would rescue them from being killed by Sponsz and his men while on a trip to an ancient pyramid the following morning. Alcazar does rescue them, but it soon turns out that Pablo and Alvarez are involved in Sponsz's plot to kill the trio and Alcazar. The four narrowly manage to escape being blasted to death by the San Theodoros Army and soon Tintin, the Captain and the Professor seek refuge in Alcazar and his small band of guerrillas, the Picaros, who are leading the resistance against the Tapioca regime.

At the Picaros' camp deep in the jungle, the trio find out that all the Picaros are inebriated, thanks to Tapioca dropping boxes containing a large number of whisky bottles over their camp (The indigenous Arumbayas are also inebriated because of this) as a result of which they are not in a position to revolt against Tapioca. They also find out that Alcazar is now being dominated by his wife Peggy Alcazar, who nags him constantly about his failure to achieve a successful revolution.

Later, they see the trial of Castafiore and the Thompsons on television, which turns out to be nothing more than a show trial orchestrated by Sponsz. The Thompsons and Castafiore show courage and express contempt at what a farce it is. Castafiore is sentenced to life imprisonment, while the Thompsons are sentenced to death by firing squad during the annual San Theodoros carnival, which is only three days away. Castafiore has the last word, with her rendition of her trademark Jewel Song causing them to clear the court.

Tintin and the Captain, though uninterested in Alcazar's cause, decide to assist him in overthrowing Tapioca as that is the only way they can save Castafiore, her entourage and the Thompsons. They decide to use the Professor's latest invention to cure the Picaros of their alcoholism. The Professor had invented a pill that makes alcohol taste disgusting to anyone who ingests it with food or drink. He had first tested it on the Captain (as a result of which he can no longer drink alcohol, and is extremely offended when he finds out why) and later on the Arumbayas (when they had camped in the Arumbaya village for the night on the journey to the Picaros camp) with successful results. At first the Picaros are suspicious, thinking that the Professor is trying to poison them, but later change their minds and eat the food with the pills in it after they see Snowy eat the food, thus curing their alcoholism.

Soon, Jolyon Wagg and his troupe, the "Jolly Follies", arrive at the camp, having lost their way to Tapiocapolis where they are going to take part in the carnival. Alcazar, with a little advice from Tintin, launches an assault on Tapioca during the carnival by "borrowing" the troupe's bus and costumes, using which he sneaks himself, Tintin, the Captain and the Picaros into the capital. He topples Tapioca, but on Tintin's urging, does not execute him, as is the tradition. Tapioca is banished from the country instead, while a disappointed Sponsz is sent back to Borduria. Pablo is also freed and pardoned by Tintin despite his treachery, as he had once saved his life (which does not go down well with the Captain), while Alvarez defects to Alcazar's side. Alvarez, along with Tintin and the Captain, then go down to the Tapiocapolis prison and rescue the Thompsons, who are about to be executed, as well as Castafiore and her entourage.

The next morning, Alcazar takes over as the President of San Theodoros and honours Tintin, the Captain, the Professor, Wagg and the Jolly Follies for their efforts to overthrow Tapioca. He also gives his wife the presidential palace he had promised her, but she is still not impressed and continues to henpeck him. A few days later, with all matters resolved, Tintin, the Captain and the Professor return to Marlinspike. As their plane is taking off, a final, skeptical political message is pictorially displayed - as under Tapioca, the city slums under Alcazar's regime are filled with wretched, starving people and patrolled by apathetic police. Nothing has changed, except the police uniforms and a Viva Tapioca sign that has been changed to read Viva Alcazar.

Changes from earlier books[edit]

Tintin and the Picaros features changes in the representation of Tintin. The most visible change is that his trousers have been modernized, as he wears bell bottoms rather than the plus fours that he had always worn previously. In addition, the book introduces some new hobbies that Tintin had not previously engaged in: he is shown practicing yoga in his spare time, and riding a motorbike; his helmet is marked with the CND logo.


As in The Broken Ear, the original French text of Tintin and the Picaros features an invented language for the Arumbaya Indians that is based on Marols, the Brussels dialect spoken by Hergé's grandmother. The English translation replaces this with a language that is a phonetic rendering of Cockney English. When offering food, Chief Avakuki ("'ave a cookie") says "Owzah g'rubai" ("'Ow's the grub, eh?"), "Oozfah sek 'unds" (who's for seconds), "Ava'n ip" ('Ave a nip) and "goh blimeh! Wa'samma ta, li li li va? Lem eshoya!" ("Cor blimey! What's the matter, lily liver? Let me show ya!") Similarly the ancient pyramid featured on the front cover is called Hotwattabotl in the translation (hot water bottle).

Allusions to other works[edit]

During the Carnival, masks and costumes of different cartoon and film characters are seen, such as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Asterix, Snoopy, Groucho Marx, and Zorro.

Deleted page[edit]

Colonels Sponsz and Alvarez in a scene drawn for Tintin and the Picaros, but not included in the final book.

In the course of illustrating the story, Hergé was annoyed to find that he had produced one page beyond the 62-page limit required by his publishers. Therefore, he took out the page between pages 22 and 23, at the point in the story where Colonel Sponsz has told Alvarez it was he who framed Castafiore.

The deleted page has Sponsz announcing how he will break his enemies and throws his glass to the floor, but it is of the unbreakable variety and bounces back and breaks the moustache of a bust of Kûrvi-Tasch. Alvarez bursts into laughter, before being put in his place and asked to bring in "you-know-who" (most likely Pablo who appears in the following page). Sponsz suspects that Alvarez will claim that he broke the bust deliberately. He thus warns the young officer about his prospects for advancement. Alvarez gets the message and Sponsz tells him to "sack that clumsy cleaning lady who broke Kûrvi-Tasch's moustache." The scene was chosen because it did not advance the story and was too similar to the scene in Flight 714, where Rastapopoulos claims he will crush Tintin like a spider.

This deleted scene was later used in an article in which Hergé demonstrated how a single page in a comic book was developed from rough sketches to a fully drawn and colourised page.



  1. ^ Apostolidès, Jean-Marie (2009). The Metamorphoses of Tintin. USA: Stanford University Press. ISBN 9780804760317. 
  2. ^ "Backstory". Tintin and the Picaros. Tintin - Official US website. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 


External links[edit]