|Tintin in the Congo
(Tintin au Congo)
Cover of the English edition
|Series||The Adventures of Tintin|
|Publisher||Le Petit Vingtième|
|Published in||Le Petit Vingtième|
|Date(s) of publication||5 June 1930 – 11 June 1931|
|Preceded by||Tintin in the Land of the Soviets (1930)|
|Followed by||Tintin in America (1932)|
Tintin in the Congo (French: Tintin au Congo) is the second volume of The Adventures of Tintin, the comics series by Belgian cartoonist Hergé. Commissioned by the conservative Belgian newspaper Le XXe Siècle as colonialist propaganda for its children's supplement Le Petit Vingtième, it was serialised weekly from May 1930 to June 1931. The story tells of young Belgian reporter Tintin and his dog Snowy, who are sent to the Belgian Congo to report on events in the country. Amidst various encounters with the native Congolese and wild animals, Tintin unearths a criminal diamond smuggling operation run by Al Capone.
Bolstered by publicity stunts, Tintin in the Congo was a commercial success, and appeared in book form shortly after its conclusion. Hergé continued The Adventures of Tintin with Tintin in America, and the series became a defining part of the Franco-Belgian comics tradition. In later decades, it came under criticism for its racist attitude to the Congolese and glorification of big game hunting.
Belgian reporter Tintin and his faithful dog Snowy travel to the Congo, where the pair are greeted by a cheering crowd of native Congolese. Hiring a native boy, Coco, to assist him in his travels, Tintin rescues Snowy from a crocodile. He recognised a stowaway from the ship that had brought them to the continent who attempts to kill Tintin. Tintin is saved by monkeys who throw coconuts down from a tree, knocking the stowaway unconscious. Snowy is kidnapped by a monkey, and Tintin rescues him.
The next morning, Tintin, Snowy, and Coco crash their car into a train, which the reporter fixes and tows to the Babaorum's village. He is greeted there by the king, and accompanies the king on a hunt the next day, where Tintin is knocked unconscious by a lion. Snowy rescues him by biting the lion's tail off. Tintin gains the admiration of the natives, which makes the Babaorum witch-doctor Muganga jealous; with the help of the stowaway, he plots to accuse Tintin of destroying the tribe's sacred idol. Imprisoned by the villagers, Tintin is rescued by Coco and shows the villagers footage of Muganga conspiring with the stowaway to destroy the idol, which enrages the villagers. Tintin becomes a hero in the village, and a local woman bows down to him, saying, "White man very great! Has good spirits ... White mister is big juju man!"
Angered, Muganga starts a war between the Babaorum and their neighbours, the M'Hatuvu, whose king leads an attack on the Babaorum village. Tintin outwits them, and the M'Hatuvu people cease hostilities and also come to idolise Tintin. Muganga and the stowaway plot to kill Tintin while framing it on a leopard, but Tintin survives, while saving Muganga from a boa constrictor; Muganga pleads mercy and ends his hostilities. The stowaway attempts to capture Tintin again, and eventually succeeds disguised as a Catholic missionary. They fight across a waterfall, and the stowaway is eaten by crocodiles. After reading a letter from the stowaway's pocket, Tintin finds that someone called "A.C." has ordered that he be killed. Tintin captures a criminal who tried to rendezvous with the stowaway, and learns that "A.C." is American gangster Al Capone, who was trying to gain control of African diamond production. Tintin and the colonial police arrest the rest of the diamond smuggling gang.
Following the success of the Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, serialised in Le Petit Vingtième from January 1929 to May 1930, Hergé wanted to send Tintin to the United States. However, his employer Norbert Wallez, editor of Le Petit Vingtième's parent publication Le XXe Siècle, had him write a story set in the Belgian Congo (modern-day Democratic Republic of the Congo). Belgian children were taught about the Congo in school, and Wallez hoped to encourage colonialist and missionary zeal in his readership. He believed that the Belgian colonial regime needed promotion at a time when memories "were still fairly fresh" of the publicised 1928 visit to the colony by the Belgian King Albert and Queen Elisabeth. Hergé characterised Wallez's instructions in a sarcastic manner, saying Wallez referred to the Congo as "our beautiful colony which has great need of us, tarantara, tarantaraboom". Three years previously Hergé had provided two illustrations for the newspaper that appeared in an article celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Henry Morton Stanley's discovery of the Congo. In one of these, Hergé depicted a native Congolese individual bowing before a European colonialist.
Just as in Land of the Soviets, where Hergé had based his information about the Soviet Union almost solely on a single source, in Tintin in the Congo he used limited source material to learn about the country and its people. The story was largely based on literature written by missionaries, with the only added element being that of the diamond traffickers, possibly adopted from the "Jungle Jim-type serials". Hergé visited the Colonial Museum of Terveuren, examining their ethnographic collections of Congolese artefacts, including the costumes of the Leopard Men. He adopted hunting scenes from André Maurois' novel The Silence of Colonel Bramble, while his animal drawings were inspired by Benjamin Rabier's prints.
Tintin in the Congo was serialised in Le Petit Vingtième from 5 May 1930 to 11 June 1931, and in the French Catholic newspaper Coeurs Vaillants from 20 March 1932. Drawn in black and white, it followed the same formula employed in Land of the Soviets, remaining "essentially plotless" and consisting of largely unrelated events that Hergé improvised each week. It also adopted a similar visual style to its predecessor. In the first installment of the story, Hergé featured a cameo of Quick and Flupke, two young boys living in Brussels whom he had recently introduced in a comic strip in Le Petit Vingtième on 23 January 1930.
Like Land of the Soviets, Tintin in the Congo was popular in Belgium. In July 1931, Wallez repeated the publicity stunt he had used when Soviets had ended by having an actor, Henry de Doncker, dress up as Tintin in colonial gear and appear in Brussels and then Liège, accompanied by 10 African bearers and an assortment of exotic animals hired from a zoo. The event was popular and attracted 5000 spectators in Brussels. In 1931, the story was collected in a single volume by Brussels-based Éditions de Petit Vingtième, and a second edition was published by Casterman in 1937.
In the 1940s, when Hergé's popularity had increased, he redrew many of the original black-and-white Tintin adventures in color using the ligne claire ("clear line")[a] drawing style he had developed, so that they visually fitted in with the new Tintin stories that he was creating. Tintin in the Congo was one such of these books, with the new version being published in 1946. As a part of this modification, Hergé also cut the page length down from 110 plates to the standard 62 pages, as suggested to him by the publisher Casterman. For the 1946 version, Hergé also made several changes to the actual story, such as cutting many of the references to Belgium and colonial rule. This decision, Farr claimed, was made to broaden its appeal to readers in nations other than Belgium and not because Hergé believed that imperial rule would come to an end, something which only occurred in 1960. For example, in the scene where Tintin teaches Congolese school children about geography, he states in the 1930–31 version that "My dear friends, today I'm going to talk to you about your country: Belgium!" whereas in the 1946 version, he instead gives them a mathematics lesson, asking "Now who can tell me what two plus two make?... Nobody". In another change, the character of Jimmy MacDuff, the owner of the leopard that attacks Tintin, was changed from a black manager of the Great American Circus into a white "supplier of the biggest zoos in Europe".
In the 1946 colorised version, Hergé also included a cameo by Thomson and Thompson, the two detectives that he had first introduced in the fourth Tintin story, Cigars of the Pharaoh (1932–34), which was chronologically set after the Congolese adventure. Adding them to the first page, they are featured in the backdrop, watching a crowd surrounding Tintin as he boards a train and commenting that it "Seems to be a young reporter going to Africa..." In this version, Hergé also inserted illustrated depictions of both himself and his friend Edgar P. Jacobs (who was the colorist who worked with him on the book), into the frame, as members of the crowd seeing Tintin off.
Farr believed that the 1946 color version was a poorer product than the black and white original, having lost its "vibrancy" and "atmosphere" with the new depiction of the Congolese landscape being unconvincing, appearing more like a European zoo than the "parched, dusty expanses of reality." Another Tintinologist, Benoit Peeters, took a more positive attitude towards the 1946 version, commenting that it contained "aesthetic improvements" and a "clarity of composition" due to Hergé's personal development in draughtsmanship, as well as an enhancement in the dialogue, which had become "more lively and fluid."
When Tintin's Scandinavian publishers first released Tintin in the Congo in 1975, they objected to page 56, where Tintin drills a hole into a live rhinoceros, fills it with dynamite, and blows it up. They asked Hergé to replace this page with a less violent scene which they believed would be more suitable for their young readership. Hergé agreed, as he had come to regret the scenes of animal abuse and big game hunting in the work soon after producing it, and the altered page had the rhinoceros running away after accidentally firing a sleeping Tintin's gun. The altered scene was later used in publications in other languages.
Although the 1946 colored version had become the predominant publicly available version, Tintinologists and collectors became interested in the original 1931 version, so it was reissued in French in the first volume of the Archives Hergé collection, collected with Tintin in the Land of the Soviets and Tintin in America. This volume was published by Casterman in 1973, who released Tintin in the Congo in a stand-alone in 1982.
Although it had been published in a many languages, English publishers refused to publish Tintin in the Congo for many years due to its controversial content. In the late 1980s, Nick Rodwell, then agent of Studio Hergé in the United Kingdom, told reporters of his intention to finally publish it in English and stated his belief that, by publishing the original 1931 black and white edition, it would cause less controversy than its later 1946 counterpart would. After much debate, it was agreed to publish the 1931 version in 1991, and was the last of the Tintin books to appear in English. The 1946 colour version saw publication in English in 2005 by Egmont Publishing, but its American publisher Little, Brown cancelled its planned publication.
In his psychoanalytical study of the series, Tintinologist Jean-Marie Apostolidès highlighted that in the Congolese adventure, Tintin represented progress and the Belgian state as a model for the natives to imitate so that they could become more European and thus civilised from the perspective of Belgian society.
Michael Farr felt that, unlike in the previous Tintin adventure, some sense of a plot emerges at the end of the story with the introduction of the American diamond-smuggling racket. In contrast, Tintinologist Harry Thompson believed that "Congo is almost a regression from Soviets", having no plot or characterisation; he described it as "probably the most childish of all the Tintin books".
In the latter 20th early 21st centuries, Tintin in the Congo came under criticism for its depiction of Congolese people, with several campaigners and writers characterising the work as racist due to its portrayal of the Congolese as infantile and stupid. Farr highlighted that such accusations against the book only came about decades after its original publication because it was only following the collapse of European colonial rule in Africa during the 1950s–1970s that the average western attitude towards Africans changed, becoming less patronising and racist. Tintinologist Harry Thompson argued that Tintin in the Congo should be viewed in the context of European society in the 1930s and 1940s, and that Hergé had not written the book to be "deliberately racist", but that it reflected the average Belgian view of Congolese people at the time, one which was more "patronising" than malevolently racist. Similarly, Tintinologist Jean-Marie Apostolidès maintained that Hergé was not intentionally racist, but that he portrayed the Congolese as being like children, displaying friendliness, naivety, cowardice, and laziness.
Farr and literary critic Tom McCarthy stated that Tintin in the Congo was the most popular Tintin adventure in Africa, particularly in French-speaking countries there. Thompson noted that the book remained hugely popular in both the Belgian Congo and, after it achieved independence in 1960, in its successor nation-state, Zaire. This however has not prevented it being viewed with anger by certain Congolese people; for example, in 2004, when the Congolese Information Minister Henri Mova Sakanyi described remarks by the Belgian foreign minister critical of the chaos in the Congolese government as "racism and nostalgia for colonialism", he remarked that it was like "Tintin in the Congo all over again".
In July 2007, human rights lawyer David Enright told the British Commission for Racial Equality that he came across the book in the children's section of Borders while shopping with his black wife and two sons. The commission called on high-street[clarification needed] shops to remove the book, and the shop moved the book to an area reserved for adult graphic novels. Borders said that it was committed to letting its "customers make the choice". Another British retailer, WHSmith, said that the book was sold on its website but with a label that recommended it for readers aged 16 and over. The commission's attempts at banning the book were criticised by Conservative Party politician Ann Widdecombe, who remarked that the organisation had more important things to do than regulate the accessibility of historical children's books. In November 2011, UK book seller Waterstones removed the book from its children's section lest it "fall into the wrong hands". Publisher Egmont UK also responded to racism concerns by placing a protective band around the book with a warning about its content, and writing an introduction describing its historical context.
In August 2007 a complaint was filed in Brussels by Congolese political science student Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo, who claimed that the book was an insult to the Congolese people. Public prosecutors investigated, but the Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism warned against political over-correctness. Mondondo repeated his complaint in France, demanding that the book be removed from bookstores, and it was announced that he was willing to bring the case to the European Court of Human Rights. Tintin in the Congo also came under criticism in the United States; in October 2007, in response to a complaint by a patron, the Brooklyn Public Library placed the book in its Hunt Collection for Children's Literature, a collection of 7,000 rare children's books that can only be accessed by appointment.
The perceived racist nature of the book has led to it being parodied by the South African comic writer Anton Kannemeyer (1967–). Some of Kannemeyer’s works deal with the issues of race relations and colonialism by appropriating the style of Tintin in the Congo. In Pappa in Afrika (2010), Tintin becomes a white African, depicted either as a white liberal or as a racist white imperialist in Africa. The whites are depicted as superior, literate, and civilised, and the blacks as savage and stupid.
When the book was first published in India by the India Book House in 2003, the Indian branch of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals issued a public criticism, with chief functionary Anuradha Sawhney stating that the book was "replete with instances that send a message to young minds that it is acceptable to be cruel to animals". Tintin in the Congo shows Tintin taking part in "the wholesale and gratuitous slaughter" of animals by shooting several antelope, killing an ape to wear its skin, ramming a rifle vertically into a crocodile's open mouth, injuring an elephant for ivory, stoning a buffalo, and (in earlier editions) slaying a rhinoceros with dynamite. Big game hunting was popular among whites and affluent visitors in Africa during the 1930s. Hergé later felt guilty about his portrayal of animals in Tintin in the Congo, and became an opponent of blood sports; when he made Cigars of the Pharaoh (1934), he had Tintin befriend a herd of elephants living in the Indian jungle.
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