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The Books > #20: Tintin in Tibet

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message 1: by Sammy (new)

Sammy (thecardigankid) | 72 comments Mod
Tintin in Tibet finds our hero more disturbed than he has ever been before: a seemingly telepathic dream informs Tintin of a plane crash in Tibet; a crash that may have taken the life of his dear friend Chang. With Captain Haddock, Snowy and a Tibetan Sherpa, the reporter sets out to find his friend, determined to believe that Chang is still out there - lost somewhere in the Himalayas...

"Tintin Tibet" was the product of personal and artistic concerns on the part of Hergé. The artist had grown disillusioned with his most famous creation, after three decades of publishing the series. He felt there was little left to be said, and was constantly feeling the pressure of public expectation. On a creative level, 'Tintin' as a brand had spiralled beyond his control: the albums had now been published for the English-speaking world and - by the time this serial ended in 1959 - three film adaptations had been made as well as a radio series and TV series. Next on the cards was talk of a live-action film, "Tintin and the Golden Fleece", which was to occupy Herge's time after "Tintin in Tibet" was completed.

On a personal level, Herge was haunted by dreams of a vast expanse of white. On seeking psychological help, Herge recalled a suggestion made to him years earlier to set a story in Tibet: somewhere where he could utilise the whiteness on the page, and hopefully exorcise it from his mind. (Authors such as Michael Farr go into detail about Herge's feelings in this era).

"Tintin in Tibet" was serialised between 1958 and 1959, and published in 1960. Featuring almost no recurring characters - except for the return of Chang from The Blue Lotus - it was also only the second album after Red Rackham's Treasure not to feature a villain. Instead, much of the album is given over to Tintin's emotional state and the thoughts of the monks at the Buddhist monastery the team stumble across. This was the beginning of Herge's late era, in which his few 'Tintin' works would all show the signs of his desire to do something different with the characters.

After the book's publication, the real life Zhang Chongren - who had inspired the character of Chang and had been a key figure in Herge's transition to culturally-sensitive artist - was found and reunited with Herge. After completion of the album, Herge devoted some of his time to the next 'Tintin' film, and - due both to his age and his lack of desire to tell new stories - did not immediately start work on another story.

In spite of the unusual circumstances surrounding the album's creation, it quickly became Herge's own personal favourite from the 23 completed 'Tintin' works, and has remained popular amongst fans and the general public. The album may have signalled the end of Tintin's traditional adventures, but it came at the beginning of another era: that of Tintin as a worldwide phenomenon.

"Tintin in Tibet" was published in English in 1962, at the tale end of Methuen's translations of 12 'Tintin' albums. In 1992, the album was adapted into a two-part episode for the animated series, and a half-hour radio play for the BBC. It was the basis for a video game in 1996 (also called "Tintin in Tibet") and was also adapted into a theatre production, "Tintin: The Show" which ran in 2005 and 2006 (prefiguring the Herge centenary).

Links:

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tintin_i...

Tintinologist: http://www.tintinologist.org/guides/b...

24 Days of Tintin: http://tintinblog.com/2009/12/11/24-d...


message 2: by Merry (new)

Merry | 34 comments Places visited or mentioned in "Tintin in Tibet":

* Vargèse, French Alps
* New Delhi, British India
* Kathmandu, Nepal
* Himalayas, Tibet

(This is one of two albums where no scenes take place in Brussels: the other is Explorers on the Moon.

This is Tintin's last visit to India, and his only confirmed visit to Tibet or Nepal.)


message 3: by Sammy (new)

Sammy (thecardigankid) | 72 comments Mod
My review:

Mention Tintin to any fan over 20, and chances are they'll recall Red Rackham's Treasure, and then "Tintin in Tibet". The first - filled with adventure, science, excitement and a tale of pirates - is obvious; the second, not so much.

As everyone knows, one of the forces that led to this album's creation was Herge's own personal problems, and haunting dreams of an expanse of never-ending white. Determined to take the series in a new direction, Herge ended up with this work - surely his most emotional and mature. From the very start, Tintin's face is more expressive than we've ever seen him before - whether in joy, fear or anger. And Haddock is allowed to be more mature and stoic at times, befitting the sober side of his character, which works very well.

As is constantly touted, this work features no villain nor many recurring characters. It is instead, an emotional - almost spiritual - journey for Tintin. Every single person he meets, from kind sherpa to humble monk, attempts to convince him that his quest is worthless, that his good friend Chang must surely be dead from the plane crash in the Himalayas. Yet he presses on, forcing himself through the endless mountain expanses of Tibet. As things get more isolated, Herge's drawing gets more lush, and he does seem to have revelled in the minimalist opportunities afforded him on this occasion. The early frames - capturing true-to-life shots of Nepal, for instance - are equally well done, but the cap must surely be Haddock's surreal dream sequence of playing chess with a nappy-wearing Calculus!

One of the tropes that defines Herge's later work is his willingness to be realistic about the consequences of the adventures. The teddy bear found at the plane crash site is not Chang's, but it doesn't matter: even if Chang survived, no one else did. As the Abbot says, the mountains keep those they take. As a result, Chang's safety seems more uncertain here than Tintin's safety in the previous 19 works combined.

Snowy also gets a fair amount to do, which is atypical of the later albums. His fantasy sequences, in which Snowy is taunted by angel and devil versions of himself, are again a stylistic experiment but manage to be a success due to Herge's more mannered use of Tintin's loyal dog. Snowy's actions - be they risking his life, or attempting to save his friends - are as intimately connected to the story as everything else here. This hasn't always been the case, as in many stories he functions as light comic relief, so it is nice to see the dog being used as a plot point but without losing his sprightly characterisation.

Other successes include the well-balanced portrayals of the Tibetan monks - humorous and yet earnest in turn; the hilarious shots of Haddock gradually falling behind the explorer's party; - and the frames with Tintin and Chang together at the end. It's popular these days to associate the two as a 'couple' even though we're aware that this was far from Herge's intention. But whether platonic or otherwise, their friendship resonates off the page, again belying Herge's own feelings of lost friendship toward the original 'Chang'.

Less successful elements:

* Haddock losing faith and then turning back at the last second, happens maybe twice too often. It's very satisfying to see Tintin being the 'irrational' person, for once, but it seems as if - in such a differently-structured adventure - Herge was out of ideas for how to introduce dramatic tension.

* Again, Herge's biggest downfall may be one of his biggest strengths: his desire to impart knowledge. Whilst waiting for their transport, Haddock and Tintin go sight-seeing. But when it's time to catch the plane, Tintin seems reluctant to leave the architecture behind. Which is a bit frustrating, since earlier he was determined to find his missing-possibly-dead friend as soon as possible!

One final thought: Herge seems to be reluctant to ascribe an age to Tintin. He starts out on holiday with the Captain, still as the earnest reporter. By album's end, he is constantly being referred to as a young boy and the scenes in the cave - see page 57 - show him at the most boyish he has ever looked!

All in all, "Tintin in Tibet" is surely a four-and-a-half star work. In keeping with his humanist philosophy, Herge rightly draws the Yeti as a figure of pathos : a lonely being unable to truly help his ward. The artist experiments further with his surrealist dream sequences, and manages finally to produce emotion from a character who has been an audience cipher for nineteen albums now. On top of this, distanced from the wide cast of characters who have populated the last half-dozen albums, Herge creates something decidedly different. I'll concede it is not my favourite - possibly it is number 5 or 6 in my estimation. After all, the first quarter is the inevitable build-up, and in terms of plot, Herge is reduced to recycling through two or three different beats. (To his credit, they seem realistic every time). But as an emotional exercise, and as a work of art, this is surely a contender for Tintin's most human adventure. (And any story that can end with Haddock being given the nickname "Rumbling Thunderblessings" must be given some credit!)


message 4: by Nikki (new)

Nikki | 2 comments I love this book it is my all time favourite in the series. I love when captian haddock got mad at the yeti for stealing his whisky! :D


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