TINTIN AND THE CONGO

In 1908, it is twenty years since Belgium, a small nation in western Europe, righted its wrong in the Congo heartland of central Africa.

It is almost a hundred years, a centenary, since Belgium became an acknowledged nation state at all.  That was in the year 1830.

Belgium became a kingdom and sought to join the League of Nations which were powerful colonial empires, ruling the world on five continents.

German blood ran rich and pure through the veins of the monarchs who held power, as rich and pure as any river and not least the Congo.

It was not without irony that German blood provided the royal lineage of rule in Belgium in Leopold I, as indeed it did for Great Britain in the line which brought Queen Victoria to the throne and played a part in her marriage to Prince Albert.

This became the foundation for the Treaty of London in 1839 leading to Belgian sovereignty and also Belgian neutrality in the event of war.

It was the ‘scrap of paper’ infamously described by a German Chancellor which led to the first world war seventy five years later in 1914 when Germany invaded Belgium.

In 1930, Georges Remi was a young Belgian who had never been to the Congo and barely knew its geographical location in sub-sahara Africa but he had learnt about it in his history lessons at school.

And it is no exaggeration to say that this young Belgian, with ambitions of becoming a professional writer, had acqainted himself with literature such as Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book and Edgar Rice Burrough’s Tarzan sufficient to have a profound effect on his own literature.

Not only that but this was the era of prohibition in the United States of America and Al Capone was the biggest gangster name on the planet.

So the young Belgian, fuelled by a fertile imagination and blending fact with fiction, adopted the pseudonym Herge and created himself as a young reporter who set off on a mission with his pet dog (and Belgians love dogs) to this unknown land (the Congo) to bring down the biggest gangster of that time and rewrite history.

As if history needed to be rewritten at all.

It is therefore a stunning backdrop to the introduction of Tintin and Snowy as they reported on eventful encounters with native tribes and wild animals as well as American gangsters from the underworld who were intent on smuggling mined diamonds.

As it turned out, Tintin and the Congo was one of the least well written of all the Tintin adventure stories written by Herge but it is probably the one which is the most well known.

In an uncanny way, the investigative talents of Tintin (and Snowy) were perceived as directly responsible for Al Capone’s capture and his eventual incarceration in San Francisco’s Alcatraz ‘Rock’ island prison.

The final outcome is only memorable in that Tintin and Snowy returned to Belgium as national heroes and Herge went on to become a literary celebrity virtue of their complicity.

 

 

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