Ten Thousand Thundering Typhoons! “Kommandant Tintin and the Concentration Camp Mystery”?

• Unseen Tintin story depicts hero as Nazi collaborator in occupied Belgium

(LHN) We might finally have an explanation for the mysterious delays that have beset the planned sequel to The Adventures of Tintin. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the first Tintin movie came out already back in 2011, and a finished screenplay for the follow-up has been sitting on Peter Jackson’s desk for over two years.

In a timing that is unlikely to be coincidental, this week saw the announcement of another round of postponements just days after shocking images from a previously unpublished Tintin comic book were leaked to the public. Neither Paramount Pictures nor the estate of Georges Remi (better known by the pen name Hergé) has commented on the leaked material.

La Saline Royale (The Royal Saltworks), written and illustrated by Hergé sometime between 1941 and 1943 during the German occupation of Belgium, depicts the heroic young journalist as a concentration camp guard, making a Nazi salute in a military parade, and even violently interrogating a Jewish prisoner.

La Saline Royale cover art detail

Cover art detail from Hergé’s suppressed early work, La Saline Royale.

During World War II, as many Belgian publications were censored by the Nazis, Hergé was working for Le Soir, a newspaper that collaborated with the occupying forces. La Saline Royale, probably completed between The Shooting Star and The Secret of the Unicorn — both intentionally politically neutral stories — was never published, however. Jean-Baptiste Bouteiller, author of two books on Tintin and postcolonial literary criticism, speculates that Hergé may have written the book as his “trump card”, should the war end in victory for the Axis powers.

Jews in Tintin

Hergés depiction of Jews in the original version of The Shooting Star, serialized in Le Soir during the years preceding the unpublished La Saline Royale.
— “Did you hear that, Isaac? … The end of the world! … What if it is true? …” — “Tee hee! … Zat vould be a nice little teal, Salomon! … Ich owe 50,000 francs to mine zuppliers… Zat vay ich vould not have to pay…”

 
In La Saline Royale, Tintin and his faithful companion Snowy barely escape an assassination attempt by a shadowy terror group known as “The Elders”. Within the first few pages, the reader comes to realize that our hero is on the payroll of the Vichy Government press corps. Worse still, the “terrorist organization” turns out to be Hergé’s demonizing depiction of the French Resistance. Tintin’s investigations eventually lead him to the Royal Saltworks at Arc-et-Senans, an 18th-century building in eastern France that served as a German internment camp during the war.

La Saline Royale interrogation

Interrogation scene from La Saline Royale.
— “This is it, Snowy, Efrayim’s prison cell! Shall we teach him a lesson? … The Storm Leader gave us 15 minutes…” — “With pleasure!”
— “Will you not talk, Efrayim?” — “But, but…I assure you!…”
— “Good, Snowy! They sure know how to make excuses..!”

 
Tintin’s adventures began in a conservative Catholic newspaper in 1929, and the oftentimes racist and colonial tone of the series has been a source of controversy for decades. Later in life, Hergé acknowledged and distanced himself from the attitudes displayed in his early work, saying in a 1971 interview that he “was fed the prejudices of the bourgeois society surrounding [him]”. The newly unearthed images are likely to reignite the discussion on Tintin’s place in contemporary culture.


4 thoughts on “Ten Thousand Thundering Typhoons! “Kommandant Tintin and the Concentration Camp Mystery”?

  1. Disgusting. Kerry James Marshall has a lot to say on this topic, highly recommended. How do we relate to the appalling views and statements, and even works, of otherwise great artists of note? Think of Wagner, or Knut Hamsun. As a ground-breaking pioneer of the comic art form, Herge is up there in that league- what a shame to have this blot on his legacy.

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