Olivier B. Bommel and Tom Poes, if you understand what we mean..."Tom Poes"
(also known as the "Bommelsaga"
) was a long running Dutch newspaper comic strip written and drawn by Marten Toonder (1912-2005) from 1941 to 1986. The series is notable for coining many phrases, and its influence on Dutch language cannot be understated.
Despite being a comic strip, the stories were originally published as illustrated novels, with three comic drawings on every page and captions below. This was done to avoid criticism that comics were a bad influence on children's reading habits, an idea that was widespread in the 1940s and 1950s. This, along with its creative use of language, is one of the reasons "Tom Poes"
is considered to be literature nowadays. Later, the Toonder Studios adapted some of these stories in a more traditional comic book strip form with text balloons.
The stories all take place in a fantasy world filled with anthropomorphic animal characters. Main protagonists are Tom Poes, a noble, courageous and intelligent little white cat, and his friend, Olivier B. Bommel, a vain, but good natured bear who claims to be a "lord" and lives in a large castle. Whenever danger is about, Bommel immediately gets scared and encourages Tom Poes to think up a plan to change the situation."Tom Poes"
is still the most succesful, most highly regarded and most influential Dutch comic strip. It started out as a children's story, but quickly started Growing the Beard
and became relevant to adults as well. Both the drawing style and the satirical stories are praised by comic strip fans. "Tom Poes"
inspired many new words and expressions in the Dutch language and became iconic. Toonder has been awarded several times during his long and fruitful career.
In 1983, an animated film was made: "Als Je Begrijpt Wat Ik Bedoel"
("The Dragon That Wasn't (Or Was He?"))
This series provides examples of:
- Anachronism Stew: The series takes place in the mid to late 20th century, but medieval fantasy elements and 18th and 19th century fashion styles also pop up from time to time.
- Animal Stereotypes: Bommel is a dumb bear, Canteclaer is a proud peacock, Tom Poes is a clever cat, Wammes Waggel a silly goose,...
- Antiquated Linguistics: Marten Toonder enjoyed playing around with language and introduced many new words and expressions to the Dutch language. It's also one of the reasons his work cannot be easily translated.
- Professor Zbygniew Prlwytzkofsky speaks pseudo German.
- Artistic License - Paleontology: In one story the characters travel back to the Stone Age, where dinosaurs and antropomorphic animals share the same ground.
- Author Existence Failure: Author Marten Toonder retired in 1986 and died in 2005. No new stories were made since. The series was properly retired with the last story, called the "End of Infinity". It ends with Bommel marrying and finally settling down, Tom Poes leaving the setting and the author himself addressing the readers, thanking them for their support throughout the years.
- Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop: Commissaris Bullebas who always misunderstands a situation and especially mistrusts Bommel.
- Barefoot Cartoon Animal: Some characters walk barefoot, others don't.
- Break-Out Character: Olivier B. Bommel
- Butt Monkey: Olivier B. Bommel, who isn't taken seriously by the other villagers.
- Garmt Grootgrut, a sheep who owns a store and frequently complains how "small shop keepers are always unlucky."
- Catch Phrase:
- "Als je begrijpt wat ik bedoel."- Olivier B. Bommel ("if you understand what I mean")
- "Een eenvoudige, doch voedzame maaltijd."- Olivier B. Bommel ("a simple but wholesome meal" - given that he lives in a castle, these tend to be elaborate and extravagant)
- "Zoals mijn goede vader zei." - Olivier B. Bommel ("like my good father used to say")
- "Verzin toch eens een list, jonge vriend!" - Olivier B. Bommel ("Do think of a plan, young friend" - it should be mentioned that the phrasing implies impatience and excessive demand)
- "Hihi, wat enigjes"- Wammes Waggel ("hihi, how delightful" - this is a bad translation, but the phrase is almost untranslatable. It is the expression of delight from a character who is very childish/mentally underdeveloped in nature)
- "Fi Donc"- Marquis de Canteclaer (a French expression of shock)
- "Wie is er weer de dupe? De kleine middenstander!" - Garmt Grootgrut ("Who again is the victim? The small proprietorship")
- "Ei Ei Ei"- Joachim Sickbock (The sound made by an evil scientist character who is intrigued by something. Similar to "my, my, my")
- "Ik ga je opschrijven, Bommel, wat is je naam?" - Bulle Bas ("I will write you down, Bommel! What is your name?")
- "Met uw welnemen"- Joost ("with your permission")
- Civilized Animal: Bommel claims to be a lord and the Marquis de Canteclaer is so snobbish that he uses French and Latin expressions to look more posh.
- Cloud Cuckoolander: Wammes Waggel. Also, to a lesser extent, Bommel.
- Contemporary Caveman
- Cool Car: Bommel's car, "De Oude Schicht"
- Cowardly Lion: The bear Olivier B. Bommel who always panicks in every situation.
- Cultural Translation: The stories have been translated to other countries, but have never been so succesful as in the Netherlands.
- Cunning Like a Fox: Joris Goedbloed
- Dub Name Change: In Swedish, the characters are called Oliver B. Bumble, Tom Puss, Greatgrit, and in short, pretty much nobody's name remains the same as in the original.
- Evil Sorcerer: Hocus P. Pas
- Feather Fingers: Wammes Waggel, a goose, has them.
- Fictional Country: The entire world is an anthropomorphic animal world. Sometimes humans are seen, but not often.
- Funny Animal
- The Ghost: The Ghost in "Het Spook van Bommelstein"
- Giftedly Bad: Bommel tries to take up painting in the story "Eh... dinges", but is ridiculed for his lack of talent.
- Good Is Boring: Tom Poes, the protagonist, is the least memorable of all characters.
- Gratuitous German: Zbygniew Prlwytzkofsky throws in a lot of German loanwords and grammatical sentence structures.
- Gratuitous Iambic Pentameter: The language is always very colorful.
- Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: Olivier Bommel only wears a coat, nothing else.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Tom Poes frequently stays over at Bommel's castle and always sticks up for him. Yet they are clearly just good friends. The strange aspect of their friendship happens in the final story where Bommel finally marries his long love interest Doddeltje. For no particular reason Tom Poes decides to leave and walk the Earth, thus ending the series.
- Hyper Competent Sidekick: Despite being the protagonist Tom Poes is treated as a sidekick by Bommel, even though Tom always has to save him.
- The Jeeves: Joost, who is Bommel's faithful servant. Although he resigns his position about once per story, only to come back at the end.
- The Jerk: Marquis de Canteclaer who acts really snobbish, especially against Bommel. This is because Canteclaer is real nobility, and Bommel is pretend nobility - i.e. just a rich idiot who owns a castle, but no class.
- Kindhearted Simpleton: Wammes Waggel, who is a literal silly goose who enjoys having fun and never understands any real danger.
- Magic Mirror: Plays an important role in the story "Tom Poes en de betoverde spiegel".
- Man Child: Wammes Waggel, who is so carefree and na´ve that he seems to be mentally challenged or at least very infantile.
- Mature Animal Story: This looks like a general "funny animals" comicstrip, but the language, themes and allusions are very much adult.
- Meaningful Name: The town's psychiatrist is named "Zielknijper" (literally translated: "Soulpincher"), which became a Dutch neologism later.
- Meddlesome Patrolman: Police officer Bulle Bas
- Neologism: The comic strip introduced a lot of neologisms in the Dutch language like "kommer en kwel", "denkraam", "grootgrutter", "minkukel", "zielknijper",...
- Overly Long Name: Zbygniew Prlwytzkofsky.
- Pantsless Males, Fully-Dressed Females: Bommel only wears a coat, but no pants. His love interest, Doddeltje, wears a 19th century style dress and bonnet.
- Police Are Useless: The local police force always suspects Bommel, who is usually innocent.
- Print Long Runners: From 1941 until 1986.
- Punny Name: Most of the characters, including the main protagonist Tom Poes, whose name is a pun on the food "tom pouce". Some of them became puns later, as the neologisms in their name caught on.
- Running Gag:
- Bommel always boasts about his talents, achievements and aristocratic background, but nobody seems to take him seriously. Also, he is rather incompetent and whenever danger is about he chickens out.
- Police officer Bulle Bas always suspects Bommel is guilty, while usually he is not.
- Satire: A mirror of our modern society.
- Scenery Porn: Toonder's drawings are rich with details.
- Shapeshifting: The dragon, "Zwelbast", is a tiny creature, but can grow to enormous size when he is mad.
- Smart People Wear Glasses: Professor Sickbock
- Spell My Name with an S: Professor Zbygniew Prlwytzkofsky ("with a 'z' in der middle")
- Time Machine
- Walking the Earth: In the final story of the series Bommel marries Doddeltje and Tom Poes leaves the party to walk the earth.
- World of Funny Animals: Subverted, some characters are inexplicably human.