Recap: Tintin: King Ottokar's Sceptre

Happening upon a briefcase lost in the park Tintin returns it to its owner Professor Hector Alembick, an expert in sigillography (the study of seals - the ones on letters rather than the ones with flippers). Professor Alembick is travelling to the Balkan kingdom of Syldavia and offers Tintin a job as his assistant. Tintin declines but later finds himself under surveillance by sinister individuals who seem connected with that country. After more than one attempt on his life Tintin decides to accept Alembick's offer and accompany him to Syldavia and get to the bottom of things.

Tintin soon finds himself thrust into the middle of a ruthless conspiracy to overthrow King Muskar XII of Syldavia in the interests of their fascist neighbor Borduria. Faced with traitors at every turn, Tintin has to race against time to save the King's throne. If the stolen King Ottokar's Sceptre is not returned by St. Vladimir's Day, the King will have to abdicate and the Bordurians will invade...

King Ottokar's Sceptre was written in 1938 and 1939 and was written in the light of the threat of fascism; the Bordurian plot has parallels with Anschluss of Austria and Syldavia's location is reminiscent of Albania (invaded by Mussolini in 1939). Both Syldavia and Borduria would play important roles in later adventures and the story also introduced the recurring characters of Bianca Castafiore and the villainous Colonel Boris Jorgen.


  • Absent-Minded Professor: Professor Alembick.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: The Bordurians - though they also have elements of other 1930s fascists. For instance, their front organization in Syldavia is called the Iron Guard, which in real life was the name of a Romanian fascist movement.
  • Art Shift: For a few pages instead of comic panels we see a tourist brochure to quickly bring readers up to speed about Syldavia, its culture, its history and the fact that the king needs his sceptre to reign. In the process Hergé mimicks medieval European and Persian miniature painting for some of the illustrations.
  • Aside Glance: Tintin actually winks to the reader on the last page.
  • Black Shirt: Almost literally.
  • Creator Cameo: In the redrawn colour version, Hergé and his then assistant Edgar P. Jacobs (Blake and Mortimer) can be spotted in military uniforms attending the royal reception at the palace.
  • Creator Provincialism: Arguably in that the royal palace of Syldavia is modelled after the one in Brussels. However, this is probably deliberate, as many critics see Muskar XII as a thinly-veiled expy of King Leopold III and Syldavia's situation as an expression of fears of what Nazi Germany might do to its little neighbor Belgium.
  • Dinosaur Doggie Bone: Snowy steals a bone from a dinosaur skeleton at a museum.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The unseen leader of the conspiracy is named Müsstler.
  • Easy Amnesia: The Syldavian spy at Tintin's house.
  • Evil Chancellor: Colonel Boris.
  • Evil Twin
  • Funetik Aksent: The Syldavians and Bordurians actually speak distorted versions of Marollien, the dialect spoken by Flemish speakers in Brussels, slightly disguised by spelling it as if they were two Slavic languages. The Syldavian royal motto "Eih bennek eih blávek'' for instance roughly translates as "Here I am, here I'll stay".
  • George Lucas Altered Version: In the original black-and-white version the uniforms of the Syldavian royal guards looked a lot like British Beefeaters; in the reworked colour album they were reworked into something that actually looked like the kind of ceremonial uniforms worn in Balkan monarchies. Also, the Bordurian fighter airplane that Tintin steals was changed from a Heinkel He 112 (a cutting-edge prototype at the time the story was first written, but never mass-produced) to a Messerschmitt Bf 109.
  • The Good King: King Muskar XII is clearly devoted to his people, and is even willing to abdicate rather than try and keep power through bloodshed. Fortunately Tintin manages to defeat the conspiracy and save his throne.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: The uniforms of the Syldavian royal guards.
  • I Ate WHAT?: Tintin's reaction when he's told the Syldavian meal he's eaten includes dog, and Snowy is missing. Snowy comes out of the restaurant's kitchen moments later.
  • Implied Death Threat: Tintin gets one in the form of a Syldavian proverb on his restaurant bill.
  • Improvised Parachute: Involving an actual parachute.
  • Locked Room Mystery: How was the Sceptre stolen?
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Tintin is almost "shot while trying to escape". He only does escape by throwing himself headlong down a steep slope.
  • Meaningful Name: Averted with Professor Alembick, unlike most scientist Punny Names in Tintin—an alembic(k) is a piece of alchemical/chemistry apparatus, while Alembick is a Sigillographer.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: When Tintin meets Professor Alembick at the start, he's constantly smoking. He doesn't smoke at all for the rest of the book, which Tintin notes. This is a clue that he's been replaced by an impostor. It's the other way around in the animated version where he suddenly starts smoking.
  • Paranoia Fuel: It seems like Tintin can trust no one in Syldavia and at one point even begins to wonder if even Professor Alembick has been replaced by an imposter. He has.
  • Portmanteau: In the original version off-panel character Müsstler (Mussolini + Hitler). It has been speculated that the name Syldavia was created from "Transylvania" and "Moldavia".
  • Punny Name: General Stassanow is a pun on the Belgian milk brand Stassano.
  • The Quisling / The Mole / Double Agent: A disturbing number of Syldavians are in Bordurian pay. This is a reaction to then-widespread fears (the term "fifth column" had just been coined during the Spanish Civil War).
  • Red Alert: What the King essentially orders nationwide when Tintin warns him of Borduria's plans to invade.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: When this story appeared in syndication in 1939 the Second World War was already on its way. Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany had intervened in the Spanish Civil War and Germany occupied Austria and the Sudetenland in 1938 and would invade the remaining Czech territories and Poland in 1939. Thus the threat of Syldavia being occupied by Borduria in by a man named Müsstler had a very real context.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: King Muskar XII drives his own car and knows how to use a gun to protect himself.
  • Ruritania: Syldavia and Borduria. Syldavia in particular is often ranked as one of Hergé's greatest achievements - an extremely detailed and well researched fictional nation with it's own history, flag and language.
  • Third Act Stupidity: After narrowly preventing the sceptre's thief from crossing the border to Borduria, Tintin, having not eaten in two days, notices an apparent farm on the other side of the border and succumbs to the temptation of crossing it, still carrying the sceptre.
  • Variable Terminal Velocity: Snowy falls slowly enough to get caught in the opening parachute deployed from Tintin's chair.
  • You Know Too Much: There are a number of attempts to kill Tintin once he starts meddling.