One day when visiting Thomson and Thompson at their office, Tintin takes note of a scrap of paper ripped from a can of crab meat among the belongings of a recently drowned sailor. Upon examining the scrap of paper, he sees the name "Karaboudjan" written on it and is then informed that this is the name of the ship where the sailor was employed.
After an unknown Japanese man is kidnapped on his doorstep, Tintin decides to investigate the Karaboudjan, but is immediately captured. While being held captive, Tintin discovers that the ship's cargo of canned crab meat is actually a cargo of opium. Tintin confronts the ship's captain, named Haddock, but discovers that he doesn't know about the smuggling operation, and is being deceived (and supplied with a lot of whiskey) by his first mate Allan. Along with Haddock, Tintin escapes and ends up in Morocco, where they continue their investigation of the smuggling operation.The Crab with the Golden Claws
is the debut of Breakout Character
Captain Haddock, who was originally intended as a one-shot character, but ended up appearing as Tintin's ally in every single story after this one, eventually eclipsing Tintin himself
in popularity, even in the eyes of Hergé himself.
- Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: Most of what Haddock does.
- Bedouin Rescue Service: Tintin, Snowy and Haddock are saved by one.
- Big Bad: Omar Ben Salaad.
- Character Development: When we first meet Haddock, he is a drunk and miserable wreck without a friend in the world and when he joins Tintin, his alcoholism means he causes more trouble for Tintin than he solves. At the end of the story, he is reformed and becomes the President of the Society of Sober Sailors! In later albums, he retains a fondness for the bottle, but is never as weak or unstable as he is here.
- Chekhov's Gun: The can Snowy gets his nose stuck in turns out to be very important later on.
- Crossing the Desert: Haddock and Tintin try to do so.
- Counterfeit Cash: Thomson and Thompson are investigating counterfeit coins that they found on the drowned sailor at the beginning of the book, but this doesn't really amount to anything.
- The Dragon: Allan to Omar ben Salaad.
- False Friend: Allan to Haddock. Rather depressingly, Haddock calls him the only true friend he has when we first meet him.
- Framed for Heroism: At one point, a raging Haddock charges ahead against a group of armed Bedouin raiders, who promptly run away. It turns out they were actually running away from the reinforcements arriving behind him.
- The Heavy: Allan.
- Heroic BSOD: Haddock enters one when he realizes he and Tintin are stranded in the middle of Sahara and will probably die of thirst.
- Hero of Another Story: The Japanese police agent who is kidnapped.
- Hollywood Mirage
- Lighter and Softer: The animated adaptations in comparison to the original comic book story. In at least the Remastered version of the 1990s animated series, Allan's crimes are changed from smuggling opium to smuggling diamonds. But, oddly, only in the second episode; the first episode is true to the comics by having Allan be involved in drug-smuggling, and despite the fact Allan appeared as part of the opium-smuggling ring in Cigars of the Pharoah.
- Madness Mantra: When he enters his Heroic BSOD, Haddock can only repeat the words "land of thirst" over and over.
- Meat-O-Vision: After wandering around in the desert with Tintin for a while, Haddock envisions Tintin as a huge bottle of champagne and nearly strangles him to death trying to uncork him.
- The Millstone: Haddock.
- Nightmare Sequence: Tintin dreams that he is inside a bottle when Haddock plans to uncork him with a Nightmare Face so scary that we used it as the image on the Nightmare Fuel page for Tintin.
- Pet the Dog: After the Japanese appeared solely as villains in The Blue Lotus, here we get a heroic Japanese character, albeit mostly off-camera.
- Red Herring: The Counterfeit Cash subplot at the beginning of the story basically amounts to this.
- Shoot the Messenger: Non-lethal punching variation with Allan.
- In the Agent 327 album De Gesel van Rotterdam the ship Karaboudjan and Allan Thompson appear, directly referencing this Tintin album.
- In The Simpsons episode In The Name Of The Grandfather Bart insults Belgium, to which Marge threatens him: "Bart, if you hate Belgium so much, maybe I should take your Tintin stories away." Bart then clutches a copy of The Crab With The Golden Claws, promising he'll behave.
- Thirsty Desert: Tintin and Haddock cross a desert while being extremely thristy because of their lack of water.
- Villain with Good Publicity: Omar Ben Salaad.
- Unstoppable Rage: Haddock gets truly pissed off when a band of Bedouin raiders firing at him shatter his bottle of whisky.