Recap / Tintin - Tintin in the Congo

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Tintin and Snowy go on a trip to the Belgian Congo to hunt lions. While there, Tintin finds himself the target of a mysterious hired killer who follows him on his travels around the country. And as for actual plot, that's pretty much it. The bulk of the story is about Tintin's Random Encounters with the African wildlife and the childishly naive natives.

Today, Tintin in the Congo is rather infamous in some countries for its racist portrayal of the Congolese natives, its pro-colonialist themes and its utter disregard for animal welfare. It is notable that Hergé himself originally had not planned the story; he had wished to send Tintin to the United States (this would eventually happen in the next story, Tintin in America), but Norbert Wallez, the chief-in-editor of Le Petit Vingtième in which Tintin was serialized, wanted to inspire support for the Belgian colonial administration and Christian mission in Congo, and so some Executive Meddling took place and Hergé was convinced to do a story about Congo instead. Hergé would later look back at the story with embarrassment and cited it as "bourgeois" and "paternalistic". Attempts have been made to ban the book entirely at times in some countries. It currently tends to be sold with a warning label informing potential readers about the controversial content (at least in Anglophone countries). It was also actually reprinted by a Congolese newspaper in the Seventies.

Tropes

  • Adapted Out: The Ellipse / Nelvana animated series didn't adapt this album, for obvious reasons.
  • Artistic License Biology:
    • In real life it's not that easy to cut a snake's belly open and sew it back shut without it dying in the process.
    • Tintin is unable to shoot a rhinoceros in the original black-and-white story, because it's skin is so strong that bullets just bounce off of it. He makes a small hole in the skin, drops a stick of dynamite inside it and then blows the animal up from a distance. This is kept in most European versions, where it's seen as cartoonish humour.
  • Artistic License Geography: Hergé never did any research for this story and based his idea of Africa mostly on the general stereotypical image of the country and what most Europeans thought it was like.
  • Author Tract: Like with The Soviets, this was more of a command from Hergé's boss than a free choice. Things only began to change with Tintin in America.
  • Bigger Bad: Al Capone. No, really. This is carried into Tintin in America.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: At one point, Tintin is captured by the hired killer, who instead of just shooting Tintin ties him up over the river and leaves him to be eaten by crocodiles. Somewhat justified in that we later find out that the guy had been instructed to make Tintin's death look like an accident, but that doesn't excuse his not sticking around to actually make sure he'd die.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: Tintin's slaughter of the Congolese wildlife could be an unintentional example.
  • Darkest Africa:
  • Disney Villain Death: Both Tintin and the bad stowaway fall off a waterfall. Tintin survives, but the stowaway is eaten by crocodiles.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Just like many of the early Tintin stories there's no strong story, just a Random Events Plot. Also the good natured Tintin is seen shooting and harming almost every wild life animal.
  • Eaten Alive and Swallowed Whole: Snowy is eaten by a large snake, but is still alive inside. Tintin manages to cut the snake open and save Snowy.
  • George Lucas Altered Version: In the color version most direct references to Belgian Congo were removed and replaced. Tintin now just visits "Africa".
    • The scene where Tintin blows up a rhinoceros has been changed in Scandinavianote  and English-speaking world to a more realistic scene where the rhino is spared such a fate and runs away. Still, many other scenes where Tintin kills or hurts other wild life animals were kept intact. Notably in the francophone world, where it's seen as too farcical and irrealistic to be worthy of indignation.
  • Great White Hunter: Tintin and even the elderly colonial priest.
  • Inevitable Waterfall: Tintin and the stowaway come across one.
  • Lazy Bum: At first the Africans refuse to put the train back on the rails because they are too lazy "and will get dirty."
  • Losing a Shoe in the Struggle: Tintin loses one of his shoes and a sock to a shark when he rescues Snowy from drowning.
  • Magical Negro: Muganga the witch doctor.
  • Mighty Whitey: Tintin is seen as one.
  • Misplaced Vegetation: Rubber trees in Africa.
  • National Stereotypes: This is basically Darkest Africa as it appeared in the native Europeans' minds in the 1930s. The black Africans are all child-like, primitive, dumb and lazy and all animals are basically dangerous and are acceptable hunting targets.
  • Never Smile at a Crocodile: Tintin and Snowy are almost eaten by a crocodile at one point. The hired killer who's been out to get Tintin is ultimately eaten by crocodiles.
  • No Animals Were Harmed: Errr.... Apart from Snowy almost every animal in this story is harmed or killed. Tintin shoots fourteen antelopes in the belief its just one whom he missed several times. He shoots a chimpanzee just to cut off its skin and wear it as a disguise. He beats up another chimpanzee, tries to shoot an elephant, cuts a large snake open and has it swallow its own tail, shoots down another snake, has a leopard eat a sponge giving it digestive problems,... Snowy bites off a lion's tail. A priest shoots several crocodiles dead. There's a rhinoceros Tintin planned to shoot, but luckily it escaped. In the original story however Tintin put a stick of dynamite inside its skin and blew the animal up. Danish publishers felt this was both too unrealistic and very harsh and asked Hergé to change it into the more animal friendly scene still found in the story today.
  • Ouroboros: Tintin makes a snake eat its own tail at one point.
  • Race Lift: In the original version, the owner of the tame leopard is a black man. In the colorized version, he's a white man.
  • Random Events Plot
  • Rapid Fire Interrupting: In the original version, Tintin attempts to teach native children about "their country, Belgium" with the aid of a blackboard, but is constantly interrupted so he never gets any further than the first sentence. The revised version changes the curriculum to arithmetic.
  • Revealing Cover-Up: Al Capone suspected Tintin might be wise to his diamond smuggling operation, so he tried to arrange for his assassination. If he had just left Tintin alone, Tintin would never have found out about anything.
  • Sequel Hook: Tintin is on his way to America to battle Al Capone. This is the only book in the series that isn't an actual two-parter to end in such a manner.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Rabbi's Cat: Both in the comic strip and the animated adaptation Tintin has a cameo in his outfit from this album, though depicted as a racist moron.
    • Tarzoon: Shame of the Jungle: In this Tarzan parody Tarzoon swings past a scene where Tintin is trying to convert little black Africans. When one of the Africans is distracted by Tarzoon passing by he hits him over the head with his crucifix, while Snowy is standing by.
  • Sinister Minister: Muganga the witch doctor.
  • Society Marches On:
    • The book is much more well received in the francophone world, including francophone Africa. It's seen as too farcical and irrealistic to be able to do any harm, and even as a good mean to ridicule colonialism.
    • Tintin killing lots of animals in the wild was less controversial in 1930 than it is now.
    • Tintin being carried around and worshiped as some kind of Mighty Whitey by black Africans is less innocent today than it was when the story was first published.
    • All black Africans are depicted as being lazy and primitive, almost infantile adults. The whites are mostly there to help them out or take advantage of them. This was typical of the Western perspective on colonial Africa back in those days.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Technology: The natives turn away from their witch doctor when they discover Tintin brought a grammophone and a film projector which proves their wizard lied and desecrated the tribe's fetish.
  • Time Marches On: When Tintin shows the natives film footage of the wizard and the villain partying together the film is silent and in black-and-white, as most films still were in 1930, when this comic strip story was drawn.
    • Tintin teaches the children about "their fatherland Belgium" in the original story. (In the color version it was changed to a simple "2+2=4" lesson.). Since 1960 Congo is no longer a Belgian colony.
  • Why Won't You Die?: Tintin spots an antelope and tries to shoot it down several times, as it seems to be unkilleable. Then it turns out he killed it the first time around. It's just that several other antelopes happened to appear on the same spot and were mistaken by Tintin for being one and the same animal.
  • Wolverine Claws: The "leopard-man"'s weapon.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Recap/TintinTintinInTheCongo