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 for its racist portrayal of the Congolese natives, its pro-colonialist themes and its utter disregard for wildlife wellfare. Hergé himself would later become embarrassed by it
and cited it as "bourgeois" and "paternalistic". In recent years, attempts have been made to ban the book entirely. It currently tends to be sold with a warning label informing potential readers about the controversial content.
- 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 of 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.
- 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
- Big Bad: Al Capone. No, really.
- 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 late 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 to a 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.
- 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 trail because they are too lazy "and will get dirty."
- Magical Negro: Muganga the witch doctor.
- Mighty Whitey: Tintin is seen as one.
- Misplaced Vegetation: Rubber trees in Africa.
- 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 hundreds of antilopes in the belief its just one whom he missed several times. He shoots a chimpansee just to shed off his skin and wear it as a disguise. He beats up another chimpansee, 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.
- Random Events Plot
- Rapid Fire Interrupting: 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. Despite the Values Dissonance, the scene is still hilarious.
- Revealing Coverup: 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.
- Sinister Minister: Muganga the witch doctor.
- 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 is a fraud.
- 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.
- Values Dissonance:
- Tintin shooting animals in the wild was less controversial in 1930 than it is now.
- Tintin being carried around and worshipped 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.
- Why Won't You Die?: Tintin spots an antelope and tries to shoot it down several times, as it seems to be unkillebale. 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.