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Recap / Tintin: Cigars of the Pharaoh

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Cigars of the Pharaoh begins with Tintin and Snowy on a pleasure cruise in the Mediterranean Sea, where they agree to assist fellow passenger Professor Sophocles Sarcophagus (Philémon Siclone in the original French) in finding the lost tomb of the Pharaoh Kih-Oskh. Before they reach land, Tintin is framed for drug smuggling and needs to evade the detectives Thomson and Thompson. When Tintin and Sarcophacus locate the tomb, Sarcophagus disappears and Tintin discovers that the tomb itself is being used by an international drug smuggling operation to store boxes containing mysterious cigars bearing the mark of Kih-Oskh. After travelling around Arabia and then India, Tintin finds Sarcophagus, but discovers that he has been driven insane by a mysterious poison being used by the smugglers.

Cigars of the Pharaoh marks the first appearance of regular characters Thomson and Thompson, who are noticeably less incompetent here than they would later become, as well as recurring characters Roberto Rastapopoulos, Captain Allan and Senhor Oliveira da Figueira.


  • Adaptational Villainy: In the comic, the Fakir steals Tintin's letter from the doctor to the asylum staff and replaces it with orders to lock Tintin up. In the animated version, he doesn't need to because the doctor himself is a member of the gang.
  • Adapted Out: Zloty the poet and Sheik Patrash Pasha do not appear in the animated version.
  • Androcles' Lion: Tintin cures an elephant of malaria with quinine and then receives his help.
  • Banana Peel: Tintin attempts to foil security guards with banana peels. He manages to foil two of them, but then the third turns the tables.
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  • Bedlam House: Tintin is falsely incarcerated in one of these at one point.
  • Bedouin Rescue Service: Subverted. Tintin at one point sees two Bedouins in the distance while travelling in the desert and intends to ask them for help, but as he approaches them he recognizes them as Thomson and Thompson.
  • Bedsheet Ghost: Dr. Sarcophagus plays a ghost in bedsheets.
  • Buried Alive: Tintin, as a result of Faking the Dead.
  • Caught in a Snare: Tintin steps into a snare intended to catch tigers. He might have been able to free himself if he weren't in a straitjacket at the time.
  • Characterization Marches On: The Thom(p)sons are much more effective here than in the rest of the series; successfully disguising themselves as Bedouins and veiled women and fooling even Tintin, arranging for Tintin's death to be faked, saving Snowy from being sacrificed and arriving in the nick of time when Tintin has been knocked out by the Fakir.
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  • Chekhov's Gunman: Mr and Mrs Snowball were introduced as secondary characters but later turn out to be members of the secret society.
  • Chemically-Induced Insanity: The Egyptologist Dr. Sarcophagus is given drugs to make him insane, so as to cover up an opium-smuggling ring that was running through Egypt.
  • Climbing Climax: At the end, Tintin chases the Fakir and his boss up a mountain.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Everyone hit by the poison arrows.
  • Coffin Contraband: Coffins are used for smuggling what, in most cases, is presumably opium. Three coffins are used to transport Tintin, Snowy and Dr. Sarcophagus instead, but the smugglers don't realize until after the coffins have already been thrown overboard at the sign of approaching coastguards.
  • Coming in Hot: Tintin crash-lands in the jungle when his propeller plane runs out of gas.
  • Conscription: Tintin gets drafted for army service.
  • Contrived Coincidence:
    • Tintin just stumbles onto the base of the villains' operation in India by accident after flying a propeller plane from Arabia in a random direction. In the animated series, he already knows they are located in India after reading a letter, but still arrives outside the town by chance.
    • The smugglers are ready to kill Tintin, Snowy and Sarcophagus when they are confronted by a coast guard ship and are forced to dump their prisoners overboard.
  • Convenient Escape Boat: Tintin jumps from his cabin window onto a bypassing boat. Later he escapes on a conveniently waiting propeller plane.
  • Cosmopolitan Council: The klanesque council contains an Arab, a Japanese, a married couple with an English surname, and two Indians in turbans.
  • Creator Cameo: In the redrawn colour album, one of the mummies is named E.P. Jacobini, this is a reference to Edgar P. Jacobs (Blake and Mortimer), who helped Hergé with the backgrounds.
  • Curse of the Pharaoh: Subverted. Tintin is exploring the pyramid of Pharaoh Kih-Oskh, and finds a room full of dead, mummified Egyptologists, which he initially thinks is "The Pharoah's revenge!" However, it turns out there's a more mundane explanation — the tomb is being used as the base of operations for an international drug-smuggling gang, and they've been murdering anyone who gets in.
  • Dead Guy on Display: When exploring Kih-Oskh's tomb, Tintin comes across a hall full of dead, mummified explorers on display, as well as three empty sarcophagi with his, Snowy's and Sarcophagus's names on them.
  • Disney Villain Death: The unknown ringleader of the smuggling operation apparently suffers this fate when he falls from a cliff.
  • The Door Slams You: After the Dramatic Unmask, the fakir frees himself and slams a metal door into Tintin's face.
  • Dramatic Unmask: The unmasking of the clan members at the end.
  • Early-Bird Cameo:
    • In the redrawn edition, Hergé gave the later recurring villain Allan Thompson a small role. However, his role is constructed so that he and Tintin never meet each other to avoid continuity issues.
    • In the Nelvana animated series timeline, since the characters have encountered one another at this point (The Crab With the Golden Claws was adapted first), Allan is added to the unmasked smugglers at the end as well, and Tintin recognizes him. This causes a continuity error in the DVD box, however, where this is the second episode shown, and the episode where Allan is introduced is moved five episodes later (as the episodes are in the original album order, rather than how they were broadcast).
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Thomson and Thompson are almost unrecognizable as the Defective Detectives they would be in later books. In this book, they are shockingly competent, saving the lives of both Tintin and Snowy.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: The smuggler's hideout.
  • Everybody Calls Him "Barkeep": No-one ever refers to the Fakir by his real name, only his title.
  • Fainting: Mrs. Snowball faints at one point.
  • Fakeout Escape: While Thom(p)sons escape via the rooftop, Tintin stays behind and dodges the guards covered under a coat.
  • Faking the Dead: The firing squad shoots blanks at Tintin and he pretends to be dead in order to get Buried Alive and later be saved.
  • Foreshadowing: After being hit with a dart containing Rajaijah juice, Zloty starts trying to tell Tintin not to trust the "film boss," but goes completely insane before he can fully elaborate. The next album makes it obvious who he was referring to.
    • Additionally, during Tintin's drug-induced nightmare sequence in the pharaoh's tomb, he envisions Rastapopolous carrying him off to his fate. However, because the hallucinogenic sequence is littered with numerous Red Herrings; with Tintin imagining friendly characters such as Thomson & Thompson, Professor Sarcophagus and even Snowy being complicit in his captivity, readers are primed to assume that Rastapopolous' appearance in the dream sequence is completely irrelevant. Given the discoveries we make later, however, it's more than likely that Rastapopolous really was present while Tintin was being removed from the tomb, and that Tintin was conscious enough to perceive his presence there, amidst all his hallucinations.
    • Another tricky clue can be found in the newspaper panel that begins the epilogue. Although the focus of the panel is an article about Tintin smashing the drug cartel and rescuing the Indian prince, keen eyes will notice that, off to the side, there is a partial view of an article about famous film tycoon, Rastapopolus, mysteriously disappearing off the face of the earth, with a timeframe that neatly coincides with the apparent "death" of the drug cartel kingpin.
  • Freak Out: Anyone infected with the Rajaijah juice; including Professor Sarcophagus and Zloty the writer.
  • George Lucas Altered Version: Just like the other 1930s Tintin albums, the story was redrawn after the war. The plot remains the same, but several scenes have been altered or trimmed down. Allan Thompson, who would originally only make his debut in The Crab With The Golden Claws was added to the story, so that he would be Rastapopolous' henchman from the start. A mummy with E.P. Jacobini's name- a Creator Cameo of Edgar P. Jacobs- was added as well. In the original, Patrash Pasha shows Tintin a copy of Tintin in America, while in the color version, this was changed with Destination Moon. Professor Sarcophagus' appearance was remodelled by giving him a black beard. When Tintin finds the secret hideout of the Kih-Oskh organisation, an entire scene from the original was cut where he encounters a trap with deadly cobras attacking him and later nearly falls into a pit with crocodiles.
  • Ghost Butler: The opening to the Egyptian tomb slams shut behind Tintin.
  • God Guise: The Thom(p)sons pretend to be the voice of a statue of Shiva to avoid Snowy being sacrificed.
  • Half Way Plot Switch: The first half of the story takes place in Egypt, then Tintin steals a plane and flies away until he crash lands in the Indian jungle.
  • His Name Is...: Before Zloty (Zlotskwtz in the original black-and-white version) can reveal the name of the smuggling ring's leader, he is hit by a poison dart containing the Rajaijah juice.
  • Hollywood Mirage: Tintin and Snowy think they see an oasis far off, only to find a skeleton and a sign saying "Mirage Ahead".note 
  • Hypnotic Eyes: The evil Fakir has this ability.
  • Insane Equals Violent: Averted in this album. Poison darts drive people insane, but the resultant madmen are childlike, silly and harmless. This is however played straight in the animated version, where Professor Sarcophagus is made to attack Tintin, and its sequel, the Blue Lotus.
  • Inspector Javert: Thomson and Thompson, at least in this story before they got exagerated into Sympathetic Inspector Antagonists. Despite being his enemy at this point, they rescue Tintin from execution with an elaborate scheme because "we were ordered to arrest Tintin, gun-runner and drug smuggler, and an order is an order. That's why!"
  • In the Hood: The members secret society are all dressed in large hoods for their meetings.
  • Jerkass: Rastapopoulos behaves this way when he meets Tintin aboard the ship. He becomes nicer later on.
  • The Klan: The secret society of Kih-Oskh look suspisciously like the Ku Klux Klan: all dressed in large hoods. However, these are only worn when they meet amongst themselves so that nobody (except, one assumes, the leader) will know the identity of everybody else. Tintin Lampshades this in the English version, where he directly compares the Kih-Oskh criminals to the Klan.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: By the time the Ellipse-Nelvana adaptation was made, everybody knew Rastapopoulos was the recurring Big Bad, so this version makes little secret that he's the one sending the written orders. He even gets a Traitor Shot!
  • Left Hanging:
    • Tintin enters a pharaoh tomb where all explorers who entered before are mummified. Despite having only entered a couple of minutes ago, Tintin and Snowy spot two coffins with their names on it. How the heck did the villains find the time to put these in place and find/build a small one for Snowy?
    • When Tintin unmasks the villain council at the end, the guy whom he Mugged for Disguise is never shown.
  • Lost at Sea: Tintin, Snowy and Sarcophagus find themselves adrift in sarcophagi in the middle of the Red Sea.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: The secret society of Kih-Oskh are all dressed in outfits that seems to be inspired by the Ku Klux Klan. However, the purpose is a different one - the hooded masks are worn during their secret meetings so that if anyone should ever turn traitor, they would not be able to give away the others to the police.
  • Meaningful Name: Professor Sarcophagus.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: Disappearance of an Egyptian archaeologist → Uncovering a secret brotherhood of international opium smugglers.
  • Mistaken from Behind: The Thompsons attempt to arrest someone who from behind looks like Tintin in the bedouin outfit they last saw him wear. Turns out it's a completely unrelated guy, and what they mistook for Snowy's behind was a goat's. The incident sparks a war that causes Tintin to be drafted into the local military.
  • Mugged for Disguise: Tintin takes out one of the clan members to dress in his clothes.
  • Mummy: All the people inside the pharaoh's tomb are mummified.
  • Mysterious Employer: The Fakir acts as the primary villain for most of the story, though he's working under someone else whose identity won't be revealed until the following story.
  • Naked Nutter: When the archaeologist Dr. Sarcophagus is poisoned with "madness poison", one of the first signs of insanity is that he takes his pants off.
  • Newhart Phonecall: At the KKK-like reunion of the drug cartel, The Dragon initially averts it in his phone call with the leader, but lapses back into it when he learns there is an impostor. In the animated version, it's inverted.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Tintin dreams nightmarish images while he is being drugged with chloroform in the tomb.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Tintin meets a French smuggler, who was inspired by the real-life drug and arms smuggler Henry de Monfreid.
    • In the original black-and-white version, one of the mummified Egyptologists is Lord Carnaval, a shout-out to Lord Carnarvon, the alleged first victim of the "Curse of Tutankhamum".
  • No Name Given: In the original black-and-white version, Professor Sarcophagus is not named and Thompson and Thomson are called Agents X33 and X33 bis.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Tintin tells Sheik Patrash Pasha that his name "won't mean a thing to you... but at home, they call me Tintin." It could simply mean that Tintin didn't expect anybody to have heard of him all the way out in Egypt. Some fans, however, take this to mean that Tintin is just a nickname.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Averted. Unlike in later albums, the Thom(p)son put on disguises that fool even Tintin.
  • Prematurely Marked Grave: Tintin and Snowy enter a tomb where several bodies of other archeologists are who dared to enter have been mummified. They all stand next to each other on display. At the end of these, to Tintin's horror, there are empty sarcophaguses bearing the names of himself, Snowy and Dr. Sarcophagus. He immediately realizes he needs to escape.
  • Punny Name:
    • The Pharoah Kih-Oskh is a pun on 'kiosk', i.e. where you might buy cigars and other tobacco products.
    • The Maharajah of Gaipajama's name is a pun on 'gay pyjama(s)' ('gay' in the old sense of 'colourful, showy'), referencing the way Indian princes dressed. (In the original French, the place is called Rawhadjpoutalah).
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: The story about Tintin entering an Egyptian pharaoh's tomb and thinking he's about to be a victim of the pharaoh's curse was inspired by the 1922 discovery of pharaoh Tutankhamun's tomb and the so-called curse that caused many people who had dared to open the tomb to die. The film The Mummy (1932) played in cinemas around the time Hergé drew this story and probably inspired him. Hergé would use a similar cursed archaeologists and mummy plot with The Seven Crystal Balls, in which the action is moved to Peru.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The Maharajah of Gaipajama.
  • Recursive Canon:
    • The Sheik Patrash Pasha recognizes Tintin because he has read the books and even shows him a copy of one of the albums. Even more oddly, in the redrawn version, the album he shows Tintin is Destination Moon, which takes place AFTER Cigars of the Pharaoh (in the original version, it is Tintin in America).
    • At the start of the English translation of the book, while on the cruise, Snowy says that he'd settle for Marlinspike. Marlinspike Hall is the estate of Captain Haddock, who they haven't met yet; this was a result of the books being published in English in a different order to the original, and Cigars was one of the final books to be translated. The reference to Marlinspike remains even though the original order is now used by UK publishers.
  • Secret Circle of Secrets: The secret society of Kih-Oskh are all Malevolent Masked Men.
  • Shot at Dawn: Tintin get executed by a firing squad. Or so we think.
  • Sigil Spam: The symbol of Kih-Oskh is used on cigars and the costumes of the members of the secret organisation. In the sequel to this album, it is also shown to be used as a tattoo for members.
  • Snake Charmer: In the Ellipse-Nelvana version, the evil fakir uses music to make a rope stand. It's less ridiculous than what he did in the book,note  but still completely unexplained.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: Tintin carves a trumpet and uses it to communicate with elephants at one point.
  • Train Escape: Tintin jumps onto a bypassing train to escape his pursuers.
  • Trampoline Tummy: When confined to the asylum, Tintin jumps on a fat man's tummy to get over a wall.
  • Traveling Salesman: Oliveira da Figueira.
  • Undying Loyalty: When Snowy thinks that Tintin is dead, he resigns himself to spending the rest of his life at his grave.
  • The Unreveal: The council member Tintin mugged for disguise is never revealed to the reader.
  • Unreveal Angle: The boss of the narcotics gang is only seen from behind. Revealed in The Blue Lotus to have been Rastapopulos .
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: For the color album version, the scary snake sequences of the original version was much reduced.
  • You Don't Want to Catch This: Tintin routs a guard by pretending that Snowy is rabid. A dangerous gamble, as a braver guard could have shot Snowy before Tintin had a chance to reach him and wrest the rifle from him.
  • You Just Ruined the Shot: Tintin attacks two men whipping a defenseless woman, only to find out it's part of a film.


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