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Recap / Tintin: The Castafiore Emerald

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The Castafiore Emerald (1963) is the 21st adventure of Tintin, mostly taking place within the walls of Marlinspike Hall. The protagonists never leave their home in what is considered the most "sedate" tale in the series.

The tale begins with Captain Haddock encountering a camp of Roma setting up in a dump just downwind from Marlinspike Hall. Captain Haddock then generously lets them camp out on his own property, close to his house. This minor event is followed by the news that Bianca Castafiore, Italian opera diva and Abhorrent Admirer to Haddock, has decided to spend her vacation in the Hall. The Captain decides it's time to leave the hall for a vacation of his own. In his haste to leave, Haddock steps on a damaged staircase and sprains his ankle, ensuring that he is not going anywhere.

Castafiore's stay in the Hall turns out to be eventful. One of her prized emeralds goes missing and suspicions fall on the gypsies, while the press misinterprets a random comment of Calculus for an announcement that Bianca is marrying Haddock, resulting in coverage of the events by tabloids and television, along with congratulations from friends around the globe.

The Castafiore Emerald provides examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: As usual, Castafiore calls Haddock by a different name every time, which confuses the tabloids trying to romantically link them.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: Mike the gypsy. In the comic, he is rude to Tintin and Haddock and never stops being suspicious of them. In the Animated Adaptation, the worst thing he does is angrily snap at Haddock when the latter naively remarks on where the gypsies are living, and he is grateful when Haddock offers to let them live in the field near Marlinspike.
  • Angrish: When Captain Haddock receives a phone call from Thompson and Thomson congratulating him over his Tabloid Melodrama-reported engagement to Castafiore, he lets out a series of inarticulate angry syllables before slamming the receiver down.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Calculus names his new breed of white rose after Bianca Castafiore. Her name literally means "White, Chaste Flower".
  • Bland-Name Product: Bianca mentions her broken "Tristan Bior" necklace.
  • Bottle Episode: The whole story takes place in and around Marlinspike Hall.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The cover of the comic has Tintin in the foreground, looking directly at the reader, with a smile and a finger to his lips.
  • Bungling Inventor: Professor Calculus creates a filter that can turn monochrome television signals into colour television, despite Haddock trying to tell him that It's Been Done.note  It doesn't work very well.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Tintin and Captain Haddock spot a magpie in the front yard of Marlinspike very early on in the book. Later in the story, Bianca Castafiore's titular emerald is stolen. It turns out the thief is the magpie.
  • Company Cross References: Bianca Castafiore mentions in passing that the gossip press has linked her romantically to the Maharajah of Gopal in the past.
  • Continuity Nod: When talking about her treatment by the media, Bianca Castafiore mentions in passing that the press has linked her romantically to the Marquis de Gorgonzola and to Bordurian secret police chief Colonel Sponsz in the past.
  • Crooked Contractor: Criminally Lazy variation. Mr. Bolt takes several weeks to get around to fixing Captain Haddock's broken step, which causes one serious accident and several minor ones. Bolt isn't motivated by financial needs, but by sheer apathy. He can't be too busy because he finds time to join his friends in the drunken marching band, and at one point can be seen reading in the background while his wife claims he is not at home.
  • Dream Sequence: Captain Haddock dreams he is listening to an opera singing parrot, while he is seated completely nude in an audience consisting of nothing but fully-dressed parrots.
  • The End: The last panel of the story has Bianca's pet parrot, Iago, saying, "Blistering barnacles, that's the end!"
  • Faint in Shock: Bianca Castafiore and her assistant Irma faint when they hear that her jewels have been stolen.
  • Fair-Play Whodunnit: The book subverts this trope, as pretty much all the clues pointing towards the identity of the thief turn out to be false, put there just to mislead the reader.
  • Fake Alibi: Subverted. The eponymous gemstone is missing presumed stolen, and Wagner is supposedly cleared as a suspect because he was allegedly practicing the piano in a different room at the time it disappeared. However, Tintin notices that Wagner's shoes are muddy, that someone had recently fallen down the stairs, and eventually, that the piano music was just a recording. Despite this, however, Wagner is not the thiefhe was actually going off to gamble in secret.
  • Famous-Named Foreigner: The pianist Igor Wagner is named after Igor Stravinsky and Richard Wagner.
  • Fingore: Downplayed. Haddock's finger is bitten by the parrot and apparently is injured enough to be bandaged, but he doesn't lose the finger and it is well in the end.
  • Fowl-Mouthed Parrot: The parrot the captain got as a gift from the Castafiore learns to swear like the captain at the end.
  • Funny Phone Misunderstanding: Several times Haddock would be on the phone, only to be interrupted by the parrot, and copiously insult it without remembering to cover the phone.
  • Gag Nose: Temporary; Captain Haddock gets stung in his nose by a wasp, after which his nose swells to big proportions and goes dark red. And to top it off Bianca Castafiore then covers Haddock's swollen red nose with red rose petals, so it looks even more ridiculous.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • "I can't stand animals who talk!" — Snowy.
    • "Thief!" — The magpie, who stole the emerald, to Tintin when the latter takes back the emerald.
    • Bianca Castafiore comes to Marlinspike Hall to escape the press, but throughout the story is eager to accept various interview opportunities.
    • Bianca Castafiore is absolutely horrified and has a fit when a tabloid publishes some pretty random looking picture of her and the parrot, but she doesn't care that the tabloids wrongly published that she and Haddock were going to marry. In her 'defence' the tabloid that published the parrot photo was one she explicitly refused to be featured in ever again after they did an unflattering piece on her.
    • In the same scene, Bianca complains to Haddock that anybody can enter Marlinspike Hall without much trouble, while she invited herself there in the first place.
  • I'll Never Tell You What I'm Telling You!: Thompson and Thomson are incapable of keeping their thoughts to themselves.
    Thomson or Thompson: No, our lips are sealed. We can't tell you whom we suspect, but it isn't anyone in the house. Mum's the word, you know.
    Thompson or Thomson: Yes, dumb's the word, that's our motto. So we're not allowed to tell you about the gypsies, though we suspected them from the start...
  • Impairment Shot: A very blurry panel depicts the characters' reaction after viewing a very buggy color-television broadcast.
  • Injured Limb Episode: Captain Haddock sprains his leg falling on a broken stair and has to be in a wheelchair for two weeks.
  • Mind Your Step: A broken stair in Marlinspike Hall puts Captain Haddock in a wheelchair after he forgets about it. Several other characters trip on the same spot throughout the issue. At the end of the story, when Haddock is out of the wheelchair and the stair is freshly repaired, he forgets about it again, steps on the still setting marble, and sends himself flying, undoing the repair in the process.
  • Mistaken for Thief: Bianca Castafiore's precious emerald disappears, as do a pair of gold scissors. Initially, the Thompsons suspect her two servants and Professor Calculus, but then all their suspicions go towards a group of nomads camping nearby. It doesn't help that Miarca, a nomad girl, has the scissors in her possession. In reality, it was a magpie that stole both items.
  • Never My Fault: After Tempo di Roma manages to get a picture of Castafiore when their paparazzo manages to get inside Marlinspike Hall during the television interview, Castafiore blames it on Captain Haddock for not keeping a better count on who can come to his estate. She herself accepted said television interview and ignored her own wish to avoid the press.
  • No Antagonist: There is no main antagonist—although everyone assumes there is until the end (mainly, suspecting the gypsies).
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: Two reporters from the Paris Flash magazine ask Calculus about whether Bianca Castafiore and Captain Haddock are in a relationship, but Calculus assumes he's getting interviewed about the new breed of rose he developed. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Out Sick: Captain Haddock plans to go on a trip to get away from Castafiore, who's visiting, but he can't because he sprains his ankle and is confined to a wheelchair.
  • Pictorial Letter Substitution: The logo title has the "o" of "Castafiore" replaced by an emerald.
  • Pinball Protagonist: He has his flash of inspiration at the end, but, before that, Tintin spends his time reacting to events and chasing one false lead after another.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Much of the calamity that happens to Haddock happened to HergĂ© too. One of his stairs was broken and the repair man always promised he would come by, but it just never happened. Hergé was so irritated by this that he wrote the situation in the story, even gave the repair man the same name: Boullu. A feature about himself in a glossy magazine also bore about the same kind of loose connection to reality as the one in Paris-Flash about Bianca Castafiore and the Captain. And the incident with the drunk fanfare band also happened to him in real life.
  • Recorded Audio Alibi: Tintin, scouting the countryside one day in search of the lost emerald, spots Wagner, Castafiore's pianist, heading into town by bicycle. However, the scales he practices endlessly for Castafiore are still emanating from Marlinspike Hall, which becomes less mysterious to Tintin when he and Snowy discover a ladder hidden underneath the window of the piano room and a running tape recorder on top of the piano. When Wagner returns, he is surprised to find Tintin having climbed into the piano room before him, and then surprised again by Castafiore, who opens the unlocked door and scolds him about practicing his scales. Tintin tells her that he's still playing them, and Castafiore fails her spot check and leaves satisfied with what she can hear.
  • Roguish Romani: Captain Haddock sees a band of gypsies camping out on a landfill because they were refused passage everywhere else and offers to let them stay on Marlinspike's grounds. While he does it out of generosity, it gets him strange looks from just about everybody, including Nestor and the local police, who warn him that he'll be responsible for any crimes they commit. Naturally, the Castafiore's emerald goes missing, with Thompson and Thomson immediately suspecting the gypsies (made worse when they find a pair of scissors belonging to the Castafiore's chambermaid in the gypsies' carts). In the end, the culprit of both thefts is revealed to be a Thieving Magpie.
  • Running Gag:
    • People (especially Haddock and Nestor) frequently trip over a broken step of the stairs, and Haddock is frantically trying to get the stairs repaired throughout the story.
      • Every time Haddock phones the builder with a demand to have his step fixed, he angrily hangs up the phone, fuming that if the builder doesn't show up the following day, as promised, he will hire somebody else to do the job. Cut to a couple of days later and Haddock is once again on the phone with the same builder, demanding that the builder come over to fix his step.
    • Characters are often connected to wrong numbers when using the phone, which leads to them ranting over the phone to someone else than they think they're talking to.
    • The parrot talks when Haddock is on the phone, which leads to Haddock cursing the parrot, which is then taken by the person at the other end of the phone line as Haddock swearing at them. This happens a few times.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Haddock attempts to leave Marlinspike upon learning Castafiore is coming over, unfortunately he breaks his leg after tripping down the broken stairs, forcing him to stay.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: The central question of the story is "who stole Castafiore's emerald", with the characters suspecting the Roma in particular to be the thieves. In the end, the jewel thief turns out to be a magpie. Every single prior clue and lead-in was a Red Herring, and the Roma, who at first are suspected to be the thieves, turn out to not really be significant to the story.
  • Slice of Life: Herge described the writing of this story as "trying to see if he can maintain tension in a plot where nothing actually happens." (The theft of the emerald doesn't even happen until page 44 of a 62-page story.)
  • Tabloid Melodrama: Paris-Flash's cover promises the wedding of Castafiore to Captain Haddock (who can't stand her), and she tells him not to take it too seriously, as she's been linked to hundreds of other men in the past. She later gets upset about the Tempo di Roma's unauthorized expose on "La diva ed il pappagallo" (The diva and the parrot).
  • Talking Animal: The parrot talks, sings and shouts, much to the chagrin of Captain Haddock. Snowy even says he can't stand animals who talk.
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: Bianca Castafiore invites herself to Marlinspike Hall and ends up spending several weeks there, much to Captain Haddock's frustration.
  • Thieving Magpie: Tintin has a "Eureka!" Moment when he hears that Castafiore, still missing her emerald, will be performing in La Gazza Ladra (Thieving Magpie). In said opera by Rossini, the charges of theft against a servant girl are resolved when they discover a magpie was the actual culprit. Sure enough, Tintin finds the emerald in a magpie's nest. Inverted when the magpie itself accuses Tintin to be a "THIEF!" when Tintin takes the emerald back from the magpie.