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Hergé's Fanstasy Kingdom: The Land of the Black Pelikan

5/16/03 and its similarities with the "The Land of the Peacock Throne"

By Darius Kadivar

Picture:Tintin and Snowy ( his partner also known as "Milou") Children Book Johnny Shah about a young boy in the 60's in Iran. World Jamboree Banner in Neishaboor, Iran, which was supposed to be held in July 1979

"I consider my stories as movies, no narration no descriptions: emphasis is given to images" -Hergé

In most recent years one of the most original and certainly underestimated artists of the 20th century Hergé (1907-1983) ( Reversed Initials of his real name George Remi "R.G" pronounced in French ) inventor of the famed Belgium "Ligne Claire" Comic Strip style and father of its hero Tintin ( See Official Website of Tintin), was also to be inspired by the Orient, in several albums, The "Crab with the Golden Claws" , "Cigars of the Pharaoh", and especially in the "Land of the Black Gold". His adventures were to be adapted to Farsi known as "Magerahayeh Tintin" and the animation series were one of the most popular children shows of its Time. Hergé's work has often reduced by his critics as childish or too moralistic, They do have a point but it cannot explain why the Tintin Adventures have been translated into more than 40 languages, and for more than half a century it has been a international library success, especially after the Second World War. With his impeccable style and superb use of color, Hergé certainly influenced several generations worldwide and contributed in his own level to shape their visual imagination. The ever perfectionist artist, created Tintin in 1929 and produced 24 volumes in all at the time of his death ...

Many young Iranians of the Sixties or Seventies will probably recall the feature line at the begining of each album mentioning the list of countries publishing Tintin . "Iran : The Modern Printing House in Teheran" . As a child growing up in Iran I discovered Tintin in the "Cigars of the Pharaoh" , the apparent comic illustrations of the characters was supported by a strong plot and contrary to the look of the characters the settings, details and costumes which were often quite realistic. My favorite albums were the underwater and Sea adventures such as the
"The Secret of the Unicorn" or "Red Rackhams Treasure". Which reminded me of the great times my brother, sister and I would spend in the home swiming pool or at the one in Shiraz' Namazi Hospital grounds, and rest on the green green Grass, with a snack composed of Water Melons and goat cheese and Fanta or Coca Cola Sodas and sometimes Abeh Ali Dougs to refresh up in the warm sun before taking an afternoon nap under the Trees. surrounding the pool.

However one album in particular was quite fascinating and that was the "King Ottokars Sceptre" about a Fantasy Kingdom which combines both Tradition and Modernity, ruled by a Benevolent King. As a Belgian Hergé was naturally attaached to the monarchy, nevertheless, the Belgian Monarchy was a fragile one due to the linguistic divisions between the "Flamans" ( closer to French ) and the "Walons" ( More Dutch). The Former King Bedouin of Belgium played a key role in uniting the people of Belgium after the Second World War when the country was divided between those in favor of the Monarchy and Republicans who had not accepted the New King's father who had accepted Collaborating with the Nazis in order to maintain the kingdom togather after Germany invaded the country.
While taking an oath on the Constitution in front of the Parliament, Bedouin was wistled at by some deputies who did not accept the New sworn King. Belgium was nevertheless to become a Cosntitutional Kingdom again and Bedouin a popular King in the years that followed. Hergé was also to become a close friendof
The King Bedouin and Queen Fabiola . The King is said to have also been an avid reader as a young boy and to whome Hergé was to give a special dedicated album of the "Ottokar sceptre". 

(Left to Right and Top to Bottom) After the Second World War Hergé left "Le Petit Vingtieme" and for some time in the 50's and 60's and worked for "Le Soir Illustré" ( the Belgian Royals greeted by Shah and Shahbanou in 1961) , and "Le Soir Jeunesse" before creating his own company. Hergé liked to appeare in his own Comics as here in the courtroom ( Top Left insert page 59 and Below Left page 38 as an officer in green far left ). The Shah and Shahbanou( here on a European tour 1960's)were
considered with the Kennedy's as one of the most Glamourous Couples of the swinging 60's.

Tintin is certainly much more elaborated than Goscinny ( credited for the dialogues) and Uderzo's ( credited for the Drawings) Asterix which are fun ( See Ancestor in Paris ) but since Goscinny's death the Albums have lost in quality and depth in the dialogues.

Hergé's description of human nature and its shortcomings, have led some critics to accuse him of being intolerant, racist or colonialist (Tintin in Congo), dictatorial minded ( Tintin and the Picaros, King Ottokars Sceptre), and for which only Tintin comes across as the only faultless person. Those who have read Tintin carefully will certainly see the exageration of these allegations. However Hergé's work was certainly influenced by the His Time, and certainly some of his prejudices do come across but never in a cruel way, and it is no coincidence that nearly everyone and in every culture can find anologies in his work, including even filmakers like Phillipe De Broca In "L'Homme de Rio" aka "The Man from Rio" with Jean Paul Belmondo or Steven Spielberg whose Indiana Jones adventures are inspired by those of Tintin ( Rumours claim that Spielberg a great fan of Hergé will be adapting Tintin to the Big Screen).

Hergé "Royal" Tintin adventures takes place in the fictive "Kingdom of Syldavia" ruled by the benevolent King Muskar XII, and whose legitimacy rests upon his possession of the Royal Sceptre of his ancestor "King Ottokar IV", which the king must always hold on official occasions each year. Part of Hergé's genius' in creating his albums was that the Belgian cartoonist never traveled, or left his native country.Since its first publication in 1938, "King Ottokar's sceptre" was reedited a number of Times in color including in the 60's and 70's.

It is precisely because of combining both Tradition and Modernity, that Syldavian King Muskar XI's (actually inspired to Hergé by the traits of King Alexander 1st of Yougoslavia) "Kingdom of the Black Pelican" ressembles that of the
Pahlavi King Era 's "Land of the Peacock Throne".

A court filled with intrigues and conspiracies, masterminded by Mützler (a recurrent Tintin Villian, he also appears in Explorers on the Moon ) head of the "Iron guard" ( See
Immortal Guards, and Generals) , tries with the help of the Neighbouring Republic of Borduria, described as a "Stalin Like Society"(where everyone swears by the "Moustache of Kurvi Stach" A Dictator who could easily have been envied by Saddam Hussein Today) , to topple the King by stealing the "Ottokar Sceptre". Mützler's character and intentions also are quite similar to those of the suave cunning looking General Teymour Bakhtiar former head of the Savak, who wanted to topple the Shah in the 70's with the help of Neighbouring Irak, he could also pass for one of the former Shahs close friends General Fardoust who betrayed him in the last years. ( See Authors Notes )

Hergé Fanstasy Kingdom is of course described in ideal terms, we are not really introduced to the way things are governed in the country. The king appears a good person a little in the clouds at first, but once he gets to know Tintin both try to help eachother find the sceptre. The people of the Kingdom come across as a Happy in their Rural and Urbain cities.

It Should be noted that Hergé appears as himself in many albums, a little like Hitchcock, and it is the case in "King Ottokars Sceptre" in which he can be seen in crowd greeting Tintin the coronation Hall.

Interestingly Iran's capital is mentioned in Flight 714 For Sydney, where after landing in Djakarta Tintin and his friends meet "Skutz" an old Estonian pilot friend who has just flown in from Teheran ( See

SAS Scandinavian Airline Brochure to Iran, Center Iran Air plane and Top and Below Flight 714. Beaux Art Magazine with Hergé's portrait by with Andy Warhol and Hergé portrait at the summit of his carreer. Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis third Volume Caption Cartoon Top ("My coat, my michael jackson badge and of course my headscarf to go out") Caption Cartoon bottom "My Uncle was imprisoned under the Shah and was executed under the Islamic Republic".

Although Tintin was hardly popular in the US, which had its share of Super Heroes from Batman to Superman to name just a few, the Tintin adventures had this very boyscout approach to life. Its publicity slogan in French says regarding his albums "Tintin Plait Aux Jeunes de 7 ŕ 77 ans" aka "Tintin can be read from the age of 7 to 77".

In recent years an Iranian Marjane Satrapi ( Also see
Haji Mosawwar al-Molk ) has made the headlines of French and European Magazines since the overwhelming success of her comic series "Persepolis" based on her childhood memories in Pre and post revolutionary Iran. She has published her third Album which tells her story of personal experiences in an Austrian Religious school in 1984 in her teens after the revolution trying to cope with a new culture. Satrapi's work was prized at the Bande Dessiné festival d'Angoulem. Probably darker than Hergé, for Iranian readers who have gone through similar experiences it is nevertheless often funny , sarcastic and probably more revealing on the West than on Iran especially in Persepolis Tome III. Her style sometimes reminds one of Hergé "Ligne Claire" with underlining social and political influences very much like the Belgian cartoonist whose work is often tainted with a darker humour, especially as in his first Black and White albums like in Tintin in the Land of the Soviets (1929) ,and Tintin in America (1932) which is clearly influenced by authentic political matters of his time: the Russian Revolution and American Mafia.

Hérgé work has earned him the undisputed title of the father of modern European Comics. Even serious scholars have been pondering on the social, artistic and historical importance of his Work Today. He is to "Comic Strips" what Andy Warhol was to "Pop Art". It has maybe been a subject of too much scrutiny and analysis for a series of Albums meant to essentially entertain, rather than educate its readers but their is some truth in these assumptions. Hergé's entire world was concentrated on creating the comic hero's adventures in different parts of the World be it real or fictive based on meticulous research of customs, events and history of his Time. Tintin was the first to land on the moon,
discover the underwater world and its hidden treasures, explore the Antartic, Fight Communism, Condemn South American Dictatorships Left or Right Wing and denounce Revolutionary abuses or false promises ( Tintin and the Picaros 1976 was to be Hergé's last published adventure his first was Tintin in the Land of the Soviets 1929), forsee in "The Land of the Black Gold" the Oil Crisis and its possible consenquences ...

Hergé was not a visionary nor claimed to be one, but he was certainly one of the artists of the 20th Century to have imposed a very unique style, colourful characters and unforgettable stories in which anyone can find inspiration and his albums continue to attract new readers from all continents and Ages to this day, that is probably what will make Tintin and his albums Universal...

Authors Note:
This article is meant to be taken for what it is: that is a personal interpretation of Hergés work. I hope you will humour it regardless of your admiration or dislike for Hergé or the Monarchy.

The Official Tintin Website

Very Cool Website in Farsi on Tintin

About the author:
Darius Kadivar was born to an Iranian father and French mother,and lives and works currently in France as a multimedia documentalist. Interested in movies and particularily historic Epics made by Hollywood's Golden Age in the 50's and 60's. He has contributed a number of articles on movies for various on-line magazines.


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