Cigars of the Pharaoh

In Cigars of the Pharaoh (1934), Tintin finds himself entangled in a drug trafficking ring that will take him all the way to India. In the meantime, he meets Thomson and Thompson, two clumsy policemen whose role will progressively become more important throughout the series. Tintin, fighting against the drug traffickers of Egypt and India, meets with a few characters he will encounter again soon, Villains such as Allan Thomson or the mysterious Rastapopoulos as well as some of his future companions like Senor Oliveira.
Cigars of the Pharaoh - Cover
Cigars of the Pharaoh
Cigars of the Pharaoh - Title page
Cigars of the Pharaoh - Page 1
Cigars of the Pharaoh - Page 2
Cigars of the Pharaoh - Page 3
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Cigars of the Pharaoh covers in French
Cigars of the Pharaoh covers in French
The first version was a snow-white blanket with a small image printed on it. Then there were 3 different variations of the black and white album cover. In 1942, Hergé made one of the most admirable covers, which was clearly different from the first one. The first colour version appeared in 1955.


Cigars of the Pharaoh marks the beginning of a working relationship that carried on far beyond the end of the adventure itself. In 1934, Louis Casterman proposed that Hergé receive royalties of 3 francs per book sold (15% of the 20-franc retail price) for the first 10,000 copies, and two francs per sale thereafter.


The story marked a turning point in the young illustrator's career, after which Tintin's adventures became suffused with fantasy, mystery and suspense. Hergé toyed with readers in new ways, introducing dream sequences and hallucinations. The author opened up an eerie and scary dimension to the narrative as he mummified his characters.
Case from plate 16 of Cigars of the Pharaoh, 1933. India ink, watercolour and gouache on drawing paper.

Research and inspiration

Hergé read novels and adventure stories, and as an author he was inspired by certain ideas that he discovered through reading. While conducting his research Hergé was inspired by the work of Jean-Francois-Désiré Capart, an Egyptologist (born in Brussels on 21 February 1877) who 'became' Professor Tarragon in The Seven Crystal Balls).
Belgian postage stamp (1977): 100th anniversary of the death of Jean Capart (1877 - 1947), Belgian Egyptologist
The dialogue of frame A3 on page 19, 'If you've given me away, just remember this. My boat is mined, and I'll blow her sky high before I'll surrender!' is directly inspired by a passage in the autobiography of Henry de Monfreid, Secrets of the Red Sea, 1931.

Henry de Monfreid

Henry de Monfreid was an infamous real-life character at the time Cigars of the Pharaoh was being written. Drug smuggler, arms dealer and pearl diver, de Monfreid was by all accounts an undesirable rogue, although he never acquired a reputation for being unpleasant or cruel.
Case from plate 33 of Cigars of the Pharaoh, 1933. India ink, watercolor and gouache on drawing paper. Photo of Henry de Monfreid, from the film centered on his adventures shot in 1937 in which he played his own character.
Setting sail for Djibouti in 1911, de Monfreid restlessly crisscrossed the seas for over twenty years. He quickly became aware of the profitability of gun running in the region, which was ravaged by tribal warfare. In this way he sadly contributed to the general instability in the Middle East. Real people often inspired Hergé as he created his paper characters.

The first appearance of police officers X33 and X33a - Thomson and Thompson

In the 1934 black and white version, police officers X33 and X33a tirelessly and mercilessly pursue a hapless Tintin. Renamed Thomson and Thompson in the reformatted 1955 colour version, Cigars of the Pharaoh is the adventure in which the bowler-hatted detectives make their first appearance.

Case from plate 8 of Cigars of the Pharaoh, 1933. India ink, watercolour and gouache on drawing paper.

Cover of the 2 March 1919 issue of Paris newspaper Le Miroir.
Hergé may have been inspired by a photograph on the cover of the 2 March 1919 issue of Paris newspaper Le Miroir. He certainly based key features of the Thom(p)sons on his father and uncle, who were identical twins. But how can you tell Thomson from Thompson? The ends of Thomson's moustache flare out a bit!

Cast of characters

Other characters stand alongside the Thom(p)sons, some of who also make their first appearances in this adventure:
  • Roberto Rastapopoulos, perhaps the baddest of the baddies in Tintin, plays his first major role, although he does appear in a single frame at the end of Tintin in America, at the banquet being thrown in Tintin's honour.
  • Oliveira da Figueira is a Portuguese salesman, who reappears in several other adventures to help Tintin get out of a tight spot. This character has the gift of the gab, which he puts to good use in his profession.
  • Allan Thompson, the dangerous criminal accomplice of Rastapopoulos, appears in the 1955 colour version.

Product placement

It is a mark of Hergé's genius that he advertised his books within his books! This was an original idea at the time. In the first black and white version, Sheik Patrash Pasha proudly shows off his copy of Tintin in America, which had just been republished in 1934!

Case taken from plate 26 of the black and white edition.

Case taken from Plate 15 of the color edition.
© Hergé / Tintinimaginatio - 2023
We can see the amazement on Tintin's face in the colour version (1955), when the Sheik whips out a copy of Destination Moon, an adventure that was written much later than Cigars of the Pharaoh! The author and publisher decided that a little anachronism was allowed for the sake of artistic licence and marketing.

The symbol of Pharaoh Kih-Osh

The symbol of Pharaoh Kih-Oskh is the motif which links the different places - Egypt, the Middle East and India - that Tintin visits. Hergé was inspired by the symbol of the yin yang as he came up with the design of this memorable sign.

A touch of cinema

In the black and white edition, the actor whose entrance is spoiled by Tintin's well-intentioned intervention, is clearly inspired by real-life Hollywood star Rudolph Valentino, who played a lead role in The Sheik (1921). In the colour version, the actor's physique corresponds with the ideals of masculinity prevalent in the 1940s and 1950s; the character is reminiscent of American actor Gary Cooper.

Case taken from Plate 29 of the black and white edition.

Case taken from Plate 17 of the Color Edition.
© Hergé / Tintinimaginatio - 2023

Legendary and colonial India

All of a sudden the scenery changes as Tintin crash-lands his aeroplane in India, while trying to shake of a fighter plane that is hot on his tail. He finds himself in the middle of the Indian jungle. The little reporter is surrounded by lush vegetation in territory populated by elephants and the odd tiger. At the time India was under the control of Great Britain, during a period that was called the British Raj.
© Hergé / Tintinimaginatio - 2023
9 reviews
or to write a review.
04/10/2023 00:46 AM
Good book
17/09/2023 09:33 AM
Really good but the kih- osh business was a bit creepy I must say.
13/05/2022 07:51 AM
They have already made the colour version of the black and white Tintin in soviet and Tintin in America and next is meant to be this one, so why do they not do it?
20/01/2022 06:33 AM
best one
17/01/2022 00:38 AM
Definitely in the top 5 best Tintin adventures.
24/10/2021 11:29 AM
Great information on this book.
29/09/2021 20:38 PM
in Persian:
سیگارهای فرعون
28/06/2021 12:26 PM
Loved the article.
13/06/2021 15:00 PM
Cigars Of The Pharaoh
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