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Tintin and the Mountain

Mountains, hotbeds of biodiversity, are being celebrated on International Mountain Day on 11th December. From the snowy peaks of Tibet to the rugged ridges of the Syldavian mountains, via the steep slopes of Rawhajpoutalah, Tintin is the leader of many climbing expeditions. Indeed, the mountains, so dear to Hergé, inspired many of the settings of his young hero's adventures.
Captain Haddock is always the first to complain but also the first to follow the young reporter on his wildest adventures. He will even say on the first page of Tintin in Tibet “I don’t mind mountains as scenery, but this passion for clambering about on piles of rock, that's what beats me! Besides you’ve always got to come back down. So what's the point, I ask you? Captain Haddock then bluntly asks the question of the meaning of mountaineering.
Hergé probably wondered about this himself... Without drawing the same conclusions. The author came from the Flat Country but he was fascinated by the mountains. It is therefore no coincidence that passes and summits are recurrent settings in The Adventures of Tintin. In fact eleven adventures feature mountains.
© Hergé - Moulinsart 2022
In 1922, Hergé left Belgium for the first time with his scout troop to explore the Dolomites. He was just 15 years old when he made this journey. The young Georges Remi, whose scouting name was Curious Fox, sketched dizzying abysses and peaks in his travelnotebooks. These panoramas amazed the young scout and would later feature in the future Adventures of Tintin.
During this expedition, Curious Fox sketched his fellow scouts who only needed bread and a bottle of wine to climb the mountain. This scene inspired the moment when Tintin, dizzy on the mountain, grabs some bread and a bottle of wine to regain his strength at the border post in King Ottokar’s Sceptre.
King Ottokar's Sceptre © Hergé - Moulinsart 2022
Hergé was also inspired by their ascent of the Schafberg in the Austrian Alps to create Tintin in Tibet. Moreover, the troop of scouts, exhausted by the walk, found accommodation in a Benedictine convent. In the book, Tintin, Snowy and Captain Haddock are taken in by the monks of the Khor-Biyong Monastery, a Tibetan Lamasery situated on the slopes of the Himalayas. Hergé never actually set foot on the "roof of the world" and yet depicted it so well.
Tintin in Tibet © Hergé - Moulinsart 2022
Tintin in Tibet © Hergé - Moulinsart 2022
Other experiences shaped Curious Fox and his imagination, such as their ascent of the Ofen pass in the Alps, the Ossoue glacier or the Mont Maudit in the Pyrenees. Hergé spoke of this period of his life as the "Tibet of [his] youth". "This discovery of the mountains affected him in the same way as his other experiences abroad, Tintin is the heir to the travels of the young Hergé", said Philippe Goddin, a specialist in the life and work of Hergé.
When Tintin takes to the skies, it is often that the action intensifies...
  • In Tintin in America, the hero chases Bobby Smiles by climbing a mountain. A first for Tintin who exclaims "We don’t often go climbing… Good practice for us, Snowy!....". The chase ends in an eagle's nest in the Rockies.
  • In Cigars of the Pharaoh, Tintin pursues the fakir and his accomplice who are hurtling towards the summits.
  • In Prisoners of the Sun, he storms a wall to rescue Snowy, kidnapped by a condor.
  • In Hukou, it is in the Chinese mountains of The Blue Lotus that Tintin is seriously injured by Mitsuhirato's photographer.
  • In Syldavia, it is after a two-day chase in the mountains that Ottokar's sceptre can finally be recovered
  • To lift the curse of the explorers of the Sanders-Hardmuth expedition in Prisoners of the Sun, Tintin will have to reach the top of the Andes.
  • In the Syldavian mountains, in Sprodj, spies from the border try to sabotage the departure of the moon rocket in Destination Moon.
  • In Flight 714 to Sydney, a volcano threatens to engulf Tintin and his companions...
Prisoners of the Sun © Hergé - Moulinsart 2022
The mountains, in summer and winter, have inspired Hergé throughout his work. The artist used them for The Adventures of Tintin, but also for postcards and magazine covers. The high summits were an inexhaustible source of inspiration.
© Hergé - Moulinsart 2022
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