#1954Club: Tintin goes to the moon

I had no idea that 1954 was such a good year for literature, particularly children’s literature. So many old favourites were published that year: The Horse and His Boy from the Narnia series, the first in the Children of Green Knowe series, the first two volumnes in the Lord of the Ring trilogy, The Eagle of the Ninth, The Lord of the Flies and Moominsummer Madness. Oh, and Good Work, Secret Seven by Enid Blyton, which I have to admit I devoured when I was a child but my children never quite relished.

However, I haven’t had the time to reread any of these or to explore any other books for grown-ups published in 1954 this week, so I will participate with the shortest book I could find, namely Hergé’s 17th album in the Tintin series: On a Marché Sur La Lune (Explorers on the Moon), the second in a two-volume mini-series about lunar exploration. In this book, Tintin, Captain Haddock , the Professor Tournesol/Calculus, engineer Wolff and the Dupont-Dupond /Thompson twins, together with the only sensible creature on board the indomitable dog Milou/Snowy, all set off on the rocket to the moon. But the evil machinations that were afoot in the first volume continue, and there are betrayals and dangers aplenty, as well as impressive speculation of what one might find on the surface of the moon – considering this was written well before the first moon landing.

‘I’ve taken a few steps and for the first time in the history of humanity, one can say: “We have walked on the moon.” ‘ says Tintin long before Neil Armstrong.

This is such an iconic album that I don’t even remember when I first read it, but I remember rereading it with my boys while we were living in France and that they had a moneybox in the shape of Tintin’s rocket.

There are some running gags in the book which faithful Tintin readers will remember from other volumes: the sudden spurt in hair growth and change in hair colour of the twins, the Captain’s drinking habits, going round in circles. But there is also a lot of innovation and research, science fiction which later proved to be incredibly accurate – and the discovery of ice caves on the moon!

My favourite thing, however, is Milou’s adorable little astronaut costume.

I seem to remember in my childhood there was a French song about Milou and I wanted to link to it, but cannot find it anymore nor remember anything much about it other than that there was a Milou in the chorus and it wasn’t a children’s song. My favourite album used to be this one with the moon landing, but after living in Geneva for a few years, L’Affaire Tournesol overtook it, because so many of the landmarks were very familiar to me.

The British were latecomers to Tintin – the first translations by Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner did not appear until 1958. They worked closely with the author to try and capture his humour, but the whole idea was to translate quite freely and anglicise things to make life easier for English-speaking readers, hence Milou becoming Snowy, Chateau Moulinsart became Marlinspike Hall etc. Some of the translations were very clever (like the Thomson/Thompson twins) or the Captain’s imaginative curses ‘blistering barnacles’ (Mille sabords! in the original).

So please excuse my very brief participation in the #1954Club, but do go and check out the links of everyone else taking part this week.

33 thoughts on “#1954Club: Tintin goes to the moon”

  1. I loved Tintin and Snowy as a child and still do. My favourite scene in this one was always the Thom(p)sons hair growing and changing colour. And I do love Snowy Milou’s little suit. I’m still not very convinced of the logic of changing names though; it isn’t as if when we travel we encounter anglicized (or whatever language we speak) names–if one can accept them there, then why not in books!

    1. This question of ‘adaptation’ to the target audience is a knotty one. I can understand why they might choose to do so for children, and it was certainly very common back in the 1950s-1980s. I was barely aware that some of my favourites as a child were in fact translated – like Mrs Pepperpot, or even The Little Prince.

      1. One wouldn’t realise it true, but I don’t know how necessary it is; books I grew up on–mostly English, also a few American and from other countries–didn’t always have recognisable elements but that was the whole point of it, wasn’t it? Learning about a new place or different culture. The version of Emil and the Detectives I read as a child had the currency in marks, which was something one understood as currency from a different country but when I bought a copy as an adult, I found they’d changed it to pounds.

        1. Really? That is kind of outrageous! I really believe children can cope with differences much more than we give them credit for… especially if we give them food for thought.

  2. Tintin (in French) is very connected to my childhood and youth, and I’m sooo glad I managed to buy them again a few years ago. Very glad to see your interest in the series 🙂

    1. I’ve been really lucky to be able to enjoy them twice over: once as a child going to an international school and therefore having access to a great variety of children’s literature, and then with my own children, living in a French-speaking country. I do love my BD!

  3. I love the idea of using children’s literature for this club, Marina Sofia! What a great way to participate. I have to admit, I didn’t grow up with Tintin, but I’ve heard of and seen the books. I’m sure they bring back a lot of memories for those who read them as children.

    1. Well, the children’s books are shorter on the whole (maybe not Lord of the Rings though), so it was an easy choice. But when I researched further, I realised just what a bumper year it was for children’s literature.

  4. We had a copy of this but I think it went to one of our grandkids so I’m a bit disappointed I can’t reread and review it for the 1954 Club. But what you have to say about it absolutely lines up with my memories of it!

      1. Yes, I think a lot of them have an appeal both for children and for grown-ups, they can certainly be read at different levels. Of course, I also read a lot of grown-up BDs while in France!

        1. I agree, I loved them as a child, and rereading as a grownup can see some of those additional elements like the political commentary or parody which wouldn’t have made an impression back then.

    1. I certainly enjoy rereading them just as much as I enjoyed first reading them as a child – and find something new every time. As for Milou’s space suit, I can’t help but think of poor Laika (barely 3 years later) and wonder if this book was an inspiration for the Soviets (although both the US and the USSR were using dogs for space flight simulations at the time).

  5. I jut don’t get on with graphic novels. It seems such a faff to have to read the speech bubbles while exploring the pictures too. My loss, especially as there are so many well-regarded authors who write in this way. I didn’t really like them as a child either. So this might go down as an ‘ought-to-read’, rather than a ‘must-read’.

    1. They certainly are a different way of telling a story – and in some cases they seem better able to convey some things through images, at other times you prefer to leave things to your own imagination. I am not equally fond of all types of comics, but there is such a great variety of styles and forms out there, it’s great fun to explore, and I have come across some gems. It is also really intricate work, first the drawings, then the colouring, so I really admire those who also write their own stories on top of the illustration.

  6. My partner’s an ardent Tintin fan. The first time I heard him mention the boy hero I thought he was being horribly pretentious but he later told me he’d spent his first four years in Belgium so I forgave him!

    1. I spent a very happy afternoon at the Belgian Comics Museum in Brussels not that long ago (I was definitely a grown-up by then!) Every school library in France has a good selection of these BD – although the teacher was trying to convince pupils not to take solely BD out, in an effort to build their vocabulary.

  7. Oh I loved this one when I read it as a kid (though it terrified me, space is scary) – The Calculus Affair was definitely my favourite too!

    1. The boys and I once spent a whole day retracing Tintin’s steps through Geneva and the surroundings from the Calculus Affair. Great fun! I think Tintin was never entirely successful in the States though.

    1. I still have a good few at my parents’ house and bought several more for my children while we were living in France (as well as Asterix and other more recent ones). There was a bookshop specialising in BD in the neighbouring village, so we stopped there often. And we still stop to browse through comic shops wherever we find them in the UK (most recently in Brighton) – although here it seems to be mostly American comics.

  8. A great reminder of a series I loved as a child! I can’t remember if I ever read this one, but you’re definitely tempting me to rush off and get a copy now. The illustrations are beautiful, aren’t they? So vivid and appealing…

    1. After the first few volumes, apparently Herge went in for meticulous research, which is why most of the books feature places that will be recognisable even today. Obviously not the moon, but he must have examined all the available material of the time about space travel.

  9. We really never had Tintin in the US as kids. It seems it must have been an exciting world for European children.

  10. When I went to the children’s library every Saturday as a kid, everyone kept an eye on the returned books shelf and trolley in case a Tintin book was returned – getting your hands on them was like golddust! Love this, and would love to practise my French again on some (we used to read the Asterix books in French when I had French conversation lessons for work in the 1990s).

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