Friday, May 18, 2018

Going loony

No no, don't go by the title of the post. Though it sounds very similar to my previous post's title, I'm not about to inflict another stunning "song" on you. This post is about entirely something else.

Like almost the whole world, I was a big fan of Hergé's Tintin comics as a kid. Well, even now for that matter. The only difference is that now I know that the author's name is not pronounced 'herj' like I did as a kid, but air-zhay.

I couldn't wait for Xena to get started on Tintin. So when I found out that a neighbour was giving away a lot of books, including five Tintins, I JUMPED. Not just with indignation that someone should be giving away their Tintins, but also with excitement. You see, my Tintin collection is probably still at my parents' house in India and considering the number of times my sister and I had devoured them as kids, I don't think they are in a state to be used by Xena. So I JUMPED and got the Tintins from my neighbour.

With a flourish, I handed them to Xena. I waited with bated breath for her to fall in love with them instantly.

She read a page and a half and then returned them to me.

"I don't understand anything." She declared.

Of course. I should have known.

Even though they are comics, I'd momentarily forgotten how grown-up they are. There is a lot of geography and politics and social commentary and other elements I was unfairly expecting a 7-year-old to grasp on her own. So I told her how much I used to love the books as a kid, and read one out to her. It took us about an hour to get through about 10 pages because I was pausing and explaining literally every dialogue and every scene, and also answering questions like "Is this a bad guy? Is that a good guy? Why does Captain Haddock love whiskey?"

So over a few days, we read and re-read all the books together. Slowly, she started to laugh at the parts that I had laughed my guts out when I was a kid. It started to feel like a worthwhile effort. She would giggle whenever Thomson and Thompson made an appearance, or sympathise with poor Snowy and the number of accidents he had.

"Mama, Snowy is not really talking. He's a dog. He can't talk. But he can think. The speech bubbles are showing what is is thinking, not what he is saying." She 'explained' to me. I nodded.

And now, finally, she's on her own. Consuming Tintins at such an alarming rate that the library can't keep up. Thankfully, like me, she's also re-reading them a lot.

Last week, I popped by the library and got her 'Explorers on the Moon'. Unfortunately, they didn't have the prequel — 'Destination Moon'. Nevertheless, she was thrilled to see a new one. We have been reading it together because it has way more complex concepts than she has gotten used to. And because she hadn't read 'Destination Moon', she needed a lot of background information.

The other day, Viv was reading it to her while I was making dinner and a thought struck me. Did Hergé actually write the two Moon books before the 1969 Moon landing? As a kid, I had never really given it a second thought, but now I was dying of curiosity. So I flipped to the first page to see the year of copyright and I almost fell down in shock.

Not only had Hergé written the books before Neil Armstrong and co. got to the Moon, he had written it even before the Space Race had started, even before Sputnik I had gotten to space! A quick Google search revealed that the Moon books were printed in strips between 1950 and 1953, and converted to books in 1954. I'm still reeling from the accuracy shown in the books, given that space travel had not started, and people didn't know much about the Moon, and there was no Google.

Even though he had consulted aeronautics experts in order to write the books, a lot of it was his own imagination and extrapolation of things people had not seen or experienced, e.g. the details on the Moon, the blobs of Captain Haddock's whiskey floating inside the spacecraft and how astronauts on the Moon would be 'hopping' instead of walking.

What a genius.

And oh, I also found out that after the Apollo 11 landing, Hergé sent Neil Armstrong this picture as a gift. Hilarious!


Argentyne said...

Thanks for sharing, I'm going to try reading them to my 6 year old. I only read a few when I was younger and loved them. I also use your brain+resources idea on my daughter now. It's so simple yet brilliant!

Prathima said...

Oh wow!! What a trivia!! I'll join you in the "Going Loony with Tintin(both kinds of loony :-))" club

newmomontheblock said...

Another great Tintin fan here. I must have read and re-reread all the tintin compics from the library near our home. If you ever get a chance, do read the Art of Herge book to get more insight into the author. It is astounding infact that Herge created all these wonderful books based in differemt countries without ever visiting these places and with no Google, internet. His accuracy of picture/ things is just astounding

Charan Deep Singh said...

On books, I read recently a book called A Whole New Mind... Picked up a self help book after years.

Here is my review of the same.A Whole New Mind - Book Review

Arun said...

Why does Captain Haddock love whiskey?

How do we know said...

I never got a chance to read them as a child, but now is as good a time as any. Lets get started.

transmogrifier said...

Thanks for this Tintin post Ayesha - brings back memories from my childhood as well.
And that picture at the end - insanely cute, and sheer genius :)

Charan Deep Singh said...

And I am still on books. Just finished Men Without Women by Murakami.

It is an interesting mix. You can read it about here.

Men Without Women : Book Review

Arun said...

Watch out for one scene in the Cigars of the Pharaoh where they’re going to sacrifice an infidel dog (Snowy) to Shiva.

Arun said...

You remember Captain Haddock’s first name? :)

Sandeep Rath said...

I came back to your blog after several years by chance, nice to see you still blogging!

I love Tintin comics! I think I was also introduced to Tintin at around the same age as Xena :). My mother would read it out to me while I ate (seems like I need entertainment along with my food - a habit which has not changed, except sadly now it is Netflix instead of Tintin.)

My mother would simplify some of the politics and some of the grown-up details while she read it to me, and sometimes make up her own story to fit the pictures. When I re-read them as a teenager again much later, I was initially confused - huh! this is not how I remember the story. But on second thought, I probably enjoyed it more, because I got two stories for the price of one :)

Wishing Xena many many years of enjoying Tintin!