Tintin at 92: Lessons from my hero
There is no other fictional character who has shaped me or who means as much to me as Tintin.
I first discovered the adventures of the perennially youthful Belgian journalist and globe-trotter in the Sunday Times’ children’s supplement The Funday Times. Every week, they used to publish an episode of his adventures and I devoured them sat on the living room floor while my parents read the grown-up bit.
I even cited Tintin as one of my inspirations when I went to interview for my first job in journalism (I got it). Today I proudly have the full collection of his adventures, both in book form and the cartoon DVD, and they are one of my not-so-guilty pleasures to dive back into.
Today marks the 92nd birthday of this iconic character. Tintin was created by Georges Remis under the pseudonym Hergé in Le Vingtième Siècle in 1929.
As with many ageing works of art, there are aspects of Tintin which do not stand up to modern publishing demands. Many of the racial stereotypes, particularly in the early novels, are horrendous. However, you can chart the development in Hergé’s global and social awareness over Tintin’s almost 60 years of publication and the character himself is usually kept clear of such prejudices.
Indeed, much like the character himself, many of the lessons and ideals which inspired my love for Tintin are ageless. The character could step into adventures in the modern world with ease. As Paul Alexio put it in an article for The Conversation, at its heart Tintin encourages core values such as “doing good, supporting the underdog, resisting unfairness and fighting for justice.”
So, in honour of his 92nd birthday, here are a few lessons I have taken from the adventures of, arguably, the world’s greatest journalist.
Always stand up for the little guy – even if you are one.
Tintin’s adventures usually get him into some sort of trouble or scrap, which he is required to get himself out of. While never shying away from a fight when needed, Tintin is always on hand to defend those who are less able to do so themselves.
True friends can be found in the strangest of places
From Captain Haddock to Professor Calculus, Thomson and Thompson, Chang, Chiquito, General Alcazar and Bianca Castafiore, Tintin makes friends in all sorts of situations, wherever he goes. The key is taking the time and effort to decide about people for yourself and always staying true to who you are.
Always ask if something seems wrong
Most of Tintin’s adventures could have been avoided if he looked at something and went “not my problem”, but that is not his way and that’s what makes him heroic.
A Dog really is man’s best friend
For all the companions he accrues over the years, Tintin’s most faithful is Snowy, the white Wire Fox Terrier who accompanies him wherever he goes.
Attitude is key
It may drive Captain Haddock mad, but despite his friend’s insistence that he is as stubborn as a mule, Tintin is always focused on doing what the thinks is right and stays incorruptible despite the challenges.
Never stop learning
From current affairs to new cultures and ancient myths, Tintin is an enthusiastic absorber of knowledge. In King Ottokar’s Sceptre, he agrees to accompany Professor Alembick on a trip to Syldavia as a result of being fascinated by the old man’s study of sigillography – and a desire to right a perceived threat.
Sometimes all you need is a great coat and a good companion
Tintin does not travel heavy. Usually his coat and Snowy are all he needs to set off and see the world.