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Tintin (series of graphic novels and series of cartoons)

Last modified: 2016-03-19 by peter hans van den muijzenberg
Keywords: tintin | syldavia | borduria | san theodoro | nuevo rico | khemed | rawhajpoutalah | fers | sao rico | golden oil | belgium | united states |
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See also:


Introduction

I found in my daughter's collection some important flags. These are flags known all over the world even by those who have never heard of Tuvalu, Kiribati or Burkina Faso. They are the flags of Borduria and Syldavia and of the Latin American Republics of San Theodoro and Nuevo Rico, all countries in the books about Tintin.
Jaume Ollé, 8 September 1996

The creator of Tintin and Snowy), was Hergé (Georges Rémy), 1907-1983, birth town Etterbeek.
Ivan Sache, 1 July 2007

Clear line

It could be supposed, that the narrow black fimbrations in some of the flags mostly has to do with Hergé's style of drawing. He drew vitually everything with black borders, which doesn't mean it should be like that in "reality".
Elias Granqvist, 14 April 2001

That's a possibility, of course. I would even say that it's a probability. But I think the only one who could have said anything about it for sure would have been Hergé himself. Therefore, I just put a fimbriation where there was a fimbriation in the flags of the French site I stumbled into (except all around the flags themselves, which has an even higher probability – about 99.9%, really – to be a drawing artifact).
Jorge Candeias, 14 April 2001


Balkan

Syldavia

[Syldavia]
image by Pierre Gay, 8 September 1996

Syldavia it is similar to Bulgaria or Albania, and symbolises a western country under threat of communism. It is called the Kingdom of the Black Pelican.
Jaume Ollé, 8 September 1996

The arms of Syldavia are shown at the Tintin wiki.
Jaume Ollé, 14 April 2001


Borduria

[Borduria 1954]
image by Pierre Gay,
added 12 January 2001
  [Borduria 1954]
image by Jorge Candeias,
14 April 2001

Borduria was governed for many years by a dictator named Pedzy Gladtz, whose moustache was incorporated in a symbol in the national flag (red of course). It is also a Balcanic country, symbolising the countries under communist government.
Jaume Ollé, 8 September 1996

Borduria in L'Affaire Tournesol: Red with a black shape similar to a moustache, centered. In this image the center of the moustache isn't as pointy as in Pierre Gay's image.
Jorge Candeias, 14 April 2001

I remembered a discussion with Bob De Moor (Hergé's first assistant, who I worked with) when we talked about a disc behind the flag. We concluded that there should logically have been a white disc on the flag, as on the ZEP armbands. But Hergé had done differently in 1954. Still, I have seen the colour originals in 1986, and the flags were more red than orange.
Pierre Gay, 4 December 1998

Speculative development

I am not very sure whether these flags are current. Around 1990 Borduria probably changed its flag, losing the moustache in favour of a precommunist (but unknown) symbol.
Jaume Ollé, 8 September 1996

Borduria flags after other website

[Borduria 1939]
image by Jorge Candeias,
14 April 2001
  [Borduria 1947]
image by Jorge Candeias,
14 April 2001

In March 1999, I bumped into a French site crawling with flags from Tintin books. I've drawn the flags that I downloaded from that site:

  • Borduria in Le Sceptre d'Ottokar, 1st edition: A black flag with a red disc centered charged with a black device similar to a hourglass.
  • Borduria in Le Sceptre d'Ottokar, 1947 edition): Yellow, with a black disc centered, divided into 3 sectors by a red shape like an inverted "Y". Interesting the fact that Hergé changed this flag from the 1st edition, but not very clear why and what he had in mind with "real-life" symbolisms here.

Jorge Candeias, 14 April 2001


Latin-America

San Theodoro

[San Theodoro]
image by Jaume Ollé,
8 September 1996
  [San Theodoro]
image by Pierre Gay,
added 12 January 2001

In South America General Alcazar took power in San Theodoro, overthrowing his rival, General Tapioca. The country could be identified as like Bolivia. It seems the flag never changed in spite of the continuous regime changes, though the disc comes in various diameters in both books where one can see the San Teodoran flag.
Jaume Ollé, 8 September 1996, and Pierre Gay, 4 December 1998

This is a green over black horizontal bicolor, a black disc with red border and black fimbriation centered. Neither of the images match that in the French site I bumped into, though. The disc is not an oval as in Jaume's image and is smaller than what appears in Pierre's image. The latter is probably irrelevant, though.
Jorge Candeias, 14 April 2001

Police banner

[San Theodore, police]
image by Jorge Candeias, 15 April 2001

This is a San Theodoros flag: Red square with a white device similar to a curly half of a Citroën symbol (and also similar to a moustache ...), centered.
Jorge Candeias, 14 April 2001


Nuevo Rico

[Nuevo Rico]
image by Pierre Gay,
8 September 1996
  [Nuevo Rico]
image by Jorge Candeias,
15 April 2001

The Republic of Nuevo Rico is a neighbour of San Theodoro, and is like Paraguay or Honduras.
Jaume Ollé, 8 September 1996

Black with 3 (1+2) red 5-pointed stars, more or less centered. Although in the French site I bumped into, the stars were rounded – not pointy as in Pierre Gay's image – and they were smaller too.

Jorge Candeias, 14 April 2001


Orient

Khemed

In the chronological Tintin canon, the fictional country of Khemed first appears in Land of Black Gold (Tintin au Pays de l'Or Noir, 1939) and again in The Red Sea Sharks (Coke en Stock, 1956). But the chronology is deceptive. The Black Gold serial was repeatedly interrupted by the Second World War and not completed until 1948-50, by which time other Tintin books had been started and completed. Throughout these interrupted versions, Khemed never figures in the story. Tintin arrives by ship in Haifa during the British Mandate period in Palestine, and the region is troubled by both Jewish and Arab terrorists. Later in the story Tintin seems to drift into a fictional but unnamed Arab emirate (a composite of Jordan and a Persian Gulf emirate), which is also mentioned as being under British rule. A rebel sheikh (Bab el Ehr) is bombed by a Spitfire bearing British insignia, and the local ruler is Emir Mohammed Ben Kalish Ezab, who seems to have an oil contract with the British. No flags are ever depicted, except for a Royal Navy motorboat in the port of Haifa, which flies a plain red flag on the prow and something resembling the Red Ensign on the main mast. In Red Sea Sharks there is no mention of the British, and the fictional emirate is now named "Khemed." There are still no flags depicted, but the Khemed armed forces use British planes and armoured cars with insignia (white crescent and star on a red-green-red triband) from which the fin flash flag images below were derived.

Now, before anybody jumps on me and says I have this all wrong, here comes the confusing part. The English translators Leslie Lonsdale Cooper and Michael Turner worked very closely with Hergé to resolve sections that would be unpalatable or incomprehensible to young anglophone audiences at the time of translation (decades after the original French). When Hergé agreed to change something, this then became part of the new French canon as well. Thus, the Black Gold edition that appeared in 1971 (and all language editions thereafter) contained a completely rewritten and reillustrated mid-section that eliminated all reference to British Mandate Palestine and turned it into part of the previously unnamed emirate which had already morphed into Khemed in 1956. The only flag depicted is still the navy cutter in the port, only now it is a black anchor on white disc on a red field. The plane that bombs Bab El Ehr now sports roundels that look more like roundels than flags, a change from the 1956 version but still recognizable as the earlier Khemed.

If you look at only the chronological Tintin canon, the Khemed air force roundel seems to have evolved from a good design into a poor one. But the literary evolution of Tintin is just the opposite.
Todd Mills, 20 July 2009

In March 1999, I bumped into a French site crawling with flags from Tintin books. I've drawn the flags that I downloaded from that site:

Jorge Candeias, 14 April 2001

Flag flown by Khemed maritime police

[A Khemed flag, flown by maritime police]
image by Jorge Candeias, 14 April 2001

Red with a white disc outlined by a thin black fimbriation and charged with a very simplified anchor – basically an arc and a vertical line.
Jorge Candeias, 14 April 2001

Bab-El-Ehr regime fin flash

[A Khemed fin flash, of the Bab-El-Ehr regime]
image by Pierre Gay,
8 September 1996
  [A Khemed fin flash, of the Bab-El-Ehr regime]
image by Jorge Candeias,
14 April 2001

A red-green-red horizontal tricolour charged with a white crescent and star, each with a black outline. This image shows a different crescent and the star in a different position.

Jorge Candeias, 14 April 2001

This flag occurs as a fin flash in Koks i Lasten (Coke en stock), on the plane that Piotr Schyyh (the Estonian pilot) flies. The flag/fin flash seems to represent Khemed (the country also referred to in Det sorte Guld [Tin Tin au Pays de l'Or Noir]).
Ole Anderson, added 12 Januari 2001

Khemed in Tintin cartoon

The flag of the fictional Arabic country Khemed as seen in a Tintin cartoon is different from the one from the comic book. Here are the images from the episode: The first one is the flag flying over the "Amir"'s palace. The second and third are a large, detailed flag hanging inside the palace. The fourth is the flag flying over another building.
Mohamed Hossam, 20 July 2009

The 1992 Ellipse-Nelvana animation portrays a flag (crossed swords on a white field) that does not exist at all in the books. The foundation that oversees derivative works since Hergé's death in 1983 is very strict about not allowing any "new" work, i.e. everything (films, toys, apparel, etc.) has to be an exact and faithful representation of work by Hergé himself. I am not sure how Ellipse-Nelvana got away with such a loose adaptation.

We should be quite clear that Hergé had nothing to do with this, and the foundation that continues his work might not approve. Since Hergé's later work is very careful with symbols, his red-white-green insignia and the white Ellipse-Nelvana flag can be construed to portray very different Khemeds, and the latter certainly never came from Hergé's imagination. Perhaps it was inadvertent, or perhaps Ellipse-Nelvana found the red-white-green "too Islamic" (politically) for their purposes.
Todd Mills, 20 July 2009


Rawhajpoutalah

[Rawhajpoutalah]
image by Jorge Candeias, 15 April 2001

The flag, more a streamer than a flag, is a plain yellow swallowtail.

Jorge Candeias, 14 April 2001

Unidentified ensign

[Unidentified ensign]
image by Jorge Candeias, 14 April 2001

Green with a black complicated writing-like symbol all over. The author of that French site attributed it to Khemed, but I don't understand why, as apparently there where no hints about it in the album of Les Cigares du Pharaon.

Jorge Candeias, 14 April 2001


The Shooting Star
L'Étoile mystérieuse

The Shooting Star, narrates the story of an asteroid which is posed to strike Earth and eventually destroy life as we know it (as a metaphor of WWII in Europe). The asteroid misses its target, but an aerolite from it has fallen in Arctic waters, and is floating (the aerolite is the size of an isle) precariously... Two expeditions lift anchors towards the aerolite-isle, to get their hands on a rare mineral of extraterrestrial origin (aptly namde Calystene, after the astronomer Calys, discoverer of the material and leader of one of the expeditions) which composes most of the chip's mass, embarking on a gripping race to get to the aerolite first and claim it (placing their respective flag on it) for science and progress, blah, blah blah...
Aveledo Coll, 30 November 2000

L'Étoile mystérieuse first appeared in black and white serial form in Oct 1941 - May 1942 during the German occupation of Belgium, and included anti-semitic as well as anti-American themes that would have pleased the Nazi censors. Hergé was accused of the being a collaborator after the war, based primarily on the evidence of this book and his ability to continue working during the occupation. The serial was repeated in June 1943 - Feb 1944, becoming colorised for the first time at Christmas 1943. The first book appeared in 1942 in black and white.
Todd Mills, 26 February 2013

Fonds Européen de Recherches Scientifiques

[FERS]
image by António Martins-Tuválkin,
20 June 2007
  [FEIC]
image by António Martins-Tuválkin,
20 June 2007

Tintin becomes a member of an international scientific team. Their sponsor is the Fonds Européen de Recherches Scientifiques (European Fund for Scientific Researches); its flag is green with the FERS letters on it.
Corentin Chamboredon, 19 June 2007

Why not a Belgian expedition, Tintin being from Belgium? Well, bear in mind that this album was originally published as Belgium and half of Europe were occupied by Nazi Germany: Press censorship and ideological control were important (the scientific team is composed solely by scientists from occupied or strictly neutral or even Axis countries (Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and Germany). The flag is a green field with, In Spanish, the initials "F.E.I.C." outlined in its centre, in black. It appears in pages 21, 23, 43, 46, 47, 48, 51, 59, 60 and 61.
Aveledo Coll, 30 November 2000

On page 21, the flag is shown sinister-hoisted, while at page 48 it's shown dexter-hoisted, both sides shown with readable text. The text itself is in outline, with round, outlined dots following each letter.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 25 February 2013

Language versions

Presumably this flag shows differently in every separate language edition — though some may share the same acronym. There are more than 80 different editions!
António Martins-Tuválkin, 20 June 2007, and Corentin Chamboredon, 20 June 2007

F.E.R.S.
French — Fonds Européen de Recherches Scientifiques

E.F.S.R.
English — European Foundation for Scientific Research
E.F.W.O.
Dutch — Europees Fonds voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek
F.E.I.C.
Spanish — Fondo Europeo de Investigaciones Cientificas

House flag or the Aurora

[Houseflag of the Aurora]
image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 12 January 2009

The poster for a 2007 Tintin & Hergé exhibition at Ostend, shows Tintin and Snowy on the bow of the ship, near the house flag. Page 22 shows this bow flag. It's a red over black rectangular flag quartered per saltire. The shipping line is no doubt imaginary. For what it's worth, the colors match those of Sao Rico.
Jan Mertens, 19 June 2007, António Martins-Tuválkin, 20 June 2007, and Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 25 February 2013.


Sao Rico

[Sao Rico]
image by Aveledo Coll,
30 November 2000
  [Sao Rico]
image by Jorge Candeias,
15 April 2001

The other expedition was financed by a bank from the fictional State of Sao Rico, some sort of American Republic. This flag appeared not in the 1942 edition, but in the first edition of the album after the war (Hergé, Tintin's creator, had claimed it did the changes before the war was over), substituting the flag of the United States, which appeared as the rival expedition's home country on the first edition. The flag is a red field with a black, four pointed star (quite large) as if saltired (displayed as an 'X') on the field. In my humble opinion, it is a clever design. The Sao Rican flag appears on pages 45, 47 and 48.
Aveledo Coll, 30 November 2000

At Le Monde de Tintin can be seen how the flag of the US in the original edition of L'Étoile mystérieuse was replaced by that of (newly devised) Sao Rico in the 1954 edition (and following).
António Martins-Tuválkin, 20 June 2007


House flag of Golden Oil

At Akureyra, where the Aurora refuels, there's another flag: Page 31 shows the fuel ship Golden Oil II flying a yellow flag from its bow. Considering the name of the oil company and the ship, this is probably the house flag.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 25 February 2013.


Other flags

Belgium

At page 23, we see that the Aurora also flies an all-green flag from the stern, without text. This is, however, the only occurrence; on page 26, and several times after that, the flag at the stern has a black hoist of a third of its depth, and either the other two thirds happen to be separated by a fold in the flag, or they are two panels now equally coloured. As in these latter occurrences the focus is on other action, it looks as if these all originally were Belgian flags, with the prominent one redrawn and the other occurrences merely coloured differently.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 25 February 2013.

Tintin's international appeal began about 1950, and with that it became desirable to blur Tintin's Belgian identity as well as any nationalist overtones in the books. So it is quite possible that the Aurora's stern flag in the 1941 black and white version was meant to be the Belgian tricolour. I have not seen the first coloured editions, but it is equally possible that they were colorised appropriately for Belgium, and then in the early 1950s it is also probable that they were deliberately recolorised so as to be not identified with Belgium.
Todd Mills, 26 February 2013

United States

Hergé changed the flag of the Peary from USA to fictional Sao Rico, along with textual references, in the 1954 printing.
Todd Mills, 26 February 2013

The ship 'Peary', of Sao Rico, does wear a seemingly United States flag on page 35. However, this flag is not drawn in its colours (you can still recognise it from the outlines), as it is in pale shades of green. Perhaps this was overlooked or simply not considered at all when doing the re-edition of the album.
Aveledo Coll, 30 November 2000

"Kuifje" is the Flemish name for Tintin; "De Geheimzinnige Ster" is the same album as "The Shooting Star". In this version, though the other expedition is financed from Sao Rico, the Peary sailed from New York. The flags are the same combination of a stripes flag astern and a star flag to be planted on the island, but with this starting point, there's more of a suggestion that the ship itself is from the USA. I expect that's unintentional, though. The first Flemish version is from 1946. and the ship's starting point may simply have been missed when updating the album for Sao Rico.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 27 February 2013.