This week we delve into another African adventure, this time with a well known country and a well known subject, Egypt and mummies!
Cigars of the Pharaoh is one of the books that I can instantly pull images of into my mind, I think along with Tintin in Tibet it’s one that I’ve owned the longest as well, judging by my dodgy handwriting on the inside.
The book starts with a holiday. Now, any reader of Tintin will know that that he can’t go on holiday without anything happening. (See Tintin in Tibet amongst others for an example of this!) The first thing that struck me on this read of the book was that Snowy says something about how he’d rather be in Marlinspike. Now, the seasoned reader will know that Marlinspike is where Tintin and Snowy eventually end up living much later on down the line. At this point in proceedings they’re (maybe not obviously) living in Brussels. The book was written originally in 1932 and redrawn in 1955, after which point most of the books featuring Marlinspike had been written. This could perhaps be the explanation for the mistake, but also could be down to the fact that later on the different publishers and translators were trying to make the location of the books less obvious so that readers could assume he lived anywhere they wanted and with Marlinspike not being a real place, it could be anywhere in the world. This explanation wouldn’t really work for me as when Tintin has to travel abroad to England it was obvious to me that he wasn’t English.
Anyway, back to Cigars. This book also presents many firsts for the reader, the first true appearance of Rastapopoulos, a character we will see many times over the rest of the series. He makes a cameo at the end of Tintin in America, but we aren’t aware at that point of who he is and the first time we see Thompson and Thomson dressing up in different national dress to try and fit in. This visual gag is used many times over the rest of the series with most of the other characters despairing at their actions. Thompson and Thomson appear in every book from now on, apart from Tintin in Tibet and Flight 714.
The tone of this book is a bit more serious than we’ve seen in previous books. It starts out quite harmless, with Tintin tagging along with a sightly crazy Egyptologist in search of a pharaoh’s tomb. A bit of fun for Tintin, surely?
Of course not! The man he is with disappears before they enter the tomb, so instead of worrying about this, Tintin enters anyway! Inside he sees the bodies of missing Egyptologists and calls it “the pharaoh’s revenge” perhaps referencing the Tutankhamen “curse” of 1922, which only happened 10 years before the original publishing of the story. Tintin soon finds tombs for himself, Snowy and their companion. The titular cigars appear much earlier on page 6, but here the tomb is full of them, but of course in true Tintin fashion, before he has chance to investigate, gas is filling the chamber and he is knocked out.
The usual hijinks occur and after many scrapes Tintin escapes the tomb and the floating coffin he has found himself floating around in. At one point after this, he is kidnapped, and another anachronism occurs. He is taken into the tent of his captor who instantly recognises him and shows him a copy of Destination Moon, which doesn’t actually happen for 11 books time. In an earlier edition it was Congo but in the redraw, Herge evidently chose a different book, though I’m not sure why as this plays with timelines too much for my liking.
Eventually Tintin’s adventures land him in India (quite literally) and mixing with a poison that sends people crazy. Those concerned with the cigars (which by this point have been revealed to contain opium) continue to peruse Tintin but as ever he outsmarts them. After he saves the maharajas son from kidnappers, Tintin ends his “holiday” by relaxing at last! But for how long?
That’s all for now,
Next week: The Blue Lotus.