First edition album (Belgium) published in 1931.
In Tintin in the Congo, Tintin and Snowy travel to central Africa to report on the situation in the Belgian Congo. Upon arrival, the duo gets pulled into a variety of adventures, encountering wild animals, angry natives and American diamond smugglers controlled by infamous mobster Al Capone.
With the help of a Congolese boy, Coco, Tintin works to improve the lives of the local population, despite close calls with crocodiles, lions, monkeys and all kinds of exotic wildlife. It is not long before he begins to uncover a sinister criminal organization exploiting the Congo for financial gain. Not only does Tintin have to watch his back to make sure the bad guys don’t trap him, but he also has to work to convince some of the locals of his good intentions. This means going up against the tribal witch doctor, who is in secret allegiance with Al Capone’s henchman. If he wants to survive this adventure, Tintin really has to stay on his toes!
Belgium controlled much of the Congo during the time in which Tintin in the Congo takes place. While exploitation of the country was rampant, the Belgian sentiment was one of paternal pride; the director of Le Vingtième Siècle persuaded Hergé to send Tintin to “our beautiful colony which needs us so, and for which we must reawaken our colonial sense of duty.”
Since Hergé didn’t have any authentic pictures of the Congo, this album depicts the Africa of the European imagination. The story itself centers on a reality of the time: major American companies were beginning to vie for control of Africa’s abundant natural resources, and some were doing so through criminal means.
As Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner note in the foreword to the Egmont edition of the book, Hergé himself admitted to depicting the Congolese people according to the bourgeois, paternalistic stereotypes of the period. The same could be said of his treatment of big-game hunting.
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