Sunday

The Mystery of the Enigma


Tintin passes increasing portions of his life with an unmarried seaman, yet it seldom occurs to us to question their rapport. Tintin never has a girlfriend, nor does he express the need for one, and that absence is part of his greater mystery. He has no parents or siblings. He has no children, of course, and we are unsure whether he counts as a child himself; like Peter Pan, the boy reporter never ages, being a person both of his time and buoyantly apart from it. He often dresses in plus fours, like a golfer of the nineteen-twenties, yet when he finally upgrades to flared brown jeans, in “Tintin and the Picaros,” we feel embarrassed and betrayed on his behalf. If he reminds me of anyone, it is Charlie Brown. Both characters are more profoundly understood by their dogs than by any human. Both, indeed, are barely characters at all, being a bundle of unchanging qualities–courage and curiosity in one, hope and defeatedness in the other–allied to the simplest of graphic gestures. An oval, two dots, a line that sometimes widens to an O: such is Tintin ’s head, and at moments of stress or shock it is surrounded by a bizarre halo of flying drops, though whether these are symbolic or sweaty I can never decide.

Anthony Lane

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