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The Adventures of Tintin


The young man’s education

Steven Spielberg has come back to directing. But movies go forward, & so now he makes 3d-movies, like James Cameron already has, like Martin Scorsese soon will. It is fitting that his film should be the adventure of a dashing boy, who beats people up who want to fight him, shoots without hesitation, & risks his life on the high seas & in the desert at the slightest provocation.

His name is Tintin, he has a white fox-terrier called Snowy, & a love of pirate adventures, replete with a scientific education & expertise in all sorts of historical curiosities. One day, he buys a model ship; several people try to buy it off him; his dog ruins it; someone later steals it; he finds a duplicate after a breaking-&-entering; then one would-be buyer is killed on his doorstep; then Tintin is kidnapped & wakes up on a ship on the high seas.

One wonders whether the poet means to evoke love of adventure & derring-do in youngsters or a kind of sensibility to attract them to mysterious stories. We are shown a type of young man that comes close to a walking contradiction: the scholar-adventurer. It is not impossible for a young man to seek practical knowledge, for young men are uniquely poised to desire great things & nevertheless to suffer acutely the awareness of the difficulty of attaining them. They therefore prize whatever art or science may lead them to success. What strikes us about our protagonist is that he has neither family nor friends. He has not even a country. He is a reporter who says he wants answers & happens upon a mystery. He is almost a poet.

Our protagonist finds a drunkard who turns out to be a captain & the heir of a long-dead pirate hero. A combination of forced sobriety & newfound drink plays tricks on his mind & he relives the adventures he had heard as a child. Whether the legendary ancestor is mocked as a drunkard by comparison, or the incontinent man is somehow ennobled, is not clear. The two are brought together in stories; to an outsider, talk of such legends would look like inebriation.

Love of adventure & love of treasure are two different things. Adventure requires displaying excellence, facing great danger, & conquest. It implies dissatisfaction with one’s way of life. Treasure does not require all this; & might merely supplement one’s wherewithal. Tintin is not a different man at the end of his story, already excited about a new adventure. It does not seem his treasure helps him, except perhaps to fund his adventures. Perhaps he pursues mysteries because he is restless. One wonders whether he gains self-knowledge.

Great fun for kids