Based in London; Formerly of New York, Buenos Aires, Fife, and the Western Cape. Saoránach d'Éirinn.
A writer, blogger, historian, and web designer born in New York, educated in Argentina, Scotland, and South Africa, and now based in London. read more

Die Koninkryk van die Swart Pelikaan

SYLDAVIA IS MY favourite country in the world. The buildings are old, the peasants are happy, and the king is ruling from his throne. Adding to my collection of Tintin books, the preponderance of which remain in New York, I know have three Afrikaans editions of Hergé’s works: Die Blou Lotus, Die Geheim van ‘De Eenhoorn’, and — my preferred among all the Tintin books — Koning Ottokar se Septer. Aside from Afrikaans, the rest of my copies are all either in French or English. I have a copy of the reprinted Tintin au Pays des Soviets and I just recently bought a copy of Tintin in the Congo, as I figured the European Union’s attempt to ban the book might make it harder to come by in years to come. I bought a copy of Le Sceptre d’Ottokar in a gas station in Brittany, one of the six special editions with a preface by Bernard Tordeur of the Hergé Foundation released in 1999/2000. Aside from Au Pays des Soviets & Le Sceptre, the only other French editions I have are L’Île Noire and Le Lotus bleu.

Tintin is, of course, much different in Afrikaans than in English. For starters, the names of the characters take after the Dutch translations rather than the French or English. Tintin is Kuifie, Snowy is Spokie, Captain Haddock is Kaptein Sardijn, and Professor Calculus is Professor Fosfatus. The lookalike-but-not-related Interpol detectives Thomson and Thompson are Uys en Buys, while the names of other characters like Bianca Castafiore, the butler Nestor, or the evil Rastapopoulos are unchanged.

Four of the books were translated into Afrikaans in the 1970s but the next two translations didn’t make it into print until the mid-1990s, with a further series of twenty-one released from 2004-2008. The only complaint I have is that for some reason the publishers Human & Rousseau have used a font in the Afrikaans editions in which the upper arm of the lower-case ‘k’ is so large it almost looks like an upper-case ‘k’. Very irritating!

I’ve always thought King Ottokar’s Sceptre would make a cracking film. In Sceptre, Syldavia, a centuries-old traditional monarchy in the heart of Europe, is threatened by a totalitarian fifth column funded by the suspiciously Nazi-Communist neighbouring country of Borduria. The plot reaches the inner circles of the Syldavian court, but Tintin saves the day and, in the final scene, is award the Order of the Golden Pelican by the grateful King Muskar XII.

Next up on the Cusack list to be filmed after Sceptre would definitely be The Blue Lotus, another tale of political intrigue, set during the Sino-Japanese conflict over Manchuria, and after that The Black Island, set as it is in my geliefde land van Skotland. California’s Steven Spielberg KBE and New Zealand’s Peter Jackson CNZM are currently working on a film adaptation of The Secret of the Unicorn, and we look forward with fear and trepidation to see what they manage to produce.

This post was published on Wednesday, July 15th, 2009 7:08 pm. It has been categorised under Comics Design South Africa and been tagged under , , , , .
16 Jul 2009 2:12 am

I could never work out what happened to the Syldavian monarchy later on. Was the King forced to abdicate anyway by the Bordurians? Was Syldavia still a kingdom during the time of the space programme?

I think we have a right to know!

Andrew Cusack
16 Jul 2009 9:37 am

So far as I can recall, there’s nothing to indicate that Syldavian monarchy ended, though in the two books with the space programme it isn’t mentioned. Lacking any evidence one way or another, we must assume it continued.

16 Jul 2009 8:14 pm

I love Tintin. I hope I can find the entire collection in Italian — it be great to share with my son!

17 Jul 2009 8:46 am

I think you are an incipient book collector. Tintin is just the beginning. Soon you will be looking at incunabula and 16th century books. As an antiquarian, you already have a lot of interests that would make a fine, even traditional collection.
For example, you could collect the history of the church, or illustrated books with flags, or of monarchies.
Good luck. You might find the world of bibliophiles very congenial.

Andrew Cusack
17 Jul 2009 6:23 pm

I am past incipience in my book collecting, and was happy to finally have my collection united in one place in New York, only to leave for South Africa and have it separated again. God willing, it (& I) will find a permanent home some day, in western Europe. Poverty will probably preclude me from moving on to incunabula or sixteenth-century books, however.

17 Jul 2009 10:16 pm

Poverty, especially for a man as bright as you are, is a remediable condition.

18 Jul 2009 6:55 am

I love Tin Tin, though I only know it through the cartoon series they ran on HBO when I was very young.

20 Jul 2009 6:21 am

Your readers may be interested in Tintin’s Afrikaans name, Kuifie. A ‘kuif’ is a fringe. It seems the reporter was ahead of his time in the hairstyle department, although I can find no reference to styling gel.

30 Jul 2009 5:14 am

Mr. Cusack, what an excellent site you maintain. It feels just so good to see the odd talented conservative young man out there (where are the girls, BTW).

Good as it is, so far I feared touching your website with my unclean hands, but, if Syldavia is your favourite country, then you may want to know this lesser hit in Spain honouring this country (I mean, Syldavia).

Please excuse the early 80s looks and both the TV-shy attitude and less than perfect playback of the musicians (luckily, the frontman had got more seasoned by then already). Against all odds, La Unión became one of the biggest pop acts in Spain in years to come.

In all, I think the song has aged quite well…ladies and gentlemen, Sildavia:

(Un nuevo destino para el ocio…a new leisure destination…but only after Tintin saved the country from the mischevous insurgence).

30 Jul 2009 6:23 am

Andrew, did we ever learn what took you to South Africa?

12 Sep 2009 2:37 am

Mr. Cusack,
I’ ve read with interest and sympathy your post about Tintin that it’s also one of my favourites. If you like Syldavia and its traditions, maybe you will be interested in visiting this article from an argentinian blog. It talks about the battle of Zileheroum, and how to draw the History. I hope you enjoy it.

Regards, Carla

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