This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

Last updated at 15:16 BST, Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Tintin book on trial


28 April 2010

A Congolese man is trying to get a controversial Tintin book banned in the cartoon star's home country of Belgium. He wants the book to carry a warning to alert readers that the book may cause offence.

Nkem Ifejika

Illustration from a Tintin book

Illustration from a Tintin book


Click to hear the report:


The famous ginger quiff of Tintin has wowed fans for decades. Travelling the world on wild adventures with his dog, Snowy, the comic books contained elements of fantasy, mystery, even political thrillers. And political is exactly what this episode has become.

Originally published in the early 1930s, Tintin in the Congo follows the intrepid boy reporter to the Belgian Congo, in what was seen as deepest darkest Africa - at the time a Belgian colony. There the adventurers hire a local guide, visit remote villages, even encounter wildlife. So far so normal for a swashbuckler. But it's the language and imagery used in the comic which has caused outrage
in those critical of it.

The guide looks like a golliwog - pitch black complexion, big eyes and plump red lips. And the views espoused are racist and colonialist. The Belgian writer and illustrator, Hergé who wrote them, later said he regretted writing it - a
youthful bit of fun which reflected the prejudices of the time.

But that's not how Bienvenue Mbutu sees it. He's a Congolese national living in Belgium and he's asking the courts to ban the book, although he says he would be satisfied if it was sold with a warning about the content.

Nkem Ifejika, BBC News


Click to hear the vocabulary:


ginger quiff

hairstyle, worn usually by men, in which the hair at the front of the head is brushed up. If your hair is ginger, it's red or orange

has wowed

has impressed, made people think it is very good


very brave, showing no signs of fear


country or area which is controlled politically and often economically by a more powerful and often distant country

a swashbuckler

a person who behaves in a brave and exciting way

a golliwog

an old-fashioned child's toy made of soft material, in the form of a small man with a black face and stiff black hair. The term 'golliwog' is nowadays considered racist when it is used to refer to a black person

the views espoused are racist and colonialist

the opinions held express negative ideas about the people because of the colour of their skin. The opinions also support the idea of one country having power over another (having it as a colony)


negative views of other people based not on fact but on unfair and unreasonable opinions or feelings


stop something being available to buy legally

a warning about the content

a sign (on the book's cover, for example) which lets readers know that the story might upset them or make them angry