Tintin in Ethiopia


From an anonymous review in the Gojjam Times, of Tintin in Ethiopia, 1966)


“As most people know from the widely beloved Tintin in Ethiopia (French serialised edition 1963-1966, English edition 1966) the Ark of the Covenant has been held in safety in Ethiopia since the destruction of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem (…) When Tintin’s nemesis, restyled Ras Populus – complete with a head of dreadlocks – arrives on the scene,  it becomes clear that the theft of the Ark, in order to harness its devastating power and transform the world into a dictatorship ruled by a crazed and reclusive Russian Communist, is the real objective of the story—and not Tintin’s purported work to cover Haile Selassie’s Jubilee celebrations.


The 60’s were of course the height of the cold war – and of Haile Selassie’s reputation in the non-aligned mouvement. The last image, of the avuncular and wise emperor waving goodbye from the steps of the Jubilee Palace, as Haddock, Calculus, Tintin and Snowy take their leave, is particularly poignant when one remembers that the emperor would be bundled from those same steps in this happy scene just a decade later, and driven to prison in the back of a Volkswagen Beetle. And how not to see in the conniving Ras Popoulous a prescient precursor of  Colonel Mengistu?!”


[There are some who see this late work, as a tired version of Tintin in Tibet, and it has to be admitted there are close parallels between the Semien shepherd boy Mamoush and Chang. For all that, it remains a startlingly accurate portrayal of Ethiopia. Just think back to those iconic scenes  in the Semien in which Tintin and Mamoush, disguised as Bleeding Heart Baboons, have to feast on grass and roots, in the middle of a one thousand strong pack of  baboons! As the Bearded Vulture hovers above, it is the reader himself who is given a bird’s eye view of what is means, in a perfect platonic vision, to be in Ethiopia. Never has the particular light of the Ethiopian Highlands been captured so well.]