The Castafiore Emerald

The Castafiore Emerald (Les Bijoux de la Castafiore) is one of a series of classic comic-strip albums, written and illustrated by Belgian writer and illustrator Hergé, featuring young reporter Tintin as a hero.

The Castafiore Emerald is the twenty-first in the series. The slowest-moving and most sedate of The Adventures of Tintin, it was conceived as a narrative exercise by Hergé. Becoming disillusioned with his most famous creation, the cartoonist wanted to see if he could maintain suspense throughout sixty-two pages in which nothing much happens. Consequently it is a story without villains, guns or danger, but rich in comic setpieces, red herrings, mistaken interpretations, and colourful characters. Moreover, this is one of only two Tintin books in which the characters do not go to another part of the world (the other is The Secret of the Unicorn).


Captain Haddock and Tintin are walking through the countryside when they come across a Roma community camped in a garbage dump. They investigate and upon learning that the community chose that site on account of being forbidden by the police to use any other location, the Captain invites them to his grounds of his estate, Marlinspike, over the objections of his butler Nestor.

Shortly afterwards, Bianca Castafiore, famous opera Diva and scourge of the Captain decides to invite herself to Marlinspike for a holiday. All manner of mayhem ensues. For some time, one of the marble steps leading to the foyer in Marlinspike Hall has had a plate-sized chip that Nestor has kept replacing while waiting for the repairman, who has been fobbing the Captain off. Upon hearing of Bianca's impending visit, Haddock rushes to pack for a trip to Italy, figuring that now would be a good time to visit, which he had always avoided precisely to avoid Bianca. In his haste Haddock misses the step, which, just moments before, he had been sanctimoniously warning Nestor and the others about. He sprains his ankle as a result. The doctor arrives, examines the Captain, and insists upon putting the foot and ankle in a cast while imposing a minimum of a fortnight's bed rest. As a result, the Captain remains confined to a wheelchair for all but the last couple of pages. The broken step becomes a running gag for the rest of the comic, and nearly every character, except Bianca, herself, slips and falls down the step at least once.

Bianca arrives, bringing her entourage and a parrot for the Captain called Iago. The bird instantly takes a disliking to him, and its behaviour borders on the homicidal. Not unlike the parrots featured in Red Rackham's Treasure, the creature manages to pick up some of the Haddockian argot, much to the Captain's annoyance. He narrowly averts having to share his study with Bianca and her piano, managing to convince her to locate the instrument, along with her somewhat rebellious pianist Wagner, in the maritime gallery. Wagner, it turns out, indulges a penchant for gambling by making furtive runs into the local village to place bets. Increasing the Captain's problems, two over-zealous Paris Flash reporters concoct a story claiming that Haddock and Castafiore intend to get married (following a misinterpreted conversation with the very hard-of-hearing Professor Calculus), and an avalanche of congratulations from friends from all over the world pour in for several hours.

Soon after Captain Haddock discovers to his horror the rumours of his engagement spread by the tabloids, he is forced to accommodate an entire television crew, who occupy Marlinspike Hall for several hours while conducting an extensive interview with Castafiore (which is interrupted by several comic mishaps). A few days later, Castafiore's most prized emerald goes missing, and all eyes turn to the Gypsies. But they are vindicated when, in a deliberately anti-climactic dénouement, the culprit turns out to have been a magpie. As soon as the emerald is found, it is (temporarily) lost once again by the detectives Thompson and Thomson, only to be found again a few frames later by Snowy, who calls it a "brandyball," underlining the fact that the emerald is merely a McGuffin for the whole story to happen, and is in itself meaningless. Beyond the opening with the initial encounter with the Roma at the landfill, the action never leaves the confines of the Marlinspike estate - all the adventures in this album are decidedly domestic.


  • This is the only Tintin album to contain profanity. In the English edition, an unidentified character says "Damn! A blackout." when a power outage occurs while filming.
  • The song sung by the Castafiore, The Jewel Song, is the same song sung by Marguerite in Gounod's opera, Faust. We are led to believe that Castafiore is a world-class performer, who would presumably have a large repertoire of material ... and yet, throughout all the Tintin adventures in which she appears, the running gags is that whenever Bianca Castafiore performs in any context, it is invariably the Jewel Song which she sings.
  • Nevertheless, for the first time, at the end of the book, it is shown that she can and does sing other operas, since she stars in a La Scala production of Rossini's "La gazza ladra" (The Thieving Magpie), which gives to Tintin the clue to solve the mystery of the emerald.
  • The book alludes to the well-known French tabloid Paris Match in its depiction of reporters from 'Paris Flash', and jibes at its reputation for the questionable accuracy of the articles.
  • It also mentions a fashion designer named Tristan Bior, based upon Christian Dior.

Translation differences

In the French version, when the Rom woman looks into Captain Haddock's palm, she says "You've been bitten". (The Captain then in both versions says "If that's all you can see...") In the English version, she only says "Trouble", missing the joke in French completely. The French version might more accurately portray Captain Haddock's skepticism of fortune-telling. (Nevertheless, the Rom woman goes on to give an accurate summary of the events in the book: Captain Haddock's accident, his wheelchair, the arrival of Bianca Castafiore, and her missing jewels.)


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