Tintin in Tibet (Tintin au Tibet) is one of The Adventures of Tintin, a series of classic comic-strip albums, written and illustrated by Belgian writer and illustrator Hergé, featuring the young reporter Tintin as the hero.
Tintin in Tibet is the twentieth book in the series. It is said to have been Hergé's favourite of the Tintin series (previously The Secret of the Unicorn), and was written during a personally difficult time in his life, as he was divorcing with his first wife. The story is unlike any previous Tintin books, before or since: there are only a small number of characters and no enemies, villains, spies or gangsters. This adventure revolves around a rescue mission of Tintin's Chinese friend Chang Chong-Chen.
It is also unusually emotional for a Tintin story: moments of strong emotion for the characters include Tintin's enduring belief in Chang's survival, the discovery of the teddy bear in the snow, Haddock's attempting to sacrifice himself to save Tintin, Tharkey's return, Tintin's discovery of Chang, and the yeti losing his only friend. Indeed Tintin is seen to cry when he believes Chang's fate, something he is only seen to do twice throughout the entire series (the other occurrence being in The Blue Lotus).
Upon entering Tibet, they discover footprints in the snow that Tharkey claims belong to the yeti. The porters abandon the group in fear, and Tintin, Haddock and Tharkey go on, taking the porters' loads as well. They reach the crash site, where Tintin finds a teddy bear half-buried in the snow, which he believes may have belonged to Chang. Tintin sets off with Snowy to try and trace Chang's steps, and find a cave where Chang carved his name on a rock, proving that he survived the crash. Following a snowstorm in which Tintin falls down a crevasse, he rejoins Haddock and Tharkey, who had sheltered in the plane.
Tharkey decides not to go on any further, believing Chang to be dead, and Tintin, Snowy and Haddock travel in the direction of a scarf that Tintin spotted on a cliff face. While attempting to climb upwards, Haddock loses his grip and hangs perilously over a cliff edge, impaling Tintin, who is attached to the other end of the rope, upon a rock. He tells Tintin to cut the rope to save himself, but Tintin refuses, saying that they will either both be saved or they die together. Tharkey, moved by Tintin's selflessness, returns just in time to save them. That night, they pitch their tent in a storm, but it blows away, into the face of the yeti. They trek onwards, unable to sleep lest they freeze, and eventually arrive within sight of the Buddhist monastery of Khor-Biyong before collapsing due to exhaustion. An avalanche occurs, and they are buried in the snow.
Blessed Lightning, a telepathic monk at the monastery, 'sees' Tintin, Snowy, Haddock and Tharkey in the snow, in a vision. Up in the mountains, Tintin regains consciousness and, unable to reach the monastery himself, writes a note and gives it to Snowy to deliver. Snowy lets go of the message when he finds a bone, but then realises what he's done, and runs to the monastery to make someone follow him. The monks head after him.
Two days later, Captain Haddock awakes to find himself in the monastery. He joins Tintin and Tharkey in an audience with the monks. After Tintin tells the Grand Abbot why they are there, the Abbot tells him to abandon his quest and return to his country. However, Blessed Lightning has another vision, through which Tintin learns that Chang is still alive, in a mountain cave, but that the "migou", or yeti, is also there. Haddock doesn't believe the vision is genuine, but the Abbot explains to him that many things that occur in Tibet seem unbelievable to Westerners. Given directions by the Abbot, Tintin travels to Charabang, a small village near the Horn of the Yak, the mountain mentioned by Blessed Lightning. Haddock initially refuses to follow Tintin anymore, but soon changes his mind and pursues him to Charabang. The two of them, and Snowy, head to the Horn of the Yak on the final lap of their journey.
They wait outside until they see the yeti leave the cave. Tintin ventures inside with a camera to look for Chang, having been told by the Captain to take a photograph of the yeti if he can. Inside the cave, Tintin finally finds Chang, who is feverish and shaking. The yeti returns to the cave before Haddock can warn Tintin, and he reacts with anger upon seeing Tintin taking Chang away. He reaches toward Tintin, setting off the flash bulb of the camera, and the yeti, frightened by the light, runs out of the cave, bowling over the Captain, who has come to save Tintin. The two of them carry Chang back to the village of Charabang, and he tells the story of how he survived, and how the yeti took care of him. Along the way, they briefly encounter the yeti, who is scared off by Haddock, leading Chang to sympathize with yeti, calling him "Poor Snowman". Tintin notes that Chang, the only person to have known the yeti, didn't refer to him as "abominable". "Of course I don't, Tintin," replies Chang, "he took care of me. Without him I'd have died of cold and hunger." They are later met by the Grand Abbot and an envoy of monks, who present Tintin with a silk scarf in honour of the bravery he has shown, and the strength of his friendship to Chang. The monks take them back to Khor-Biyong, and after a week, when Chang has recovered, they return to Nepal by caravan. As their party travels away from the monastery, Chang muses that the yeti is no wild animal, but instead has a human soul, while the yeti sadly watches their departure from a distance.
Hergé had been recently plagued by nightmares in the period before writing Tintin in Tibet, in which he found himself in a white, featureless world. These dreams are echoed in the white landscape of the Himalayas in the book. This may also be why Hergé's original cover for the book was completely white (see the Changes section, below).
Tintin's friend Chang, who we first met in The Blue Lotus, is modelled on Hergé's real-life friend Zhang Chongren, who had taught him about China and Chinese culture for Blue Lotus, and whom Hergé had lost contact with at the time of Tintin in Tibet. Tintin's efforts to find Chang paralleled Hergé's, and they both eventually succeeded.
The idea of making the yeti a sympathetic character was allegedly suggested by Fanny Vlamynck, a colourist at Studios Hergé who would later become Hergé's second wife. Fanny also shared Hergé's interest in Oriental philosophy that is evident in the story.
Hergé originally had Chang write a letter and leave it in the cave for Tintin to later find. However, he changed this to carving his name on a rock, in Chinese and in Western script, presumably to be more convincing.
In the original 1960 edition of the book, according to the newspaper article on page 2, the plane that crashed belonged to Indian Airways. A representative of said company came forward following publication of the book, and complained to Hergé about the negative publicity - "It's scandalous ! None of our planes have ever crashed. You have done us a considerable wrong." Hergé agreed to change it to a fictitious 'Sari Airways', although the plane on page 58 features the words 'Indian Airways' in all editions. Another inaccuracy is that the airline is called Indian Airways, instead of the actual name Indian Airlines. The planes in the book bear the logo of yet another airline, Air India.
A sequence published in Tintin Magazine in which the gas stove explodes and sets off a box of flares was ultimately cut. It would have pushed the book over the 62-page limit, and interrupted the flow of the story. It is reproduced in Benoît Peeters' book, Tintin and the World of Hergé.