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Land of Black Gold

Land of Black Gold (French: Tintin au pays de l'or noir) is the fifteenth of The Adventures of Tintin, a series of classic comic-strip albums, written and illustrated by Belgian writer and illustrator Hergé, featuring young reporter Tintin as a hero.

It was first published in Le Petit Vingtième from 1939 to 1940, but ended in mid-adventure. It was later redrawn, colourised and published in Tintin magazine and in book form from 1948 to 1950. Both these versions were set in British Mandate of Palestine. In 1972 parts of the story were again redrawn in order to set it in the fictional state of Khemed.


Experts are confused by a series of spontaneous car engine explosions, apparently caused by tampered fuel supplies. Political tensions heighten, leading the world to the brink of war, and Captain Haddock is mobilised in anticipation of an outbreak of hostilities. Following different leads, Tintin and Thomson and Thompson set off for Khemed (a fictional country in the Middle East) on board a petrol tanker. Upon arrival, the three are framed and arrested by the authorities under various charges. The Thompsons are cleared and released, but Tintin is kidnapped by Arab insurgents (In the original version of the story he initially arrived in the port of Haifa in British Palestine and was first kidnapped by members of the Irgun, before being subsequently abducted by Arabs).

In the course of his adventures, Tintin re-encounters an old enemy, Dr. J.W. Müller (see The Black Island for back story), whom he sees sabotaging an oil pipeline. He reunites with the Thompsons and eventually arrives in Wadesdah, the capital of Khemed, where he comes across his old friend, the Portuguese merchant Senhor Oliveira da Figueira. When the local Emir Ben Kalish Ezab's young son, Prince Abdullah, is kidnapped, Tintin suspects that Müller (who is masquerading as an archaeologist under the name of Professor Smith) is responsible. He pursues Müller in hopes of rescuing the prince and in the process discovers the doctor to be the agent of a foreign power responsible for the tampering of the fuel supplies.


Many of the names of characters and places in this album are puns in Brussels dialect:


O'Connor, the sailor who tries to dispose of Snowy, claims to be from the Intelligence Service which in continental Europe is the standard way of referring to the British Secret Intelligence Service or MI6. Other Belgian comic series based around British characters, such as Clifton or Blake and Mortimer, refer to the IS as a kind of umbrella organisation which covers both MI5 and MI6, which is not the actual case.

Publication history

The first version

Hergé began working on the story before World War II and early pages were published in Le Petit Vingtième. The atmosphere of impending war throughout the adventure reflects the concerns of the time.

The original version was set in the late 1930s in the British Mandate of Palestine and the conflict between Jews, Arabs and British troops. In this version, the Jewish Irgun played a small but important part. Upon his arrival in Palestine, Tintin is arrested by the British authorities when compromising documents are found in his cabin, of which he knew nothing of. He is then kidnapped by members of the Irgun who have mistaken him for one of their own. They realise their mistake when their real associate, Finkelstein, arrives at their HQ. He bears some resemblance to Tintin, though he has a nasty and unpleasant smirk on his face.

Before they can decide what to do with him the Zionists' car is stopped by a roadblock of rocks and barrels. As they clear it, Arab gunmen emerge from a nearby wheat field and take Tintin, whom they too believe is the Zionist activist, into the desert. (This scene was inspired by a photo Hergé had in his archives showing two British soldiers from a road convoy dismantling a similar obstruction while other troops have their rifles and machine guns pointed at a wheat field. )

Tintin meets Sheikh Bab El Ehr, the Arab insurgent who is fighting the British and the Jews. Meanwhile the Zionists are captured and interrogated by British officials.

Following the takeover of Belgium by Germany in 1940, Hergé decided that it would be wiser to drop this story whose political context would not have appealed to the German censors. It ceased publication at about mid-adventure when Tintin, after his first confrontation with Müller, is caught in a sandstorm.

Hergé moved to the collaborationist newspaper Le Soir and during the war years Tintin's adventures focused on non-political issues such as drug smuggling (The Crab with the Golden Claws), scientific expeditions (The Shooting Star), intrigue and treasure hunts (The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham's Treasure) and a mysterious curse (The Seven Crystal Balls).

Controversially, The Shooting Star also included Jews shown in a bad light (see Tintin and the Jews).

French editing

Meanwhile, in occupied France, the story had been published in the weekly Catholic magazine Coeurs Vaillants (Valiant Hearts). All references to Zionists and Arabs were removed from the speech bubbles, though the illustrations remained unchanged, and Tintin's double, Finkelstein, was given the more French-like name of Durand. The scene where a British plane flies over the Arab camp was not included. This was presumably in an effort to avoid trouble with Marshal Pétain's censors.

In 1945 the story appeared in the French Catholic paper, La Voix de l'ouest (The Voice of the West, a local paper published in Brittany in the west of France). The story was renamed Tintin et Milou au pays de l'or liquide (Tintin and Snowy in the Land of Liquid Gold).

Although Pétain had long since gone it still included much of Coeurs Vaillants' edited version: the British were referred to as "the police"; some cursing remarks made by a Jew about Arabs who have blocked the road were not included; and Tintin's Zionist-lookalike was still named Durand.

Tintin magazine

Meanwhile Hergé restarted the story from scratch in Tintin magazine in 1948. It was redrawn, colourised and given more detailed panels, but the scenes with the British and the kidnappers remained. Tintin's double was now given the more Jewish-sounding name of Salomon Goldstein.

By now Captain Haddock was an important part of Tintin's world and he was therefore added to the conclusion of the story (although no explanation as to how he suddenly turns up to rescue Tintin in Müller's bunker is given). Nestor the butler makes a cameo and Cuthbert Calculus and Marlinspike Hall are also mentioned. This version was published in book form shortly afterwards.

The final version

Twenty years later when the story was due to be published in English the state of Israel had long been up and running. Methuen felt that the scenes of British troops in Palestine made the book dated. Hergé and his assistant Bob de Moor rewrote the album resetting the story in a fictional Arab state called Khemed. It was published in 1972 and it is this version that is most commonly available in most countries today.

The changes that were made to the illustrations started from the point where, at night, Tintin checks over the oil tanks at the dockyard and overhears a conversation between two suspicious men. This continued with the scenes on the oil tanker, the events at the city-port and Tintin's meeting with Sheikh Bab El Ehr. They ended at the point when the Thompsons attempt, in bathing suits, to swim in a lake that turns out to be a mirage. Before and after that the illustrations remained pretty much unchanged.

A page in which the Thompsons go from mirage to mirage and end up crashing into the only palm tree for miles around was unchanged but moved to another location.

Some changes were made to the text in order to remove references to the British presence in the Middle East by Emir Ben Kalish Ezab and give him the air of an actual ruler of a Kingdom rather than the appearance of a local prince.

Other changes included:

Scene 1950 edition 1972 edition
Both editions include a lot of Arabic script.

The Arabic is based on the artist's imagination.

The writing is genuine Arabic.
The Thompsons are told by their boss to join the crew of the petrol tanker Speedol Star.

They are to look out for spies among the crew. They wear dark sailor suits, suitable for fancy dress, and even smoke pipes.

They are to go to Khemed and check over the growing tension in the area since Sheikh Bab El Ehr is seeking to overthrow Emir Ben Kalish Ezab. The suits are blue, but even more outrageous, with Titanic written on the caps.
The Speedol Star

The ship's layout is very basic and Tintin's radio is one big machine.

The layout of the Speedol Star is more detailed, catching the atmosphere of an actual oil tanker. Tintin's radio equipment is also shown as much more sophisticated.
The Speedol Star arrives in the Middle East. Tintin and the Thompsons are arrested by the authorities. It turns out that O'Connor, the sailor who tried to dispose of Snowy, had nothing to do with the case of the exploding oil, hence Tintin following a false trail.

The ship arrives in Haifa (called Caiffa in the 1938 version ). The nature of the documents found in the tampered coat rake in Tintin's cabin is not revealed. A coast guard claims that the Thompsons tried to resist the search of their luggage. Papers found in their possession appear to indicate that O'Connor was the spy they were supposed to look out for. The Thompsons refer to the British lieutenant as "Admiral".

The ship arrives at Khemkhah (Khemikal in the English version), port of Khemed. The documents in Tintin's cabin suggest that he is there to arrange the delivery of arms to the rebel Sheikh Bab El Ehr. O'Connor was a drug smuggler. The Thompsons refer to the Arab lieutenant by his proper rank.
While escorted through the streets by soldiers, Tintin is kidnapped by insurgents who knock them out with a canister of sleeping gas. He ends up the prisoner of Sheikh Bab El Ehr.

The kidnappers are Jewish Irgun who then come across a roadblock and are ambushed by Arabs who take Tintin, tied up with rope, to Bab El Ehr. He is furious with his men because Tintin is not Goldstein, whom the Sheik knows has arrived to help the Irgun against the Arabs. The Irgun are captured by the British and admit their own mistake.

Sheikh Bab El Ehr's men kidnap Tintin because they believe that he is due to supply them with weapons. When Tintin denies this, the Sheik takes his anger out on his informant whom he accuses of telling him lies. (The Jews do not appear and neither does Tintin's double.)
A Hawker Hurricane fighter flies over Bab El Ehr's camp, dropping leaflets.

It's an RAF plane, as shown by its markings. Bab El Ehr warns that anyone reading the leaflets will be shot on the spot.

The plane is from the Khemed Air Force. Bab El Ehr laughs away at the leaflets, claiming that none of his men can read.
Tintin meets Emir Ben Kalish Ezab and they discuss Bab El Ehr, Müller and the opposing oil companies.

Sheik Bab El Ehr wants to get the British out of the country (there is a heavy reward for his capture). Emir Ben Kalish Ezab regards him as a fanatic, but states that the Sheik is merely a suspect in the attacks on the oil pipelines. Ben Kalish Ezab comes across as just a local prince who has a deal with an unnamed British oil company and will not sign a deal with Müller's non-British company.

Bab El Ehr and Ben Kalish Ezab are rivals for power. The Emir is convinced the Sheik is behind the attacks. He is also the actual ruler of a country, Khemed. The rival companies are Arabex and Skoil Petroleum. The Emir's hostile relationship with Müller is unchanged.
Abdullah is kidnapped and a letter is sent to the Emir in which Bab El Ehr claims responsibility.

The note tells the Emir to drive the British out of the area.

The note tells the Emir to drive the Arabex oil company out of the area.
Tintin goes to Wadesdah where Müller resides.

Wadesdah is described as a small town.

Wadesdah is described as the capital of Khemed.

External links


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