Should ‘Tintin in the Congo’ Be Sold to Children?

The Adventures of Tintin is best known as a series of family friendly graphic novels. Hergé, the author of the books, has made them enjoyable for both kids and adults, as they incorporate topics appealing to both older and younger audiences. However, the first few books in the series were known to be quite political and controversial, as opposed to the later entries. There was one book which erupted with negative criticism, however, and caused a lot of trouble for Hergé.   Image Via Alistgator   Tintin in the Congo was published in 1931, and many campaigners and writers described the …

Comics & Graphic Novels

The Adventures of Tintin is best known as a series of family friendly graphic novels. Hergé, the author of the books, has made them enjoyable for both kids and adults, as they incorporate topics appealing to both older and younger audiences. However, the first few books in the series were known to be quite political and controversial, as opposed to the later entries. There was one book which erupted with negative criticism, however, and caused a lot of trouble for Hergé.

 

Image Via Alistgator

 

Tintin in the Congo was published in 1931, and many campaigners and writers described the book as extremely racist due to its depiction of Africans.

 

Image Via Amazon

 

Fast forward to 2007, when Tintin in the Congo hit the headlines hard. Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo, a Congolese citizen, claimed the book was racist and campaigned to get it pulled from the shelves in Belgium. Mondondo believes the book “…makes people think that blacks have not evolved…”. According to BBC News, after a court case that lasted four years, the judges said the book was merely a portrayal of the colonial attitudes of its time and there was no verification that Hergé, who died in 1983, held racist perspectives. Mondondo attempted to get the book banned in France as well, but to no avail. Also in 2007, the United Kingdom’s Commission for Racial Equality wanted Tintin in the Congo to be banned, saying it contained words and visual depictions of racial prejudice. This resulted in the book only being removed from the children’s sections of bookstores, but not completely removed.

 

 

Hergé had said that he felt his background and upbringing made it impossible to avoid bias and prejudice. According to Tom McCarthy, an English novelist, Hergé depicted the Congolese as, “good at heart but backwards and lazy, in need of European mastery.”

Michael Farr, an English expert on Tintin said, “You couldn’t have met someone who was more open and less racist”, after meeting Hergé.

Harry Thompson, the late English radio personality, argued that we must look at Tintin in the Congo in the frame of reference of European society in the early to mid 20th century, and that Hergé did not write the book to be “deliberately racist.” He said that it reflected the perspective of the everyday Belgian, and their view of Congolese people at the time.

Contradictorily, Laurence Grove, president of the International Bande Dessinée Society and an academic at the University of Glasgow, claimed that Hergé stuck to overcoming societal trends in his pieces, and that, “when it was fashionable to be a colonial racist, that’s what he was.”

 

Image Via TV Tropes

Although I do believe that the book is a product of its time, children should not be reading it. They should be learning about the dreadful history of colonialism and racism in the conventional context of an institution, or school, run by professionals who know the right way to communicate the topic. We all know the powerful impact that books have on society, and this piece is better read by audiences familiar with the background of Belgian colonization.

Booksellers should move this book to the adult section, and not take advantage of the highly influential name that is Tintin. While books are some of the most treasured things on earth, so are the minds of developing children. It is imperative that children learn this morbid aspect of world history, but not through a narrative like this, easily comprehended by younger audiences.

 

Do you think the book should be banned from all stores, or just from children’s sections? Let us know in the comments!

 

 

 

 

Featured Image Via YouTube