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4.5 out of 5 stars
King Ottokar's Sceptre (The Adventures of Tintin)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Tintin's adventure in the Balkans perhaps doesn't have the same exotic allure as his excursions to the Andes, to Tibet, to the Sahara or the Moon, and consequently King Ottokar's Sceptre is somewhat underrated among the Tintin collection. Hergé however puts no less effort into his research and his creation of a political background for the state of Syldavia, going as far in this book as to include a brief brochure laying out the troubled history of the nation that comes across as realistic and authentic, giving the story a little more political depth.

The story doesn't skimp on action and intrigue either, Tintin's investigative nose getting him into a lot of trouble when he refuses to take the hint and mind his own business. Returning a lost briefcase found in a park to a professor in the study of ancient seals, Tintin gets wind of something suspicious going on related to Syldavia and volunteers to accompany the professor on his visit there acting as his assistant. Even Professor Alembick starts behaving strangely as the trip commences, but before he can act on his suspicions, Tintin finds himself ejected from the small aircraft while they are on their way to the capital Klow.

The story's plot to overthrow the King of Syldavia is a product of the time of its writing, King Ottokar's sceptre being originally serialised in the Petit Vingtième from August 1938 to August 1939, the situation between Syldavia and Borduria reflecting the Anschluss of Austria by German forces in March 1938. It's no coincidence then that the name of the author of this plot, Müsstler, is made up of a combination of Mussolini and Hitler.

As one of Tintin's earlier adventures, the artwork here isn't always as slick and polished as it is in some of the later books, (often done in collaboration with the assistants at Hergé's studios), although when redrawn for collected publication in this edition, Edgar P. Jacobs (Blake and Mortimer) was employed to redesign Syldavian costumes, work on new backgrounds and the recolouring of the story, adding considerably to the whole feel of the work. The sense of pacing here however is pure Hergé and classic Tintin, purposefully driving the story forward, leaving little visual clues and puzzles to be worked out. The story achieves a wonderful balance then between action and intrigue, with every page revealing another little twist or amusement (including the first appearance from our diva Bianca Castafiore) as the story gains momentum.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Chronologically in between 'The black island' and 'The crab with the golden claws', this 1947 album is a great Tintin adventure. East European spies, car chases, the first meeting with Bianca Castafiore, treachorous soldiers, clever detective work, it has it all.

The original version came out, in black and white, in 1938. It was very topical, in that the Borduria/Syldavia tensions mirror those of Germany and Austria: in fact, the Anschluss (takeover of Austria by Germany) had just taken place. But in 1947 the colour version was made, and Herge and Edgar Jacobs (writer of the excellent Blake & Mortimer series) took the opportunity to re-draw the story as well.
The drawing is precise, vintage Herge at his top.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 1 July 2014
First published in French in 1939, and written at the time that Europe was under the thumb of totalitarianism: Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin.
Tintin is taken through a sequence of strange vents to the mythical Kingdom of Syldavia, which we learn much about in this book. The drawings and information which bring this country to life : a combination between Zenda and Albania , are amazing .
A plot by Fascists based in neighboring Borduria is hatched to unseat King Muskar, involving the seizure of the symbol of the Syldavian monarchy, the mediaeval King Ottokar's Scepter.
Tintin is called to the rescue. Once more these charming comics are an interesting commentary on events at the time, through the eyes of Herge.
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on 7 August 2015
“King Ottokar's Sceptre” is one of the best Tintin adventures. It's obviously political, and was originally serialized in 1938-39, when Adolf Hitler's Germany had embarked on its policy of aggressive expansion. The message of the story is anti-Nazi. Unfortunately, Hergé decided to collaborate with the Nazis after the German occupation of Belgium in 1940, thereby soiling his post-war reputation.

The plot revolves around two fictitious nations in the Balkans, the peaceful monarchy Syldavia and the aggressive fascist dictatorship Borduria. While Syldavia is mostly based on interwar Yugoslavia (complete with Muslim mosques!), the story contains allusions to Czechoslovakia, Austria and Hergé's native Belgium, making it clear that it's not really about the Balkans at all.

The Syldav language is freely based on a working-class sociolect spoken in Brussels, the king's name Ottokar is identical to that of two Bohemian rulers, and the entire scenario of Borduria wanting to annex Syldavia is similar to Hitler's Anschluss of Austria. Borduria is obviously a stand-in for Nazi Germany (the name of its dictator Müsstler being a combination of Mussolini and Hitler). During the Cold War, Hergé's new allegiances made him subtly change Borduria into a stand-in for the Soviet Union instead!

Above all, “King Ottokar's Sceptre” is a good and entertaining story. The stupidities of the Thompson Twins are kept down at a minimum, and Captain Haddock isn't included at all. He hadn't been invented yet! I know that most Tintin fans love Haddock's blistering barnacles and the bad detectives Thomson and Thompson-with-a-P, but I never liked them. Besides, I fancied the political angle.
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A classic Tintin adventure that finds Tintin travelling to Syldavia for the first time (he returns in Hergé's lunar themed double bill), in the company of the mysterious Professor Alembick, sigillographer.

Embroiled in tense cross-border politics, court intrigues, and a general ripping good yarn, the earnest boy reporter and his faithful canine sidekick Snowy escape numerous jams on their quest for good wholesome adventurous fun.

Whilst the artwork was, as noted by other reviewers, reworked when colourised postwar, nonetheless Hergé's gift for strong artwork was by this stage more or less fully formed (the courtly costumes are great, as are the pseudo-historical 'tourist guide' spreads Tintin reads on the plane to Syldavia). His storytelling is also growing stronger, although the episodic cliffhanger moments (suited so well to the original format these serials were first presented in) may occasionally appear contrived to adults returning to this material, the joins probably won't be visible to young readers.

This was an early youthful favourite of mine, so I've a partisan soft spot for it, but it is now, like almost all Hergé's Tintin books, simply a wonderfully innocent period piece. That it manages to remain innocent despite Tintin's royal(ist) imbroglio, and the political parallels between the Syldavia/Borduria dispute and the dark period of European history just then unfolding (this was originally written and published in the late 1930s) is fascinating.

Hergé certainly appears in a bolder and more favourable light here than he does if you had only read The Adventures of Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, or Tintin In The Congo, especially when one considers (though we have the benefit of hindsight) the danger posed by those 'forces' who might've taken potentially fatal offense.

But ultimately, like all the Tintin adventures, this is first, foremost, and fundamentally, good old-fashioned fun.
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on 19 April 2009
A fairly typical Tintin adventure which sees him out and about as usual, caught up in a very complicated set of affairs in some pastiche eastern european enclave, where territories seem to change hands at the drop of a hat. Of course this is Herge making fun of stereotypes of such countries at the time, but even now, you can relate to much of the humorous goings on and border tensions evident in the story. Busy, with some good background drawing and interesting locations, but the story does not engage, it has no great mystery to solve here, and you feel little empathy for any of the bickering characters. This middle series book is very middle of the road and you can see here why Herge brought in a new character for the next adventure to spice things up a bit. It has some merit in the depiction of the location and its inhabitants, but not at all one of the more engaging stories, and I struggled to finish it. 2.5 stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Classic Tintin adventure.

A must for all fans.

Well written and drawn in Herge's classic style.

Suitable for all ages.
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on 13 May 2012
There are drawbacks - the plot is initially confusing, similar looking characters and a profusion of names, but about half way through it seems to hit its stride, especially the chases with the sceptre. The artwork become fabulous - detailed, atmospheric, exotic and fascinating, whilst the story becomes interesting and lively. I'm reading the series in sequence and looking forward to the next.
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on 9 August 2015
Another great Herge story. Tintin visits a pseudo Eastern European state where there is a plot to steal the King's sceptre.... usual riveting read. The kids were fascinated with the story and the places. The locations stimulated lots of questions from the kids about where the country was and what the culture was like.
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on 15 July 2009
Every Tintin book is a work of genuis (all right the TV spin off books are a bit pants)but all of the originals are the ideal Big brother/ Dad reading a bed time story. My father did them all with me and i am doing them with my son.

The sheer joy they bring to bedtime for me and my son is imeasurable.
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