Tintin -- Based in Belgium or England?

I’ve been a fan of the Tintin comics since I was a kid, of course reading the English translation. I was always under the impression that Tintin was English and that his residence was in England, even though the author (Georges Remy) was Belgian and the books were first published in Belgium.

However, the Wikipedia article says that Tintin was supposed to be a Belgian youth and that his apartment was in Belgium. Suprised me! So I dug out my collection and I find that it really is kind of ambiguous. At least, the English translations don’t indicate explicitly where Tintin lives and the settings are specified only when he leaves his country of residence, especially in the early books.

When we get to The Secret of the Unicorn, however, it is explicitly shown that Marlinspike is in England (there’s a full address given). And it does seem that Nestor is a stereotypical English butler. From then on, it seems that Tintin is never far from Marlinspike. And Thompson and Thomson work for “Special Branch” and the “C.I.D.,” which, I seem to recall, are British institutions. So does that mean Tintin does live in England? Or is he able to pop back and forth between Belgium and England with suprising ease?

Or is it that the English translations change some details which would otherwise make it clear that Tintin is not English?

It always seemed to me that the English translators just made him more English so readers can identify with the stories better. Le capitaine Haddock lives in le château de Moulinsart, not Marlinspike. The address was probably added by the translators.

So, presumably, in the original edition, the address says “BELGIQUE” instead of “ENGLAND”? I wonder, in the original editions, are explicit references made to Belgium or was there some inherent ambiguity for the translators to play around with?

Well, in the earliest Tintin comics Tintin’s Belgian-ness was very explicit. In “Tintin in the Land of the Soviets” he’s a boy reporter on assignment from the Belgian newspaper Le Vingtième Siècle. And in “Tintin in the Congo” he gives a history lesson to some Congolese children about “our country” … i.e. Belgium, the colonial power that controlled Congo at the time.

I think that Hergé de-emphasized Tintin’s nationality during the Nazi occupation to avoid getting in trouble with the authorities. That may be why the later comics seem so universal.

And “Soviets” and “Congo” have not been published in English translation, so far as I know. So that would take care of that.

I wonder if translations for other countries have played around with the setting? Does any other country serve as Marlinspike’s address?

You can get them in English as reprints of the original newspaper strips, but not in the revised and redrawn versions that Hergé created later. (Actually, I don’t think he ever updated “Soviets”. Considering how primitive it is there probably wasn’t much he though he could salvage.)

I believe that Moulinsart gets localized along with the character names when Tintin is translated into other languages.

Not in all languages. In Swedish, the castle’s name is Moulinsart and it is quite clearly not in Sweden, and all the characters keep their original names. I assumed it was in France when I was a kid, being hip enough to understand that the names and so forth were French but not hip enough to know that French is spoken in Belgium.