The Blue Lotus


The Blue Lotus

Graphicnovelbox| englishtitle=The Blue Lotus
foreigntitle=Le Lotus bleu


caption=Cover of the English edition
publisher=Casterman
date=1936
series="The Adventures of Tintin (Les aventures de Tintin)"
origlanguage=French
origpublication="Le Petit Vingtième"
origdate=August 9, 1934 - October 17, 1935
origisbn=2-203-00104-6
transtitle=The Blue Lotus
transpublisher=Methuen
transdate=1983
transseriestitle="The Adventures of Tintin"
transisbn=1-4052-0616-0
translator=Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner
writers=Hergé
artists=Hergé
colorists=
previssue="Cigars of the Pharaoh", 1934
nextissue="The Broken Ear", 1937

"The Blue Lotus" ( _fr. Le Lotus bleu), first published in 1936, is one of "The Adventures of Tintin", a series of classic comic-strip albums written and illustrated by Hergé featuring young reporter Tintin as a hero. It is a sequel to "Cigars of the Pharaoh", with Tintin continuing his struggle against a major gang of drug smugglers. He also becomes involved in the resistance to the Japanese invasion of China. "The Blue Lotus" is a pivotal work in Hergé's career, moving away from the stereotype and loosely connected stories and marking a new found commitment to geographical and cultural accuracy.

Synopsis

In "Cigars of the Pharaoh", Tintin pursued an international group of drug distributors through the Middle East and India. He managed to capture most of the cartel members, but not the mysterious leader, who fell down a ravine in the mountains. Some time after these events, his body has still not been found. In order to unravel more of the network and stop the opium production at the source, Tintin travels to Shanghai, China, where he is awaited by the assassins of the opium consortium.

However, two attempts on Tintin's life are foiled by a young Chinese stranger who arranges to meet Tintin in a secluded area. Once Tintin arrives for their rendezvous, he discovers that the young man has been struck by Rajaijah juice, the poison of madness, used by the opium gang against their enemies.

While in Shanghai, Tintin meets Mitsuhirato, a Japanese businessman, who urges him to return to India and protect his friend the Maharajah of Gaipajama.

Tintin also defends a young Chinese boy from a Western businessman and racist bully, Gibbons, a friend of Dawson, the corrupt police chief of the Shanghai International Settlement. Incensed, Gibbons and Dawson set about making life difficult for Tintin.

Having been persuaded by Mitsuhirato, Tintin is on his way back to India by ship when he is knocked unconscious and taken ashore along with Snowy. He wakes up outside Shanghai, in the home of Wang Chen-Yee, the leader of a brotherhood called "The Sons of the Dragon" dedicated to the fight against opium. Wang's son is the young man who helped save him on two occasions, but is now insane. He goes about threatening to cut people's heads off with a sword (thinking it will "show them the way") and only his father's stern authority can keep him in check.

Wang also reveals that Mitsuhirato is their chief opponent: a Japanese secret agent and drug smuggler. Tintin follows Mitsuhirato and sees him blowing up a railway line (this is based on the real-life Mukden Incident). No one is killed and damage is minor, but the event is successfully portrayed by the Japanese government as a major Chinese terrorist incident and used as a pretext for a Japanese invasion of Manchuria.

Having obtained a sample of the poison of madness, Tintin returns to Shanghai, which has now been occupied by the Japanese Army, and tries to make contact with Doctor Fan Hsi-Ying, an expert on insanity, who may be able to cure Wang's son. However, Doctor Fan has been kidnapped by the opium gang, presumably to prevent him developing an antidote to the poison. A note left by the kidnappers demands ransom money which must be paid at an old temple in the city of Hukow.

After a brief period of imprisonment in Shanghai by the Japanese Army, Tintin escapes and rides a train to Hukow, but a flood washes the tracks, and all the passengers must disembark. He rescues a young boy, Chang Chong-Chen, from drowning in the Yangtze River. They become fast friends, and Chang rescues Tintin from the Thompsons who had reluctantly arrested him under orders from Dawson (who is collaborating with Mitsuhirato to capture Tintin). They later travel to the area where the ransom money is to be left, and are able to confirm that Doctor Fan has been kidnapped on Mitsuhirato's orders.

Tintin and Chang return to Shanghai, but Wang and his family are kidnapped by Mitsuhirato. In order to find them, Tintin travels to the Shanghai docks and hides in one of the barrels being unloaded from an opium ship. But it turns out that he was seen, and when he emerges he is confronted by Mitsuhirato armed with a gun, and soon finds himself a prisoner alongside Wang. Then the boss of the opium cartel is revealed to be the film producer Rastapopoulos (see "Cigars of the Pharaoh" for back story). Tintin is incredulous that a man he had thought to be a friend could be the gang leader until Rastapopoulos reveals the tattoo of Kih-Oskh on his forearm. Fortunately, the Sons of the Dragon, who had previously overpowered Mitsuhirato's thugs and had hidden in the other barrels (as planned by Tintin), reveal themselves, and force Mitsuhirato and Rastapopoulos to surrender. With Rastapopoulos arrested, the drug ring is finally brought down, and Mitsuhirato commits seppuku. The ensuing political fallout over his involvement with the cartel and Japanese espionage leads to Japan's withdrawal from the League of Nations.

The title, "Blue Lotus", refers to the name of an opium den, itself a reference to the blue lotus.

Method change

Up to the writing of "The Blue Lotus", Hergé's writing was mainly based on popular prejudice and on what his mentor, the abbot Norbert Wallez, had told him about Socialism, the Soviet Union, Belgian colonies in Africa or the United States, which was depicted as a nation of gangsters and cowboys and Indians of the sort found in Hollywood movies (though Hergé does sympathise with the Indians in the way they are forced off their land).

As Tintin was published in "Le Petit Vingtième", a newspaper supplement, and Hergé announced at the end of "Cigars" that his next setting would be China. Father Gosset, chaplain to the Chinese students at the University of Leuven, wrote to Hergé urging him to be sensitive about what he wrote about China, since it might offend his Chinese students. Hergé agreed, and in the spring of 1934 Gosset introduced him to Zhang Chongren/Chang Ch'ung-jen (known to Hergé as 'Chang Chong-chen'), a young sculpture student at the Brussels Académie des Beaux-Arts. The two young artists quickly became close friends, and Zhang introduced Hergé to Chinese culture, and the techniques of Chinese art.

According to Hergé, before the meeting,he thought that it "was peopled by a vague,slit eyed who were very cruel, and would eat swallows nests,wear pigtails and throw children into rivers."Fact|date=August 2008

As a result of this experience, Hergé would strive in "The Blue Lotus", and in subsequent Tintin adventures, to be meticulously accurate in depicting the places which Tintin visited by painstakingly researching all his topics. When his UK publisher complained that "The Black Island" depicted an old-fashioned England, Hergé sent Bob de Moor to Britain to redraw anything that was no longer accurate, resulting in huge changes to the album. This new-found commitment to accuracy would become a Hergé trademark.

As a token of appreciation, he added a fictional "Chang" ("Tchang" in French) to "The Blue Lotus", a young Chinese boy who meets and befriends Tintin. Hergé lets Tintin explain to Chang that Chang's fear for the 'white devils' is based on prejudice and Chinese racism. He then recites a few Western stereotypes of the Chinese, confuting them.

Political turmoil

As another result of his friendship with Zhang (Chang), Hergé became increasing aware of the problems of colonialism, in particular the Japanese Empire's advances into China. Tintin also rescues a Chinese boy from a racist bully Gibbons, who was a good friend of Dawson, the corrupt Police chief of the Shanghai International Settlement.

Tintin is a direct witness to the South Manchurian railway incident (Mukden incident), Japan's pretext to occupy the province of Manchuria from China. The Japanese and some European characters are portrayed in a negative light, and their cartoon forms are somewhat racist. The Japanese, including the character of Mitsuhirato and Japanese soldiers are shown with beaming teeth while the Chinese are shown as tight-lipped. As a result it drew sharp criticism from various parties, including a protest by Japanese diplomats to the Belgian Foreign Ministry.

The Republic of China was so pleased with the album that its leader at the time, Chiang Kai-shek, invited Hergé for a visit. However, because of objections to the implied ideology of Tintin, the People's Republic of China forbade the publication of the album for a long time. It finally allowed publication in 1984, but some controversial items were changed. For example the words 抵制日貨, dǐ zhì rì huò, "Down with Japanese products!" was changed to 大吉路, dà jí lù, "Great Luck road".

Publication history

This adventure was originally published under the name "Tintin en Extrême-Orient" (literally "Tintin in the Far East").

The original version of "The Blue Lotus" was published in black-and-white in "Le Petit Vingtième" in 1934. It was later redrawn and colourised in 1946.

Many scenes that appeared in the original 1934 version were left out in 1946. They included:

*The fakir who performs tricks with glass and daggers and reads Tintin's palm is named as Cipacalouvishni.

*As the fakir warns him of the dangers to come, Tintin looks visibly more nervous in the 1934 version than in 1946.

*After firing the dart into the neck of the Chinese man at the Maharaja's palace, the fakir from "Cigars of the Pharaoh" can be seen hurrying away through the jungle.

*Tintin then tells the Maharaja that he will not leave for China until he knows the fakir is back in custody. They later receive a telegram announcing his recapture. Tintin, who has lost Snowy, decides to leave without him (these decisions were changed in later versions).

*When Tintin is jailed after bumping into a Sikh policeman, Dawson sends three tough men in to beat him up. In the original version they are British soldiers, from England, Ireland and Scotland. Instead of Tintin, it is they who end up in hospital where an official pays tribute for their "sacrifice in the defence of their ideals" ! In 1946 the white soldiers are replaced by Indians.

*While watching a newsreel in a cinema, Tintin sees footage of Sir Malcolm Campbell breaking the world land speed record in his high-powered Bluebird car.

*While searching the cellar of the Blue Lotus, Tintin opens a door and he and Chang come face-to-face with yet another gangster. Tintin tells Chang to follow his example, raise his arms and put down his gun. When the gangster bends down to pick up the guns, Tintin slams the door onto him, knocking him out. Chang then ties him up with rope.

Fictional countries

"The Blue Lotus" mentions two fictional countries, the first of several in the "Tintin" books. However, while fictional countries such as Syldavia play major recurring roles in other stories, the two nations mentioned in "The Blue Lotus" are not referred to again in the series.

*Pilchardanian Republic: A European Republic, which resembles the pre-World War II French Third Republic. It was mentioned during a newsreel, when Tintin hides in a movie theater.
*Mitsuhirato and his men capture a man they believe to be Tintin wearing a huge fake beard and wig. However it turns out to be genuine hair and beard: the man is in fact the consul for Poldavia, a play on of Moldavia.

External links

* [http://www.tintinologist.org/guides/books/05bluelotus.html The Blue Lotus] at Tintinologist.org


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