Tintin the hero

Dossier ~ Monday 3rd August 2009
The Calculus Affair (1956) - Page 54]

In the long history of facts about Tintin, his inquisitive fans are always seeking to discover new information. This time, we invite you to trace a true hero, who was Tintin for one day, but whose memory has lasted for years.

It was the 7 July 1931...

Visitors to the Hergé Museum, in Louvain-la-Neuve have the opportunity to admire a gigantic photograph showing Tintins's joyful return to Brussels from his Congolese adventure. We won't deprive you of the pleasure of finding this snap shot by telling you where it is located in the Museum. On 7 July 1931 - a Thursday afternoon, schoolchildren were excused class. In those days, the summer holidays began on 15 July. An enthusiastic crowd, estimated at three thousand people, accompanied Tintin, Snowy and some Congolese people from the Gare du Nord station to the offices of the daily newspaper, Le Vingtième Siècle, in the Boulevard Bischoffsheim. Tintin appeared on the balcony, alongside people in charge of the newspaper, and Hergé, editor in chief of Le Petit Vingtième. Henri Dendoncker, a young fourteen year old scout, born in October 1906, played the part of Tintin at this event.

Publicity stunt ?

This was not the first time that such a public reception had taken place. On 8 May 1930, Brussels was excited about the appearance of Tintin, as he got off a train which had come from Soviet Russia, via Berlin. Lucien Pepermans, a boy scout portrayed Tintin at this event. The same scene happened again on 13 November 1932, after Tintin in America. A third " Tintin " was chosen : René Boey. In 1935, after The Blue Lotus, Charles Stie was the last " Tintin ". Was it a publicity stunt? Of course! But, in 1931, something else happened. Until then, Hergé had not yet decided to devote himself exclusively to the comic strip. His talents as a graphic designer, illustrator and designer of advertising material were earning him lots of praise,... the remuneration was better than for comic strips ! Due to the enthusiasm of young people for Tintin, the young artist, he was almost 24, was considering a full time career of telling stories in pictures.oncker, a young fourteen year old scout, born in October 1906, played the part of Tintin at this event.

Dendoncker and Hergé - The balcony of the Twentieth Century
Tintin and Dendoncker by landau
Tintin and Snowy

A momentous decision

When Hergé set himself a goal, he tried to achieve it. Author of strip cartoons ? Fine ! But give it substance, then ! From now on, The Adventures of Tintin would be well constructed, not on a weekly basis, but from a synopsis, and then a detailed scenario. The first example of which was Cigars of the Pharaoh. It is another scenario, that of a life, which retains our attention in this journal. " Tintin " Dendoncker, a student and scout, was continuing his studies, but was caught by surprise by the invasion of Belgium by the Germans, on 10 May 1940. Aged 23, Henri did not hesitate a second. He embarked for England, which is where his extraordinary adventure begins.

Henri's fabulous adventure

Active and courageous, Henri Dendoncker fidgets impatiently. In London, he intervened in the rescue missions of victims of bombings by the Luftwaffe, the German Air Force. The British Intelligence Service soon spotted that he was a very brave man with a big heart. He was chosen for top secret and dangerous missions in Europe. Which ones ? That is where things become complicated...

The plot thickens...

The training of secret agents took at least two years. After that, Henri Dendoncker was sent back to Belgium to carry out assignments in liaison with the networks of the Resistance. These activities were very dangerous. Where is the proof ? When we visited the site of the English National Archives, we were surprised to see that the file of Henri Dendoncker has been " classified ". This means that it won't be available for public viewing until 1 January 2017. What were these missions ? " Secret ! " According to a letter, sent to Hergé by Henri Dendoncker's sister. In 1953, it turns out that the young secret agent went to Belgium in 1943, hiding amongst his family, but was denounced and arrested by the Nazis, in 1944. He was interrogated and tortured, but he never said a word, which was why he was sent to the concentration camp in Buchenwald.

A certain Henri Dark

Thanks to his strength of character, Henri survived this traumatic ordeal. He returned to England, where he got married and obtained British nationality. He changed his name from Henri Dendoncker, (which means " dark," in Flemish), to Henri Dark, in English. His war efforts were rewarded by a medal, granted by H. M. the Queen of England. Like all real heroes, Henri Dark remained very discrete about his past. He lived in Croydon, the same town where the Frenchmen, Maurice Druon and Joseph Kessel, wrote the words of Chant des Partisans , a song for the French Resistance, during the Second World War. Our investigation about " Tintin " Dendoncker is ongoing. If you have any information, please let us know. Good luck with your research !

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