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I think that this episode is the most calm and less adventurous Tintin adventure ever. But that doesn't mean that this is a boring book- quite on the opposite, the addition of Bianca Castafiore to the episode provides some delightful laughs and hilarious instances, especially some which involved the ever-grumpy Captain Haddock. I think that to those who followed the series in order, this one must certainly provide quite a nice and somewhat peaceful break from all the rather dangerous and thrilling books in the whole series. I read somewhere that this particular episode was rather a narrative exercise by Hergé, whereby he would see whether he could maintain suspense in a plot where nothing much happens. I can most assuredly say that the suspense is very much present through the whole story- despite the fact that it's quite light, fun and preppy than the other book.
Captain Haddock and Tintin are taking a stroll through the countryside when they come across a Gypsy family living in pitiful conditions. The Captain invites them to stay on the grounds of his large estate. On his return back home, he learns that Bianca Castafiore, famous and eccentric opera singer will be coming to stay for a few days. In his rush to run off to Italy and hence avoid meeting the somewhat irritating singer, Captain Haddock trips over the stairs and ends up in a wheelchair. Now he has to endure Castafiore while he's trapped in a wheelchair, and reporters are making stories up about a romantic affair between the Captain and the singer. To make matters worse, her precious jewels suddenly get stolen...
I loved the manner in which Hergé depicted the relationship between Captain Haddock and Bianca Castafiore. If you ask me, these characters two really drew out the most comical elements in each other- not to mention how they seemed to have quite some strong chemistry and this only served in enhancing the comical elements present in the story. Like I said earlier, the whole story has a rather preppy note to it and this was only enhanced by the really, really hilarious scenes which involve the Captain and his eccentric house guest. I think that the most special element all through the story is the general air of fun that lingers- even after the theft and the investigation. It was quite another experience to see Tintin in the middle of an investigation under such a light-heartened note, and while I was expecting something really, really dramatic to occur, Hergé went completely against his general stylistic devices in this book and maintained an amazingly casual atmosphere, in spite of the suspense. Also, to add to the already funny happenings, some other minor comical elements are added in the form of Nestor as well as the Thompson & Thomson pair. However, I would say that for once, humor was mostly based on the Captain rather than the two detectives.
Overall, this is not the most adventurous Tintin episode ever, nor is it the most thrilling one out there. But I will still recommend this book for sheer entertainment factor and giggles that it provided. Bianca Castafiore is according to me, one of the greatest and most developed characters of Hergé- she's a rather recurring character in the series and often appears in various episodes to provide breaks from tension. Hergé manipulated this character in such a way that I just can't help but laugh out loud whenever I see her in any other Tintin episode- which is why I simply adored the fact that she ended up having her own episode where she shines amongst the main protagonists. This book is filled with good-humor, a wonderful dose of suspense and plenty of fun: Most certainly recommended!
~Thanks for reading~
The Castafiore Emerald is the twenty-first book in the series of Tintin adventures by Hergé and was first published in 1963. The story begins with Tintin and Captain Haddock taking a pleasant walk in the country near their home Marlinspike Hall. They find a small Romany girl crying in the woods who then tries to take a nip of Haddock's hand and has a fall attempting to run away. They take her back to her family's temporary camp where Captain Haddock is warned that trouble looms on the horizon ('A beautiful stranger arrives!') by a fortune teller before he invites them all to camp in a meadow near Marlinspike. Back home, Haddock is highly alarmed to be told by his butler Nestor that the famous opera Diva - and general bane of his life - Bianca Castafiore has written to say she is arriving at Marlinspike later that day for a holiday. 'Castafiore?! Here!? Cataclysm!' announces the Captain. 'All hands on deck! Abandon ship!' Haddock prepares to depart Marlinspike as quickly as possible but slips on the loose stone step (a recurring joke in the book) they need to fix and sprains his ankle. A visiting doctor tells Haddock his foot must be put in plaster and orders him to rest for a fortnight - thus placing him completely at the mercy of Castafiore.
Haddock's fortunes go from bad to worse when Castafiore arrives and he's lumbered with her entourage, an annoying parrot she gives him as a gift - and Marlinspike becomes besieged by paparazzi who mistakenly come up with the theory that he and Castafiore are about to marry! As matters become ever more strained - and comic - at Marlinspike, further drama is created when Castafiore's most prized emerald goes missing and an investigation begins...
One of my personal favourites out of the books in the Tintin series, The Castafiore Emerald is a rather unusual entry in that it takes place entirely in and around Marlinspike Hall and Tintin and Captain Haddock never actually go anywhere. The usual globetrotting, villains and action are absent from the story and yet The Castafiore Emerald is so much fun anyway you never really miss these elements but instead just enjoy the slightly different spin on a Tintin book. Hergé was apparently becoming slightly bored of Tintin at the time and wanted to experiment by seeing if he could sustain an entire book where nothing much happened. The result is one of the most enjoyable entries in the series with a much more central role for Haddock and some of the funniest situations Hergé had ever created. The jewel thief and sleuthing aspect adds to the enjoyable ambiance but the jewel essentially serves as a McGuffin around which to present these more domestic comic vignettes.
The Castafiore Emerald is arguably the funniest in the Tintin series as Captain Haddock battles an irritating parrot ('Billions of blue blistering barnacles! Vampire!') that sings Castafiore's songs and nips him the nose, and the attentions of Castafiore herself - who still can't get his name right after all these years. 'Ah, dear Captain Fatstock. How too divine to see you again!' Some of the repeating jokes in the story like the loose step and (one of my favourites) Haddock continually getting through to Cutts the butcher ('No, sir, this is Cutts the butcher...Yes sir...not at all sir...') by mistake whenever he tries to phone anyone are very funny. Just when Haddock thinks things can't possibly get any worse, the other great enduring scourge of his life, Jolyon Wagg the insurance salesman, suddenly turns up uninvited. 'I was just passing. So I said to myself Joylon, now's your chance to say howdy to the ancient mariner. And look what I find: the old humbug's fallen downstairs!' The humour largely derives from Haddock's simple desire to have some peace and quiet as ever more mayhem is thrown towards the orbit of Marlinspike. Hergé's funniest touches here are frequently Haddock's pained facial expressions and general exasperation as he's confined to Marlinspike and forced to endure the likes of Castafiore and Wagg.
In The Castafiore Emerald, Hergé also satirizes the more enthusiastic strain of tabloid paparazzi as they sniff around Marlinspike looking for a story and eventually concoct a completely fictional piece for 'Paris Flash' about Castafiore becoming engaged to Haddock with the headline - Milanese Nightingale Bianca Castafiore Will Marry Old Sea Lion! Haddock is especially perturbed and annoyed to read in the fabricated article that he apparently never tires of hearing that golden voice! 'Billions of blue blistering barnacles! Wait til I get my hands on the miserable molecule of mildew who dreamed up this balderdash!' Pretty soon the Marlinspike Prize Band Supporters Club have arrived for a celebration performance as telegrams and congratulations begin to pour in. The story is so enjoyable I think because it focuses much more on Haddock and continually invents new situations and characters to annoy him and, most importantly, entertain and amuse us.
Tintin is more of a background character here than usual but he does become involved in the emerald mystery - which adds an element of intrigue into the story with chases through the woods and a power cut as Castafiore prepares to record a television performance at Marlinspike. The Thomsons naturally arrive to investigate too, adding of course to the general comic air of much of the book and managing to crash their car upon arrival. 'To be precise: I think you didn't break at all!' The constantly misunderstanding, somewhat deaf, eccentric and brilliant Calculus is also good fun in The Castafiore Emerald and Hergé produces some enjoyably surreal art when they all attempt to watch television via his new invention - the Super-Calcacolor. 'I'm seeing six of everything!' says Nestor afterwards. Because The Castafiore Emerald is set in the confines of Marlinspike it always has a great deal of cosy charm and comes off as a pleasant mixture of a country house mystery and a gentle comedy of manners.
The Castafiore Emerald is a great fun on the whole and often very funny. Definitely one of my own personal favourites in the enduringly famous Tintin series.