Fun Facts

A wheen orra facts anent…

The Derk Isle 

This Tintin adventure is called L’Île Noire in the original French, and translated as The Black Island in English. In Scots, the title is The Derk Isle, partly to avoid confusion with the Black Isle in Ross and Cromarty (which isn’t an island at all), and also because it sounds more sinister!

The title of the newspaper in the story, The Northan Luikin-Gless, is based on a real paper, The Northern Looking Glass, published in Glasgow in the nineteenth century. A satirical magazine, it used speech bubbles in illustrations and is said to be the world’s first modern comic.

The daring aerobatic pilot, Jamie Tytler, is named after the historical James Tytler, Scotland’s first hot-air balloonist. Tytler made his first flight in his Grand Fire Balloon in Edinburgh in August 1784.

Merk o the Pharaoh

This Tintin adventure is called Les Cigares du Pharaon in the original French. In Scots, the title is The Merk o the Pharaoh, in allusion to the central image in the story, the symbol of Kih-Oskh – and also because it sounds suitably sinister!

The name of Pharaoh Kih-Oskh is a pun on ‘kiosk’. Hergé chose this name to refer to the kiosks or news-stands where the first Tintin comics were sold.

The half-heard conversation between Tintin and Professor Cartouche in floating sarcophagi is an allusion to a well-known Scots joke, based on the phrase aw ae oo, meaning ‘all to the same purpose’ (literally, ‘all one wool’). It was published in the 19th century by E.B. Ramsay: Customer (inquiring the material), Oo? Shopman. Ay, oo. Cus. A’ oo? Shop. Ay, a’ oo. Cus. A’ ae oo? Shop. Ay, a’ ae oo.

Snaws o Tibet

The name of the Buddhist monk, Chitterin Licht, means ‘Flickering Light’ and refers to a line in Hugh MacDiarmid’s poem, ‘The Watergaw’.

Auld King Ottokar’s Sceptre

The court photographer, Mr Octavius, is named after the famous 19th-century Scottish photographer, David Octavius Hill, who pioneered early photography in partnership with Robert Adamson in his Edinburgh studio.

The lyrics that Bianca Castafiore sings are from the Robert Burns song, ‘My love is like a red red rose’. She also sings this song in Snaws o Tibet.

The concert hall where Castafiore sings, the Sangshov Pavilion, is based on the Scots word sangschaw (‘song festival’), which was the title of Hugh MacDiarmid‘s 1925 poetry collection.

Saicret o the Unicorn

The books in Mr Pandrop’s room are Treisure Island (by R. L. Stevenson) and The Captain o the Pole Starn (‘The Captain of the Pole Star’ by Arthur Conan Doyle) – both classic Scottish sea adventures.

Alistair Paisley pauchles a wallet belonging to a certain ‘D. Balfour’, in allusion to David Balfour, the hero of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, Kidnapped.

Treisure o Rachlan the Reid

Dr Kelvin Kenspeckle’s hobby of dowsterswivellin (dowsing) is a homage to Herr Dousterswivel in Walter Scott’s 1816 novel The Antiquary.

The lines that Captain Haddie recites in the rowboat (‘They hadna sailt a league, a league…’) are from the ancient Scots ballad, Sir Patrick Spens.

The Ferlie Starn

This Tintin adventure is called L’Étoile Mystérieuse in French, and is translated as The Shooting Star in English. The Scots title (which means ‘the wondrous star’) is therefore closer to the original French.

Captain Haddie’s old friend, Craigie, is named after Nicholas Craigie, eponymous captain of the Scottish whaling ship in Arthur Conan Doyle’s gothic short story The Captain of the Pole Star. His name is also mentioned in Saicret o the Unicorn.

The name of the villainous banker, Mr Bodle, refers to an old Scottish copper coin called a bodle. The word can also mean a hoard of money or a nest-egg.

The name of the fake ship, The Sandy Bell, is based on the name of a famous Edinburgh pub and folk music venue, Sandy Bell’s.

The lines that the seaplane pilot quotes as he starts his rescue of Tintin (‘Noo’s the day an noo’s the oor… ’) are taken from Robert Burns’s song, Scots Wha Hae.

The song that Tintin sings while dancing for joy on the meteorite (‘Step we gaily… ’) is a popular Scottish country dance tune called Mairi’s Wedding, which is often played at ceilidhs. In the original French text, Tintin sings ‘Sur le pont d’Avignon’.