The Shooting Star

The Shooting Star

Graphicnovelbox| englishtitle=The Shooting Star
foreigntitle=L'Étoile mystérieuse

caption=Cover of the English edition
series="The Adventures of Tintin (Les aventures de Tintin)"
origpublication="Le Soir"
origdate=October 20 1941 - May 21, 1942
transtitle=The Shooting Star
transseriestitle="The Adventures of Tintin"
translator=Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner
previssue="The Crab with the Golden Claws", 1941
nextissue="The Secret of the Unicorn", 1943

"The Shooting Star" is the tenth of "The Adventures of Tintin", a series of classic comic-strip albums, written and illustrated by Belgian writer and illustrator Hergé, featuring young reporter Tintin as a hero. Its original French title is "L'Étoile mystérieuse" ("the mysterious star").

"The Shooting Star" tells the story of Tintin's voyage to the Arctic Ocean to recover a meteor that is composed of Phostlite, an unknown metal. It was first serialized in the newspaper "Le Soir" in black and white in 1941, and was subsequently published in a colour album in 1942.


One night Tintin is out walking with his dog Snowy. The evening is particularly hot. Tintin then notices an extra star in the Great Bear. When he reaches home, he calls the Observatory. They say that they have the phenomenon under observation and hang up.

Tintin wonders why it is so hot, and opens the window. He sees that the star is getting bigger every minute. He walks to the Observatory, and, after some trouble, gets inside. He meets a man called Philippulus who proclaims himself to be a prophet and tells him that "It is a Judgement! Woe!" Puzzled, Tintin proceeds to the main room with the giant telescope. There he meets the director of the observatory, Professor Decimus Phostle, who explains that the extra star is a vast ball of fire making it way towards Earth, which will cause the end of the world.

In the event, however, the shooting star passes by the Earth, though a piece of it, a meteorite, lands in the arctic ocean, causing an earthquake that lasts a mere few seconds.

After an analysis of a spectroscopic photo of the meteor, Phostle deduces that it is composed of an entirely new metal. He names this metal "Phostlite", but is dismayed to discover that the meteor has landed in the sea and therefore, presumably, is lost. Tintin, however, realises that the meteor could be protruding above the surface of the water, and the Professor is persuaded to organise an expedition led by himself to find the metal and to retrieve a sample of it for further research. The expedition consists of leading scientists, as well as Tintin, Snowy and the alcoholic Captain Haddock (ironically serving as president of the Society for Sober Sailors), aboard the trawler "Aurora".

However, unknown to the "Aurora" expedition, another team has already set out, backed by a financier from São Rico by the name of Bohlwinkel, aboard the polar expedition ship "Peary". The expedition becomes a race to be the first to land on the meteor. Bohlwinkel attempts to sabotage the "Aurora" expedition by getting Philippulus to plant a stick of dynamite on the ship on the eve of departure, but it is found and thrown overboard. While crossing the North Sea the "Aurora" is almost rammed into by another of Bohlwinkel's ships, but Haddock manages to steer his ship out of the way.

Further setbacks occur at the Icelandic port of Akureyri, when Captain Haddock is informed that there is no fuel available. He is furious, but then he and Tintin come across an old friend of his, Captain Chester, who reveals that there is plenty of fuel, and that the Golden Oil Company (which has a fuel monopoly) is owned by Bohlwinkel. The three of them devise a plan to run a hose from Chester's ship, "Sirius", to the "Aurora" and thus trick Golden Oil into providing them with the fuel they need.

Coming close to catching the "Peary", the "Aurora" then receives an indistinct distress call from another ship and has to turn round in order to help. Inquiries by Tintin then lead him to realise that the distress signal is a fake designed to further delay them. Resuming the journey, they then intercept a cable announcing that the "Peary" expedition has reached the meteorite but not actually claimed it yet. Tintin uses the ship's seaplane to parachute on to the meteor and plant the expedition flag, beating the crew of the "Peary" by seconds. The "Aurora" expedition has won the race.

Tintin makes camp while the ship's over-exerted engines are repaired. The next day he discovers the remarkable properties of Phostlite: his apple core instantly grows into an enormous tree full of oversized apples, and a maggot turns into a massive butterfly. Tintin is menaced by a giant spider and huge, exploding mushrooms before rescue arrives. Then a sudden seaquake shakes the meteor to its core; the young reporter and Snowy retrieve a rock sample and jump to safety as the rock sinks into the sea.

The triumphant expedition's return is reported on the radio, along with the news that law enforcement agencies are closing on Bohlwinkel. As they prepare to dock, the Captain announces that they are short on one vital commodity — whisky.

Publication history

"The Shooting Star" was first published in serial form in the newspaper "Le Soir" in black and white in 1941. It was subsequently published in a colour album in 1942, the first Tintin album to be in colour. It was also the first Tintin story that was restricted from the start to what would become the standard fixed length of 62 pages (the previous stories had all been about 110 pages long in their original incarnations).

The original version had some significant differences from later editions; for example the rival expedition is from the United States. There are also villainous Jewish characters which led to charges of anti-Semitism against Hergé: when the end of the world is announced, two stereotypical Jewish men are seen hoping that the disaster will mean they do not have to pay off their creditors. In addition, the main villain of the piece is an American financier with a Jewish name, Blumenstein, and the rival voyage to the meteorite flies an American flag.

In later editions, the two Jewish debtors were removed, the villains hail from the fictional country of São Rico, and Blumenstein's name becomes Bohlwinkel (which, ironically, is also a Jewish name). Despite these changes, traces of the original version remain: the Sao Rican ships still have Americans names (the "Peary" and the "Kentucky Star") and Tintin uses a World War II Arado 196 German reconnaissance aircraft.

In the original French language version of the scene where Philippulus is at the top of the mast, Captain Haddock claims that he is the only master of the ship after God and orders Philippulus to climb down. But Philippulus rejects this by claiming that it is he who is the only master after God. Tintin also claims to be the voice of God the Father when he uses the megaphone to tell Philippulus to climb back down. Such references were taken out of the English translation — presumably in order to avoid offending the Church.

Points of interest

*The atmosphere of doom and foreboding that occupies the early part of the story very much conveys the feelings of the time, when World War II was still at its height "Tintin: The Complete Companion" by Michael Farr, John Murray publishers, 2001] .

*When Phostle announces the discovery of Phostlite he decides to celebrate with a packet of sweets — a rather odd way of celebrating a discovery of this importance. As well as the humour, it may be a reflection on the fact that most foodstuffs were rationed during the war.

*Philippulus the crazy Prophet drops Tintin's suitcase on the head of Professor Paul Cantonneau, a member of the expedition. Cantonneau was to reappear as one of the victims of the "The Seven Crystal Balls" which explains how he and Tintin know each other when Tintin phones to warn him of the danger just when Cantonneau does fall victim.

*Thomson and Thompson only appear in one panel in this adventure, as they make their way to the docks to see the "Aurora" off. Also in the same panel are Quick & Flupke, fans of Tintin, who had also appeared in the opening panel of "Tintin in the Congo".

*In most of the Tintin books involving sea travel, Hergé was careful to obtain as much data concerning the ships involved in the adventure as possible. However, the "Aurora" was an entirely fictional vessel, and Hergé admitted later that it was probably unseaworthy "Tintin: The Complete Companion" by Michael Farr, John Murray publishers, 2001] .

*Eric Björgenskjöld from Sweden is part of the expedition. He can be seen on the right of the panel in which Phostle is given the flag to plant on the meteorite. He physically resembles a real person: the Swiss Auguste Piccard, who was Hergé's inspiration for Professor Calculus "Le Tournesol illustré" by Albert Algoud, Casterman] .

*The seaplane pilot who flies Tintin to the meteorite and back is nameless, but after WWII he featured in a number of text articles in the newly-launched Tintin magazine. In these articles, Tintin would "interview" the pilot and Captain Haddock on technical details concerning aircraft and ships, from models to full-scale versions. The questions in the interviews were based on readers' letters. The technical aspects of balloons and planes were explained by the seaplane pilot who was given the name Major Wings and often lapsed into English. The rank of Major would imply an American USAF commission — which would be odd for a European-based expedition — but it might be noted that continental writers have often given Army ranks to officers of the British RAF regardless of the fact that it does not use such a system. The comic book hero "Colonel Clifton", who is retired from the RAF, is an example of this — his proper rank would be that of Group Captain.

*This book features a brief appearance of the "Sirius", which is later used as the expedition vessel in "Red Rackham's Treasure". The version of "Sirius" shown here looks somewhat different from its depiction in the later album.

*Tintin, who had disapproved of Captain Haddock's drinking in "The Crab with the Golden Claws", actually gets him to drink alcohol in order to make him more co-operative — he would use the same tactic in "The Red Sea Sharks" and "Tintin in Tibet".

External links

* [ The Shooting Star] at


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