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Rin Tin Tin is Not Tintin

Rin Tin Tin, Tintin

Reports about Peter Jackson’s remarks (such as this one) at the recent San Diego Comic-Con (more) give me hope that once the Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg films of Tintin’s adventures start rolling out (the first is still over a year away, as I have written about here), I’ll no longer have to explain that “Rin Tin Tin is not Tintin.”

A real French born German shepherd and a comic book Belgian reporter, aside from being pop culture icons, have very little in common, except for their names. But, I recently discovered that those similar names might not be merely accidental.

Who is Tintin?

This article is obviously directed to an audience in the United States, because in most countries, it would be no more necessary to explain who Tintin is than it would be to explain, “Who is Snoopy?” By the way, Snoopy makes a cameo appearance in one of the Tintin books. (To get an idea of Tintin’s popularity in his native Belgian, look at this video on the new museum.)

Tintin is the hero of a series of comic book adventures by the Belgian artist Georges Prosper Remi (1907-1983), better known by the pen name Hergé. Tintin first appeared in 1929 and was featured in twenty-four stories (the last, Tintin and the Alph-Art, was not completed at Hergé’s death). For my articles and other Internet resources about Tintin, check my Tintin index article (here).

Who is Rin Tin Tin?

Rin Tin Tin (originally known as Rin-Tin-Tin, Rinty to friends) was a German shepherd puppy rescued from a bombed French town near the end of World War I by Lee Duncan, an American GI. Duncan brought Rinty back to Los Angeles in 1918. In 1922, Rin-Tin-Tin (with hyphens) made his first appearance, and the following year, he had a starring role in Where the North Begins. (Check his Internet Movie Database entry (here) for his complete filmography.)

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Rin Tin Tin (without hyphens) was heard in three radio series from the 1930s to the 1950s, with a television series picking up the stories of Rinty in 1950. Dying in 1932, the original Rin Tin Tin was buried in his native France (more). Descendants of the original Rinty took the role over the years (RTT-4 appeared in the television series), and descendants of the World War I dog are still around, appearing on the Rin Tin Tin website, providing educational opportunities (here) and continuing the line, with special outreach to special needs children (here).

Why do Tintin and Rin Tin Tin have such similar names?

Recently, I decided to find out why the names of two such different characters are so similar, so I turned to Tintinologist.org, made up of a cheerful bunch of fans from around the world who know more about Tintin than I know about anything, to ask them (my question and their answers are here).

Basically, as I knew, the dog was named for a French doll, Rintintin, based on drawings by Poulbot, a French humorist. You can learn more about him and his drawings here, see some of the dolls here, and see a postcard of Nénette and Rintintin (a couple, like Barbie and Ken) here. You’ll notice on the postcard that the dolls are identified as Nénette and Rintintin, but they are also identified as Nénette and… Tintin!

To the best of my knowledge, no one had ever made a connection between Tintin (the reporter), Rintintin (the doll), Rin-Tin-Tin (the original dog) and Rin Tin Tin (the later dog) until a discussion (here) on Tintinologist before my question.

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This new-found knowledge neither enhances nor detracts from the pleasures of reading Tintin and of looking forward to the new films. But, if you are one of the rare fans of Tintin in the United States, you will have an answer the next time someone says, “Oh, yes, I remember how that Tintin barked!”

By the way, this gives me an opportunity to provide you with a link to a photo of Floyd, a very Rinty-looking German shepherd (here), just one in a series of amazing photos (many of animals) by Morag Mortimer-Smythe (check his source page, here).