King Ottokar’s Sceptre is the eighth work in The Adventures of Tintin by Hergé and sequel to The Black Island. It was originally published as Tintin in Syldavia in Le Petit Vingtième between 1938 and 1939.
The story starts with Tintin finding a lost briefcase and returns it to the owner, Professor Hector Alembick, who is a sigillographer, an expert on seals and who the same day would go to the International Sigillographical Congress. He then shows Tintin his personal collection of seals, including one which belonged to the Syldavian King Ottokar IV. Tintin then notices that both he and Alembick are under surveillance. Tintin's flat is even bombed in an attempt to kill him. Suspecting a Syldavian connection, Tintin offers to accompany Alembick to Syldavia via Frankfurt and Prague for research.
A package is delivered to Tintin's apartment. Thompson and Thomson take custody of it, as Tintin was out, and decide to open it. The two were almost killed as the package actually contained a bomb. Tintin and the Thompsons gave chase to the culprits, but were unsuccessful in their pursuit. Tintin's suspicions were further aroused when, while speaking to Alembeck on the phone and hears a cry for help and the sounds of a struggle. He rushed to Alembeck's apartment only to find an undisturbed professor packing his clothes for the trip in preparation for their trip.
After boarding the plane Tintin begins to suspect his companion. The Alembick travelling with him does not smoke and doesn't seem to need the spectacles he wears, while the Alembick he first met smoked and had very poor eyesight. During a layover, Tintin fakes a fall and grabs Alembick's beard, thinking it is false and Alembick is an imposter. However, it is in fact real beard. Tintin subsequently decides to let the matter drop but then, while flying over Syldavia, it is the pilot of the plane who opens a trap door and Tintin drops out, landing in a haywagon. Tintin begins to suspect that there is a plot afoot to steal the sceptre of King Ottokar IV.
In Syldavia, the reigning King must possess the sceptre to rule or he will be forced to abdicate, a tradition established after a past king used the sceptre to defeat a would-be assassin. Every year, he is obliged to ride in a parade on St. Vladimir's Day carrying it, while the people sing the national anthem. Tintin succeeds in warning the reigning King Muskar XII, despite the efforts of the conspirators. He and the King rush to the royal treasure room in Kropow Castle only to find Alembick, the royal photographer and some guards unconscious and the sceptre missing.
Detectives Thomson and Thompson are summoned to investigate but their theory on how the sceptre was stolen — the thief throwing the sceptre through the iron bars over the window — proves to be incorrect. Tintin looks out the window, and when looking down sees the castle's cannons. Then he gets an idea. Professor Alembick had asked for some photographs to be taken of the sceptre, but the camera was a spring cannon in disguise, which allowed him to shoot the sceptre out of the castle through the window bars into a nearby forest.
While searching in the forest, Tintin spots the sceptre being found by agents of the neighbouring country of Borduria. He pursues them all the way to the border and manages to wrestle the sceptre from them. In the wallet of one of the thieves he discovers papers that show that the theft of the sceptre was just part of a major plan for a coup d'etat in Syldavia by their long-time political rival, Borduria.Tintin steals a Me-109 from a Bordurian airfield (whose squadron is being kept ready to take part in the envisioned "Anschluss" of Syldavia) to fly it back to the King in time. He is shot down by the Syldavians who have naturally opened fire on an enemy aircraft violating their airspace. He lands safely enough and manages to make the rest of the journey to the capital Klow on foot.
Meanwhile the Interior Minister informs the King that rumours have been spreading that the sceptre has been stolen and that there have been riots against local Bordurian businesses, acts which would justify a Bordurian takeover of the country. The King is about to abdicate when Snowy runs in with the sceptre (which had fallen out of Tintin's pocket) and gives it to the King. Tintin then gives the King the papers he took from the man who stole the sceptre. They prove that the plot was masterminded by Müsstler, leader of the Zyldav Zentral Revolutzionär Komitzät, a political organisation. The King takes action by having Müsstler and his associates arrested and the army mobilised along the Bordurian frontier. In response, the Bordurian leader pulls his own troops back from the border, though he stresses his own country's "desire for peace" and criticises Syldavia's "strange" behaviour (in the same room is a map and details of the planned invasion of Syldavia).
The next day, St. Vladimir's Day, Tintin is made a Knight of the Order of the Golden Pelican, the nations highest honour. snowy receives a small green ribbon. They are the first non-Syldavians to receive such an award. Further inquiries by the authorities reveal that, in a classic Ruritanian plot device, Professor Alembick is one of a pair of identical twins: Hector Alembick was kidnapped and replaced with his brother Alfred who left for Syldavia in his place, who did not smoke and did not wear glasses, thus proving Tintin's suspicions of an imposter.
Following this, Tintin and Snowy return home by a flying boat with Thomson and Thompson, who suffer momentary panic when the aircraft appears to be falling into the sea at the end of the flight. The reader is treated to a rare "wink to the camera" from Tintin, who points out their error, and they laugh about it so much that they do indeed fall into the sea as they disembark.
- The comic book marks the first appearance of Bianca Castafiore, a character that becomes pivotal in further comic books, along her assistant Igor Wagner. Her other assistant, Irma, didn't appear until "The Calculus Affair".
- Colonel Boris Jorgen eventually returned in "Destination Moon" and in "Explorers on the Moon", in which he tries to take revenge on Tintin.
- This is the last adventure where Tintin is primarily only accompanied by Snowy. From The Crab with the Golden Claws onwards, Captain Haddock would start to primarily accompany the two characters in further installments.
- Thompson and Thomson
- Muskar XII
- Hector Alembick
- Alfred Alembick
- Mrs. Finch
- Boris Jorgen
- Bianca Castafiore
- Igor Wagner
- Mrs. Piggott
- Captain Wizskitotz
- Lord Chamberlain
- Lieutenant Kromir
- Captain Szplodj
- Colonel Sponsz
- General Mogador
- Kurvi-Tasch (mentioned)
- Muskar I (mentioned)
- Ottokar IV (mentioned)
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