Land of Black Gold is the fifteenth of The Adventures of Tintin. It was first published in Le Petit Vingtième from 1939 to 1940, but ended in mid-adventure. It was later redrawn, colourised and published in the Tintin Magazine and in book form from 1948 to 1950. Both these versions were set in the British Mandate of Palestine. In 1971 parts of the story were again redrawn in order to set it in the fictional state of Khemed.
Across Europe, car engines are spontaneously exploding. This incident coincides with the spectre of a potential war throughout the continent, resulting in Captain Haddock being mobilised into the navy. Although detectives Thomson and Thompson initially suspect that the oil crisis is a scam intended to drive up business for a local roadside assistance company, Tintin learns from the managing director of Belgium's leading oil company, Speedol, that it is a result of someone tampering with the petrol at its source, and discovers a conspiracy involving a crew member of one of their petrol tankers, the Speedol Star. The three work undercover as new members of the Star's crew as it sets off for the Middle Eastern kingdom of Khemed. Recognising Snowy from Tintin's earlier scouting of the ship, the treacherous mate attempts to drown the dog, but becomes amnesiac in an altercation with Tintin.
Upon arrival, Tintin and the detectives are framed and arrested by the authorities under various charges. Thomson and Thompson are cleared and released, but Tintin is kidnapped by the Arab insurgent Bab El Ehr, who mistakenly believes that Tintin has information for him concerning an arms delivery. Tintin escapes and encounters an old enemy, Dr. Müller, sabotaging an oil pipeline. He reunites with Thomson and Thompson during a sandstorm and eventually arrives in Khemed's capital city of Wadesdah. When Tintin narrates the sabotage orchestrated by Müller to the Emir Mohammed Ben Kalish Ezab, one of the Emir's attendants, Ali Ben Mahmud, informs the Emir that his son Prince Abdullah is kidnapped. Tintin suspects that Müller is responsible and assures the Emir that he would rescue Abdullah.
While on Müller's trail, he happens to meet his old friend, the Portuguese merchant Oliveira da Figueira. With Figueira's help, Tintin enters Müller's house and knocks the criminal unconscious. He finds the prince, who is imprisoned in a dungeon, and rescues him as Haddock arrives with the authorities. Müller is revealed to be the agent of a foreign power responsible for the tampering of the fuel supplies, having invented a type of chemical in tablet form, codenamed Formula 14, which exponentially increases the explosive power of oil. Thomson and Thompson find the tablets and, mistaking them for aspirin due to their being packaged as such, swallow them, which results in them growing long hair and beards that change colour. After analysing the tablets, Professor Calculus develops an antidote for Thomson and Thompson and a means of countering the affected oil supplies
The original version was set in the late 1930s in the British Mandate for Palestine and the conflict between Jews, Arabs and British troops. Following the takeover of Belgium by Germany in 1940, Hergé decided that it would be wiser to drop this story whose political context would not have appealed to the German censors. It ceased publication at about mid-adventure when Tintin, after his first confrontation with Müller, is caught in a sandstorm.
Hergé restarted the story from scratch in the Tintin magazine in 1948. It was redrawn, colourised and given more detailed panels,however the scenes with the British troops, Arabs and Jews remained. By now Captain Haddock had become an important part of the Tintin world and he was therefore added to the conclusion of the story (although no explanation as to how he suddenly turns up to rescue Tintin in Müller's bunker is given). Nestor makes a cameo and Cuthbert Calculus and Marlinspike Hall are both mentioned.
Two decades later when the story was due to be published in English the modern state of Israel had long been established. Methuen felt that the scenes of British troops in Palestine made the book dated. Hergé and his assistant Bob de Moor rewrote the album resetting the story in a fictional Arab state called Khemed. It was published in 1972 and it is this version that is most commonly available in most countries today.
- Captain Haddock
- Thompson and Thomson
- J.W. Müller
- Mohammed Ben Kalish Ezab
- Bab El Ehr
- Oliveira de Figueira
- Ali Ben Mahmud
- Yussuf Ben Mulfrid
- Jock McPhee
- Colonel Mohammed
- Professor Biggams
- Ben Yussef
- Cuthbert Calculus (mentioned)
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