All About Snowy: Tintin's Fox Terrier Dog
On a long winter afternoon when I visited my grandfather's house, I fell in love with Tintin's faithful dog, Snowy (he was called Milou in the original Belgian comic books). As I recall, someone dug out a Tintin book—an old French-language edition of Tintin in Tibet. Never mind that I couldn't read the words because the story was easy to follow through Hergé's brilliant illustrations.
I was off in a land of adventure for the next few hours! And you know what? That old comic book is still a treasured part of my library to this day. The fact that Tintin and his friends have recently made the leap to the movie screen is just one more reason to be a Snowy fan.
History of "The Adventures of Tintin"
The Adventures of Tintin, starring an adventurous boy reporter and his faithful little white dog, was created by Hergé—the pen name of the Belgian artist and comic book writer Georges Prosper Remi (1907-1983), who published 23 Tintin comic books in his lifetime.
A twenty-fourth, Tintin and Alph-Art, was still a work in progress at the time of Hergé's death and was published posthumously (1986) despite being unfinished.
All of Hergé's Tintin stories were written in French but are now available in many languages.
Two Fun Facts About Tintin's Dog, Snowy
1. Snowy's Original Name Was Milou
In the original French-language Belgian comic books, Snowy was called Milou. In fact, "Milou" has nothing to do with snow, the colour white, or any other obvious characteristics of Tintin's dog. "Milou" was actually named after Hergé's first love and childhood sweetheart, Marie-Louise Van Cutsem.
According to the excellent biography Hergé, Son of Tintin by Benoît Peeters, the young cartoonist had desperately wanted to marry his Milou, but her family objected for social reasons. They didn't think that he would ever amount to anything or be able to support Milou in a style appropriate to her social standing.
It is no wonder that the author wanted to acknowledge such an important relationship in his work. But isn't it just a bit odd that Milou (Snowy) is clearly a male dog in the entire series of Tintin adventures?
2. Snowy Is a Wire Fox Terrier
Do you recognize what dog breed Snowy is? He's a wire-haired fox terrier. The variety was originally known as the rough-haired terrier, but most kennel clubs around the world have now adopted the "wire fox terrier" label.
Fox terriers (wired and smooth) are native to the United Kingdom. Over the centuries, terrier breeds have been developed for hunting small prey, doing so independently of their human handlers. Snowy's breed is no different from others in the terrier group. This means that the fictional Snowy was, by nature, an alert and high-energy dog with a confident personality.
Do you think that's a good description of the Snowy we know from the comics and the movie?
Snowy's Memorable Character Traits
Snowy has a few "quirks" that you definitely won't see in a real-life fox terrier. Here are a few fun facts about Snowy:
- He gets drunk on Scotch whiskey.
It's tempting to blame the introduction of Captain Haddock for Snowy's frequent state of inebriation in the later Tintin books. Before the Scotch-swilling, creatively swearing, cynical old seafarer came on the scene, Snowy had never so much as dipped his tongue in a drop of Loch Lomond whiskey—a beverage of which he later became quite fond. Perhaps a little too fond of a tipple!
- He suffers from arachnophobia—an acute fear of spiders.
That's right. Tintin's feisty, funny, furry little friend can take on bad guys and ferocious wild animals, thunderous storms, and dizzy-making heights. He can even leap from a window onto a moving vehicle to rescue his pal. But show him a teensy tiny little spider, and it's game over—Snowy will hide under the bed.
- He speaks but is never heard.
Although the little dog keeps up a steady stream of (often cynical) comments about what's going on (and what he prefers to have going on), no one ever seems to hear him or understand him. Snowy was much more talkative in the earlier comic novels but becomes less chatty and more optimistic in the later adventures. Some readers suggest that perhaps his quietness is meant to balance out the vociferous negativity of the brash Captain Haddock.
- He never met a bone he didn't like.
More than once in the Tintin books, Snowy's passionate love of bones comes perilously close to leading the whole gang into disaster—usually because Snowy is counted on to come to the rescue but instead finds himself distracted by the temptation of a bone. What can we say? It is a dog's nature, and Snowy always comes through in the end!
A Few Fox Terrier Facts
- Both the smooth-coated and wire-haired fox terriers were bred to hunt foxes (as the name implies) and to pursue them down into their underground burrows. It takes a fast and fearless dog to do that job!
- Much as Disney's 101 Dalmatians movie created a demand for Dalmatian dogs, in the 1960s, it was the popularity of The Thin Man films and the Adventures of Tintin comics that started the fad of keeping fox terriers as family pets.
- They are energetic little dogs with big personalities, extremely intelligent, and great fun to be around. They're also a lot of fun to train, but it does take a lot of energy to keep up with them. When training a fox terrier, you'll need to be quick and have really good timing, as they learn very quickly but are also quick to develop new bad behaviours.
- The wire-hair fox terrier is indeed a challenging breed to keep as a pet, especially given the typically hectic (but largely sedentary) lifestyle of the 21st century. But if you're going on wild adventures to all parts of the world—or even to the moon as Tintin did—the fox terrier is an ideal companion dog.
Inspired by Hergé's "Adventures of Tintin"
The Adventures of Tintin has been translated into 38 different languages and has inspired legendary artists such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. The comic book has also been turned into more than one television series and a long-awaited Hollywood film directed by Steven Spielberg (with a well-received soundtrack by John Williams). The popularity of The Adventures of Tintin has also led to the sales of action figures, toys and puzzles, clothing and housewares, and other licensed products, as well as a video game.
More About Hergé, the Artist
Hard on the heels of the 2011 release of Spielberg's film The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, the Johns Hopkins University Press published the first-ever English edition of Hergé, Son of Tintin by Benoît Peeters. If you read only one biography of Georges Remi, this should be the one. Peeters had access to primary sources and interview materials, which provide a depth of insight you're unlikely to find in any other biographies currently in print.
Hergé Draws Snowy
In this short clip from a 1960 Swiss documentary film called Tintin et Son Père (Tintin and His Father), we see Hergé himself doing a quick drawing of Tintin and Milou (Snowy).
Do you love Tintin's dog Snowy, too?
flycatcherrr (author) on March 04, 2013:
@Elyn MacInnis: Aw, I'd love to see your Snowy drawings - he's such a great little character.
Elyn MacInnis from Shanghai, China on March 04, 2013:
I really like Snowy's shape. Especially his legs and feet. And - his head - of course! He was my "model" in a cartooning course I took, so I spent some time drawing him. Love this.
flycatcherrr (author) on March 01, 2013:
@Fiorenza: Ah, thanks for the heads-up! Haddock is dandy, but he's not our little dog pal. :-)
Fiorenza from UK on March 01, 2013:
I've always loved Tin Tin and Snowy - they used to show the cartoon version on TV when I was a kid. Oh just FYI, your 'I love Snowy' mug has morphed into a 'I love Haddock' mug. I always liked the old skipper too, so it's OK!
John Tannahill from Somewhere in England on July 04, 2012:
I loved Snowy - I heard a rumor he was born in July 1960 - I can't verify that information though. Do you remember the Thompson Twins? We had a real life pair of Thompson Twins in the town where I grew up. They actually looked more like a pair of Tintins - they were identically dressed and used to walk very very fast. They were always together as well.
rallo-smith on June 30, 2012:
I haven't seen this movie yet but it just moved to the top of my list of must see.
lclchors on June 28, 2012:
fun lens I haven't seen the movie yet but it is one I want to
ismeedee on June 28, 2012:
Yes, I love him! And this is a lovely lens about Snowy and Tintin comics!!
Diana Grant from United Kingdom on June 04, 2012:
Nice lens and Snowy is my favourite dog! So here are some Angel Blessings
ogrote on May 16, 2012:
Nice Lens. My kids love Tintin.
FloridaDino on April 26, 2012:
really nice lens! enjoyed!
goldenrulecomics from New Jersey on April 23, 2012:
nice lens -- I've always liked Snowy as well!
Little Linda Pinda from Florida on April 19, 2012:
Snowy is adorable.
Darcie French from Abbotsford, BC on April 06, 2012:
What a cute page about Tintin's dog Snowy - the stuffed plush dog looks very cuddly and I enjoyed the reviews.
Elyn MacInnis from Shanghai, China on March 29, 2012:
Awwww. I love Snowy. There is something so special about him. I really enjoyed reading about him.
Rose Jones on March 24, 2012:
Snowy and the Tintin comics were definitely a cut above. Thanks so much for the great research you did - angel blessed.
Art-Aspirations on March 22, 2012:
We read all the TinTin stories when my kids were young. Snowy was definitely my favourite character.
zillermil on March 10, 2012:
Love him! and tintin
anonymous on March 01, 2012:
Snowy the tin tin dog, what fun this is for me. I haven't read the books and didn't hear of this before. So! Thank you for the article. I'm sure my grandkids will love the stories.
hntrssthmpsn on February 29, 2012:
I read all of the Tintin books to tatters as a child. Part of what made them so wonderful was the expressive face of Snowy!
Heather Bradford from Canada on February 18, 2012:
I loved the character traits of Snowy that you listed. He truly stands out as the 'energetic little dog with a big personality' that you note is typical of the breed! What a thoroughly enjoyable lens!
lftypjk900 on February 05, 2012:
I really like your lens. It is very well put together! Good luck!
ohcaroline on January 28, 2012:
This is a great read about Snowy. I really like the animation in the movie. He seems so real.
flycatcherrr (author) on January 21, 2012:
@FanfrelucheHubs: To be honest, I can't help feeling that Snowy is a bit of a cheesy and unimaginative name for a dog of such character. In my mind he has always been Milou... but now the movie has brought Tintin more to the anglo mainstream, I guess I'll just have to get used to him being Snowy. ;-)
Nathalie Roy from France (Canadian expat) on January 21, 2012:
I read them all: all the Tintin adventures. Over and over again. Such a classic. thank you for the fun page about Milou (I had no idea he was called snowy in english).
flycatcherrr (author) on January 14, 2012:
@TonyPayne: Thanks much, Tony! I do wonder if wire-haried fox terriers will be all the rage now that the Adventures of Tintin movie has come out, and a whole new audience is being introduced to the clever and amusing Snowy.
flycatcherrr (author) on January 14, 2012:
@Inkhand: Terriers are cute, but they can be a real holy terror. ;)
Tony Payne from Southampton, UK on January 14, 2012:
I used to love Snowy too, I watched all the Tintin cartoons on tv when I was growing up. Always wanted a wire haired fox terrier too growing up. Nicely done.
Inkhand on January 08, 2012:
It's very hard to look after Wire Hair Fox Terriers. An interesting lens.