Tintin's Dog, Snowy
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 twenty-three 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.
Facts About Tintin's Dog, Snowy
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?
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, the 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:
- Snowy 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 of. Perhaps a little too fond of a tipple!
- Snowy 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.
- Snowy 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.
- Snowy 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 a big personality, 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 into 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 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, Son of Tintin
Documentary Video Clip: 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).