x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

The boy wanderer who inspired Tintin: Palle Huld

Palle Huld, Danish actor believed by many to have been source of Hergé's Tintin character. Born August 2, 1912. Died November 26, 2010

Among Tintinologists, that breed of near-obsessive aficionados given to studying intensively every aspect of the famous boy reporter created in 1929 by the Belgian cartoonist Hergé, the person of Palle Huld, who has died at age 98, presented something of an enigma.

Huld was 15 when he won a remarkable competition. In 1928, the Danish newspaper Politiken announced its intention to mark the centennial of Jules Verne by re-enacting the famous voyage of his protagonist Phileas Fogg in the 1873 novel Around the World in Eighty Days. Huld beat hundreds of other teenagers to land the coveted prize and left Denmark on March 1, 1928.

He returned 44 days later, having successfully circumnavigated the globe, taking in England, Canada, Japan, the Soviet Union, Poland and Germany en route, and wrote an account of the trip, published in English as A Boy Scout Around the World.

This tale of derring-do, combined with Huld's distinctive appearance - flame-haired, freckled of face, with an upturned nose and a penchant for wearing plus-fours - suggested to many that he was the model for Hergé's hero, who appeared in print for the first time the following year, on the pages of Le Petit Vingtième, the children's supplement of a Belgian newspaper.

Hergé would never be drawn on where the idea for Tintin had come from, infuriating his cohorts of devotees by crying, "Tintin, c'est moi!" when pressed.

Back in Denmark, reunited with his mother, who had calmed her nerves at her son's absence with nightly sleeping tablets, Huld went on to carve out a solid career as an actor. He made his stage debut in 1934 at the Royal Danish Theatre, with which he remained associated for many years, and appeared regularly in Danish films and on television.

Born August 2, 1912. Died November 26, 2010