As demonstrated again in the recently broadcast Arte television series, Sur Les Traces De Tintin – Following In Tintin's Footsteps – Hergé drew on a myriad sources to create the iconic globe-trotting reporter whose adventures have enchanted readers of all ages for eight decades now. However, the Belgian cartoonist, who used a pseudonym based onthe initials of his real name Georges Remi, led interviewers a merry dance when quizzed about the inspiration for his character, with claims of "Tintin, c'est moi", and honourable mentions for his younger brother Paul as well as a student friend with a propensity for plus fours.
Over the years, eagle-eyed Tintinologists have also detected similarities between the intrepid boy reporter and the French journalist Robert Sexé, who made his name as a fearless motorbike-riding correspondent, and Palle Huld, the 15-year old teenager who in 1928 won a competition in the Danish daily Politiken to better Phileas Fogg's exploits in Jules Verne's Around The World In Eighty Days.
Huld's triumphant return to his native Copenhagen after circumnavigating the globe in 44 days made headlines across Europe and undoubtedly captured the imagination of Hergé the newshound, as did the subsequent publication of Huld's dispatches about his trials and tribulations in book form – Jorden rundt i 44 dage med Palle, translated into English as A Boy Scout Around The World – with an introduction by Jean-Jules Verne, Jules Verne's grandson.
Indeed, it can't be simple coincidence that Hergé's character, who first appeared in Le Petit Vingtième, the weekly children's supplement of the Belgian newspaper Vingtième Siècle in January 1929, had a shock of bright red hair, a snub nose and freckles like Huld, or that, at the end of Tintin In The Land Of The Soviets, the first book, his hero receives a welcome similar to the outpouring of emotion which greeted Huld.
Born in 1912, Huld (pictured left, EPA), was a Boy Scout with a taste for adventure and worked as a clerk in a car dealership when he, along with hundreds of teenage boys, entered the competition organised to mark Verne's centennial. "It was a big dream," he said of his successful bid. "I wanted to see the world. My red hair, a rare thing in Denmark, made me stand outI could use every means of transport except aeroplanes. My mum thought she would never see me again.
"It was an unforgettable experience, not without danger, especially going through what was then wartorn-Manchuria, and Russia. I was resourceful, I had enough smarts to get myself out of trouble." During his trip, he was often photographed wearing plus fours and a cap, two of Tintin's eventual trademarks.
Huld went on to a successful acting career, and was closely associated with the Danish Royal Theatre, from his debut there in 1934 to his retirement 10 years ago. He appeared in over 40 films and television dramas, and in 1992 published his autobiography, Så vidt jeg erindrer (As Much As I Remember).
When he was interviewed in recent years, despite the fact that Hergé's books have sold more than 200 million copies worldwide and been translated in 50 languages, Huld claimed hewasn't that familiar with Tintin. "I've never read a comic book in my entire life," he said.
Palle Huld, reporter and actor: born Copenhagen 2 August 1912; died Copenhagen 26 November 2010.