The Smurfs – world’s famous Belgian comic franchise

(VOVWORLD) - Belgium, which has more comic strip artists per square kilometer than anywhere else in the world, is the birthplace of the famous comic book series “The Smurfs” and “The Adventures of Tintin”. This year Belgium is celebrating the 60th birthday of the Smurfs. In this week’s edition of “Culture Rendezvous”, we’ll talk to Anke Van Lacker, Deputy Head of Mission at the Belgian Embassy in Vietnam, to find out more about the famous blue-skinned creatures.

Hello, Anke! Welcome back to VOV24/7’s Culture Rendezvous! The Smurfs characters are famous worldwide via the original comic series, TV series, and movie. Can you tell us a little about how the Smurfs were created?

60 years ago, the Smurfs were for the first time used in a comic book by Pierre Culliford, who is the author of the Smurfs. His artist name is Peyo. He actually used it in another series of books about two young boys. They were so popular, so he decided to make a specific series dedicated to the small blue men. Actually, the original Smurfs comic books were translated into Vietnamese during the 90s, a long time ago, so we really hope that some editors will consider republishing this book. There were Smurfs cartoons that were made by Hanna Barbera later on. I grew up with them. 

What does “Smurf” mean?

The word “Smurf” is not the original name. The original name of Smurf is in French: “Schtroumpf”. Actually the word “Schtroumpf” comes from the fact that when he was eating with some friends, he asked someone to pass the sauce in French. Instead of saying “Could you give me the sauce”, he said “Could you give me this schtroumpf?”, by which he meant, “Could you give me this thing”. And then they started using the word “schtroumpf” all the time. Since then he took the name for the comic characters. The author is French-speaking, so he designed it in French, and when it was translated into Dutch, he used another word: “Smurf”. This word became the English name. In other languages, it has different names: “xì trum” in Vietnamese, “Lan Jingling” in Chinese.

The Smurfs – world’s famous Belgian comic franchise  - ảnh 1 A Smurf character at the Smurf Experience exhibition, marking the 60th anniversary of the creation of the Smurfs, in Brussels, Belgium, on June 12, 2018 (Photo: Reuters) 

Do you have any exhibition, statue, or museum honoring the Smurfs in Belgium?

Yeah, there is a statue of the Smurfs in Brussels near the central station. There are amusement parks in Belgium that have an entertainment zone for children around comic books. And there are also exhibition places around the Smurfs.

Which Smurf do you like the best?

Well, a lot. I like the Baby Smurf a lot. My aunt used to tell me stories about the Smurfs. She used the Baby Smurf as the main character. I like Lazy Smurf because he has a great life and sometimes I think I want to be a Lazy Smurf and not do anything at all. I also like the Vain Smurf who is always looking into the mirror because he thinks he is really pretty and he cannot stop looking at himself. And of course I like Papa Smurf who is the leader of them all and always takes care of them.  

I’m a fan of The Smurfs franchise, too. Do you know about Smurfette, the first-ever female Smurf?

Yeah. She is actually made up by Gargamel, the bad guy in the book. He sent her to the Smurfs village. In the beginning, she was sad and didn’t look beautiful. Then Papa Smurf turned her into a blond Smurf girl and she had her own special place in the Smurf village.

The Smurfs – world’s famous Belgian comic franchise  - ảnh 2Smurfette, the first-ever female Smurfs, ends up saving all of the Smurfs from Gargamel, earning her place in their village and hearts forever after (Photo: 

Comic books are a very important part of Belgian culture, aren’t they?

Yeah. Comic books are really Belgian DNA. I have two daughters. They like reading comic books a lot and they are now starting to read my comic book series. I remember when I was a kid, I read The Smurfs and several other comic books. It’s actually not something that ends when you’re an adult. There are comic books for adults, too. Comic books are important to our tradition and culture. The Smurfs and several other books have been translated into Vietnamese: Spirou, Tin Tin, of course, the most famous one around the world.  

Thank you, Anke, for the talk. That was Anke Van Lacker, Deputy Head of Mission at the Belgian Embassy in Vietnam, on VOV24/7’s Culture Rendezvous. I’m Thu Ly. Join us againt next time!

Related News