If you asked people for a list of famous literary double acts, surely Tintin and Snowy would be mentioned. Snowy is Tintin’s friend, his companion, and his confident. Snowy is there for Tintin when no one else is. Snowy would appear in every book by Tintin’s side, and often help him along on his travels. Could you have gotten a closer bond between man and an animal?
This makes sense when you realise the history behind the character.
It has often been said that Herge created Tintin as an alternate version of himself. It is also said that the many characters that Tintin encounters are actually based on real characters from throughout Herge’s life. So if Tintin is Herge, and the other characters are people Herge met, what does that mean for Snowy?
Herge has said that Snowy was based on a wire fox terrier he used to see in a local restaurant. He thought it was intelligent, brave, and funny. A perfect companion to Tintin. The thing is it is much more complicated than that.
Snowy is not the real name of Tintin’s companion, in the original French version, Snowy is called Milou.
Milou is actually a sweet homage to Herge’s first girlfriend. It is said that he went out with a girl named Marie-Louise van Cutsem. It was young love.
Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be. Marie’s father did not approve of the relationship as Herge was of a lower social standing than his daughter. He obviously wanted his daughter to marry at her level and lower herself because of a mere infatuation. The relationship ended after this. After this Herge still had feelings for Marie and supposedly named Milou after her. Marie-Louise became Milou.
It is interesting to point out that if Herge is Tintin and Milou is Marie Louise, Herge made the two inseparable in the books. Tintin could not go anywhere without Milou, and would often risk his life for him. Maybe Herge used the Tintin books as a kind of escapism from his heartbreak?
So we know how Milou got his name. But why Snowy.
Apparently the name Snowy was chosen, because it was the same amount of letters as Milou so it would fit into the speech bubbles. It was also chosen because he is white.
So Herge was a hopeless romantic and ended up naming one of his most popular characters after an old girlfriend. I wonder if Marie-Louise knew?