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Book Review

The Secret of the Unicorn by Hergé has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Tintin, a young investigative reporter, runs into blundering police constables Thomson and Thompson at the street market. The officers are investigating a rash of wallet thefts, including several of their own wallets. Tintin buys an old model ship for his friend Captain Haddock. Suddenly, two men appear and begin a bidding war, each begging Tintin to sell the model. Tintin tells them it isn't for sale.

When Tintin gets the ship home, his dog, Snowy, knocks it off the table and breaks a piece of the mast. Captain Haddock arrives and is thrilled by the gift. He finds it particularly remarkable since it's the replica of a ship called the Unicorn belonging to his ancestor, Sir Francis Haddock. The captain takes Tintin to his nearby apartment to show him Francis' portrait. When they return to Tintin's, the ship is gone.

Tintin pays a visit to Ivan Sakharine, one of the men who tried to buy his ship. Sakharine has his own replica of the Unicorn. Tintin thinks it's his, until he realizes it isn't broken. Back at home, Tintin finds a tiny, nonsensical parchment scroll he believes was rolled up in the ship's mast. He takes it to Haddock, who is dressed up and acting like a pirate. Haddock says he's found Francis' manuscripts that detail his journey on the Unicorn. He sits down with Tintin, drinks and tells Francis' story:

A group of pirates led by Red Rackham attacked Francis' ship and found a fortune in diamonds. While the pirates became drunk on rum, Francis escaped his bonds, killed Red Rackham and lit a fuse on the ship. He escaped in a small boat just before the ship exploded. Haddock says Francis' journal indicates he built three model ships, one for each of his sons. Each ship contained a message in the mast. When put together, the three messages would lead whoever found them to Red Rackham's treasure.

When Tintin pays a visit to Sakharine, he finds that the man has been chloroformed. The scroll from Sakharine's ship's mast is gone. The second man who tried to buy Tintin's boat shows up in front of Tintin's door. A car drives by and shoots the man before he can tell Tintin what he wants, but he doesn't die. Villains disguised as delivery men bring a large crate to Tintin's home. They chloroform Tintin and take him out in the crate. Snowy follows their truck. Tintin escapes from the room where he's imprisoned. He makes a quick call to Haddock to reveal his location before a butler catches him. Tintin further battles the men who've captured him. Haddock and Snowy arrive with the police just in time to save Tintin. One villain explains that the man who was shot was working for them, trying to get the scrolls from Tintin and Sakharine. The scrolls are ultimately found together when Thomson and Thompson catch the man who has been stealing wallets all over town. Tintin and Haddock hold the three scrolls on top of one another and discover latitude and longitude numbers that will lead them to the sunken ship and Red Rackham's treasure.

Christian Beliefs

After Francis kills Red Rackham, he asks that heaven may forgive the man's wicked soul.

Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

The police officers Thomson and Thompson are bumbling, inept characters who often hurt themselves. They generally cause more problems than they solve. Haddock drinks alcohol throughout much of the comic, possibly triggering his erratic, one-sided sword fights in his living room.


Amidst a sword battle with Francis, Red Rackham begins a threat with "by Lucifer!" A few brief battles, shootings and fights occur. They are not graphic or bloody



Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Alcohol: Captain Haddock drinks the whole time he's telling Tintin the story of Francis' adventures on the Unicorn. Several times, Tintin has to urge Haddock to slow down his drinking and put down the bottle. Once, Tintin even takes Haddock's glass. Snowy drinks out of the glass and begins seeing double, his head spinning. Haddock tells Tintin the pirates on the ship got into the rum onboard and made themselves abominably drunk. Haddock urges the villains' butler to get him a bottle of three-star brandy.

The Tintin comics were created in the late 1920s by Belgian artist Hergé (born Georges Remi) as a comic strip.

Producers often use a book as a springboard for a movie idea or to earn a specific rating. Because of this, a movie may differ from the novel. To better understand how this book and the movie differ, compare the book review with Plugged In's movie review for The Adventures of Tintin.

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

8 and up








Record Label



Atlantic-Little, Brown books, a division of Little, Brown and Company, in association with the Atlantic Monthly Press


On Video

Year Published





We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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