The Smurfs celebrated their 50th birthday (or rather, "smurfday") a couple of days ago - and that inspired Neatorama to smurf up some fascinating facts about the little blue creatures.
Here are ten of the smurfiest facts about The Smurfs:
The Smurfs are Belgian, not American
The Smurfs became a worldwide hit after Hanna-Barbera featured them in an animated series in the 1980s, so it is quite natural to assume that they're an American creation. They weren't.
In 1947, Belgian cartoonist Pierre Culliford, better known as Peyo, created a comic called Johan et Pirlouit about a young boy and his faithful (if boastful and cheating) dwarf sidekick. In 1958, in the ninth issue of the comic, the duo met tiny, blue-skinned creatures called "Les Schtroumpfs."
First appearance of the Smurfs in the comic Johan et Pirlouit (Image via Lambiek.net)
These creatures, which later became the Smurfs, were such a hit that they got their own comic series.
How Many Smurfs are There?
According to the original magazine that published The Smurfs comics, there are 105 Smurfs. The two most famous are Papa Smurf, the leader of the Smurfs who always wear red clothes and has a bushy white beard, and Smurfette.
(Nanny Smurf image: Blue Imps Smurf Collection)
Note that Smurfette isn't the only female Smurf. In fact, there are three of them! The other two are Sassette Smurfling and Nanny Smurf.
Oh, they may be "Smurfs" to you and me, but they're called schlümpfe in Germany, törpök in Hungary, sumaafu in Japan, smerfy in Poland and pitufos in Spain. See the whole list here: The Smurfs in other languages [wiki]
Smurf Hats are Phrygian Caps
There is an urban legend that the Smurfs represent the KKK. The Smurfs wear white pointed hats and are led by a leader who wears a red pointed hat (like the Grand Dragon or the head of the KKK).
In fact, the Smurfs wear Phrygian or Liberty caps. In Roman times, the cap is worn by former slaves to symbolize their freedom. During the 18th century, red Phrygian cap became a symbol of liberty.
Smurfette Was Created by Gargamel
The first female Smurf was magically created from clay by Gargamel, the Smurfs archvillain, to cause jealousy and stir trouble among the Smurfs. But his plan was flawed: Smurfette was ugly. Only after Papa Smurf took pity and did some plastic smurfery on her did she become a blond bombshell.
In the original comic, Smurfette left the Smurf village to restore peace (and all-male status quo). Because this ending didn't suit America, in the animated TV series by Hanna-Barbera, she settled in the village and became a permanent character.
(Are Smurfette and Paris Hilton long lost twins? There are too many similarities to be coincidental!)
You've made it to pop culture stardom when Saturday Night Live made you into a skit. In this case, here's a parody animation clip featuring Anna Nicole Smith as Smurfette:
Smurfette Is Drawn to be a Sexist Stereotype
Though the charges that The Smurfs are communists or a front for the KKK have proven to be false, it is true that Peyo drew Smurfette to be a sexist stereotype.
From The Straight Dope:
One theory does stand up. The character Smurfette undeniably embodies some unflattering female stereotypes, and does so on purpose. In a recent biography of Peyo, Hugues Dayez relates a story about the cartoonist's negotiations with NBC for the upcoming Smurf animated series. Peyo apparently spoke little or no English. When the discussion turned to Smurfette, Peyo's interpreter explains:
Peyo began by saying that she was "very feminine." They asked him to be more specific, so he went on to say: "She is pretty, blonde, she has all the characteristics of women…" Knowing the feminist spirit in the U.S.A., I diplomatically translated this as "all the qualities." I was banking on the fact that Peyo did not understand what I was saying (in English) and the others did not understand what he was trying to say. So naturally they asked him to expand. So he kept on going with: "She seduces, she uses trickery rather than force to get results. She is incapable of telling a joke without blowing the punch line. She is a blabbermouth but only makes superficial comments. She is constantly creating enormous problems for the Smurfs but always manages to blame it on someone else." I did my best to minimize the sexist nature of this description, but one of the participants at the meeting asked: "Would she at least be able, when the Smurfs are in danger, to take a decision that can save them?" When I translated this to Peyo, he looked astounded. "Come on now, do they expect me to make her a (female) gym teacher?" I obviously did not translate this remark. [Translation by Valteron]
The Smurf Village Bombed by the UN!
[YouTube Link] - Warning: pretty strong content
The Smurfs might have been able to hide their village from Gargamel, but not from aerial bombardments! In a gruesome advertisement by United Nation Children's Fund (Unicef), the Smurfs were used to raise money for the rehabilitation of former child soldiers in Burundi:
The short film pulls no punches. It opens with the Smurfs dancing, hand-in-hand, around a campfire and singing the Smurf song. Bluebirds flutter past and rabbits gambol around their familiar village of mushroom- shaped houses until, without warning, bombs begin to rain from the sky.
Tiny Smurfs scatter and run in vain from the whistling bombs, before being felled by blast waves and fiery explosions. The final scene shows a scorched and tattered Baby Smurf sobbing inconsolably, surrounded by prone Smurfs.
The final frame bears the message: "Don't let war affect the lives of children."
The Smurfs Are a Big Business
They may be just "three apples tall," but The Smurfs are a big business: they have been translated to over 30 languages, generate $5 to $12 million in royalties every year and are estimated to be worth about $4 billion.
We'll be seeing more of the little guys (and gals): a computer-animated 3-D movie is in the works. And, according to Hendrik Coysman, head of Smurf rights holder, there will be "a greater female presence in the Smurf village and this will be a basis for new stories. This will probably turn upside down certain traditional situations within the village." (source)
Real Life Smurf
Think that blue skin only happens to the Smurfs? Meet Paul Karason, the real life version of Papa Smurf. Paul's skin slowly turned blue after years of taking colloidal silver (by the way, the condition is called argyria - previously on Neatorama here: The Blue Man of Oregon).
All Your Smurf are Belong to Us
What happens if a famous Internet meme is smurf-ified? Here is the classic $20,000 Zig - All Your Smurf creation by Aaron Simpson of Pancake House Production: