While those of you with kids might have gone to see the Smurfs movie, I'm assuming the rest of you haven't. From what I've heard, you aren't missing much if you haven't seen it, but I can't talk from first-hand experience because I haven't gone either. Regardless of what you think of the new movie, it's always nice to look back at the things that made The Smurfs so great in the first place.
Image via It's Meng! [Flickr]
What’s In A Name?
You may have wondered where the heck the word “smurf” came from and why the characters use it so often in the show, but as it turns out, the original characters weren’t “smurfs,” they were “schtroumpfs.” The whole thing started when the creator of the comics, Peyo, was at lunch with a fellow Belgian comic artist named André Franquin. If you’ve ever had a moment where you forgot the name of something, then you’ll understand Peyo’s frustration when he couldn’t remember the word “salt.” Being a goofy guy, he instead pointed at the salt and asked his friend to pass the schtroumpf. Franquin responded, "Here's the schtroumpf — when you are done schtroumpfing, schtroumpf it back." The rest of the meal, the two joked around using the word “schtroumpf” periodically throughout their conversation.
From Schtroumpfs to Smurfs
Now you know why the characters use their name so much in conversation, but suddenly, the question of how the comics became The Smurfs instead of The Schtroumpfs. Well, as I said, this all happened in Belgium, where the native language is French. The first language the comic was translated to was Dutch and while the name could have stayed the same (do you really need to translate an imaginary word?), Schtroumpfs didn’t quite sound right to Dutch speakers, so the name was instead changed to smurfen. When the comic was translated to English, the word “smurf” sounded good, so it was based on the Dutch version.
Image via Stephen and Claire Farnsworth [Flickr]
From Minor Diversion To Lead Characters
The first introduction of the Smurf characters started in Peyo’s earlier comic, Johan and Pirlouit. This strip took place in the Middle Ages and incorporated elements of sorcery and sword fights. In 1958, Peyo started a new series of the strip, which revolved around the characters searching for a magic flute. At one point in the story, the characters run into a number of schtroumpfs, small creatures with blue skin and human-like features. The smurf characters were a smashing success, so Peyo wrote them their own strip that first appeared in 1959. Although the smurfs would periodically interact with Johan and Pirlouit, the spin off was largely based on their own stories.
Why Is There Only One Girl?
Technically there are two girls, Smurfette, who everyone is familiar with, and Sassette, who first appeared in the fifth season of the cartoon. According to the smurf back story though, there are actually no smurf females. Smurfette was actually created by Gargamel in part of an evil plan to cause jealousy amongst the smurfs and Sassette was created by the smurfs using the same magic formula they stole from Gargamel. Sassette was intended to provide Smurfette with a female friend, but because Sassette was a pretty big tom boy, the two didn’t get along at first. If you’re wondering why Sassette is so much smaller than the adult smurfs if she’s not supposed to be a baby, it’s because all adult smurfs stand 3 crab apples tall, but they only had two crab apples worth of clay when they created her.
Strangely, after making sure the two female characters were both made from clay and magic spells, season 8 featured another female, Nanny Smurf, with no background story explaining her creation. Nanny Smurf was Grandpa Smurf’s gal, but she disappeared in a haunted house for 500 years before the smurfs rescued her. She only lasted one season and appeared in one episode in season 9 before disappearing forever again.
If you’ve been itching for more female characters in the comic, Peyo’s son who is the current writer of the French comics has promised that he will be introducing more females in upcoming years.
Image via Scottobear [Flickr]
What Is A Smurf Berry?
Most people seem to think that smurf berries aren’t real, but as it turns out, they are really supposed to be the berries from the sarsaparilla tree. Interestingly, in the comics, the smurfs don’t eat smurf berries, but instead gorge on the leaves of the plant.
Classic Cartoon Voices
If you’ve ever watched the cartoon and thought that Papa Smurf or Gargamel’s voices sounded familiar, you’re right, you probably have heard them somewhere else. Papa Smurf was voiced by legendary cartoon voice actor Don Messick who also did the voices of Boo Boob Bear, Ranger Smith, Astro, Muttley, Scooby Doo, Scrappy Doo and Droopy. As for Gargamel, his voice was performed by Paul Winchell, a professional ventriloquist who became a voice actor later in life. Some of Winchell’s more famous roles included Dick Dastardly (that’s right, he and Mesick worked together before) and everyone’s favorite spring-tailed predator, Tigger.
Image via DNNYA17 [Flickr]
Do you guys dig The Smurfs? What about the movie, if you've seen it, what did you think?
Sources: Wikipedia #1, #2, #3, Smurfs Wiki #1, #2, #3