The Smurftastic Beginnings Of The Smurfs

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The smurfs (Photo by RDB/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

Pierre Culliford, a Belgian cartoonist writing under the pen name Peyo created the Smurfs in 1958. His creations debuted in the newspaper Spirou. They started out as side characters in the medieval comic “The Flute with Six Holes” which was part of the comic series titled Johan et Pirlouit. In this series, Johan is a brave page, and Pirlouit, his midget sidekick is faithful, as well as boastful and cheating. “The Flute with Six Holes” was an adventure in which the characters found a magic flute and met the first “Schtroumpf,” the diminutive white-clothed, blue-skinned humanoid figure, as well as his peers. These creatures were accompanied by an elderly leader who donned red clothing and a white beard. After their first appearance, they had more adventures with Johan and Pirlouit. It didn’t take long for these tiny blue humanoids to become popular, so in 1969, they ended up with their own stories, and, of course, the merchandise wasn't far behind.

The comic. Source: (Reddit).

The Origins Of Their Name

Peyo came up with the name “Schtroumpf” and the language of the Smurfs while sitting down to a meal with a friend. When Peyo forgot the word for “salt,” he asked his friend to pass the schtroumpf. His friend said “Here's the Schtroumpf—when you are done schtroumpfing, schtroumpf it back…” and the language pattern would stick with Peyo’s creations. The word was translated into Dutch as Smurf, and for the most part, that name has stuck through the translations into other languages. They were, however, named goblins in the book Dilly Duckling and the Goblins (1973), and in Spanish, they are the “Pitufos”

Smurfs Magic Flute, 1976. Source: (IMDb).

Finding Their Way In The World

They struck out on their own in comic book series and movies. By 1981, the Hanna Barbera television cartoon series debuted. It ran until 1989 before going into syndication. During this time they evolved, with the addition of more characters (there were originally only 99 Smurfs). Additional characters got names based on their character traits. Some of these new characters had some clothing add-ons. For example, Handy Smurf wears overalls and a brimmed hat and sports a pencil above his ear. When they first appeared, the Smurfs were male, but gradually, a few females were added to the cast of characters. One of the females, Smurfette, was created by Gargamel. Another female Smurf, Sassette, was also created, by the Smurflings. The Smurfs, for the most part, are 100 years old. The Smurflings, however, are only 50 as they aged backward because of Father Time’s grandfather clock which ran backward. The Smurflings also defy the clothing norms as they choose their own outfits. 

Source: (IMDb).

Their Evolution

They’ve gone through other changes as well. When they originally debuted, they lived in the Cursed Land. Essentially, this was a place of high mountain ranges, scorching deserts, and dense forests and marshes. To travel long distances, the tiny blue creatures flew on storks. Eventually, they had much more comfortable lives, moving into the mushroom houses and then to a beautiful forest. They do not have money and they cooperate with one another, so some critics have claimed that they are communists. Essentially, they each contribute to the community, and, in return, get what they need. In the comics, they only eat sarsaparilla leaves. Smurfberries make their appearance in the cartoons. With the television series, they also picked up their antagonists, Gargamel and his cat Azriel. Gargamel is motivated by the desire to destroy the Smurfs or to capture them so he can perfect a gold-creating potion. They also abandoned their medieval setting and headed to Central Park once they got their own movie with the help of CGI.

Source: (Pinterest).

Expanding Beyond Comic Books And Cartoons

Dupuis produced the original Smurf figurines from 1959 until the end of the 1960s. Schleich, a German toy company, then began producing them. The company produces 8 to 12 new figurines each year, and over 300 million have been sold since they started production. They were sometimes given away as part of promotions. This was not the only way that they became part of the commercial world, as there were special Smurf comics that were created for advertising campaigns. Additionally, they had their own cereals in the 1980s: Smurf-Berry Crunch and Smurfs Magic Berries, as well as two kinds of pasta. They appeared as the children’s act in the Ice Capades for several years, and they also started to pop up in theme parks. In 2008, a Belgian 5 euro coin was issued to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Smurfs.