Thorgal volume 1: Child of the Stars/Aaricia


By Rosiński & Van Hamme, translated by Luke Spear (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-905460-23-6

One of the best and most celebrated adventure series of all time, Thorgal manages the ultimate magic trick of being able to both please critics and sell bucketloads. The series debuted in iconic French weekly Tintin in 1977 with the inevitable album compilations beginning three years later. The expansive generational saga has a truly international following in fourteen languages, has generated many spin-off series and naturally offers a strong presence in the global gaming arena.

Narratively, Thorgal offers the best of all amazing worlds with an ostensibly starkly historical milieu of bold Viking adventure glibly yet seamlessly encompassing chilling science fiction elements, monstrous horror, social satire, political intrigue, soap opera, Atlantean mystique and mythically mystical fantasy standards such as gods, monsters, dwarves and demons.

Created by Belgian writer Jean Van Hamme (Domino, XIII, Largo Winch, Blake and Mortimer) and Polish illustrator Grzegorz Rosiński (Kapitan Żbik, Pilot Śmigłowca, Hans, The Revenge of Count Skarbek) the feature grew into a generational saga over the decades with the creative duo completing 29 albums between 1980 and 2006 when Van Hamme moved on. Thereafter the scripting duties fell to Yves Sente who has collaborated on a further five collections to date.

By the time Van Hamme departed the feature had expanded to cover not only the life of the titular hero and his son Jolan but also other valiant family members in a number of spin-off series (Kriss de Valnor, Louve, La Jeunesse de Thorgal) under the umbrella title Les Mondes de Thorgal – all eventually winning their own section of albums.

In 1985 American publisher Donning released a superb series of oversized hardcover book translations but Thorgal never really found an English-speaking audience until Cinebook began its own iteration in 2007.

Although the original French series wanders back and forth through the hero’s life, this first British volume opts for a strictly chronological beginning and even doubles the pleasure by reprinting both the seventh (L’enfant des étoiles, 1984) and fourteenth (Aaricia, 1989) Le Lombard volumes, revealing the star’s origins and a few early adventures as well as the story of his divinely-destined bride-to-be…

Child of the Stars opens with ‘The Lost Drakkar’ as an expedition led by seemingly accursed Viking leader Leif Haraldson founders in stormy seas. Only fifteen men remain of the 120 who set out and wily, ambitious Gandalf the Mad convinces the survivors that the crew’s priest is right. Leif must be sacrificed to angry sea-god Aegir.

With everyone against him Leif prepares to sell his life dearly when the fates intervene. Thor’s constant storms suddenly subside and their drakkar (ship) pulls through eerie mists into a warm sunlit bay.

The relieved mariners are further stunned to find a strange metal chest unlike anything they have ever beheld, lying on the beach. It contains a baby boy and jubilant chief Haraldson instantly adopts the foundling, naming the child Thorgal Aegirsson after the two forgiving gods who spared them…

The story resumes with ‘The Metal that Didn’t Exist’ by voyaging a thousand years into the past when demon-snake Nidhogg tricked Ivaldi, King of the Dwarves into wagering his name on a game of draughts (they called it “checkers”).

When the gloating serpent won, it allowed the humiliated artificer one last chance: Ivaldi could buy back his name – and power – if he produced a jewel made from a metal that did not exist. He even offered a grace period of one millennium to work in…

The mortified and terrified dwarf nation immediately set their youngest, boldest son to search the world for the impossible and 999 years later the weary, footsore mite wandered into a Haraldson’s Northern Viking village and saw a small dark-haired boy wearing an amulet made of something that had never originated on our world…

Excited Tjahzi explained his plight to the solitary lad and offered him all the wealth of the dwarvish realm but Thorgal refused, instead generously offering to give him the necklace. The astounded seeker instantly set off for home but his travels had exhausted him and he collapsed.

Thorgal picked up Tjahzi and began to carry him towards the distant mountains, telling the aged mite of how the amulet came from the strange “raft” he was found in as a baby…

As they slipped between worlds into the gods’ realm the boy grew – or shrank – to the same size as his diminutive companion but their epic journey was soon interrupted by the giant Hjalmgunnar, The hungry horror would have eaten them if not for the Winged Cats of Frigg but the goddess’ envoys were far less effective against a swarm of flying Vampire-Snakes

The tiny travellers soon realised their mission was of great import to the major powers of the universe when, as they travelled a subterranean frozen river to the Dwarf Lands, a monstrous many-limbed monster serpent attacked.

Nidhogg was too arrogant, however, permitting the impetuous human boy to grow into his destined mature warrior form to duel more fairly. The intentionally cruel gesture and Thorgal’s dauntless courage allowed Tjahzi to slip by and deliver the unknown amulet to Ivaldi in time – at the cost of the boy-hero’s life.

Frigg, however, would not let such an injustice stand…

Little Thorgal awoke back in his village with the other children shouting. The wife of Gandalf had just been delivered of a baby girl. The little miracle was to be named Aaricia and when she was born she had a teardrop pearl gripped in each tiny fist…

Years later when Thorgal was just approaching adolescence his incredible history was finally revealed in ‘The Talisman’. Following a strange persistent call inside his head the boy voyaged across the country to a distant mountain where a bizarre hermit waited.

Thorgal had grown increasingly apart from the other children. Vile Gandalf had led a campaign to ostracise the foundling and the kids all called the child “bastard” and claimed he was not a true Viking.

The sage vaguely promised all the answers the wanderer wanted, but was astounded when the boy offered his most prized possession in return: a peculiar disc of unknown material given him by foster-father Leif Haraldson. The artefact had been inside the odd “raft” the baby was in and kept by the chief until Thorgal came of age…

The hermit did something to it and then had the boy meditate. Soon Thorgal’s thoughts are in the past and in the stars as an incredible story unfolds…

Years past a ship from the stars came to Earth. The awesomely powerful beings aboard had originated on Earth in eons past before migrating to the heavens, but even though they had returned in glory, many had not escaped the personal tyrannies of greed, jealousy, ambition and lust for power…

There was dissent and rebellion. The starmen battled and died. Soon only a baby in a lifeboat remained…

Former leader Xargos regretfully closed the psycho-transmitter and then removed all the restored memories he had shared with his grandson. The sage felt that with everything gone and the boy clearly not manifesting his race’s sometimes-latent psychic abilities Thorgal’s future would be kinder if he lived and died as an ordinary mortal…

Fourteenth collection Aaricia also contained a selection of short pieces and opens here with a fantastic trip as a sad little girl goes looking for her Mummy only to encounter some friendly “undergrowth Elves” who offer to take her where she wants to be…

As the entire village searches for Aaricia, ever-solitary Thorgal breaks off from the rest and follows a trail only he can discern. The little girl is almost in the arms of her recently dead mother when he arrives to drive off the vile demonic Nixes who have lured her to ‘Odin’s Mountain’

‘First Snow’ details how, when Haraldson dies, Gandalf makes a cautious power-grab. With the Northern Vikings about to enter the overarching Nordic alliance The Althing as a recognised kingdom, the usurper is terrified that the outsider bastard will become ruler and summarily seizes all Leif’s lands and possessions.

Only Aaricia’s intervention and the arrival of the Althing’s astute adjudicator prevents monstrous murder, but Thorgal is nevertheless left an outcast in his own country…

Years later the outraged boy is denied the universal training all growing warriors are heir to: condemned to become a mere Skald (travelling musician). Although the princess Aaricia still loves him her intended chafes at such injustice and eventually invokes the right of ‘Holmganga’: challenging Gandalf’s son Bjorn to a death-duel for the right to be raised as a true man…

The usurper king sees an opportunity to get rid of the only threat to his rule, and secretly hires assassins to ensure Thorgal’s doom, but the scheme founders when adoring Aaricia – determined to marry Thorgal when they are of age – takes matters into her own inspired hands…

The sagas conclude here with the astounding tale of ‘Tjahzi’s Tears’ as lost and blinded minor poet-god Vigrid washes up in his ramshackle flying Drakkar long enough for the curious princess to climb aboard. Thus begins a fantastic voyage as the girl is wafted away by the tragic nomad and resolves to guide the lost god back to Asgard, despite the attacks of monsters and devils.

Encountering incredible creatures and perilous places, child and despondent deity persevere over uncanny distances, overcoming a host of perils until she sacrifices her greatest treasure – the teardrop pearls she was born holding – in a moment of sheer imaginative ingenuity…

Sublimely rendered, astonishingly inventive and ferociously intoxicating, the enchantingly wondrous world of Thorgal is every fan’s perfect dream of fantasy unbound.
Original edition © Rosiński & Van Hamme 1984-1989 Les Editions du Lombard (Dargaud- Lombard). English translation © 2007 Cinebook Ltd.