Created by Peyo
Publication date October 23, 1958
Country of origin Belgium
Original language French
Formats Original material for the series has been published as a strip in the Belgian comics magazine Spirou, and as a set of graphic novels.
Main character(s) Papa Smurf
Number of books published: 30
Website: official website
Writer(s) Peyo and Studio Peyo
Artist(s) Peyo and Studio Peyo
The series has been reprinted, at least in part, in Dutch, English, Swedish, German and Turkish.
The Smurfs (French: Les Schtroumpfs) is a Belgian comic and television franchise centered on a group of small Smurfs who are small blue fictional creatures that lives in mushroom houses in a forest. The Smurfs was first created and first introduced as a series of comic characters by the Belgian comics artist Peyo (pen name of Pierre Culliford) in 1958. The word “Smurf” is the original Dutch translation of the French "Schtroumpf", a word invented when during a meal with fellow cartoonist André Franquin, Peyo couldn’t remember the word salt. There are more than one hundred Smurfs, whose names are based on adjectives that emphasize their characteristics, e.g. 'Jokey Smurf', who likes to play practical jokes on his fellow smurfs, 'Clumsy Smurf', who has a habit of creating havoc unintentionally, and 'Smurfette' – the first female Smurf to be introduced in the series. The Smurfs wear Phrygian caps, which represented freedom in Roman times.
The Smurf franchise began as a comic and expanded into advertising, movies, TV series, ice capades, video games, theme parks, and dolls.
At the time he came up with the creative idea for the Smurfs, Peyo was the creator, artist, and writer of the Franco-Belgian comics series titled Johan et Pirlouit (translated to English as Johan and Peewit), set in Europe during the Middle Ages and including elements of sword-and-sorcery. Johan serves as a brave young page to the king, and Pirlouit (pronounced Peer-loo-ee) functions as his faithful, if boastful and cheating, midget sidekick.
In 1958, Spirou magazine started to publish the Johan et Pirlouit story La Flûte à six trous ("The Flute with Six Holes"). The adventure involved them recovering a magic flute, which required some sorcery by the wizard Homnibus. In this manner they met a tiny, blue-skinned humanoid creature in white clothing called a "Schtroumpf", followed by his numerous peers who looked just like him, with an elderly leader who wore red clothing and had a white beard. Their first full appearance was published in Spirou on October 23, 1958. The characters proved to be a huge success, and the first independent Smurf stories appeared in Spirou in 1959, together with the first merchandising. The Smurfs shared more adventures with Johan and Pirlouit, got their own series and all subsequent publications of the original story were retitled La Flûte à six Schtroumpfs (also the title of the movie version of the story).
The original term and the accompanying language came during a meal Peyo was having with his colleague and friend André Franquin at the Belgian Coast. Having momentarily forgotten the word "salt", Peyo asked him (in French) to pass the schtroumpf. Franquin jokingly replied: "Here's the Schtroumpf—when you are done schtroumpfing, schtroumpf it back..." and the two spent the rest of that weekend speaking in "schtroumpf language". The name was later translated into Dutch as Smurf, which was adopted in English.
With the commercial success of the Smurfs came the merchandising empire of Smurf miniatures, models, games, and toys. Entire collecting clubs have devoted themselves to collecting PVC Smurfs, and Smurf merchandise.
The storylines tend to be simple tales of bold adventure. The cast has a simple structure as well: almost all the characters look essentially alike—mostly male (there are three female Smurfs: Smurfette, Sassette, and Nanny Smurf), short (3 apples high), with blue skin, white trousers with a hole for their short tails, white hat in the style of a Phrygian cap, and sometimes some additional accessory that identifies a personality (for example, "Handy" Smurf wears overalls instead of the standard trousers, a brimmed hat, and a pencil above his ear). Smurfs can walk and run, but often move by skipping on both feet. They love to eat sarsaparilla (a species of Smilax) leaves, whose berries the Smurfs naturally call "smurfberries" (the smurfberries appear only in the cartoon; in the original comics, the Smurfs only eat the leaves from the sarsaparilla).
The Smurfs fulfill simple archetypes of everyday people: Lazy Smurf, Grouchy Smurf, Brainy Smurf, and so on. All Smurfs, with the exception of Papa, Baby, Smurfette, Nanny and Grandpa, are said to be 100 years old. There were originally 99 Smurfs, but this number increased as new Smurf characters appeared, such as Sassette and Nanny. All of the original Smurfs were male; later female additions are Smurfette and Sassette – Smurfette being Gargamel's creation, while Sassette was created by the Smurflings.
A characteristic of the Smurf language is the frequent use of the undefinable word "smurf" and its derivatives in a variety of meanings. The Smurfs frequently replace both nouns and verbs in everyday speech with the word "smurf": "We're going smurfing on the River Smurf today." When used as a verb, the word "Smurf" typically means "to make," "to be," "to like," or "to do."
Humans have found that replacing ordinary words with the term "smurf" at random is not enough: in one adventure, Peewit explains to some other humans that the statement "I'm smurfing to the smurf" means "I'm going to the wood," but a Smurf corrects him by saying that the proper statement would be "I'm smurfing to the smurf"; whereas what Peewit said was "I'm warbling to the dawn." So "I'm smurfing to the smurf" is not the same as "I'm smurfing to the smurf."
In the animated series, only some words (or a portion of the word) are replaced with the word "smurf." Context offers a reliable understanding of this speech pattern, but common vocabulary includes remarking that something is "just smurfy" or "smurftastic."
In Schtroumpf vert et vert Schtroumpf (see Smurf Versus Smurf), published in Belgium in 1972, it was revealed that the village was divided between North and South, and that the Smurfs on either side had different ideas as to how the term "smurf" should be used: for instance, the Northern Smurfs called a certain object a "bottle smurfer," while the Southern Smurfs called it a "smurf opener." This story is considered a parody on the still ongoing taalstrijd (language war) between French- and Dutch-speaking communities in Belgium.
When they first appeared in 1958, the Smurfs lived in a part of the world called "Le Pays Maudit" (French for "the Cursed Land"). To reach it required magic or travelling through dense forests, deep marshes, a scorching desert and a high mountain range. The Smurfs themselves use storks in order to travel long distances, such as to the kingdom where Johan and Pirlouit live, and keep up-to-date with events in the outside world.
In the Johan et Pirlouit stories, the Smurf village is made up of mushroom-like houses of different shapes and sizes in a desolate and rocky land with just a few trees. However, in the Smurf series itself the mushroom-like houses are more similar to one another and are located in a clearing in the middle of a deep forest with grass, a river, and vegetation. Humans such as Gargamel are shown to live nearby, though it is almost impossible for an outsider to find the Smurf village except when led by a Smurf.
The Smurfs' community generally takes the form of a cooperative, sharing, and kind environment based on the principle that each Smurf has something he or she is good at, and thus contributes it to Smurf society as he or she can. In return, each Smurf appears to be given their necessities of life, from housing and clothes to food without using any money in exchange.
Papa Smurf is the leader of the community. Other Smurfs are generally named after their personality disposition, for example, Brainy, Greedy, Vanity, Lazy, Clumsy, Hefty, Jokey, Dreamy, Grouchy, or their profession, for example, Poet, Actor, Handy, Harmony, Farmer, Clockwork, Painter, Tailor, Miner, Architect, Reporter, Timber, Barber and Doctor Smurf. Other Smurf characters include Gutsy Smurf and Smurfette. Smurfette was created by Gargamel to lure the other smurfs. Papa Smurf then changed her into what we see today. The non-Smurf characters who would appear later would include their enemies the wizard Gargamel, his cat Azrael, and Gargamel's godfather Balthazar; and their friends the page Johan and his young friend Peewit and the wizard Homnibus. There are 105 smurfs.
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.
Since the first appearance of the Smurfs in Johan et Pirlouit in 1958, 30 Smurf comics have been created, 16 of them by Peyo, the others by his studio. Originally, the Smurf stories appeared in Spirou magazine with reprints in many different magazines, but after Peyo left the publisher Dupuis, many comics were first published in dedicated Smurf magazines, which existed in French, Dutch, German and Turkish. A number of short stories and one page gags have been collected into comic books next to the regular series of 30 including a newly released Smurfs comics enitiled Les Schtroumpfs de L'ordre (The Order Law of the Smurfs). English translations have been published in the U.S. by the graphic novel publisher Papercutz as well as a mini series published by Marvel Comics in the mid-1980s .
In 1965, a black-and-white 87-minute animated film called Les Aventures des Schtroumpfs was released in theatres in Belgium. It consisted of five short cartoons made in the previous years for broadcasting on Walloon TV. German copies and copies with Dutch subtitles are known to exist. The stories were based on existing Smurf stories like The Black Smurfs and The Smurfs and the Egg, and were created by writer Maurice Rosy and artist Eddy Ryssack from the small Dupuis animation studios. In total, ten animated shorts were created between 1961 and 1967, the first series in black and white and the later ones in colour.