The Blue Lotus

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The Blue Lotus (French: Le Lotus bleu), first published in 1936, is one of The Adventures of Tintin, a series of classic comic-strip albums written and illustrated by Hergé featuring young reporter Tintin as a hero. It is a sequel to Cigars of the Pharaoh, with Tintin continuing his struggle against a major gang of drug smugglers. The story also highlights the Japanese invasion of Manchuria. The Blue Lotus is a pivotal work in Hergé’s career, moving away from the stereotype and loosely connected stories and marking a new found commitment to geographical and cultural accuracy. The book is also amongst the most highly regarded of the entire Tintin series, and was the 18th greatest book on Le Monde’s 100 Books of the Century list.

The title, Blue Lotus, refers to the name of an opium den, itself a reference to the blue lotus.

In Cigars of the Pharaoh (Book 4), Tintin pursued an international group of drug distributors through the Middle East and India. He managed to capture most of the cartel members, but not the mysterious leader, who fell down a ravine in the mountains. Some time after these events, his body has still not been found. Tintin though is shown to be enjoying a vacation with the Maharaja of Gaipajama. Then one day a Chinese man comes to meet him but he is hit by a dart dipped in a poison which causes madness (Rajaijah). He just had the time to tell him that someone going by the name of Mitsuhirato wants to meet him in Shanghai. Tintin travels to Shanghai, China, where he is awaited by the assassins of the opium consortium.

However, two attempts on Tintin’s life are foiled by a young Chinese stranger who arranges to meet Tintin in a secluded area. Once Tintin arrives for their rendezvous, he discovers that the young man has been struck by Rajaijah juice, the poison of madness, used by the drug cartel against their enemies.

Tintin also defends a young Chinese rickshaw driver from a Western businessman and racist bully, Gibbons, a friend of Dawson, the corrupt police chief of the Shanghai International Settlement. Incensed, Gibbons and Dawson set about making life difficult for Tintin.

Meanwhile in Shanghai, Tintin meets Mitsuhirato, a Japanese businessman, who urges him to return to India and protect his friend the Maharajah of Gaipajama.

Having been persuaded by Mitsuhirato, Tintin is on his way back to India by ship when he is knocked unconscious and taken ashore along with Snowy. He wakes up outside Shanghai, in the home of Wang Chen-Yee, the leader of a resistance movement called “The Sons of the Dragon” dedicated to the fight against opium. Wang’s son is the young man who helped save him from the two assassinations, but is now insane from Rajaijah poisoning. He goes about threatening to cut people’s heads off with a sword (thinking it will “show them the way”) and only his father’s stern authority can keep him in check.

Wang also reveals that Mitsuhirato is their chief opponent: a Japanese secret agent and drug smuggler. Tintin manages to track down Mitsuhirato and witnesses him blowing up a railway line (this is based on the real-life Mukden Incident). No one is killed and damage is minor, but the event is successfully portrayed by the Japanese government as a major Chinese terrorist incident and used as an excuse for a Japanese invasion of Manchuria. Tintin is captured by Mitsuhirato and is to be injected with the Rajaijah poison, but had a near escape when he was aided by one of the members from “The Sons of the Dragon”, who had infiltrated Mitsuhirato’s house earlier and switched the poison for colored water.

Having obtained the poison of madness with the help of the member, Tintin returns to Shanghai, which has now been occupied by the Japanese Army, and tries to make contact with Doctor Fang Hsi-Ying, an expert on insanity, who may be able to cure Wang’s son. However, Doctor Fang has been kidnapped by the drug cartel, presumably to prevent him developing an antidote to the poison. A note left by the kidnappers demands ransom money which must be paid at an old temple in the city of Hukow.

After a brief period of imprisonment in Shanghai by the Japanese Army, Tintin escapes and rides a train to Hukow to visit the temple where the ransom is to be paid, but a flood washes the tracks, and all the passengers must disembark. He rescues a young boy, Chang Chong-Chen, from drowning in the Yangtze River. They become fast friends, and Chang rescues Tintin from the Thompsons who had reluctantly arrested him under orders from Dawson (who is collaborating with Mitsuhirato to capture Tintin). They later travel to the area where the ransom money is to be left, and are able to confirm that Doctor Fang has been kidnapped on Mitsuhirato’s orders.

Tintin and Chang return to Shanghai, but not before Wang and his family are kidnapped by Mitsuhirato. In order to find them, Tintin travels to the Shanghai docks and hides in one of the barrels being unloaded from an opium ship. But it turns out that he was seen, and when he emerges he is confronted by Mitsuhirato armed with a gun, and soon finds himself a prisoner alongside Wang and his family. Then the boss of the opium cartel is revealed to be the film producer Rastapopoulos (see Cigars of the Pharaoh for back story). Tintin is appalled that a man he had thought to be a friend could be the gang leader until Rastapopoulos reveals the tattoo of Kih-Oskh on his forearm. Fortunately, before the cartel could kill Tintin and Wang, the Sons of the Dragon, who had previously overpowered Mitsuhirato’s thugs and had hidden in the other barrels (as planned by Tintin), reveal themselves, and force Mitsuhirato and Rastapopoulos to surrender. With Rastapopoulos arrested, the cartel is finally brought down, and Mitsuhirato commits hara-kiri. Fang Hsi-Ying finds an antidote to the poison of madness and Wang’s son is cured (it is not mentioned whether the other victims of the poison are also cured). The ensuing political fallout over Tintin’s involvement with the cartel and Japanese espionage leads to Japan’s withdrawal from the League of Nations.The story ends with Chang being adopted by the Wang family and Tintin heading back for Europe.

Cigars of The Pharaoh

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Cigars of the Pharaoh (French: Les Cigares du pharaon) is one of The Adventures of Tintin, a series of classic comic-strip albums, written and illustrated by Hergé, featuring young reporter Tintin as a hero. This was his fourth published adventure and is notable for the introduction of Rastapopoulos and Thomson and Thompson.

Tintin and his dog Snowy are on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean Sea when they meet Dr Sarcophagus, an Egyptologist who owns a papyrus that he believes will lead him to the undiscovered tomb of the Pharaoh Kih-Oskh (a pun on kiosk, a stand for the sale of petty merchandises such as newspapers, magazines, cigarettes, beverages and/or street foods). He invites Tintin to accompany him. Tintin also has an unpleasant encounter with Roberto Rastapopoulos, a wealthy businessman.

Later on the cruise, Tintin first meets Thomson and Thompson, who accuse him of smuggling opium and cocaine they have found in his cabin. Locked in the hold of the ship, Tintin craftily escapes and meets Sarcophagus in Port Said, Egypt.

Tintin and Sarcophagus set off and discover the tomb of Kih-Oskh. On a nearby sand dune, Tintin finds a cigar bearing the symbol of Kih-Oskh: a circle with a wavy line through it and two dots on it, rather like a yin-yang symbol. But when he returns to the tomb, Sarcophagus has disappeared.

Entering the tomb, Tintin and Snowy are startled several times by doors closing behind them. They come to a room where rows of Egyptologists are mummified. At the end of the row are empty sarcophagi with notices to indicate that they are intended for Tintin, Snowy (and Sarcophagus too in the later edition). Following items of Sarcophagus’ clothing which have been left lying about, Tintin enters another room where opium vapor puts him to sleep.

That night drug smugglers embark some sarcophagi aboard a ship but they are later cast overboard. The sarcophagi contain Tintin and Snowy who therefore escape mummification. They are rescued from a gigantic wave by the crew of a sailing ship. On it they meet Senhor Oliveira de Figueira, a Portuguese salesman who travels the Middle East selling to local Arabs. He persuades Tintin to buy a top hat, ski equipment, a bow tie, an alarm clock, suspenders, a parrot, a water tin, a wooden golf club, a doghouse on wheels, and a lead for Snowy, and the overloaded Tintin walks away saying “Just as well I didn’t fall for his patter; you can end up with all sorts of useless stuff if you’re not careful”.

Tintin then sets out across the desert and is captured by the men of Sheik Patrash Pasha. He hates Westerners but is then delighted to discover that his captive is Tintin, whose exploits he has read of for years, and even shows one of the Tintin books that he has read (the exact book is different depending on the version, but it is always the most recent to have been published; in the first black and white strip, it is Tintin in the Congo; in the second it is Tintin in America; and in the colour version, it is Destination Moon).

Resuming his journey Tintin sees a woman being beaten by two men and rushes to her aid. The woman turns out to be an actress filming a movie that Rastapopoulos is making. The director is furious but Rastapopoulos is much calmer. He and Tintin apologize to each other over the incidents on the cruise ship and the filming and become friends.

When Tintin returns to the boat, he discovers that it has been smuggling guns. There is a lengthy comic sequence involving the Thompson twins who accuse him of being the smuggler. They hurry off when they think a grenade is due to explode, allowing Tintin to get away.

In Arabia, Tintin is walking in the desert when his water bottle is shot at and pierced by an anonymous gunman. Desperate for water he sets off only to meet Thomson & Thompson who give chase. Later they hit an Arab on the head, mistaking him for Tintin. When Tintin reaches a local city he finds a procession of armed Arabs who claim that one of their sheiks was attacked by two members of a rival tribe, thus providing a pretext for war. Tintin is enlisted by force into the army.

While cleaning the local colonel’s office, he finds a cigar label with Kih-Oskh’s sign. He searches the office for a box of cigars hoping that they will provide a clue but is caught in the act by the colonel and charged with spying. He is shot by firing squad, but does not actually die: the firing squad’s rifles had been loaded with blanks. Placed in a ventilated grave, Tintin is later dug up by a pair of mysterious allies dressed as veiled women. These ‘allies’ are actually Thomson & Thompson again, who were determined to capture him alive and arranged for his death to be faked.

Tintin flees the city in a military airplane pursued by others. To save himself he takes a dive and lands in India. There Tintin finds Sarcophagus who is painting the sign of Kih-Oskh on the trees. He has gone completely insane and thinks that he is another Pharaoh, Ramesses II.

Tintin and Sarcophagus are taken by an elephant to a local colonial outpost. Later, the mad Sarcophagus escapes and tries to kill Tintin with a knife. It is soon revealed that he was hypnotised by a local Fakir who wants Tintin dead. Some remarks by the Fakir lead Tintin to Zloty, a Hungarian writer, who explains that an international gang of drug smugglers is out to get rid of Tintin. At gunpoint, Tintin orders Zloty to give him the name of the gang’s leader but, before he can, the Fakir, from outside the window, blows a dart tipped with Rajaijah juice at Zloty, causing Zloty to go mad.

Tintin takes Sarcophagus and Zloty to the asylum with a letter from a local doctor, but the Fakir has substituted the letter and through a misunderstanding Tintin ends up imprisoned. He escapes by jumping on an obese inmate and over the wall. Snowy is unable to keep up with Tintin and is almost sacrificed by angry Indians for frightening their holy cow. The little dog is saved by Thomson & Thompson, acting as Nataraja. They then use Snowy to track down his master, whom they are still determined to arrest.

Tintin’s escape from the asylum is reported and he is recaptured at a train station. The ambulance taking him back to the asylum crashes into the car driven by Sarcophagus and Zloty. Tintin escapes and later meets the Maharajah of Gaipajama. Over dinner they hear music which the Maharajah believes is a warning that he will be driven insane like his father and brother were after the music was heard, due to their opposition to the drug cartel and its oppression of the local farmers.

Tintin arranges for a dummy to be put in the Maharajah’s bed. That night the dummy is hit by a dart fired by the fakir. Tintin follows the fakir to the cartel’s hideout which the Fakir enters using a hollow tree. The members within dress up in outfits that bear the symbol of Kih-Oskh and make them look rather like the Ku Klux Klan (as Tintin comments in the English edition). He manages to capture the gang which includes the Fakir, the Arab colonel and several others he met in the course of the adventure. He is later joined by the Maharajah, Snowy and the Thompson twins who tell Tintin that all charges have been dropped: the tomb of Kih-Oskh was found by the Egyptian police and contained evidence of Tintin’s innocence and a map showing them to the hideout.

The Fakir manages to escape, however, and later he and the cartel’s Grand Master kidnap the Maharajah’s young son. Tintin chases them into the Himalayas, but they send their car of a cliff, hoping Tintin will climb down and they can steal his car. While the leader takes the bound and gagged crown prince, the Fakir tries to delay Tintin. However the leader accidentally knocks a rock loose which knocks out the Fakir. Tintin recovers the prince, ties up the Fakir, and drives back with them. But the cartel leader falls off a cliff when the cliff edge he is on breaks. His body is not found.

Later on, the Maharajah informs Tintin that one of the captured members of the cartel was a servant of his. In examining cigars found in his room, Tintin discovers that cigars bearing the “Kih-Oskh” label contain heroin, revealing the means by which the cartel smuggled drugs.

The story is continued in The Blue Lotus.

Tintin In America

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Tintin in America (in the original French, Tintin en Amérique) is the third title in the comic book series The Adventures of Tintin, written and drawn by Belgian cartoonist Hergé. Originally serialised in the Belgian children’s newspaper supplement Le Petit Vingtième between 3 September 1931 and 20 October 1932, it was subsequently published in book form in 1932.

The plot revolves around the young reporter Tintin and his dog Snowy who travel to the United States, where he plans to report on the crime syndicate then active in Chicago.

It is the year 1931. Having encountered Al Capone’s gangsters in his last adventure, Tintin in the Congo, Tintin is sent to Chicago, Illinois to clean up the city’s criminals. He is captured by gangsters several times, soon meeting Capone himself after he is dropped through a trapdoor in the street and knocked out by two thugs. Al Capone pays the two, ordering the second one to eliminate Tintin. However Snowy knocks a vase onto his head as he fires, knocking him out. Tintin listens at the door where Capone and the other crook went. However the other one, revealed to be called Pietro, recovers and throws a vase at Tintin. But the door is opened at that moment, causing te vase to hit Capone’s face, though the door makes Tintin drop his gun. However he then headbutts Pietro in the waist and runs out, hiding behind a curtain to evade the other crook. Tintin then gags Pietro and binds him, as well as gagging and binding Capone. He then knocks the other gangster out with a chair as he enters. However the policeman he calls to help arrest the gangsters does not believe his story and tries to capture him instead (Tintin’s failure to capture Capone reflects the fact that Capone was still active when the comic strip was written). Snowy later comes along, revealing someone else came and untied the other three, despite his efforts.

After several attempts on his life, Tintin meets Capone’s rival, the devious Bobby Smiles, who heads the Gangsters Syndicate of Chicago(GSC) who tries to persuade Tintin to work for him, but Tintin declines. Tintin spends much of the book trying to capture Smiles, pursuing him to the Midwestern town of Redskin City. There he is captured by a Blackfoot Indian tribe (fooled by Smiles into thinking Tintin is their enemy), and discovers oil. This unintentionally causes the expulsion of the tribe, as unscrupulous oil corporations take over their land, depriving them of any share in the oil profits (see Ideology of Tintin). Finally, Tintin captures Smiles, and ships him back to Chicago in a crate.

After Smiles is captured, an unnamed bald gangster kidnaps Tintin’s dog, Snowy. Tintin manages to save him after hiding in a suit of armour and knocking out the gangster and two of his henchman. He discovers Snowy with his leg manacled in a dungeon. However the gangster sends his 15 bodyguard after Tintin. He tells them he wants them back in 10 minutes, with Tintin bound and gagged. Tintin locks them in the Keep, but the leader escapes. The next day the bald gangster orders a subordinate named Maurice Oyle to invite Tintin to a cannery, where Tintin is tricked into falling into the meat grinding machine. However, because the workers at the cannery are on strike, the meat grinder is deactivated and Tintin escapes. Tintin later tricks and captures both Maurice and the bald gangster.

After this escapade, Tintin is invited to a banquet held in his honor, where he is kidnapped by Chicago gangsters who have decided to wreak revenge upon him for his crackdown upon the city’s criminals. The gangsters tie Tintin and Snowy to a weight and throw them into Lake Michigan. However, the gangsters mistakenly used a block of wood as a weight, and thus Tintin and Snowy are saved by what is ostensibly a police patrol boat. It soon transpires that the crew of the boat are not policemen, but more gangsters, and they attempt to kill Tintin. However Tintin overpowers them, and later leads the police to the gangsters’ headquarters. A grateful Chicago holds a ticker-tape parade for Tintin, after which he returns to Europe.

Tintin In The Congo

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Tintin in the Congo (in the original French, Tintin au Congo) is the second title in the comic book series The Adventures of Tintin, written and drawn by Belgian cartoonist Hergé. Originally serialised in the Belgian children’s newspaper supplement, Le Petit Vingtième between June 1930 and July 1931, it was first published in book form later that year. Hergé would later redraw and colour the work for a new edition in 1946, and then made alterations to one of the pages for republication in 1975. The story was designed to encourage children to learn more about what the Abbé Norbert Wallez (editor of Le Vingtième Siècle, in which Le Petit Vingtième appeared) felt were the positive aspects of the Belgian occupation of the Congo.

The plot revolves around the young reporter Tintin and his dog Snowy, who travel to the Belgian Congo to report on the situation of the country there. Once in the central African nation, the duo get into various adventures, encountering wild animals, angry natives, and American diamond smugglers in the employ of Al Capone.

Following on from the success of Tintin in the Land of the Soviets (1929–30), Tintin in the Congo also proved popular with the Belgian public, allowing Hergé to continue the series with a third installment, Tintin in America (1931–32). In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, however, the book came under criticism for its racist portrayal of the Congolese people. It has also been criticised for its portrayal of big game hunting and the mass slaughter of African wildlife. Hergé himself was embarrassed by the work because of these elements, for which he expressed regret in later life, referring to the book as an error of his youth. It is because of its controversial nature that its publication in English was delayed until 1991.

Belgian reporter Tintin and his faithful dog Snowy travel to the Congo, where the pair are greeted by a cheering crowd of natives. Hiring a native boy, Coco, to assist him in his travels, Tintin has to rescue Snowy from being eaten by a crocodile prior to recognising a stowaway who had been aboard the ship that had brought them to the continent. The stowaway attempts to kill Tintin, who is saved by monkeys throwing coconuts down from a tree, knocking the villain unconscious. He then finds that Snowy has been kidnapped by a monkey, and rescues him.

The next morning, Tintin, Snowy, and Coco crash their car into a train, which the reporter subsequently fixes and then tows to the Babaorum’s village, where he is greeted by the king and accompanies him on a hunt the next day. During this, Tintin is knocked unconscious by a lion, but is rescued by Snowy, who bites the carnivore’s tail off. Tintin gains the admiration of the natives, making the Babaorum witch-doctor Muganga jealous; with the help of the stowaway, he plots to accuse Tintin of destroying the tribe’s sacred idol. Imprisoned by the villagers, Tintin is rescued by Coco and then shows them footage of Muganga conspiring with the stowaway to destroy the idol, something which incenses them. Tintin goes on to become a hero in the village, with one local woman bowing down to him and stating “White man very great! Has good spirits… White mister is big juju man!”

Angered, Muganga starts a war between the Babaorum and their neighbours, the M’Hatuvu, whose king leads the attack on the Babaorum village. Tintin outwits them and the M’Hatuvu people subsequently cease hostilities and come to idolise Tintin too. Muganga and the stowaway then plot to kill Tintin by making it look like a leopard kill, but again Tintin survives, even saving Muganga from being killed by a boa constrictor, for which Muganga pleads mercy and ends his hostilities. The stowaway attempts to capture Tintin again, eventually succeeding disguised as a Catholic missionary. In the ensuing fight across a waterfall, the stowaway is eaten by crocodiles. After reading a letter that the stowaway had in his pocket, Tintin finds that a figure known only as A.C. has ordered that he be killed. Capturing a criminal who was trying to rendezvous with the now dead stowaway, Tintin learns that it is the American gangster Al Capone who has ordered his death. Capone had “decided to increase his fortune by controlling diamond production in Africa”, and feared that Tintin might be onto his plans. With the aid of the colonial police, Tintin arrests the rest of the diamond smuggling gang.

Tintin In The Land of The Soviets

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Tintin in the Land of the Soviets (in the original French, Les Aventures de Tintin, reporter du “Petit Vingtième”, au pays des Soviets) is the first title in the comic book series The Adventures of Tintin, written and drawn by Belgian cartoonist Hergé (1907-1983). Originally serialised in the Belgian children’s newspaper supplement Le Petit Vingtième between 10 January 1929 and 8 May 1930, it was subsequently published in book form in 1930. Designed to be a work of anti-Marxist and anti-socialist propaganda for children, it was commissioned by Hergé’s boss, the Abbé Norbert Wallez, who ran the right wing Roman Catholic weekly Le XXe Siècle in which Le Petit Vingtième was published.

The plot revolves around the young Belgian reporter Tintin and his dog Snowy, who travel, via Berlin, to the Soviet Union, to report back on the policies instituted by the state socialist government of Joseph Stalin and the Bolsheviks. However, an agent of the Soviet secret service, the OGPU, attempts to prevent Tintin from doing so, and sets traps to get rid of him. Despite this, the young reporter is successful in discovering that the Bolsheviks are stealing the food of the Soviet people, rigging elections and murdering opponents.

The success of the work led to Hergé producing further Adventures of Tintin, starting with the controversial Tintin in the Congo (1930–31), as well as beginning a new comic series, entitled Quick and Flupke. Tintin in the Land of the Soviets was the only one of the 23 completed Tintin adventures that Hergé did not subsequently redraw in a colour edition. He himself thought little of the work, claiming that when he produced it, “I didn’t consider it real work… just a game”, and later categorising it as simply “a transgression of my youth.” Due to this, he prevented its republication, but with the rising production of pirated editions being sold amongst Tintinologists, he finally allowed for an official reprint in 1973, and then an English language translation in 1989. It is one of only three Adventures of Tintin – the others being Tintin in the Congo and the unfinished Tintin and Alph-Art—that have not been used as a basis for any theatrical, radio, television or cinematic adaptations.

Tintin, a reporter for Le Petit Vingtième, and his dog Snowy are sent on an assignment to the Soviet Union. Departing from Brussels, his train is blown up en route to Moscow by an agent of the Soviet secret police, the OGPU, who believes him to be a “dirty little bourgeois”. Tintin is blamed for the bombing by the Berlin police but escapes to the border of the Soviet Union. Here he is brought before the local Commissar’s office, where the same OGPU agent that tried to kill Tintin on the train secretly instructs the Commissar that they must make the reporter “disappear… accidentally”. After escaping again, Tintin finds “how the Soviets fool the poor idiots who still believe in a Red Paradise”, by burning bundles of straw and clanging metal in order to trick visiting English Marxists into believing that Soviet factories are productive, when in fact they are not even operational.

Tintin goes on to witness a local election, where the Bolsheviks aim their guns at the voters to ensure their own electoral success. Several Bolsheviks then come to arrest him during the night, but he manages to scare them off by dressing up as a ghost. Attempting to make his way out of the Soviet Union, he is pursued and arrested, before being threatened with torture. Escaping his captors, he reaches Moscow, which Tintin remarks has been turned into “a stinking slum” by the Bolsheviks; he then witnesses a government official handing out bread to those homeless children who adhere to the Marxist ideology and denying it to those who do not. Snowy steals a loaf and gives it to a boy who was refused it. Then sneaking into a secret Bolshevik meeting, Tintin learns that all the Soviet grain is being exported abroad for propaganda purposes, leaving the people starving, and that the government plan to “organise an expedition against the kulaks, the rich peasants, and force them at gunpoint to give us their corn.”

Tintin infiltrates the Soviet army and warns some of the kulaks to hide their grain from the army officials, but is caught and sentenced to death by firing squad. By planting blanks in the soldiers’ rifles, Tintin fakes his death and is able to make his way into the snowy wilderness, where he discovers an underground Bolshevik hideaway in a haunted house. Here he is captured by a Bolshevik who informs him that “You’re in the hideout where Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin have collected together wealth stolen from the people!” With the help of Snowy, Tintin escapes, commandeers a plane, and flies into the night. The plane crashes, but Tintin fashions himself a new propeller from a tree using a pen knife, and continues to Berlin, where he gets drunk and passes out. Captured by OGPU agents yet again, he is locked in a dungeon, but escapes with the aid of Snowy, who has dressed himself in a tiger costume. Another attempt to kidnap him is foiled when he manages to capture his assailant, an OGPU agent who “intends to blow up all the capitals of Europe with dynamite”. Finally, Tintin arrives back in Brussels to a huge popular reception.