By 1969, Peyo’s Smurfs had been met with massive success. This was unexpected, as they were originally only supposed to be secondary characters in a larger universe.
For Peyo, it ended up being a mixed-blessing. While he was pleased to see them gain such acceptance, he had planned to focus on his Johan et Pirlouit series.
When this particular volume was published, the fifth in the Smurfs series, work on Johan et Pirlouit had almost halted: he hadn’t released one in 5 years and would only manage to squeeze out a final one in 1970 before his death in 1982. He would be swamped with Smurfs-related works for the rest of his life.
While, for reasons unknown, this book skips episodes 15 and 16 (the latter would be reprinted two volumes later), it features what were then the two latest Smurfs adventures:
1. Les Schtroumpfs et le Cracoucass (Smurfs episode #17)
This is a childhood favourite of mine, and probably one of the earliest Smurf stories that I’ve read (and so much so that it’s the most familiar of the bunch).
There is real danger in this one and it’s all due to the irresponsibility of a couple of Smurfs. Again, like in previous episodes, not only does it offer some good lessons in a subtle way, but it serves up a great tale as well.
Furthermore, Peyo manages to draw empathy to the antagonist because he showed us that the creature didn’t know any better and was a product of something greater than itself.
My biggest memory of this book is the Cracoucass finding itself beaten and, pitifully, without feathers. It was sad to see it take a licking like it did; the Smurfs had to beat it to survive, but it really wasn’t its fault.
Post scriptum: I did not know until recently that the Cracoucass was created by Gos, not Peyo. It would explain why it feels so alien in the Smurfs’ world – it really wasn’t created with the same artistic vision. Ultimately, it works – but the discrepancy makes sense to me now.
2. Un Schtroumpf pas comme les autres (Smurfs episode #18)
This one is a fairly insubstantial short that could -and probably should- have been fleshed out into a fuller adventure.
It’s about a daydreaming Smurf who thinks that he would be happier away from the village, on his own, exploring the world. He soon finds out otherwise, and the Smurfs have to come to his rescue.
Whether Peyo’s message is “there’s no place like home” or if it has a xenophobic and/or isolationist quality to it is unclear, but it certainly doesn’t suggest that exploring the world is worthy of consideration.
I would be curious to know what was in Peyo’s mind when he wrote this one.
Even though they all have (or, at least, develop) their own personalities, the Smurfs are mostly a vehicle for exploring the vast palette of human behaviour. In truth, the Smurfs are essentially a vision of the best that can be found in humanity – no matter what happens, their true nature comes to the fore. They have the best intentions, try to the best of their individual abilities to do right and manage to coexist peaceably.