Remember the Smurfs? Those little tiny blue people who lived in mushroom houses, randomly said “smurf” in place of any word and pretty much all looked the same? If I think back far enough, I know there was a time when I simply enjoyed the cartoons and didn’t worry about things like the fact that there’s Papa Smurf, and Smurfette seems to be the only female in the entire community. I actually had a little picture book called The Purple Smurf, based on an episode of the cartoon, and I remember seeing “The Smurfs and the Magic Flute” movie in the theater as a kid.
I think it’s fitting that my daughters’ first encounter with the Smurfs was The Purple Smurfs, a new translation of the original comic book. The Smurfs actually first appeared as comics by Peyo in the late 1950s, then became a movie in 1976, and then a cartoon series in 1981. (The movie didn’t hit theaters in the U.S. until 1983.) Papercutz now has three of the original comics which started the whole thing, finally translated into English. It’s a little odd that it’s taken so long, but with the upcoming movie it seems the Smurfs are enjoying a revival.
The first book, The Purple Smurfs, features a fly which bites the tail of Lazy Smurf, turning him purple. From then on, he only says “Gnap!” and has a tendency to hop around and bite other Smurfs on the tail, turning them purple as well. From then on it’s a race for Papa Smurf to find a cure before all the Smurfs are turned purple. I didn’t remember how it all turned out, but it was a pretty fun story. An interesting piece of trivia is that Purple Smurfs were originally black instead of purple, but the color was changed when it was brought to the U.S. The first book also includes two other short stories, “The Flying Smurf” (about a Smurf who really wants to learn to fly) and “The Smurf and His Neighbors,” about a Smurf who wants to get away from his noisy neighbors.
The second book, The Smurfs and the Magic Flute, is the story which the movie was based on, and it’s actually the original story which first introduced the Smurfs to the world. This story starts off more human-centric, with a boy named Peewit in the king’s castle. He discovers a magic flute which forces listeners to dance until they’re exhausted, but then a thief steals it and uses it to wreak havoc on villages throughout the kingdom. It turns out that the magic flutes are made by the Smurfs, so Peewit and his friend Johan end up meeting the Smurfs to help recapture the stolen flute. It’s a lengthy story—it takes up the entire book—but the Smurfs aren’t really the central characters in it. You don’t even really see them (except for small glimpses) until about two-thirds of the way into the book.
The third book, The Smurf King, isn’t available until the end of November but it can be pre-ordered.
My six-year-old really enjoyed the comics, though she preferred The Purple Smurf (not surprisingly) because it featured more Smurfs. Here’s what she had to say about Smurfs: “They’re very small, they live in mushroom houses, and they speak Smurf. I don’t speak smurf but I understand what they’re saying because the sentences are complete.”
There’s a lot of humor in the books, ranging from slapstick to more sophisticated jokes, so there are things that younger readers may not understand. However, they’ll probably still enjoy the stories, and if (like my own kids) they haven’t seen any of the cartoons then it will be a totally new world for them to explore.
Each of the Smurfs books is $5.99 in paperback and $10.99 in hardcover.
Disclosure: I received copies of the first two books for review purposes.