The Smurfs (French: Les Schtroumpfs) is a comic and television franchise centered on a fictional group of small blue creatures called Smurfs, created by and first introduced as a series of illustrated comic strips by the Belgian cartoonist Pierre Culliford (also known as Peyo) on October 23, 1958. Culliford's initial comic first appeared in the Belgian magazine Spirou, and several decades later was adapted into an English language children's television series by Hanna-Barbera Productions, entitled The Smurfs. [1]


The original term schtroumpf and the accompanying language came during a meal Peyo was having with his colleague and friend André Franquin in which, having momentarily forgotten the word "salt" Peyo asked him (in French) to pass the schtroumpf. Franquin 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.[2] The name was later translated as Smurf into Dutch, which was adopted in English.

Johan et Pirlouit

At the time, Peyo was the creator, artist and writer of the Franco-Belgian comics series entitled 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 Peewit (Pirlouit, pronounced Peer-loo-ee) functions as his faithful, if boastful and cheating, midget sidekick.

In 1958, Spirou magazine started to publish the Johan and Pirlouit story La Flûte à six trous ("The Flute with Six Holes").[3] The adventure involved them recovering a magic flute, which required some sorcery by the wizard Omnibus. 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 appearance was published in Spirou on October 23, 1958.[4] 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).

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.

Smurf universe

The Smurfs

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, very short (as tall as 3 apples high)[5]), 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 Smilax).

The male Smurfs almost never appear without their hats, which leaves a mystery among the fans as to whether they have hair. The animated series canon state that they may be bald: one episode of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon has Greedy Smurf removing his chef's hat to give Papa Smurf a pie he had concealed under it, revealing a bald head. Another episode, St. Smurf and the Dragon, shows Hefty Smurf's hat rising up off his bald head briefly as he and others slide to a stop. In "Spelunking Smurfs" Clumsy falls down a hole, his hat flying off revealing a bald head. Both Papa Smurf and Grandpa Smurf have full beards and hair visibly coming from under their hats above the earline. In The Smurfs and the Magic Flute, a Smurf took off his hat briefly for a polite gesture.

In the comics, the last page of the first album Les Schtroumpfs noirs (The Black Smurfs) shows Papa Smurf's hat blown off by an explosion, revealing his completely bald head (baldness that may simply be due to old age). In Le Schtroumpfeur de Bijoux (The Jewel Smurfer), Jokey Smurf gets very angry and defensive when a human tells him he should take off his hat.

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. Smurfette is not one of the original smurfs because she was created by Gargamel, the evil wizard.

Smurfs and political controversy

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. This has led to the Smurfs being labeled[6], associated[7] or praised as communists[8][9]. On the other hand Peyo's son, Thierry Culliford, has stated in an interview that his father "wasn't interested in politics at all."[10]

Smurf language

A characteristic of the Smurf language is the frequent use of the word "smurf" and its derivatives in a variety of meanings. The Smurfs replace enough nouns and verbs in everyday speech with "smurf" as to make their conversations barely understandable: "We're going smurfing on the River Smurf today."

When used as a verb, the word "Smurf" typically means "to make," "to be," "to laugh," or "to do."

It was implied a number of times that Smurfs still understand each other due to subtle variations in intonation. 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."[11]

So that the viewer of the animated series is able to understand the Smurfs, 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.[12]

Smurf village

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.[13] The Smurf themselves use storks in order to travel long-distances, such as the kingdom where Johan and Peewit live and keep up-to-date with events in the outside world.[14]

In the Johan and Peewit 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.

Smurfs characters

Papa Smurf is the leader of the community. Other smurfs 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, Doctor Smurf.


The Smurfs was named the 97th best animated series by IGN. They called it "kiddie cocaine" for people growing up during the Eighties.[15]

The 50th anniversary of The Smurfs and the 80th anniversary of the birth of its creator Peyo, were celebrated by issuing a high-value collectors' coin: the Belgian 5 euro 50th anniversary of The Smurfs commemorative coin, minted in 2008.

Smurf comics

Main article: The Smurfs (comics)
Since the first appearance of the Smurfs in Johan and Peewit in 1958, 26 Smurf comics have been created, 16 of them by Peyo. 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 and German. A number of short stories and one page gags have been collected in comic books next to the regular series of 26.

Other media


File:Smurf balloon Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade 2009.JPG
Benco Instant Choco Drink is a popular Dutch chocolate drink. In the 1970s and 80s the company's mascot was a Benco jar with face, hands and feet. A series of ads for Benco were published in comics in Europe with Benco living with the Smurfs and using his chocolate drink in order to sort out their problems: like getting Brainy Smurf to stop lecturing the other Smurfs; awakening Lazy Smurf from a deep sleep; or a reward for hard work. A whole adventure published over several weeks had Benco and the Smurfs having to face one of Gargamel's evil plots. These stories were published in Spirou (the Smurfs' comic of origin) and rival publications like Le Journal de Mickey (based on Walt Disney's world of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck).[16]

BP used them in a series of ads in the 1980s.

A Smurf balloon/float continues to be presented in holiday parades such as Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.[17]

Motion pictures

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.[18] In total, ten animated shorts were created between 1961 and 1967, the first series in black and white and the later ones in colour.

However, in 1976, La Flûte à six schtroumpfs (an adaptation of the original "Johan and Peewit" story) was released. Michel Legrand provided the musical score to the film. The film would in 1983 be released in the United States (after the animated series became popular there) in an English language dubbed version, produced by Stuart R. Ross in association with First Performance Pictures Corp, and titled The Smurfs and the Magic Flute. The film was distributed theatrically in North America by Atlantic Releasing Corp., on VHS by Vestron and syndicated on television by Tribune Entertainment. A few more full-length smurf movies were made, most notably The Baby Smurf and Here are the Smurfs,[19] created from episodes of the Hanna-Barbera TV cartoon series.

Sony Pictures has announced plans to begin a trilogy of live-action/computer-generated Smurf films, the first to be released in 2011. The project had been in various stages of development since 2003.[20] In June 2008, it was announced that Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animation have acquired film rights from Lafig Belgium. Current plans have Jordan Kerner producing with Shrek 2 and Shrek the Third screenwriters J. David Stem and David N. Weiss in negotiations to write.[21][22]. The film is due to star Jonathan Winters as Papa Smurf, Katy Perry as Smurfette, George Lopez as Grouchy Smurf, Kevin James as Hefty Smurf and Alan Cumming as Gutsy Smurf. It was suggested that Quentin Tarantino would play Brainy Smurf, but this "didn't work out".[23]

Hanna-Barbera series

Main article: The Smurfs (1981 TV series)
The Smurfs secured their place in North American pop culture in 1981, when the Saturday-morning cartoon The Smurfs, produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions in association with SEPP International S.A., aired on NBC from 1981 to 1989. The show became a major success for NBC, spawning spin-off television specials on an almost yearly basis. The Smurfs was nominated multiple times for Daytime Emmy awards, and won Outstanding Children's Entertainment Series in 1982–1983.[20] The Smurfs television show enjoyed continued success until 1989, when, after nearly a decade of success, NBC cancelled it due to decreasing ratings and plans to extend their Today morning show franchise to create a Saturday edition (although it didn't do that until some time later).

In the TV series many classical masterpieces are used as background music during the episodes, among them Schubert's Unfinished Symphony (Symphony No. 8 in B minor), Grieg's Peer Gynt and Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition.[24]

DVD releases

On February 26, 2008 Warner Bros. released Season 1 Volume 1 on DVD. It contained the first 19 episodes. On October 7, 2008 Warner Bros. released Season 1 Volume 2 on DVD. It contained 20 episodes from season 1. Though Warner Bros. has decided to discontinue the season sets and release single disc volume sets instead, they are reportedly still following its correct order of episodes.

Magna Home Entertainment in Australia has released a 9 disk 50th Anniversary Collection. It contained a total of 52 episodes. In September 2009, a Smurfette Themed Collection containing 25 episodes will be available.

Arrow Films and Fabulous Films are releasing in the UK in Summer 2010 a 4 disc boxed collectors set containing the entire first series. This will be followed with a similar set containing the entire second series


Main article: The Smurfs (merchandising)
File:Halloween Smurfs by Schleich.jpg

From 1959 on until the end of the 1960s, Dupuis produced Smurf figurines. But the best known and most widely available Smurf figurines are those made by Schleich, a German toy company. Most of the Smurf figurines given away as promotional material (e.g. by BP in the 1970s and McDonald's in the 1990s) are made by Schleich as well.

New Smurf figures continue to appear: in fact, only in two years since 1969 (1991 and 1998) have no new smurfs entered the market. Schleich currently produces 8 new figurines a year. Over 300 million of them have been sold so far.[20]


There has been much debate over the actual size of a smurf. Animated references to their size are arguably fanciful - often referring to them as being "three apples high". Realists who compare their size to their "mushroom" homes surrounded by towering blades of grass, choose to reference the smurfs to these indicators, believing that smurfs are between 2-5 cms. Alternatively there is a school that references the size of smurfs to their hunter, Gargamel and his cat Azrael. Disciples of this school consider smurfs to be at least 30 cms tall. In summation it seems that the creators gave little thought to the believability of their size and more thought to the artistic interpretation of the cartoon.

Music recordings

Main article: The Smurfs (music)
Over the decades, many singles and albums of Smurf music have been released in different countries and languages, sometimes very successfully, with millions of copies sold. The best known is the single The Smurf Song and its accompanying album, created by Dutch musician Pierre Kartner who sings under the alias Father Abraham, which reached the #1 position in 16 countries. Worldwide, more than 10 million CDs with Smurf music have been sold between 2005 and 2007 alone.[20]

Smurfs On Ice

For several years, the Smurfs were the children's act in the Ice Capades travelling ice show; for many years after they were retired from that function, the smurf suits from the show were issued to Ice Capades Chalets, the show's subsidiary chain of ice rinks, lasting until the show was sold to a group of investors led by Dorothy Hamill, and the Chalets were sold to Recreation World. The Smurfette suit in particular had a somewhat different hairstyle from what was portrayed in the Hanna-Barbera cartoons.

Smurfs in theme parks

Main article: The Smurfs (merchandising)
Around 1984, the Smurfs began appearing in North American theme parks owned by Kings Entertainment Corporation. Each park featured a Smurfy attraction and Smurf walk-around figures.

Video games

The Smurfs have appeared in video games made for most major game consoles (including Nintendo's NES, Super NES, and Game Boy systems; Atari, ColecoVision, Sega's Game Gear, Master System, Mega Drive and Mega CD systems; and the original Sony PlayStation) and for the PC.

Game titles


Main article: The Smurfs (merchandising)
In 2005, an advertisement featuring The Smurfs was aired in Belgium in which the Smurf village is annihilated by warplanes.[25] Designed as a UNICEF advertisement, and with the approval of the family of the Smurfs' late creator Peyo, the 25-second episode was shown on the national evening news after the 9pm timeslot to avoid children seeing it. It was the keystone in a fund-raising campaign by UNICEF's Belgian arm to raise money for the rehabilitation of former child soldiers in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo—both former Belgian colonies.

In honor of their 50th anniversary in 2008, the Smurfs began a year long tour in connection with UNICEF. The Smurfs have made appearances in various countries on the day of their 50th "Smurfday," in the form of publicly-distributed white figurines which recipients can decorate and submit to a competition. The results of this contest are to be auctioned off in order to raise funds for UNICEF.[26]


Both the comics and cartoons have been translated in many languages. In most cases, the French-sounding original name "Schtroumpf" is replaced by a new term. The most common are variations on the original Dutch "Smurfen," popularized by the original name of the cartoon series, Smurfs. Many other names are indicative of the gnome-like appearance of the Smurfs.

See also


  1. They're Smurf a fortune BBC web site
  2. "Franquin's official Web site". Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  3. BDoubliées. "Spirou année 1958" (in French). 
  4. "Smurfs preparing big 50th birthday celebrations". AFP. China Post. 2008-01-16. Retrieved 2008-10-20. 
  5. calgarysun. "The Calgary Sun". Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  7. Meiser, Mary Jordan (1995). Good writing!. Allyn and Bacon. pp. 387. ISBN 9780023801556. 
  8. Chung, Ah-young (9 May 2008). "Smurfs: Metaphor for Socialism?". Korea Times (Korea). Retrieved 2009-11-17. 
  9. Schmidt, J. Marc (1998). "Socio-Political Themes in The Smurfs". Retrieved 2009-11-17. 
  10. "On The Media". On The Media. 2008-02-29. Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  11. Le Sortilège de Maltrochu (French for "Maltrochu's Spell"), written and drawn by Peyo, published in 1967
  12. "CBC News: Reports from abroad, Nov 2007". 2007-11-06. Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  13. La Flûte à six Schtroumpfs (published in 1958) and Le Pays maudit (published in 1961), both written and drawn by Peyo
  14. La Flûte à six Schtroumpfs (published in 1958), written and drawn by Peyo
  15. "97, The Smurfs". IGN. 2009-01-23. Retrieved 2009-01-23. 
  16. "Benco et les Schtroumpfs at". Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  17. 2008 Parade Lineup
  18. "Koninklijk Belgisch Filmarchief" (in Dutch). Koninklijk Belgisch Filmarchief. Retrieved 2008-01-16. 
  19. IMDb entry for The Baby Smurf, IMDb entry for Here are the Smurfs
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 Leo Cendrowicz (2008-01-15). "The Smurfs Are Off to Conquer the World - Again". Time.,8599,1703303,00.html. Retrieved 2008-01-15. 
  21. (2008-06-10). "The Smurfs coming to big screen". Jam! Showbiz: Movies. Retrieved 2008-06-10. 
  22. Steve Gorman (2008-06-11). "Smurfs head for big-screen at Columbia Pictures". Yahoo! News/Reuters.;_ylt=AopdLdZv3vRlFIJlsAOKOTME1vAI. Retrieved 2008-06-11. 
  23. Abramowitz, Rachel (29 March 2010). "Quentin Tarantino as Brainy Smurf? Think again". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 6 April 2010. 
  24. "The Smurfs (1981 TV series) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia". Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  25. "Latest News, Breaking News and Current News from the UK and World". Telegraph. Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  26. Happy Smurfday - HomeTemplate:Dead link

External links

*The Smurfs official site
*The Smurfs at the Internet Movie Database

*International Smurfs Translations Index
*Spiegel Online - Discussion on communism and gender imbalance of Smurfs
Template:The Smurfs Series