Sure, everybody la-la-la-la-la-loves the Smurfs, but how well do you really smurf the Smurfs? You can talk the talk (or, “smurf the smurf“), but how well do you walk the walk (or, “smurf the smurf“)? Created by the Belgian cartoonist Peyo (aka Pierre Culliford), the Smurfs first appeared in a 1958 issue of his Johan and Peewit comics series. “Les schtroumpfs,” as they’re called in the original French comics, quickly became more popular than the human title characters and began starring in their own standalone books and cartoons in the early 1960s.
After two feature-length adventures in the “real world” with its lucrative abundance of conspicuously placed products and adult-oriented humor and pop culture references, Sony Pictures’ upcoming Smurfs: The Lost Village, is a fully animated franchise reboot starring that promises a return to roots. The most iconic version of Smurf Village, however, is and may always remain the Hanna-Barbera animated series. While many fans consider that iteration canon, the original blue man group has appeared in a wide variety of comics, films, TV series, and ads in the past 50-plus decades, so even hardcore fans might’ve missed a thing or two.
If you want to feel more Brainy, bone up on these 15 Things You Never Knew About The Smurfs.
15. They (Probably) Aren’t Communists
Okay, so Smurf Village is an egalitarian and classless society where laborers are often identified by their societal functions (Farmer Smurf, Handy Smurf, etc.). Necessities, services, and material goods seem to be distributed “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” And the Smurfs’ constant rejection of Brainy Smurf might echo the anti-intellectualist bent of the Soviet Union under Stalin, specifically the infamous ousting of the bespectacled Leon Trotsky. And Papa Smurf, dressed all in red, no less, looks kinda like Karl Marx with his bushy white beard — but he also looks a lot like Santa Claus.
Some have called Smurf Village “a Marxist Utopia … in the form of an allegorical fairy tale,” and others have accused them of glorifying racism, totalitarianism, anti-Semitism, and straight-up peddling USSR-approved propaganda as the “Socialist Men Under Red Father.” Creator Peyo’s son Thierry Culliford, meanwhile, has rejected this political analysis of his father’s work, calling such an interpretation “between the grotesque and the not serious.” On Wikipedia, the article “Smurf communism” inspired a heated debate, resulting in its deletion. It’s a hot button issue, folks.
14. “The Smurf Song” Was an International Number-One Hit
It’s catchy and features a “la-la-la” refrain, but “The Smurf Song,” originally composed by the Dutch musician Father Abraham in 1977, isn’t the cartoon theme familiar to modern audiences. Featuring a ripping solo from “Flute Smurf,” and a chorus of not un-Chipmunk-like voices explaining Smurf culture to the inquisitive Father Abraham, “The Smurf Song” was rerecorded in several languages. It topped the charts in 16 countries, and it inspired a creepy exercise in blue body paint and forced perspective on BBC’s Top of the Pops.
According to the song, Smurfs are the right size to “crawl through a water tap” and “climb through a small keyhole,” and the album Father Abraham in Smurfland contains even more information on the Smurf way of life in songs like “Smurfing Beer” (“you don’t get drunk and it isn’t dear“), “Do Smurfs Cry?”, and the swinging “In the Mood.” Considering the album sold at least half a million copies, parents across Europe and Asia are probably still trying to get some of this catchy Smurfery out of their heads.
13. Unhappiness Day
In addition to Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, and other human holidays, Smurfs observe several other occasions more specific to their culture. Spook-A-Smurf Eve and Rainbow Day are fairly self-explanatory, and Smurfdays are pretty much inevitable, but Unhappiness Day seems incredibly un-Smurf-like. Functioning as a sort of combination of Lent and reverse Thanksgiving, Unhappiness Day is set aside each year for Smurfs to spend 24 hours not doing the things they love the most so that they can appreciate them more the rest of the year.
What each Smurf has to give up for the day depends on that Smurf’s personality. Painter Smurf can’t paint, Hefty Smurf can’t heft stuff, etc. But the rules get more complicated for Smurfs named after abstract concepts instead of activities or functions. When Brainy Smurf catches the young Smurflings playing and having fun on the Unhappiest of Days and tells Papa Smurf, for example, Papa chastises Brainy as well. Clearly, Brainy takes great joy from being a little blue snitch. Papa, apparently, doesn’t ever have to give up telling everyone how to live.
12. Smurfette Isn’t the Only Lady
Smurfette, the first female Smurf to infiltrate Smurf Village’s blue boys’ club, really did infiltrate it. Created by the evil wizard Gargamel to sow discord and jealousy among the all-male Smurf village, Smurfette originally enters Smurf Village as a spy. Her use as a pint-sized Mata Hari is confounded, however, by the clumsiness of her initial schemes and the limited appeal she has to the Smurfs, possibly because of her original dark hair color. After the plans go wrong and Smurfette is almost killed in the process, she confesses to her un-Smurf-y origins. Rather than exile her from the Village, Papa Smurf gives her “plastic smurfery” and presumably a dye job, and the Smurfs accept her as one of their own.
While lady Smurfs remain exceedingly rare, Smurfette eventually gets a little sister Sassette — created by the Smurflings using a reduction of Gargamel’s formula. And Nanny Smurf, who returned to the Village after being imprisoned in a haunted castle for 500 years, was apparently the first Smurf to actually identify as female. The mermaid Marina captured Handy Smurf’s attention, though he almost drowned courting her in his homemade Smurfmarine, and The Smurfs 2 added the Naughty Vexy — another Gargamel creation made good — to the guest list at this tiny blue sausage party.
11. The Phrygian Cap
The floppy front-pointed hat you seldom catch a Smurf without (more on that later) is called a Phrygian cap, named for the ancient Asian nation now known as Turkey. It’s held a great deal of real-world significance for many actual human beings throughout world history. Emancipated slaves in ancient Rome wore the caps as a symbol of their newfound freedom. In Medieval Europe, the setting of Peyo’s original Johan and Peewit Smurf stories, the cap became a symbol for libertarians during the Enlightenment. American and French revolutionaries also adopted the cap, usually wearing red versions inscribed with political mottos.
Many flags, state seals, and other official symbols from revolutions in both North and South America prominently display the caps, but Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs took some of the historically symbolic heft out of the headwear by plopping Phrygian caps on the heads of Sleepy, Sneezy, Dopey, and the like. Though some Smurfs such as Farmer, Wild, and Greedy wear variations of the cap based on the personalities or professions, Smurf Village must be home to the most Phrygian caps per capita in the modern world.
10. Do “The Smurf”
“October 31st, that is my date of birth,” says Beastie Boy Adam ‘Ad-Rock’ on “The New Style,” from the 1986 hip-hop classic Licensed to Ill. “I got to the party, you know what I did? The Smurf!” Nas also referenced “the Smurf” in 2002’s “Made You Look,” in a line quoted by the Cool Kids on 2008’s “88”: “Do the Smurf … Baseball Bat/ Rooftop like I’m bringing ’88 back.” While the word “smurf” has myriad meanings in the Smurf language, these rappers are referring to a relatively simple hip-hop dance, popular in the 1980s and seen on TV music showcases from that time period like Don Cornelius’s iconic Soul Train.
A worthy nostalgia-inducing companion to the “Cabbage Patch,” the Smurf is listed among other illustrious dances Beastie Boy Mike D can do, like “the Popeye and the Jerry Lewis” on “Posse in Effect,” a song that also boasts that the Boys have “got more rhymes than Abe Vigoda,” which is probably at least as impressive as knowing how to do a dance named after a cartoon character.
9. An Average Smurf Is “3 Apples Tall” and 100-150 Years Old
Obviously, Baby Smurf, the young Smurflings and the wizened Papa, Nanny, and Grandpa Smurf deviate from the norm, but the majority of the inhabitants of Smurf Village fit almost exactly the same profile: Blue, (mostly) male, approximately the same height as three apples stacked on top of each other, and between 100 and 150 years old. Good thing the exceptionally low crime rate and lack of law enforcement agencies eliminate the need to put out an APB on anyone in particular. Hefty Smurf has that identifying bicep tattoo, of course, and as one of the village elders, Papa Smurf has that sweet beard he says started sprouting around the age 400. Grandpa Smurf claims to be 1000 years old, but there’s no Smurf alive who can verify this.
In the season six episode, “The Tallest Smurf,” the Smurflings are measured at 25 Smurfberries tall, which seems to indicate that the citizens of Smurf Village are as reluctant to convert to the metric system as Americans are.
8. “Smurfing” Might Get You Arrested
In typically crime-free Smurf Village, “smurfing” can take the place of virtually any active verb, from “running” to “floccinaucinihilipilificating” but in the real world, criminals caught “smurfing” are accomplices to either laundering money or manufacturing methamphetamine. As one might guess from context clues, “to Smurf” in both cases means to break up transactions that might attract unwanted legal attention into smaller exchanges. Money laundering “Smurfs” deposit amounts of ill-gotten money below the limit that would legally require the financial institution to report the transaction to the government, only to transfer the funds to a larger account later via some legitimate-looking transaction.
Since the U.S. government began tracking the sale of over-the-counter cold medications containing pseudoephedrine, which are used to manufacture illegal drugs, many dealers have relied on “Smurfs” to buy the medications in smaller quantities from a number of sources to avoid attracting suspicion. This practice can lead to headlines like “8 Arrested for Smurfing for Meth.” The actual Smurfs — who teamed up with characters from DuckTales, Looney Tunes, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to discourage kids from smoking crack in 1990’s Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue — would presumably be appalled. Talk about floccinaucinihilipilification.
7. Official World Records (Plural) For Dressing Like Them
On June 25, 2011 — the date Sony Pictures dubbed “Global Smurfs Day” — 4,891 people in 11 countries set an Official Guinness World Record for “Most People Dressed as Smurfs within 24 Hours (Multiple Venues).” Hold on, you’re probably thinking, obviously there’s also gotta be an Official Guinness World Record for “Most People Dressed as Smurfs” in a single location, or this whole thing would be ludicrous. But don’t worry, because of course there is: 2,510 people, achieved on June 8, 2009, at Swansea University in the UK.
In order to officially count as being “dressed as a Smurf” under Guinness’ strict guidelines, participants had to have their faces, arms and legs painted blue. Strenuous regulation should be expected when a venerable publication like the Guinness Book of World Records is considering whether an achievement can be included with feats such as Charles Lindburgh’s solo Transatlantic flight, Neil Armstrong’s moon walk, or Takeru Kobayashi eating six hotdogs in three minutes.
6. Smurfs Without Hats
Smurfs are rarely seen without their hats on, and the most likely reason for this is the same as it is for many humans who seem to have a thing for haberdashery: they’re (mostly) bald underneath. Papa Smurf, with his big, bushy, four-centuries-old beard has a formidable set of sideburns leading up to his hat, but nothing up top, and the long white tufts protruding out of the back of Grandpa Smurf’s hat suggest that he has, in his 1,000 years, managed to develop (at the very least) horseshoe-shaped male-pattern baldness. Maybe there’s a sweet spot around year 200 when male Smurfs boast a healthy head of hair, but we haven’t seen it if so.
The female Smurfs seem to have fared better in the hair department, but asking a lady if she’s wearing a wig is probably no more popular with Smurfs than with humans. If you’re curious about what Smurfs look like without their trademark pullover pants, you’ll have to do that Google image search for yourself, weirdo.
5. Where Baby Smurfs Come From
The extremely lopsided ratio of male to female Smurfs might make you wonder where little Smurflings come from, but as Jeff Goldblum’s Dr. Ian Malcolm says in Jurassic Park: “Life, uh, finds a way.” While the all-female dinosaur population at that infamous attraction managed to procreate by developing male reproductive characteristics, the dudes of Smurf Village get their babies delivered to them once in a blue moon, literally, by a stork. Though this process should theoretically cut down on the awkward conversations about reproduction, only Papa Smurf seems to actually know where Baby Smurf came from when he arrives as a package from a courier stork in the premiere episode of season three of the Hanna-Barbera series. After a requisite amount of hijinks, the Smurfs accept him as part of the family.
Gargamel, looking to exploit the Smurfs’ nurturing nature, attempted to disguise himself as a baby Smurf in a previous episode, but his evil nature caused the Smurfs’ efforts to care for him to backfire, with explosive results.
4. The Cost of Living in Smurf Village
Many of the news stories about a $100 million class-action lawsuit filed by angry parents against Apple reported that an 8-year-old child spent $1,400 of her parents’ money on virtual Smurfberries via unauthorized purchases in the iTunes store. The berries are used as currency in the iPhone app Smurfs’ Village, a “freemium app” users could download without cost, but that charges real money for add-ons and special features. “I thought the app preyed on children,” the girl’s mother told The Washington Post in 2011. “Note that the Smurf app states it is for ages 4-plus.”
In settling the lawsuit, Apple agreed to refund money spent by unauthorized minors on their parents’ accounts and amped up security features for the iTunes store to prevent similar issues in the future. The Smurfs themselves resoundingly rejected a formal currency system in the comic “The Finance Smurf,” but building one of their mushroom houses can cost a person plenty of cold hard cash.
3. Zombie Smurfs
A 1959 issue of the Franco Belgian magazine Sprirou published a Smurfs comic titled “Les Schtroumpfs Noirs” (“The Black Smurfs”), in which a black fly bites a Smurf in the woods, infecting him with a sickness that drives him to hunt down his fellow Smurfs and bite them in order to spread the disease. The infected soon outnumber the healthy Smurfs and begin picking them off while they desperately search for an antidote, which requires them to capture the infected to perform medical tests. If that plot sounds familiar, it’s because, with a few details changed, it could describe virtually every zombie film or TV series since George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead was released in 1968 — nine years after the Smurf comic hit the shelves.
Fortunately, the Smurf version of the dreaded zombie apocalypse — adapted as “The Purple Smurfs” in season one of the 1980s animated series — never gets nearly as violent or bleak as 28 Days Later or The Walking Dead. For violent a bleak, keep reading.
2. Smurf cereal made for some interesting bowel movements
The Apple lawsuit isn’t the first time Smurfberries have caused problems for kids and their parents. In 1983, Post Cereal introduced Smurf Berry Crunch, the “Smurfy fruity breakfast treat” that, according to the commercial jingle, is “berry shaped and crispy too, in berry red and Smurfy blue.” An unadvertised side effect of the “Smurfy blue” dye used in the product was that it maintained its color throughout the digestive process, causing a Smurfy variation of the effect Pediatrics magazine originally diagnosed as “the Franken Berry stool” in a report published in 1972. The red dye used in the initial recipe for Franken Berry couldn’t be broken down or absorbed by the human body, resulting in panicked parents rushing their children to the hospital because, to quote Smithsonian magazine, their “kids were pooping pink.”
While the pink hue inspired extra concern (and a fake George Carlin routine written by Stephen King for his novel Cujo) because parents thought their children might be suffering from internal bleeding, blue poop is just really weird. Post took Smurf Berry Crunch off the market and replaced it with Smurf Magic Berries cereal, orange and red but no blue, in 1987.
1. The Bombing of Smurf Village
A recent review of Smurfs: The Lost Village says the movie depicts Smurfette in a state of “existential crisis” in “what may be the most adult plotline in Smurf history,” but it probably doesn’t take into account an advertisement the United Nations Children’s Fund ran on Belgian television in 2005. Released as part of a campaign to raise money for the rehabilitation of child soldiers in Burndi, the ad graphically depicted the Smurf Village being bombed in an air raid to convey a “message about the terrible price that children pay in conflicts.” “Don’t let war affect the lives of children,” the ad concludes. According to UNICEF’s website, “300,000 children are being used as child soldiers in more than 30 conflicts around the world” and, “Nearly half of the 3.6 million people killed in conflicts since 1990 are children.”
An intentionally less disturbing UNICEF ad campaign, “Small Smurfs Big Goals” was launched this year to encourage “young people and their families to do their part to end poverty, reduce inequality, and protect our planet.” Anything to keep them from carpet-bombing our childhood.
Do you Smurf any Smurfier Smurf facts? Let us know in the comments!
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