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Peyo - Creator Of The Smurfs

Pierre Culliford

Born in Brussels, 1928, of an English father and a Belgian mother, Pierre Culliford, alias PEYO, studied at the city's Fine Arts Academy. He found success as one of a generation of stripcartoon artists who followed in Hergé's footsteps.
Peyo, a sobriquet acquired because an English cousin could not pronounce his nickname, Pierrot, began his career in 1947 with a medieval page-boy character called Johan. The boy's adventures were serialized in the Belgian dailies, La Dernierè Heure, in 1947, and in the youth columns of Le Soir, in 1951 and in 1952. Johan was soon joined by a companion, Pirlouit, and the Smurfs were born as extras in one of their stories.
The blue dwarfs were discovered living in a mushroom-house village deep in the forest. Their special way of talking, replacing key words by SMURF, became the deligth of Belgian children who, to their parents' consternation, would imitate it.
By 1959, the Smurfs became Peyo's central characters. They are known in Dutch as Smurfen, as Schlumpf in Germany, Schtroumpf in France, Pitufos in Spain, Smols in Danish, Puffi in Italy, Smurfies in Afrikaans, Strumps in Serbo-Croat, Cumafu in Japanese, Lang shin ling in Chinese and Dardassim in Hebrew. Peyo's Smurfs have appeared in a total of 25 languages.
The Smurfs became so popular that after appearing in nine 13 mm films, in 1975 they starred in the feature-length La Flute à Six Schtroumpfs. Peyo then introduced the wise old Papa Smurf and the coquettish Smurfette, who remained long the only woman in the dwarfs' adventures.
In 1991, a Smurf theme park opened near Metz, France. The venture was not a succes, closed, and was then reopened again, under the new management of Walibi. But Smurfs still pop up all over the place. Cuddly toys, Saturday morning cartoons on American television, memorabilia of all sorts. Even the Manneken Pis has a Smurf outfit. Fellow cartoonist Morris paid tribute to Peyo's success: "I think he owes his popularity to his enormous talent as story-teller and to the extreme clarity of his drawings."
Peyo's 16th and last album Le Schtroumpf Financier was published just a month ago by Editions Lombard, and is already selling like hotcakes. Not bad for someone who was told by his schoolteacher that he had no future as an artist.

This story was written by Rosamund Green, printed in Newsline Magazine on
December 24th, 1992 (just after the death of PEYO).


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