A Smurf is a small blue humanoid creature that wears a funny hat. "The Smurfs", an animated cartoon, describes the life and times of a small village of smurfs. "Small" being the operative word - their houses are generally made out of mushrooms.

Their social interaction is marked by the following odd behaviours: Each smurf has a task or trade, and is named after it. Thus the smurf in charge of food production is named Chef Smurf, the village handyman is Handy Smurf, and so on. The other name-rule is a primary attribute-based name. There is Clumsy Smurf, Lazy Smurf, and so on. There are also untold numbers of Generic Smurfs who just do whatever the hell it is that generic smurfs do.

A particularly notable feature of the Smurf language is that "smurf" is also a verb, and obvious permutations are adjectives, adverbs, or pretty much any grammatical entity. "Smurf the smurfy smurfoid smurfer into that smurfing smurfed-out smurfable" would appear to be a valid sentence, and be understandable by any random Smurf.

Other than the Smurfs, there are at least two main characters: Gargamel the evil wizard who likes eating smurfs, and his cat, Azrael, who likes the same.

It should be noted that before the smurfs became an animated cartoon they had their own comic, drawn by belgian illustrator Peyo. They made their first appearance in Johan and Peewit adventure in 1958.

Another interesting fact is that smurfs are described as "three apples high" while simultaneously living in mushrooms. Thus we can deduce that in Belgium, either the apples are very small, or the forests are fraught with humongous mushrooms.

SMOP = S = SNAFU principle

smurf /smerf/ n.

1. [from the soc.motss newsgroup on Usenet, after some obnoxiously gooey cartoon characters] A newsgroup regular with a habitual style that is irreverent, silly, and cute. Like many other hackish terms for people, this one may be praise or insult depending on who uses it. In general, being referred to as a smurf is probably not going to make your day unless you've previously adopted the label yourself in a spirit of irony. Compare old fart. 2. [techspeak] A ping packet with a forged source address sent to some other network's broadcast address. All the machines on the destination network will send a ping response to the forged source address (the victim). This both overloads the victim's network and hides the location of the attacker.

--The Jargon File version 4.3.1, ed. ESR, autonoded by rescdsk.

Smurf (?), v. t. [p. p. & vb Smurfed (?); p. pr. & vb. n. Smurfing.] [AS. smurf, smert, smyart, (and so originally meaning, to affect). Cf. Smurfy to be in a state of achieving (optimistic).]

1.

To affect through conscious action; to have knowledge of a task and cause it to come about; to act in effect of the predicate.

We need to smurf that rock over the hill. B. Smurf

2.

To arrange in a way that affects the position of the subject in relation to the accusative.

Quickly, smurf up behind Azrael while he's distracted. B. Smurf

3.

To fulfil existential fact.

I smurf, therefore I am. B. Smurf

4.

To aid somebody else; to escort; to wait upon; as, to smurf in assistance.

Brainy, will you please smurf me home? Smurfette

© Brainy Smurf 1974.

I was scouring out the cupboard in my old bedroom, and what do you think I found? Smurfs! The little blue bastards had somehow infested my wardrobe! No! Where's my mallet?!

Actually, these were the little figures you used to be able to buy everywhere - and by everywhere, I mean that in New Zealand they were only available at BP service stations. My grandfather used to send them to me, my father bought them for me, and mum bought me Alchemist Smurf one day… and then I turned seven and didn't care about them any more. I had about thirty or so of them. They were buried in a box through several moves and forgotten.

I took the remains of the Smurf collection out and said "Do you know anyone who would want these?" to my mother, assuming she would have some idea who to pass them on to. She decided to see what happened if she put them on TradeMe, which is the New Zealand version of eBay. They sold for $12, which is pretty good considering they were mostly boring ones and I was going to throw them out if no-one wanted them.

Then I found out about Smurf collectors. Apparently all the Smurfs I had were re-issues from the original two lines. I used to have Astro Smurf, which is possibly worth its weight in gold providing the goldfish bowl helmet is still intact. I'm damned if I know what happened to the bulk of my Smurf collection, but I'm wondering if it's buried in another box somewhere. Possibly they all got lost, or were appropriated by my siblings. Anyway, the moral of the story is: If you have a pile of Smurfs in a box somewhere and don't want them, you can actually sell them online despite all reservations you may have about how much someone will want a pile of worn novelty figurines of little blue thieves from your childhood. Make the buyer pay for shipping if you can - they're probably fanatical lunatics, so of course they'll pay.

The purpose of this rather obvious story is to point out that life imitates art: You can turn Smurfs into gold. Gargamel would be pleased.

Two Belgian cartoonists were sitting at dinner one day and the one said to the other, or at least tried to say: "pass me the salt!" But he couldn't remember offhand the word for salt in a senior moment and instead made up a word to mean "whatsit" or "thingamajiggy" - "schtroumpf" (sh-troompf). The other cartoonist jokingly said back "Sure, I'll give you the schtroumpf, but when you're done schtroumpfing,  schtroumpf it back afterwards." What followed for the rest of the weekend was an inside joke with them replacing verbs with the word "schtroumpf" and the trick of maintaining meaning but still using that replacement word would come in handy later.

The cartoonist with the momentary apahsia was "Peyo", the nom de plume of Pierre Culliford, who produced a comic for "Spirou" magazine called "Johann et Pirlouit". It was a medieval sword and sorcery strip, and as such occasionally ventured into magic. Little blue characters with strange caps appeared in one story in 1958 and were a huge hit, leading to a spinoff.

 And by "huge hit", that's actually a severe understatement. They were popular enough to warrant their first book, a story about the "schtroumpfs" (later Smurfs in Dutch and English) being infected and turned into zombie-like blackened parodies of their former selves who transmit their contagion by biting each others' tails. Soon the wizard Gargamel and his cat Azrael were introduced, with the Smurfs turning out to be part of a mystical alchemical formula to turn base metals into gold. The general characteristics of the species and its culture were fleshed out pretty rapidly, and became a children's fixture about tiny magical creatures living in a wholesome collective, their homes having been fashioned out of mushrooms. Their leader was an aged gnome named "le Grand Schtroumpf" (the Grand/Head Smurf, translated into English as "Papa Smurf") with his distinctive red trousers and cap, but for the most part they were a happy-go-lucky collective going about their lives engaging in their own interests. There was a "Schtroumpf costaud" (heavyset Smurf) complete with tattoo and dumbbell, a "Schtroumpf farceur" (joker Smurf) who liked to give people elaborate wrapped boxes which exploded in their faces (harmlessly) and so forth. 

The French speaking world went crazy for it in a second wave in the 1970s, and books, small PVC figurines and other collectibles flew off the shelves. A German company made tracing stencils that allowed you to draw your own Smurfs, small fingers being relatively unable to copy the characteristic swooping lines of Peyo's rendering of their Phyrigian caps. Whereas the books identified a few Smurfs by occupation or interest, toys included non-canonical figurines such as an astronaut smurf complete with helmet, one with a gold lamé outfit (Disco Smurf?), an archer Smurf, a pipe smoking Smurf, and so forth. Most weirdly there was even a novelty record with "Father Abraham and the Smurfs" - turns out "Father Abraham" was not some kind of Hasidic rabbi but just some Dutch singer with a really long beard and a penchant for black hats, singing very simplistic 70s Eurovision type songs with a bunch of sped-up voices accompanying him, a similar gag to Alvin and the Chipmunks. A promotional single sold out in the first day, so a full album was commissioned, thrown together hastily, and sold really well, leading to a bunch of people digging into their parents' old record collection and finding one of the weirdest concept albums imaginable.

The English speaking world found out about it in the 1980s, and there was yet another wave of Smurfmania, this time complete with an English-speaking Saturday morning cartoon, another round of PVC figurines, and so forth. The books were translated into English and sold fairly well, and the world became awash in blue. There were breakfast cereals and lunch boxes, and the franchise made a killing.

Interest in the creatures waned until the 2010s, with the introduction of a 3D animated/live action hybrid CGI film, starring Simpsons voice over artist Hank Azaria as the evil wizard Gargamel.

The books follow the peculiar French habit of having hardcover-bound comic strips in collections but in a format that can be enjoyed by children but also by adults. The children appreciate the brighly colored, primary-hued tales of the tiny creatures living in mushrooms, but politics and more adult themes found their ways into the storylines. Turns out there is a North Smurf village, and a South Smurf village, complete with subtle differences in the use of the word "smurf" (the title of the story is "Green Smurf vs Smurf (who is) Green") and is eerily reminiscent of language tensions between the French and the Dutch in Belgium. The bonhomie and happy times in Smurf village are jeopardized when Gargamel makes a Smurf (by this point he is past the idea of using one to make gold - he wants to hurt them all, badly) and so decides to disrupt their all-male commune with a female Smurf. When she arrives, plain and brunette, she's seen as obnoxious and a problem and is ignored, but when transformed by Papa Smurf's humane use of magic and a nicer dress, they start competing over her and treat her like a sex object. I'm sure there's at least one feminist thesis on this story.

But probably the most inadvertent political overtone came in from "The Black Smurfs" - the first story. The notion that when stung by a certain kind of fly a Smurf turns into a non-intelligent, violent, illiterate, near-mute Hodor that seeks to literally bite others in the ass, infecting them with their own disease tripped all kinds of "what's that supposed to mean" concerns, especially after the outright racist horror that was Tintin in the Congo. When reissued for US television, the story was changed to the Smurfs becoming purple, to avoid any racial connotation, explicit or implied.

But it's hard to have any real problem (apart from some rather disturbed US political commentators) with the notion of a happy community in which everyone pursues his own interests and humors his fellow Smurf. (By now I think they've all figured out that presents explode, so they obviously keep opening them just to make the Joker happy). The little blue creatures are nearing their 50th year, and by now they're practically an institution.

Should you find any in a closet and they're in fantastic shape, do be advised that even the most pedestrian looking ones can be rare and extremely valuable, but given the nature of PVC the chances of that are rare. 


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