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What are Smurfs?

Updated on December 1, 2016

When 16-year-old Pierre Gulliford left school to pursue his passion for art, his teacher said he would never find success. The young Belgian didn't let the disparaging remarks deter him and promptly enrolled at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels. Here, the teenager realized that his true cal ling was illustration and he soon secured a position in a cartoon studio.

When the studio closed, Gulliford began drawing short comic strips for daily newspapers.

In 1947, under the pen name Peyo, he created Johan & Pirlouit, a series set in the Middle Ages about a brave page to the king and his trusty midget sidekick, which became a hit.

In 1958, Johan and Pirlouit's adventures brought them into contact with a community of forest-dwelling blue men. Standing only three apples high, their name came to Gulliford while he was lunching with a friend. When he forgot the word for salt, he instead asked his dining companion to pass him the schtroumpf. He liked the term so much, he decided to make it the official name for his little blue men. In English the word was translated as "smurf". These enigmatic folk soon Captivated Belgian children.

In the late 1970s, the Smurfs migrated to the US via a range of PVC figurines. The daughter of NBC executive Frank Silverman collected the figurines so he thought an animated series based on the wee race would be an excellent addition to NBC's Saturday-morning schedule.

Debuting in September 1981, The Smurfs was a huge success, scoring two Emmys during its eight-year run. Gulliford's creations were already household names across Europe but following their American invasion, their fame spread around the world, no doubt making Gulliford's high-school teacher turn blue in the face.


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    • agusfanani profile image


      7 years ago from Indonesia

      An interesting hub, I like that cartoon figure very much.

      Thanks for sharing.

    • live-business profile image


      7 years ago from Somewhere in the USA

      Thanks for sharing!

    • profile image 

      7 years ago

      This is a Smurforific article. This brings back great memories. My niece loved these little blue people. She is now in her 30s. For the longest time we talked in smurf.

    • Chris Qu profile image

      Chris Qu 

      7 years ago

      Well this is an interesting bit of animation history. Thanks for sharing it.


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