With the sequel to 2011’s “The Smurfs 3D” skipping into theaters last week, Belgium’s second most famous export (after waffles, of course) is on a lot of people’s minds. So here are 20 little-known facts about the diminutive blue gnomes that might surprise even the smurfiest Smurfs fan.

The Smurfs were created by Belgian comic artist Peyo (a.k.a. Pierre Culliford) in 1958. Called “Les Schtroumpfs” in his native French, they first appeared as side characters in the fantasy comic “The Flute with Six Holes” where they are shown living in a barren, rock-covered place known as the Cursed Land.

The word “schtroumpf” came from a dinner conversation where Culliford momentarily forgot the word for salt, so he made one up and asked his friend to pass the “schtroumpf.”

“Smurf” is the Dutch translation of “schtroumpf.”

Along with comics, TV and movies, the Smurfs have spawned their own video games, theme park attractions, Ice Capades show, breakfast cereal, ‘80s dance craze and a perplexingly grim advertisement for UNICEF in which the Smurf village gets blown sky high by enemy warplanes.

The Smurf Song, created by Pierre Kartner, topped the music charts in 16 countries.

Smurfs are said to be only three apples high, but they can live for hundreds of years. In the cartoon’s sixth season, Grandpa Smurf returned from a 500-year-long journey around the world.

The Smurfs’ favorite headgear is known as a Phrygian cap. In ancient Rome, it came to signify freedom due to its resemblance with the pileus, a felt cap worn by emancipated slaves. The red Phrygian cap — like the one worn by Papa Smurf — was specifically a symbol of the French Revolution, and during the Reign of Terror, it was used to denote adherence to the violent new regime. Because of those associations, the Phrygian cap was banned in France for a period during the 19th century.

There were originally only 99 Smurfs, but that number has increased to allow for new characters, including the only female Smurfs: Smurfette, Sassette and Nanny Smurf.

In the comics, Smurfette was created by Gargamel as part of a plot to breed jealousy and discord among the little blue gnomes. The recipe for a Smurfette is as follows: “Sugar and spice but nothing nice; a dram of crocodile tears; peck of bird brain; the tip of an adder’s tongue; half a pack of lies, white, of course; the slyness of a cat; the vanity of a peacock; the chatter of a magpie; the guile of a vixen and the disposition of a shrew; and of course the hardest stone for her heart.”

The name Gargamel comes from a work by 16th-century French writer François Rabelais. In the bawdy satire “The Life of Gargantua and of Pantagruel,” a collection of stories detailing the chivalric exploits of a giant and his son, Gargamelle was Gargantua’s mother.

Gargamel’s pet cat is named Azrael after the Archangel of Death found in Islam and Hebrew lore.

A 1959 Smurfs story called “The Black Smurfs” — changed to “The Purple Smurfs” in the U.S. — is sometimes cited as one of the earliest examples of zombie fiction, according to whatculture.com. In it, a Smurf is stung by a black fly, causing him to become a brain-dead fiend that goes around biting other Smurfs and spreading the disease. It was a full nine years before George Romero thought to do the same thing with “Night of the Living Dead.”

“The Black Smurfs” is also the only time a Smurf is seen without a hat. They’re bald underneath.

In the real world, the word “smurf” can mean one of several things, including a person who launders money.

When they hold their breath, Smurfs turn purple.

Paul Winchell, who played Gargamel in the ‘80s cartoon, was also famous as the voice of Tigger from “Winnie the Pooh.”

Smurfberries are actually sarsaparilla, one of the ingredients used to make old-fashioned root beer.

Long before “School of Rock” or “Kung Fu Panda,” a 13-year-old Jack Black scored one of his first acting gigs in a commercial for Smurfberry Crunch cereal.

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Along with claims of bigotry and sexism, “The Smurfs” has frequently been criticized as an attempt to indoctrinate youth with communist ideals, portraying the Smurf village as a godless, Marxist utopia.

Thousands of fans showed up in blue body paint and white caps to commemorate Peyo's birthday for the second-annual Global Smurfs Day, which took place between June 22 and 25 in more than 20 countries around the world, including Peyo's native Belgium. The first Global Smurfs Day in 2011 set a Guinness World Record for the most people dressed as Smurfs within a 24-hour period. The official number? 4,891.

Source: Smurfs Wiki

A native of Utah Valley and a devoted cinephile, Jeff Peterson is currently studying humanities and history at Brigham Young University.

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