History "Johan & Pirlouit" Peyo wrote a Franco-Belgian comics serial in Le Journal de Spirou called "Johan & Pirlouit" (translated to English as Johan and Peewit). The setting lies in the Middle Ages in Europe. Johan serves as a brave young page to the king, and Peewit (pronounced Pee-Wee) functions as his faithful, if boastful and cheating, midget sidekick. On October 23, 1958, Peyo introduced a new set of characters to the "Johan & Pirlouit" story. This alone caused no great excitement, as the brave duo constantly encountered strange new people and places. This time, they had the mission of recovering a Magic Flute, which required some sorcery by the wizard Homnibus. And in this manner, they met a schtroumpf. The figures soon proved to be a huge success, and the first independent smurf stories appeared in Spirou in 1959, together with the first merchandising. With the commercial success of The Smurf empire came the merchandising empire of Smurf miniatures, models, games, and toys. Entire collecting clubs devote themselves to collecting PVC toys.
Schtroumpf/Smurf origins"Schtroumpf" is an invented word. The way of saying "Schtroumpf" in French is quite simmilar to the German word "Strumpf" which does mean "sock" in English. According to Peyo, the word came to him as he asked André Franquin for salt during lunch and, struggling to find the word that eluded him, finally managed to say "passe-moi le schtroumpf" ("pass me the smurf"). It would later be translated into nearly 30 languages and, in some of those languages, "schtroumpf" became "smurf" (see The Smurfs in other languages). The word "smurf" was first used in Dutch, as the comics were simultaneously published in French (in Spirou magazine) and Dutch (in Robbedoes, the Dutch translation of the magazine). In any case, the tiny blue people proved a sudden hit, commercially speaking, and quickly moved into their own comic series which became a tremendous success. In several interviews, Peyo stated that the Smurfs was his favourite series in the early sixties, but later his own preference went to his "Johan & Pirlouit" series, and he sometimes expressed exasperation with the overbearing success of the Smurfs.