THE SALVADORAN boy, age 7, was new to this country and newly adopted, just off the plane and looking a little bewildered by all the English and good intentions with which he was suddenly surrounded. Then his eye fell on a familiar face, and his smile got a little easier as he drew a toy floppy-eared beagle to him and pronounced its name: "Ess-noopy!"

Appropriately enough that's neither Spanish nor English but something out of a universal language created by Charles Schulz over the span of nearly 50 years during which he has drawn the comic strip called "Peanuts." It runs in more than 2,600 newspapers in 75 countries, many of them places where they've never seen an American football but still can see the humor in Lucy Van Pelt's annual trick played on the world's most hapless placekicker, Charlie Brown.

Mr. Schulz, creator of Snoopy, Lucy, Charlie, Linus, Pigpen and an entire world contained in the few little panels that have graced the comic pages of this paper since the Truman administration, will draw "Peanuts" no longer, it was announced yesterday. His wife, Jean, said he will be retiring at age 77; recently diagnosed with colon cancer, he wants to spend time with his family and concentrate on fighting the disease.

He will be hearing from a good many thousand of his friends in the days to come. "Peanuts" is a personal work, one that made personal connections. Few of us have not experienced a fair number of Charlie Brown episodes in our lives as we approached the dread doors of kindergarten, flubbed a fly ball in front of a pretty girl or embarrassed ourselves in a job interview.

Charles Schulz portrayed these moments, and the many odd activities of his other characters, human and animal, with a wit and penetration that no one in his business has equaled. "Peanuts" is cute without being cloying, genuinely funny, with an edge that does not cut. It has been a work marked by honesty and love and produced by a considerable talent. While Mr. Schulz will draw it no longer, it will appear in reruns for some time to come on the comics pages, perhaps long enough to capture some of the children of yet another century.