Wednesday, December 6, 2017

"Weemite"

Hello, children young and old! Time for some Holiday cheer. We bloody well need it after the year we've had. This year's theme is: "Barks stories I haven't covered yet." There are five such, unless I'm forgetting some. And guess what? We're going to cover them, at irregular intervals starting now and leading up to the twenty-fifth. Good for us.


We begin with one of those stories that uses Christmas as a setting but isn't really about the holiday in any significant way. That's a pretty festive opening panel there, but it's really just the jumping-off point. Let's not waste any time talking about how it's weird that ducks eat turkeys. That's just covering old territory.


Donald's hand gestures really sell this. I think it's charming that he's so eager to explain the physics of the thing that he just takes the (goofy) context for granted.


There are quite a number of precursors to this. The general premise is too obvious for there not to be. The biggest one is "The Mad Chemist," of which this is a loose-ish remake, but we also have "Donald Duck's Atom Bomb" and--just for the general idea of accidentally getting powerful chemicals to work with--"Super Snooper."


Note that the storytelling doesn't quite work here, as there's no way Donald could know that a truck--and specifically a truck from Fitz's Fission Factory, no less!--was responsible for this whole plot being set in motion. He ought to think that he just lucked into a super-powerful formula from the chemistry set itself. Unless, perhaps, he really doesn't know, and he's just making up FFF and inserting it into the story. That would be an interesting unreliable-narrator thing. What ELSE in this story never happened? I mean, the whole premise is pretty far-fetched, so the whole THING could be a fabrication! Oh no!


Weemite 'cause it's small but powerful. I have always referred to the whole story as "Weemite," but inducks calls it "Rocket-Roasted Christmas Turkey," which is certainly descriptive. Well, not that the other title is any great shakes either. Whatever! In "The Mad Chemist," it was called "duckmite." Also, in that story, he invents it purely from a chemistry set with no unwitting outside help.


The turkey is somewhat awkardly shoehorned into the whole thing. Do they have "visitors' days" at army bases? Sure, probably. Doesn't seem like a security risk.


I do think it's funny that Donald earnestly refers to the general as "admiral" like that. And...that's all. The arc of this story is pretty predictable.


I'm not risking any soldiers, but YOU, duck, we can easily do without. Well, fair enough, in the sense that he IS providing the fuel. And yet, NOT fair enough, in the sense that they probably have a basic responsibility not to do something like this with absolutely no prior knowledge or testing or anything.

Note Senator Muttonchops, a nineteenth-century legislator who has apparently come unstuck in time.


Hmph. Yep, that's Gladstone-level happenstance there. Also, remember how the kids had previously said they were going to call Grandma for advice? Well, I guess we can only assume that she advised them to take the turkey to this world-famous bakery, because we don't get any OTHER information on what she said. Why isn't she invited to dinner, anyway? Maybe she's eating with Scrooge, Gus, and Gladstone instead. And Gyro, maybe. Boy, THERE'S a party for you.


Yeah so this is the basic idea. My new cooking technique is unstoppable!


Ending kinda humanizes the general. I like it. But yeah, I guess it's reasonable merry. There's really nothing in the story that works thematically with the idea of Christmas festivity (that'll be the case in a number of this year's stories), but it's still perfectly fine. I dig it.

AND NOW, thanks to Disney-comic stalwart Elaine, a special treat for all you Weemite fanatics out there! One thing you may have noticed about this story is that it takes place on Christmas and not on the Dutch feast of Sinterklaas, on December 6. Does this fact...bother you in any way? If so, you and some Dutch editor somewhere are on the same wavelength. Also, now you know why I posted this entry today!


Here's the cover of a Dutch printing of the story. And yup, there's Sinterklaas, along with his, uh, friend Zwarte Piet, guaranteed to make you feel uncomfortable! Note that "Zwarte Piet" means "Black Pete," which gives us a meaningless Disney-name-related coincidence. Good for us.

What's that...thing on the rocket? It's sure not a turkey. That, my friend, is a Sinterklaas cookie:


YES, this image is clipart. YES, there is clipart of Sinterklaas cookies. Any further questions?

So that's kinda weird. But that's just the cover, yeah? They certainly can't have expanded this concept into the story itself?


Ha ha, OF COURSE they did. Yup, this is SUPER weird, but the turkey has been replaced with a giant flippin' cookie throughout. Doesn't really look that appetizing, does it, just sitting there limply? Certainly doesn't make it seem more festive, I'll tell you that! It doesn't help that the Christmas tree and candle have also been removed, along with all the cutlery, making the whole scene look oddly barren.

Also, can someone confirm that "taaitaaipop" means both "gingerbread man" and "tough guy?" That's what I'm getting from google translate. Excellent if true.


I mean, I like how it kinda looks like a guy being stabbed, but boy, even if you're a big fan of cookies, that does NOT seem like a satisfying dinner.

Anyway, that's about that: a bizarre thing about "Weemite" that you almost certainly did not see coming. It would be irksome for Dutch people if this were the ONLY Dutch printing of this story, but I'm pretty sure others are normal, so it's just a fun little oddity.

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8 Comments:

Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Hummm... If Grandma Duck, Gus, Scrooge and Gladstone (and Gyro, maybe) had a Christmas dinner together alone with no Donalds, kids or Daisys what would they talk about? (That's my numer one concern for some odd reason)

P.S. I hope "Wintertime Wager" is among stories you will review. People tend to forget it take place on christams.

December 6, 2017 at 6:12 PM  
Blogger Lieju said...

In the Finnish translation of this story Donald thinks he dropped the bottle himself. (although in the boxes where he's telling the story he's aware of the truck...)

December 7, 2017 at 11:45 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Well that Sinterklaas turn was unexpected. Why do you refer to the character on that cover as Sinterklaas instead of Saint Nicolas, though? Because they are literally the same character, much moreso than the dubious relationship between Santa Claus and Saint Nicolas.

December 7, 2017 at 1:45 PM  
Blogger Joost said...

Nice to see you mention the unique Dutch version of this story!

A 'taaitaaipop' is indeed a kind of gingerbread man, but baked in such a way that it's quite chewy (hence the 'taai', which can mean both 'chewy' and 'tough'). It is a traditional Sinterklaas candy, only eaten from mid-November to early December. They do exist in the large format shown, but are more common in a smaller form.

As a Dutchman, my first exposure to this story was by means of this adjusted version. Do the changes hurt the story? Not really, because -as you pointed out in your review- the holiday doesn't play a large part in the story anyway and is just there to provide a background (by the way, when you think about it, it doesn't make a lot of sense to have visitors day at the army base and visiting senators there on Christmas day).
I rember being a bit surprised when I read it as an 11 year old in 1988 (being unfamiliar with the Barks original): in the 80s it was quite common for the Dutch Donald Duck weekly to have a yearly story featuring the character of Sinterklaas visiting Duckburg, so this story without him appearing was a bit of a break with that tradition. I think that they wanted to address the holiday, but for some reason did not have a suitable story ready in time and opted to adjust an existing Christmas story instead. This story was an obvious choice: because of the small part Christmas plays in it (no Santa appearing for example) it was very easy to adjust. In the Netherlands, presents are more associated with Sinterklaas than with Christmas anyway and we also don't have the tradition of eating turkey for Christmas. Note that in the Dutch Barks collections the story was printed in its original Christmas form.

For Achille: Sinterklaas is the common Dutch nickname for Saint Nicholas, so they're one and the same character (and the inspiration for the American Santa Claus). So it's OK to call the character Sinterklaas.

A last note regarding 'Black Pete': this is actually a beloved character in the Netherlands and Belgium and a hero figure to many children. In recent years his depiction has been neutralized to avoid any misunderstandings about negative stereotyping. Unfortunately this has not stopped a small group of SJWs to try to associate the centuries-old Sinterklaas tradition with racism, slavery and the American blackface of the early 20th century (which has a totally different background and origin of course). As a result, there is a heated discussion in the media each year, which has become as much a tradition as the holiday itself. Of course this doesn't stop most Dutch people from celebrating with their family in the way they see fit! But an unfortunate side effect is that the holiday does not feature in the Donald Duck weekly anymore. Understandable, but a loss nonetheless.

December 8, 2017 at 12:03 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Sinterklaas is the common Dutch nickname for Saint Nicholas, so they're one and the same character

Well that's just it, you see — since Sinterklass is explicitely just the Dutch name for Saint Nicolas, why call him Sinterklaas in English text? It'd be like if in every review of an Italian story GeoX referred to Donald as "Paperino".

December 8, 2017 at 1:15 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

In Poland we use the same name for Santa Claus, St. Nicholas and Sinterklass (if by Sinterklass you mean Santa in the Bishop hat) which is just the name of the Catholic Saint (we are all super Catholic here in Poland) but we sometimes use the name "Dziadek Mróz" (Grandpa Cold) which is how the Russians call him

He use to not have elfs here but angels (which I still find more cute) but that tradition is dying out from what I can tell in favor of more American depiction. No Black Pete in Polish tradition but he do sometimes have famle sidekcik named Śnieżynka which is an little girl made of snow (an Elsa like character)


December 8, 2017 at 2:47 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Hey, I'm honored to have contributed to your Weemite post!

I originally discovered this story in a roundabout way: I saw a Don Rosa drawing which put together images from Barksian Christmas stories, and the turkey-spearing rocket was the one image I couldn't source. A friend informed me, and I tracked down the "rocket-roasted turkey" story.

Years later, having read the Weemite story, I bought the Dutch comic you scanned here because I was charmed by the cover, figuring it was just a nod to Barks with an enculturating joke. Then I realized it reflected the fact that they had changed Barks' *dialogue and art* to turn it into a Sinterklaas story! I've seen other instances of the Dutch publishers revamping a Christmas story as a Sinterklaas Day story (e.g. "The Cake House"), but I was pretty surprised to find that done to a Barks story. As Joost points out, it's a story which is not too heavy on the Christmas atmosphere, and accordingly easy to adapt. But I'm a bit dubious about a large *unbaked* Sinterklaas cookie staying intact on the rocket's pointy nose long enough to get baked. Then again, it's not like the original is all that plausible!

Achille Talon: Writing in English, I would definitely refer to the character on the cover as Sinterklaas. That's because it's the Dutch festival incarnation of Saint Nicholas, with Zwarte Piet, on a white horse, all on a rooftop. Not at all what I would envision if a person just wrote "Saint Nicholas." Also, while most Americans have not heard the name "Paperino," many have heard of Sinterklaas, if only in historical pieces on the history of Santa Claus.

Pan: I believe the Santa/Grandpa Cold character's young female sidekick is also part of the Russian Grandpa Winter mythos. Since the Russian Grandpa was meant to be an alternative to the Western world's religious St. Nicholas or capitalist/commercial Santa, it's interesting that in Poland he's just been reabsorbed into the Nicholas/Claus figure.

I've seen the little angels (rather than elves) as helpers of the Santa-like figure mostly on German Advent calendars. I'm always curious to see how long such varied traditions can resist the assault by the images borne by American media. When will the elves take over? It's reassuring that some local Christmas mythologies still survive, such as Sinterklaas, Befana and the tomten/nisse, even if most of the "numinous old guy who represents the winter solstice holiday" figures are being conflated with the American Santa Claus (Father Christmas, Père Noël, der Weihnachtsmann, Saint Nicholas in some countries). A friend was in Slovakia with her family for a few years recently, and she reported that the children received presents twice, once from St. Nicholas on the 6th, and once from the Christ Child on Christmas. But she said St. Nicholas was pretty indistinguishable from the American Santa.

December 8, 2017 at 7:24 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

I just like to do a quick shout-out to my man, Santa's own Glomgold - the Krampus!

Oh, so many scared chidlren over the years...

December 9, 2017 at 5:16 PM  

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