Monday, January 21, 2019

"The Lemming with the Locket"


Okay, I don't like having the Christmas thing just sitting there at the top of the page indefinitely, so here's this.  Oh yeah, happy 2019 and stuff.  Well, here's this in any case, but let's say here's this because of that.


ONE HALF OF HIS ENTIRE FORTUNE! GOOD LORD! I feel like there ought to be, I don't know, repercussions from this. Like, it seems like a big flippin' deal. I know you have to just sort of let it wash over you, but WOW. Somehow, it never really struck me when reading this story, but HALF HIS FORTUNE. For a set-up you'll never see again after this story! Bad investment, Scroogie! Or such is my opinion.


I think I talked about this a little re the Ducktales episode based on this story, but it does seem kind of hilariously narcissistic of him to have a statue of himself here. Still, when you think about it, you have to ask yourself: okay, but what else could it be a statue of? Yes, in the cartoon it's Goldie, which Rosa himself would also have done, but obviously it can't be that in a Barks story, nor any other kind of call-back. So...what are you left with? I guess it could be some sort of McDuck ancestor or whatnot (whom Rosa would later have immortalized), or maybe a bit of civic pride with Cornelius Coot, but beyond that, I dunno, man. It seems like it really IS pretty slim pickings. Incidentally, look how this statue was colored in Disney's republication:


I mean...I suppose there's nothing wrong, in theory, with the statue being colored, but it looks awfully weird to me, like some kind of action figure. And why is it wearing a blue hat? Where does that come from?


The fact that Donald and HDL like this imported cheese is really just a mechanism to drive the plot along, and yet it's also delightful in itself. Do you usually picture them as being, like, gourmands? Probably not, but here we are. There's also just something about that old-fashioned-sounding "we like so well." Good stuff.


Seems a little eccentric for them to just dump a rodent on Scrooge's desk, but I guess it makes sense, at least in theory. I also like that Scrooge doesn't actually have an answer beyond freaking out.  Sure, he can be depicted differently in different stories by different writers and there's nothing wrong with that, but I find an omnicompetent Scrooge kinda boring.

One thing that always dissatisfies me a little about this story: that title. "The Lemming with the Locket." It is a good title. I approve. AND YET, we don't actually find out that it's a lemming we're dealing with until halfway through, or we wouldn't if the title didn't give it away. It just seems like it oughtn't to be thus. I don't know what solution there could be, though.


It's not anything all that amazing as set-ups go; anyone could do it, or something like it. But somehow--and this is one of those things where it's hard to articulate what it is--it's better when Barks does it. It may be silly, but it still feels weighty and consequential, somehow.


And now, to think way too hard about this. I mean, okay, fishing schooners go everywhere. Fine. But you gotta wonder about that "Tokyo or Casablanca." Okay, so take it as a given that Duckburg is on the west coast. Japan would be a straight, if long, shot. Morocco, not so much. There are a bunch of big ol' land masses in the way. And how does he know where to go? Is it just, AH HA, FISH! Let's follow them! And sometimes they lead to relatively straightforward destinations, and sometimes they require brutally complicated, epic sea voyages to get there? And what do these destinations even mean? Do the fish they find, like, lead them to breeding grounds, that may be in the north Pacific and may be in the midAtlantic there's no way to tell? I mean okay, maybe they're in communication by radio, so it's not a matter of finding fish, just of learning where they are and going there. But still. Seems like a logistical nightmare to me.


Okay, obviously I'm skipping ahead. You know this story; you don't need me to cover it beat for beat. So now we're in Norway! Good for us. And, indifferent coloring notwithstanding, that is some NICE scenery. Gives Rota a run for his money, no question.


It's silly, but I like this, and I like Scrooge's reaction to it. That is all.


You really expect a "rat"--or any animal--to just scurry into the middle of buncha dudes with nets? I think this scheme needs rethinking, and I must take exception to the notion that it's in any way "smart."


...Carl. You know I love you, but here's a hard truth: your Nordic children are terrifying. They look like dolls that have come to life to murder you in your sleep. Crikey.


Nice. Reminds me of the part in Horton Hears a Who where the fascist vulture drops the flower in the giant flower field.

The question of where this idea of suicidal lemmings came from is an interesting one. This story was released years before the award-winning Disney documentary in which they slaughtered thousands of them to trick their audience, and GOOD GOD what kind of sociopaths WERE these people? The mind boggles. But anyway, I think people have always had weird ideas about them, and this is an excuse to quote one of my favorite things ever, from the Wikipedia article:

In the 1530s, geographer Zeigler of Strasbourg proposed the theory that the creatures fell out of the sky during stormy weather and then died suddenly when the grass grew in spring. This description was contradicted by natural historian Ole Worm, who accepted that lemmings could fall out of the sky, but claimed that they had been brought over by the wind rather than created by spontaneous generation.

Science back in the day was hella weird.


I dig the kids' sticktoitiveness in the face of Scrooge's whining. I know it's totally unfair and uncalled-for and probably nonsensical to make this comparison, but I wish Rosa's Scrooge had sometimes acted like this.


I like how, in spite of the fact that this is kinda gruesome when you think about it, the story sorta skims over that with "none ever goes back to the mountains," the reasons for this remaining unexplained. I also really like the ducks' defiance and its total futility.


Bye! Welp, that's that. I just like this picture. Anyway, Scrooge is poor now, so I guess we're done here.


Well, maybe not. Gotta say, "there's only ONE lemming smart enough..." is a pretty massive logical leap. How do YOU know? What's your sample size? Maybe ALL lemmings are that smart, djaever think of that? Hmm.


I dunno, you can't complain too much, given how much you're supposed to love that cheese. But was Scrooge paying them thirty cents an hour here? I certainly hope they weren't working for free, entertaining as it may have been. I actually think this is one of Barks' better endings. Whereas the ending to this blog entry is...not my best work.

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23 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember reading this story in a Spanish-language reprint as a kid! This is the first time I've seen any parts of it in English. Thanks! And for the record, I imagine the translator really must've been pulling his hair out with that last panel -- a literal translation of what he submitted for the letterer was: "How were we to know that this brand of cheese was named Gold Wheel?" LOL

January 21, 2019 at 6:29 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

I belive at the time this story take place Scrooge was realy into Warhammer so he painted his figure himself but only had blue paint left (he use it for his elves armor) and was to cheap to buy black paint.

Is this explanation is satisfying enough?

January 21, 2019 at 10:45 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

As concerns the "half his fortune" thing; my feeling is that Scrooge is so absurdly rich that Glomgold and Rockerduck aside, he's still richer than everyone on the planet put together even if you halve or quarter his fortune.

January 22, 2019 at 10:36 AM  
Blogger (((Rootless Cosmopolitan GeoX))) said...

Probably so, but it seems like now he has another rival: whatever contractor built the new bin for him. Actually, that's something I should've said something about in the entry. Forget whether Scrooge can afford it; how can anyone else afford to do it for him? This seems like "selling the 1916 quarter" territory.

January 22, 2019 at 11:07 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

I don't think Scrooge would hire a contractor — he probably has several building companies of his own. I interpreted the cost to have been for the actual workers, the Impervium itself, the architects and engineers, etc. — meaning that no one involved actually got a sizable enough portion of Scrooge's fortune to themselves to actually become a business threat afterwards.

January 22, 2019 at 11:42 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

One can imagine that the money in the bin is that special money (the one he earn al his life by traveling etc.) and he dosen't see it as his fortune but as that "special swim money", while the rest of his fortunes is what he has in banks all over the worlds so it's not as sentimental to him so he was ok with spending it to protect the special wim money.

January 22, 2019 at 1:16 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Also maybe that mithy box of imprevium wasn't made by just one company but it was colabortated effored so the cash spread enough that it just didn't went to one guy's pocket.

January 22, 2019 at 1:18 PM  
Blogger (((Rootless Cosmopolitan GeoX))) said...

Scrooge Problems that you don't necessarily think about: "okay, I'm making this huge investment, so I have to make sure to spread the work around so no one firm can challenge me, richnesswise." He'd just better hope that none of these firms merge with each other.

January 22, 2019 at 2:23 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Well, again, you talk of "firms", but why would Scrooge resort to any firms he doesn't own? As I said I was thinking that he had hired the individual workers, architects, foremen, etc.

January 23, 2019 at 9:19 AM  
Blogger (((Rootless Cosmopolitan GeoX))) said...

I feel like it's difficult for people to conceptualize what large amounts of money look like, even when you're "only" dealing with billions of dollars--and, of course, that's chicken feed to Scrooge. The idea that that half-a-fortune went exclusively or mostly to labor isn't really plausible to me. If he really did spend half his money, it has to be for the impervium, though if it's literally impermeable by any means, the question of how the bin was created remains mysterious. But as I think about it, actually, the most reasonable explanation seems to me to be that he only thinks he spent half his fortune--that, as sometimes happens, he's forgotten what companies he owns.

January 23, 2019 at 11:39 PM  
Anonymous Christopher said...

Whenever something really cool or unusual appears in a Duck comic, like an impervium bin, I like to assume that it was invented by Gyro.

January 24, 2019 at 3:35 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Makes one think how rich Scrooge was in the first place that spending HALF of his fortune still makes him the richest (!)

January 24, 2019 at 5:05 AM  
Blogger Jeffyo said...

Since Scrooge said he had 250 umptillion fabulatillion unreachable dollars, his previous fortune was apparently 500 umptillion fabulatillion. But I'd say he'd purchased damned poor peace of mind if he thought the "rat" would be able to gnaw through the safe.

January 24, 2019 at 8:31 AM  
Blogger Jeffyo said...

This was the first Duck story I ever read -- or rather heard. My fifth-grade teacher brought the comic in to supplement a geography lesson on Norway, and the whole thing was read in front of the class. Even though I couldn't see the art, I recognized a pretty cool story, and it wasn't long before I dropped a dime for my first Uncle Scrooge comic. That was some time in late 1963.

January 24, 2019 at 8:41 AM  
Blogger (((Rootless Cosmopolitan GeoX))) said...

Thank you for that anecdote! That's fantastic.

January 24, 2019 at 1:54 PM  
Blogger Anders E said...

When this was first published in Sweden in 1974, Norway was never mentioned, Instead, it was said to be set in some fictional country which we all recognized as Norway anyway, but there was some confusion since everybody associated high quality cheese with...Denmark. Which is a country as flat as a pool table and obviously not depicted in the artwork. But still, those Norwegian kids look just like they stepped out of "Village of the Damned". Btw,if you want hard yellow cheese just like what Barks drew, you have to go to Sweden. Damn, this particular brand is GOOD.

http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20150630-the-swedish-cheese-that-cant-be-moved

January 25, 2019 at 4:45 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

So my question is, how do Norwegian Duckfans feel about this story? Are they fond of it, since Barks himself sent the Ducks to Norway? Or are they too irritated by the suicidal lemmings and the creepy undead doll-children to feel any sense of Barksian blessing? Not to mention Anders' point about the inaccuracy in the sourcing of cheese.

January 28, 2019 at 7:03 PM  
Blogger Adamant said...

The story is indeed quite popular here in Norway for being "that Barks story where the ducks go to Norway". I'm not really sure what Anders means with high quality cheese being associated with Denmark - maybe Sweden does that, but Norway is quite proud of both Jarlsberg and its goat cheeses, and the foreign countries we primarily associate with quality cheese are France, Switzerland and the Netherlands, not Denmark.

January 29, 2019 at 6:37 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

An essential feature of my church's post-Easter Vigil midnight spread is Gjetost. The assortment of other cheeses will change from year to year, but the Gjetost Must Be There. Not really an ethnic thing; we may only have one person who is ethnically Norwegian. But we have discovered the perfect cheese to celebrate Easter and we all agree on it.

True, that can't be the Ducks' favorite cheese, because it's a brown block and not a large golden-yellow wheel. Still, I identify with the Ducks' being partial to Norwegian cheese.

January 30, 2019 at 10:44 PM  
Blogger (((Rootless Cosmopolitan GeoX))) said...

Danish Norwegian French Swiss WHATEVER! All I know is, send me free cheese! Now!

January 31, 2019 at 12:32 AM  
Blogger Jeffyo said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

February 1, 2019 at 10:29 AM  
Blogger ppdppl said...

The Scrooge here is one of my favourite portrayals. I know you said it's unfair to compare it to Rosa, so let me be unfair a bit too- much as I love Rosa's stories, this to me is peak Scrooge. He might be smart, but he can also be dumb, he panics, he's got memory issues (I love that so much), and he's not above swindling children, probably feeling some sort of petty revenge out of them not immediately bringing him the lemming but trying to get a reward out of him. A loveable almost anti-villain.

February 7, 2019 at 10:43 AM  
Blogger Miguel Madeira said...

Anonymous: "And for the record, I imagine the translator really must've been pulling his hair out with that last panel "

In the portuguese version, was: "E é de ouro, isto é, é amarelo como ouro [And it is made of gold, that is, it is yellow like gold]"

About the boat and the fish - in the real world, even some decades ago, before modern technologies, I know that fishing boats could went from Portimão to Setubal if they know about fish here (but this is like San Diego to Los Angeles, not Tokyo to Casablanca).

February 12, 2019 at 11:06 AM  

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