Monday, March 12, 2012

"Donaldo Furioso"

Ludovico Ariosto's Orlando Furioso is a massive sixteenth-century epic poem/romance taking place in Carolingian Europe (with occasional excursions to other environs).  As it happens, I've actually read the thing, in Barbara Reynolds' excellent two-volume verse translation.  And I recommend it to you all.  Even if you're a connoisseur of epic poetry, the first word that comes to your mind to characterize it as a form probably isn't "fun."  But let me tell you, Ariosto is pretty much fun fun fun 'til her daddy takes the T-Bird away.  The poem is nominally centered around a Christians-vs-Saracens thing, but that's really just a flimsy pretext for a whole bunch of knights and the odd wizard gallivanting around, having duels, fighting monsters, righting wrongs, finding magical artifacts, and so on.  If the idea of a story involving heroic Christians fighting evil Muslims sets off warning bells in your head, as well it might, please be advised that it's really nothing like that: Ariosto treats his characters sympathetically regardless of religious orientation, and the poem really doesn't push the conflict very hard at all.
Luciano Bottaro's Donaldo Furioso is the duck version--ideal for those of you who refuse to read literature that doesn't feature talking waterfowl.  Let's take a look, shall we?

Title: Donald, Paladin of Scrooge VI
Box: It all began when the Duck Family gathered at Grandma's Farm to help with the annual apple picking…

…and right out of the gate, the French version botches things by giving the story a generic title that doesn't even hint at the story's basis.  Sorry about the crappy image quality, but the printing quality in Mickey Parade just isn't all that great.  Certainly not an ideal showcase for Bottaro's art.  Though I should also note that I didn't personally scan these; they'd probably look a bit better if I had.

Note also: up until sometime in the mid-eighties, these digests did this weird thing, to save money I suppose, where only every other two pages were printed in color.  So we'll also be seeing some black and white images here.  I know this wasn't just a French thing, as the "Superduck" book I mentioned recently is the same.  I imagine it was that way in other countries too.  Let me know in comments.

Gus: Everyone's waiting, Grandma!
Grandma: I'll be with you as soon as I finish up the dusting!
Grandma: Glad to see you all!  You especially, Scrooge--I'm always impressed that you're able to tear yourself away from your money for this!
Scrooge: Well, spending time away from my business always costs me a few billion--but I wouldn't miss it for the world!
HDL: Hi, Grandma!

This framing sequence really isn't important to the main story, but I really like the kind of surprising sense of deep family tradition that it conveys.  I mean, Scrooge being this cool with losing money like that--that really says something.  And yeah, I massaged the dialogue a little so as to avoid the impression that this is his first time doing this, which doesn't really make any sense in light of the story as a whole.

 Donald: I always slept under this tree as boy!  A nap in its comforting shadow is worth all the apple tarts in the world!

And Donald referring to his childhood like this is also quite unusual.  As you can see, both he and Gus have the idea of doing this.

Hazel: Everyone…except these two layabouts!
Hazel: I'll teach them a good lesson!

Hazel to the rescue(?).  We really can't have a story taking place in the eighth century (or thereabouts) without an explanation like this, 'cause dammit, that would just make NO SENSE!  There must be standards!

Yeah, so the point is, she flings Donald and Gus into this crazy dream.

Scrooge: Accomplishments this year: helped an old man cross the street…fought a retired fourth-class lancer…that's just not good enough!
Donald: I'll try to do better!
Scrooge: You'd better!  Otherwise I'm kicking you out of the Order of Paladins!
Guard: Sir Donald, Future Ex-Paladin!
Donald: I'll remember you, boyo!
Scrooge: Don't come back until you've accomplished a
real act of valor!

If Donald is playing the part of Orlando here (the character known as Roland in French epic)--and he is--then Scrooge must be Charlemagne, though it's never specified.  With just the one exception that we'll get to, the story makes absolutely no effort to give the characters names from Ariosto, though of course I've no idea whether or not that's just the translation.

Donald has to accomplish feats of some sort, with Gus as his squire, and I'm going to skip over a lot of this part, because frankly, this next part is kind of boring to me; there's some business with Hazel fucking with him until we get to the main plot, such as it is.

Donald: …because I'm going to rescue Angelica!
Guard: Oh joy!
Guard: Return victorious!  And alive, if possible.

Here's where we get a glimpse of Ariosto, as Angelica is indeed a princess in the poem, albeit not one who needs rescuing.

King: Son of a Submariner!  The paladin!  The horde wasn't able to stop him!
King: Bah--never mind!  I've got plenty of traps to take care of knights on quests for glory!  Hee hee!

So look, Donald has to go up and deal with this guy and stuff.  Apparently, the character had previously appeared in a Snow White story by none other than Federico Pedrocchi?  I dunno--your guess is as good as mine.  Or better, more likely.  At any rate, all of this remains fairly uninteresting to me, so I'm going to skip over it, as is my prerogative.  Ultimately, Donald bumbles into victory.

Angelica: You--my heroic savior!  You've defeated that cruel mage!
Gus: But…that is to say…in fact…hmm…
Angelica: Let me kiss you!
Gus: Oh!
Voice: Angelica!  My daughter!

…but Gus--who isn't characterized in any very distinct way in this story--accidentally bumbles into the credit.  And here's where things start to take off.

Note: It's in Gus's handwriting: "Sir Donald, I hereby send you my resignation as your squire.  Having rescued Princess Angelica, I am going to marry her and become King of all Ciderland!  I am grateful for all the help you gave me in this matter and wish you best luck in your future endeavors.  Cordially, Gus, Heir to the Throne of Ciderland."
Donald: By a thousand sulphurous thunderbolts!  I am betrayed!  O rage!  O infamy!  Argh!  Graaark!  Grrr!

Right, so here's what happens in Orlando Furioso: some Christian lord or other has captured Angelica, a princess of Cathay (what, you don't think "Angelica" sounds like a Chinese name?  No, Ariosto wasn't overly concerned with cultural and geographical exactitude).  Orlando falls head over heels for her, but she scorns him.  Eventually, she escapes, and as she's fleeing, she comes upon a wounded Saracen warrior, Medoro.  Compassion stirs her heart, and she takes him to an abandoned shepherds' shelter to nurse him back to health.  No big surprise, they end up falling in love, and nature takes its course.  After he's recovered, they set off to return to Cathay to rule as queen and king and vanish from the poem, but not before writing verses on the walls commemorating their love.  Orlando is in pursuit, but by the time he reaches the shelter, they're long gone.  He reads the verses and goes insane from jealous rage.  Hence, "furioso."

So as you can see, this story follows that kinda more or less.  I think under the circumstances, focusing on this and eliminating the rest of the poem was really the only thing to do: anything approaching a full Disneyfied account would surely have to be much longer, and given that there are dozens of important characters, it would be pretty tough to match them all up with appropriate Disney people.  Still, it must be admitted, you do lose something by doing it like this, since much of the poem's appeal comes from its sheer proliferation of stories.  Also, there are some specific things that I really, really would have liked to see reproduced here.  First and foremost there's this: Orlando Furioso features not one but two badass lady knights--and what's especially appealing is the way Ariosto's so totally matter-of-fact about it.  There's no "omg girl knights lol wtf?"  And there's no denying that it would have been way, way cooler to see Daisy as Bradamante or Marfisa rather than boring ol' Angelica, who, notwithstanding her impact on Orlando, doesn't herself really do all that much in the poem.

By all the fires of Hell!  My blood is boiling!  My skin is melting!

My devastating rage increases my strength a hundredfold!  I can...

…hurl a boulder...

…and--wait for it--...

…catch it on my head without flinching!

Heh heh!  I have the soul of a master tightrope walker!

Tightrope walker, me?  No!  I'm a kangaroo!  A kangaroo of vengeance, hopping off in search of the Betrayer Gus!

There's all this stuff with insane Donald.  Needless to say, it's not quite how insanity was portrayed in the poem, but it's a hell of a lot of fun--Bottaro is quite good at drawing crazy people, it transpires.  My interest in the story increases dramatically at this point.
But all is not well!  An enemy army (naturally, no religious references here) is going to attack Scrooge's kingdom!  What to do?  Call Gladstone!

Note:Sire!  I received your message.  Unfortunately, I've just rented a castle, and I payed two months' rent in advance!  If I leave, I won't get my money back.  Therefore, I beg you to not count on my assistance.  Gladstone, Paladin First Class
Scrooge: Poor Gladstone!  I can't blame him!  He's already two months' rent, so naturally he doesn't want to forfeit his investment!  A wise economic decision!

Scrooge's reaction to Gladstone's lameass excuse is funny because unexpected.  Clearly, Gladstone got to be Paladin First Class by knowing just how to appeal to the king's sensibilities like this.

Donald saved Angelica, the daughter of the King of Cider!  He freed her from the evil mage!  But at the last second, his squire…
…abandoned him to marry the beautiful princess!  Ha ha ha!  Ho ho ho!  I'm dying of laughter!
Beagle: Perhaps milord doesn't think it's funny?
Donald: Now I know…I know who I am!  I am become Death, destroyer of worlds!

There's a bit where Donald isn't sure who he is or what he should be doing; it actually strikes me as a fairly believably depiction of madness.  But being mocked by Beagles sets him straight.

Beagles: Ow! Argh! Ugh!
Donald: I'll pound you to a pulp!
Beagle: Odsbodkins!  What's he doing?
And now, a friendly game of bowling!
These balls always find the pins!

Seriously, I could watch Donald kick the shit out of the entire Beagle army all day.  I'm not saying it's exactly profound!  But it's just plain fun to see him, just this once, as a remorseless killing machine.

Donald: I'll receive endless honors!  Everyone will want to congratulate me!  I'll be welcomed as a hero!
Donald: What…?
Gladstone: I decided that no house was worth neglecting my sacred duty, so I rushed off to fight in your service!  But I wasn't able to raise an army en route!
Donald: WHAT?!?  GRRRR!
Gladstone: So I decided to take care of things myself!  As soon as they saw me, the enemy panicked!  In their mad haste to flee, they set their campsite on fire!  And that was that!
Scrooge: A grand exploit, Gladstone!

Donald calms down until he hears this nonsense.  Hypothesis: Gladstone typically comes across in these Italian stories as more overtly dishonest than he does in the Western canon.  Apart from a few early examples, like "Rival Beachcombers" or "Trail of the Unicorn," he rarely actually engages in overt deception in Barks--he's more likely to just sit back, let good things happen to him, and act insufferable about it.  Whereas here--and in a few other Italian stories I've read--man.  Then again, that could just be a function of all the characters' traits seeming a bit more "extreme" in Italy.  I don't know; I'm just idly speculating.  In the present case, things get a little confusing, because even though Gladstone is clearly making shit up to get credit for Donald's work, it sounds, apart from the enemy panicking at the very sight of him, quite plausibly like something you would expect to happen to Gladstone.

Naturally, this enrages Donald all over again, but now he has a cunning plan:

Donald: Heh heh!  This gives me a classic idea!
Donald: Time for a little redistribution of wealth!
Donald: Come and get it, folks!  Courtesy of King Scrooge the Generous!
Soldier: Long live the king!
Soldiers: Long live Scrooge VI!  Long live the king!
Guard: Hurry!  There's a nut down at the palace giving golden coins away!
Peasants: Really?!?

 There's something about this that I find extraordinarily liberating.  This just isn't normally something that you can do Scrooge, yet Donald's just doing it like it's no thang--and so joyfully, too.  Especially given the frequently excessively-tyrannical nature of Scrooge in Italian stories (though not this one in particular), I find it edifying as all get-out.

Gyro: It's the king!  I am lost!
Scrooge: Get over here, Gyro!
Gyro: Sire!  I…er…
Scrooge: Thank God it's you, Gyro!  Save us!  Donald has gone mad!  He's after our blood!
Gyro: Oh, is that all?  No problem!  When a person's reason disappears, it floats up into space and condenses on the moon!  All we have to do is go there, find it, and bring it back!
Gyro: First of all, let's prepare a trap to subdue him!
Gladstone: He's insanely furious, you know!

Oh yeah, Gyro figures into this story too.  I had skimmed over him earlier, but, well…here he is.  What's this nonsense, you ask?  Well, as it happens, it's Ariosto's whimsy rather than Bottaro's: this is indeed more or less exactly how Orlando's allies restore his sanity in the poem.  See?  I told you it was awesome.

Gladstone: Moonward ho!  But where the devil am I going to find Donald's reason here?
Gladstone: A palace!  I'll check it out and get some information!
Hazel: I saw you arrive, Gladstone!  I know everything!  Take this flask--it contains Donald's reason!

And…Gladstone goes to the moon, which is something you might well not have expected on starting this story.  The idea is that Hazel has it set up so the potion will wake Donald up.

Gyro: By Archimedes!  He's vanished!
Scrooge: What?!?
Gyro: Please, Sire…calm yourself…have pity…
Scrooge: Charlatan!  Good for nothing!  You're going to repay every cent!
Box: But what of Donald?
Scrooge: Got you both!  Sleeping while we were picking apples, eh?
Donald: Wak!  Scrooge VI!

And…sorry to say, but the story sort of peters out and ends anti-climactically, with him waking up and that basically being that.  I guess it's hard to know what you'd expect in a story like this, but it does leave a very real sense of "all that for…what?"

There's still a lot to like about it, though.  Even if there were an appropriate format available, it seems unlikely that this would be localized for US release, given Ariosto's relative (and undeserved!) English-language obscurity among non-scholars, which, to my mind, makes it extra-interesting to read.  It's by no means perfect, but it's better than most of the Disney literary adaptations I've read; Bottaro's stuff is--from what I've read--generally winningly idiosyncratic, even if that means it's sometimes a little disorienting.  By all means, check it out if you read any of the languages it's been published in.



Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Of course, Scrooge could always capitalize on the situation by creating and selling T-shirts that say:

“My parents went to the Moon, and all they brought back was a lousy Flask of Reason!”

March 12, 2012 at 8:34 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Re: the characterization of Gladstone--The story "Skating Along" (D 6324) by the Danish Werner Wejp-Olsen also features a Gladstone who wins more by consistently cheating in nasty ways (not just skipping ahead unfairly, but repeatedly messing up Donald) than by luck. So in any case, it's not just the Italians who empahsize his dishonesty.

Note on INDUCKS reader ratings: I have generally been impressed by how closely the ratings on INDUCKS reflect my own sense of stories' relative standing, with the exception of a few specific stories and two major categories of stories. The two major categories that are rated much higher than I would rate them: Scarpa Scrooge stories (all I can say is, must be all those Italians who grew up with the stuff), and literary adaptations. I don't get the attraction of the latter. I've read some of them that are fun, but hardly ever would I rate them near the top of the stack. So I've been trying to figure out what people see in them. From your write-up, one thing I could identify is the opportunity to have beloved characters (in their guise within the story) act in ways that one would wish to be possible in the "real life" of Duckburg: Donald bashing Beagles, or gleefully giving away Scrooge's money. Plus, the opportunity for artists to draw cool historical/fantastical locales, costumes, creatures, etc. Any other ideas for why these adaptations are so popular? On the whole, I'd rather read about the characters as themselves.

That said, I also would love to have seen Daisy as Bradamante.

March 12, 2012 at 11:49 AM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Elaine writes:

“On the whole, I'd rather read about the characters as themselves.”

…Funny, that’s what I was saying throughout the first year of Boom!

New Topic: Anyone see this past Sunday’s episode of THE SIMPSONS?

Check this out:

March 12, 2012 at 9:01 PM  
Anonymous The Derider said...

It's strange, but when I look at this story I am infinitely more interested in a ten-pager about the apple picking than the story itself.

I've never read the original story so I can't really comment on what you've written here as regards to an adaptation, but I actually do like the old Silver Age Imaginary Story tales that these remind me of. One of the things that made them work, however, is the fact that there was a clear finality to this splintered timeline/alternate universe. It's a shame that wasn't done here! (or that this wasn't given say, 128 pages)

The thing that really gets me, when I look at this story, is that Gus is extremely boring and has nothing to parody by putting him in this unusual role. "What if Donald was a Paladin", "What if Scrooge was Charlemagne", those are all hooks you can mine for jokes and feel like a natural extension of his characterization.

It makes sense for him to be in the framing device, but the framing device doesn't need to be there. Just put Fethry in Gus's role because he'll irritate Donald more and that means more conflict, more humor, more of Donald getting driven slowly insane, etc. etc. etc. Here it just seems like Gus is kind of a dick, rather than an optimistic flighty idjit like Fethry, which doesn't seem very funny.

Seems like there was a writer and artist with a lot of ideas and an editor who wasn't willing to stop their bad ones, or was giving bad ideas of his own.

Also these posts gave me a great idea for a story if I ever got to do a traditional literature adaptation for the US... thank you for that!

Truly before these posts, I have never wished I could read French. I'm fucking baffled by the half-and-half for B&W/color though. What an odd choice.

March 13, 2012 at 3:47 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

It's unlikely that Fethry would have been included, since this story was published in 1966, when the character had just barely begun to appear in European stories. I agree that he would have been more entertaining than Gus is here, though.

I also sorta agree about the apple-picking business, assuming it was something more interesting than "DONALD IS LAZY!" I mean, sure, "Donald is lazy" can be part of it, but let's take the hinted-at opportunity to do something interesting with Duck Family tradition, shall we? I do like the story fairly well as it is, however.

March 13, 2012 at 2:57 PM  
Blogger tymime said...

Say, where do you get these Italian-French-what-have-you comics anyhow? PriceMinister? I've been trying to find a reliable source to buy them from.

March 24, 2012 at 3:24 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

They're usually not that expensive on

March 24, 2012 at 3:36 AM  
Anonymous TlatoSMD said...

Yes, I know the alternating color/black-and-white issue, we had the same with Disney digests here in Germany up until the mid-80s. It was always justified as being more economical and cheap to make.

Incidentally, the Italian Disney artists have put out another adaptation of [i]Orlando furioso[/i] more recently, in the three-part, 300-pages [i]La fantaleggende[/i] (1994-'96) series, all drawn by Giuseppa Dalla Santa. If you like Carpi's art in [i]War and peace[/i] and [i]That missing candelabri[/i], I'm pretty certain you'll also like [i]La fantaleggende[/i]. Highly recommended.

May 5, 2012 at 12:43 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Well, I see that at least the FIRST part of that's been published in French. Tell me, are they largely independent of one another? Or would I be left cliff-hanged if I just read that one?

May 5, 2012 at 4:20 PM  
Anonymous TlatoSMD said...

Nope, no cliffhangers. Every installment in the "Fantaleggenda" series comprises a complete story. The latter parts only re-visit the same cast and scenery, acting out another sub-plot of the original "Orlando furioso", although parts 2 and 3 do reference events from earlier parts (as in, one character telling another, "Hey, don't you remember...?").

May 5, 2012 at 4:29 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Groovy. I totally just ordered a copy off Thanks for the recommendation.

May 5, 2012 at 5:34 PM  
Anonymous TlatoSMD said...

Right on! I'd love to read your review here. :)

It's been at least ten years since I've last read "La fantaleggende", and I've just had a fresh look at my German copies here. The second part is still my favorite for including the most fantastical plots of "Orlando furioso" on the moon (with those lost things and extracted potions there), for its coloring (nice shading rather than Egmont's usual bland solid colors), and for, I think, also subtly including elements from Disney's "The Sword in the Stone" (1963), my second-favorite Disney movie after "Three Caballeros" (1944).

May 5, 2012 at 6:18 PM  
Anonymous ML-IHJCM said...

A comment on the French translation from Italian. Of course in the Italian original, names are quite closer to Ariosto (e.g., Scrooge is "Papero Magno" - in English it would be Scroogemagne, I guess; and Gladstone is "Gastolfo" - making it obvious from the start that he will go to the moon, like Ariosto's Astolfo).an what Donald says when throwing the boulder is more or less
"Look at how gracefully I lift this boulder ...
throw it in the air ...
and wait to receive it on my head with utmost delight!"
Also, large parts of the story were written in high literary Renaissance Italian, sometimes taken almost verbatim from Ariosto's original. Of course this cannot be adequately translated (because non-Italian readers would not have the necessary familiarity with Ariosto's words).

Gus as Donald's squire has mostly the role of emphasizing that Donald is doing all the effort. There are at least two more stories by Bottaro with Donald as knoght and Gus as squire: "Paperino e il tesoro di Papero Magno" and "Paperino il Paladino" (texts by chendi; here the setting is independent from Ariosto; this story is noteworthy for the impressive use of medieval Italian).

As for "Le Fantaleggende", my opinion is that the first two episodes are among the best Italian productions of the '90s (unfortunately the third one is not that good). The second one is particularly impressive for the well amalgamated use of an extremely large set of characters. And the ending of the first part is quite impressive. It is not a cliff-hanger, but it is definitely disconcerting if you think that the story ends there (as we Italian readers were led to believe when it was first published - they had not announced a second part, which appeared only several months later).

May 6, 2012 at 11:56 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Thanks ever so much! These comments from people with knowledge of the originals are great.

May 6, 2012 at 3:00 PM  
Anonymous French Disneyfan said...

I would like to ask you something: why do you think it is a DREAM ? Perhaps wrong translation in that version, but it's actually supposed to be a real time-travel that Hazel offers to Donald (and, as an evidence, "Scroogemagne", "Alchemist Gyro" and "theArab Beagle Boys" reappeared in a few stories in which they are supposed to have actually existed as ancestors to our favorite comic books characters). The same goes for "Donald Duck and the Treasure Island": the Ghost and his Time Travel is NOT a dream and is never supposed to be. And, the same: Pirate Scrooge (as I saw you like this guy, you'll be happy) reappeared in lots of stories later ! And I know at least two which were published in french !

April 27, 2015 at 8:35 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Well, I don't have it with me to check, but it sure does seem to begin with Hazel deciding to fuck with Donald and end with him waking up. I'm aware that Bottaro had kind of a standard stable of historical duck stand-ins that he liked to use, but that doesn't mean their status as "real" people has to be consistent from story to story.

April 27, 2015 at 10:23 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

So, some time (a lot of time, actually) as passed, and still no review of "La fantaleggende" up. Didn't you receive the digest after all ? Or did the story turn out not to be all that interesting ? Or anything else of that kind ?

February 10, 2016 at 5:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A good review of a great comic! But In the original Italian version though the story is not a dream (Hazel is seen in the last panel as saying that she will joke with other witches about how she took Donald back in time and the joke she played on him). Also, in the original italian he doesn't say his rage enhanced his strength. So I guess there's a some significant difference between languages and between editions.

March 21, 2016 at 6:53 PM  
Blogger Adamant said...

Thanks for writing this post - I've only ever read the Norwegian translation, which is a nearly incomprehensible hackjob that cuts the entire middle bit with Angelica, cutting straight from Hazel disappearing after her log cutting prank to Scrooge (who, for the record, is called "Duck the Great" in the Norwegian translation - Charlemagne is known as "Karl the Great" in Norwegian, so the reference is intact there) getting the news of the Beagle attack, so the next time we see Donald is when Gyro encounters him on the road, at which point he's already gone mad with absolutely no explanation. It's a complete mess, so I'm happy to finally get the coplete understanding of the plot.

February 9, 2018 at 4:47 PM  

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