Wednesday, April 4, 2012

"Guardians of the Lost Library"

Before anything else, I just want to make the following dumb book joke--as befits, I suppose, the story under consideration:

Richard Ellsworth Savage, from John Dos Passos' novels 1919 and The Big Money, now has his own cheesy spin-off action show.  An idiosyncratic choice, to put it mildly.

Man oh man--there's no doubt that this is a highly unusual story in Rosa's canon, so much so that I hardly know how to coherently approach it.

Okay okay, let's start by pretending that there might be someone reading this who isn't already familiar with it (though in that case, you should probably read it before moving forward, since I'm gonna be providing SPOILERS here).  The idea is that Scrooge's frustrated efforts to obtain a copy of the Junior Woodchucks' Guidebook lead to a quest for the Library at Alexandria for even more treasure-finding info.  The story was written for some sorta "Year of the Book" that Norway was having in 1993, so the idea is to play up the awesomeness of reading--and how better to do that in a duck context than with a guidebook-related storyline?

Let's eschew a straight, linear progression here and get straight to the point.  You know how Rosa likes to pile on the exposition in his stories?  Well, here's a story that consists of almost nothing but exposition, as Scrooge and HDL track the library's knowledge hither and yon.  Usually, the exposition is there to drive forward the story.  Here, the story (such as it is) is present to drive forward the exposition.  Pretty thin stuff.  It seems to be sort of structurally inspired by Barks' "Fabulous Philosopher's Stone"--traveling from location to location on what seems like a wild goose chase, with some history thrown in--but there's way more telling and way less doing.  It seems to me that it's actually more reminiscent of those old comic adaptations of "educational" cartoons--"Donald Duck in Mathmagicland," "Donald and the Wheel," "Uncle Scrooge and Money."  Indeed, Rosa suggests in his commentary that he felt he might have gone overboard in terms of the history and given short shrift to the action.  He goes on to note, however, that a lot of people disagree with this assessment, and he ain't just whistling "Dixie."  Here are some assessments from inducks users: 

"Clearly the best story Don has ever produced."

"This sure is one of best disney comic book stories ever produced.  Brilliant.  Belongs to hall of fame of Scrooge stories."

"Unrivaled.  If I could vote 11/10 I would have done it."

And in the "well, I guess that's meant as a compliment..." department:

"...the convoluted plot twists make this story outshine even THE DA VINCI CODE!"

I, however, find comments like this just baffling.  Granted, the way he strings together all this disparate historical information while adding these books to the mix is very clever, and granted, he does his best to cram in a bunch of jokes, many of which are pretty good, to leaven the didactic feel.  But…it's still didactic as fuck.  This stuff just goes on endlessly, and my eyes start to glaze over at a certain point.  I mean, I suppose if you like the history qua history, fair enough, but as a duck comic...?

As I said, the jokes are oft effective and make it work better than it ought to.  This whole business with the monks of "San Slanti," f'rinstnace--an absurdist touch that makes the history go down more smoothly than it would otherwise.

Or, hey, there's this, which subverts the ol' "there's no rule that mules CAN'T play basketball!" trope to amusing effect.

Still, even if you don't have any problem with all the exposition, the fact remains, when our heroes are unearthing ancient secrets so promiscuously--seriously, this story is just lousy with the bastards--they start to lose a lot of their luster, to the extent where it's yeah yeah, Alexandra, Cleopatra, whatevs, YAWN. 

…there are also jokes about sewage and vomit, and I'm not gonna sit here and tell you I couldn't do without such things.

There are a few other problems I want to touch on as well.  Note, f'rinstance, the seeming contradiction here: if HDL are so utterly convinced that there's nothing the guidebook doesn't already know, it's kinda mysterious why they would be so keen to go on this hunt in the first place?  More importantly, anyone paying close attention to stuff like this should really be able to figure out the denouement right from the beginning.  I'll admit that I wasn't and didn't, but I certainly got the picture well before the end.  I'm just saying, for such a long, involved tale, the central mystery isn't as mysterious as maybe it ought to be.

(Still, note the "impromptu first aid demonstration" guy--part of a little running mini-narrative in the first part of the story that for my money is the most entertaining part of the whole thing, and something you could easily just skim over.)

Much more irksome to me is the use (or lack thereof) of Donald in this story.  Granted, Donald is portrayed in different ways in different stories, and the fact that these ways may sometimes seem contradictory doesn't automatically invalidate them.  The man contains multitudes.  But that doesn't mean that I have to like this, or that it's a good use of him.  This aggressively illiterate behavior on his part is atypical (the fact that this is more or less the only Scrooge adventure ever that Donald doesn't tag along on also pounds this home), and it's so transparently the case for no other reason than to provide an ironic counterpoint to the "yay books" message--I feel like he's been malformed just so he can play his part in this little morality play.  I just don't think it's fair to him, is all, even if the repeated "X flips and bursts into flames" is kinda funny.

I always stumble on the apparent distinction between "plays" and "comedies" here--and I don't think I'm denigrating Sophocles in any way when I say that "fun" isn't really a word I would apply to him.  Aristophanes, yes; Sophocles, not hardly.  I *would* be quite keen on this quest if we could find a lot of lost Greek theater, however...


Well, here's the punchline, not that it's any big surprise.  A few things to note here.  First, this "girls! Ick!" business.  Now, of course, Donald isn't the only one with a mutable personality; sometimes HDL are more kid-like, and sometimes they're basically miniature adults.  Rosa generally is more likely to go with the second choice, and he certainly does in this story.  There's a part of me, then, that wants to approve of this attempt to modulate that a little, because it can get to be a bit much, but the dominant part of me has to note that it doesn't really work--it just feels jarringly out-of-place to stick in this one looktheyrereallylittlekids! bit like that.

More importantly, this whole "adding lots of modern knowledge" business draws attention to the fact that this story singularly fails to answer all the relevant questions here.  "Modern knowledge"--what does this mean?  Well, presumably some of this is World-Alamanac-type material, and some of it must be Boy-Scout stuff (with all this convoluted mythology surrounding the guidebook, it's easy to  lose track of the fact that the Woodchucks are actually a scouting organization), but that leaves open the question of where the modern "magical" knowledge comes from?  The stuff about talking to aliens, f'rinstance?  Are we to assume that this actually constitutes ancient knowledge because something something Erich von Däniken?  Even if so, you get the picture, though: there's no reason to assume that the book's proprietary information is exclusively focused on old stuff.  When Gemstone reprinted this story in their last-ever (goddamnit…) issue of Uncle Scrooge, they did so back-to-back with another story that tries to get to the bottom of this whole Guidebook thing.  It takes a much different approach, obviously, but when you think about it, the two aren't so incompatible after all--after all, that "modern knowledge" has to come from somewhere.

As I think about it, though, I'm not actually sure whether this whole "guidebook origin story" thing works for me, however it's done--how does that li'l book contain all that information?  Because the Woodchucks organization is awesomely competent, I've always thought, as exemplified by HDL themselves.  But now we're supposed to buy that they're either custodians or beneficiaries of some mysterious savant?  That makes them seem more passive than I feel like they really should be.

…and then there's the ending, which I'm really not sure how to read.  Are we supposed to think that Scrooge has finally cracked here, what with this nonsense rationale for how he supposedly saved money?  Or are we supposed to take it seriously (in, obviously, a cartoony sort of way)?  It sure looks to me like the former, but I can't say for sure. 

Ultimately, it's hard to know how to rate this story.  It's certainly competently assembled, in spite of a few hiccups, and it does what it sets out to do (also, I like that General Snozzie gets a good workout).  Calling it a bad story does not seem justified.  On the other hand, calling it a good one?  I don't know.  I'll allow that I do enjoy it, kind of, but sort of in a similar mindset to the way I enjoy the aforementioned "educational" stories (though this is clearly miles beyond them in quality).  In the end, I see it as an interesting curio, but certainly not in Rosa's top ten.  If you're one of the people who DO think it's the greatest comic EVAH, please explain to me your rationale.  Thanks.



Anonymous Elaine said...

OK, here's what I would say: I don't think this is one of the best of Rosa's stories (Rosa himself does not think it is one of his best). However, the moment when it dawned on me, in my first reading of this story, that the accumulated wealth of all these libraries was going to end up being the core of the JW Guidebook was the one moment of purest and greatest joy I have ever experienced from reading a comic. Like you, I did figure this out before the reveal, but also like you, I did not figure it out early on. Only in retrospect, I would argue, is it indeed obvious that this is where this is heading. Rosa does a great job of *not* telegraphing that. Scrooge has gone on similar quests for knowledge with the expectation that there will be clues to treasure within that body of knowledge, and it's perfectly believable that he and HD&L (for their own, different reasons) would be motivated for this quest.

So, what all went into the deep joy and intense delight I experienced when I figured out where this was heading? I think it was a combination of several factors. One was the element of surprise (so I don't get anything like the same experience on re-reading--now it's more a warm glow, a joy more remembered than experienced). But there was also a sense of complete appropriateness, of something falling into its exactly correct place, that was deeply satisfying. OF COURSE all the supposedly lost knowledge of the ancient libraries is in the Guidebook! That's just where it belongs! That is the appropriately mysterious and ineffable Vessel of Inexhaustible Knowlegde to contain such treasure. (That doesn't mean, of course, that that necessarily accounts for *all* the knowledge in the Guidebook; we're talking Deep Mystery, here.) And I think part of this joy was the ultimate "fanboy/girl" pleasure that comes when someone else appreciates a creation you also appreciate, in just the way it should be appreciated. In other words, this story does honor to Barks' wonderful (and very funny) creation, the JW Guidebook, and the role that played in so many stories I love. It honors the Guidebook just as it should be honored. This is part of the feeling of joy that Rosa often gives me, when he includes some element of Barks' duckworld in a way that shows his own love and understanding of it. But here that feeling ("yes, Rosa's fanboy use of this Barksian element is exactly how I would want someone to use that element, it honors what makes Barks great, and it's funny, besides") was for me at its absolute height.

Because the surprise, and the resulting intense delight of the "click" of Perfect Rightness when the truth dawned, were dependent on my not knowing the denouement in advance, I have always been EXCEEDINGLY GRATEFUL that I did not live in a country where the idiot publishers gave that away on the cover of the first printing, by putting "Origin of the JW Guidebook" on the cover. In that case, I might have enjoyed elements of the story (San Slanti and all), but I never would have had that Moment of Greatest Comic-caused Joy Ever.

Part of the joy also, for me as a scholar, is that in the Alternate Universe of Ducks, the knowledge of the lost library etc. was never lost, that it is treasured and guarded by the noble Woodchucks. (I don't see that as serving some long-ago savant, but as serving Knowledge, a noble task.) So it's a bit like Dylan Horrocks' Hicksville, or like the heaven in Isaac Bashevis Singer's story "Menaseh's Dream": it's the place where nothing is lost, the place where everything of value is safely preserved and honored as it should be honored.

April 4, 2012 at 11:55 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

(And here's the rest of my essay; it exceeded the comment character-limit. I promise I won't start writing such great screeds regularly!)

As for the treatment of Donald, I agree that it makes him a bit too much of a philistine, but I'm willing to allow that for the sake of the jokes and the chance to comment on the anti-book TV culture in a humorous way. Donald's relation to book-learning varies a huge amount from story to story, even in the Barks canon.

And as for the "girl--ick" stuff: OK, yes, the childlikeness of the "ick" response doesn't quite fit smoothly into HD&L in their JW personas. But I do think that the way this storyline makes Cleopatra the founder of the JW tradition is a very clever way of dealing with the hard fact that the JW Guidebook is restricted to boys only. Of course that bothers my feminist self--that one of the most magical things in fiction was Owned By Boys. That's why I was charmed when translator Jonathan Gray gave Webbigail a Chickadee Field Guide that was like unto the JW Guidebook (even though I know that could never exist in Rosa' duckworld). So I was cheered that Rosa did not avoid the gender issue, but raised it in a semi-satisfying way, having the JW tradition of male leadership being historically trumped by the femaleness of the original founder of the library. And it's also satisfying, then (as well as funny) that HD&L's discomfort with that fact is shown to be childish.

April 5, 2012 at 12:04 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Oh, and yes, the "overdue fine" joke is a bit lame. But I imagine Rosa wanted to find a way to end the story without leaving Scrooge depressed and frustrated. The basic joke of the end of the quest, of course, is that the "lost" knowledge turns out to be in the one place to which Scrooge cannot gain access. And Rosa didn't want to leave him simply defeated. But may I say also, that this is another thing I like about the story: that the purity of the JWs' motivation and mission means that some precious knowledge is NOT FOR SALE, that the value of safeguarding knowledge does win out over Scrooge's capitalist/consumerist values.

April 5, 2012 at 12:20 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Thank you for that cogent response. Obviously, I didn't have quite that reaction, but I can understand it. I feel as though a slightly higher action:exposition ratio might've made it click a little better for me, but that's just speculation. It's *definitely* the case, however, that I should've been all over your last point, about Woodchuck principles trumping Scrooge's. That is indeed a very good thing.

Now I'm wondering about the relationship between the Chickadees, who, after all, are generally shown to be at least the Woodchucks' equals in Barks stories. I feel like there must be a missing piece of this puzzle somewhere. AND WHAT OF THE LITTLE BOONEHEADS?!? I think that's the REAL burning question here. Or, contrariwise, not.

April 5, 2012 at 1:54 AM  
Anonymous ChickenChickenChicken said...

Personally I like Don Rosa best in his "fun with physics" chaos mode, but out of his "treasure finding" adventures I would rank this one close to or at the top (certainly above Croesus, Columbus, Eldorado, Kalevala or Crusader King, to take a few).

I love the history stuff. Yes, it's educational, but when the material is so inherently interesting, what's wrong with that? I would also point out that while being (as it turns out) the history of the JW guidebook specifically, it's also the history of books in general. The Year of the Book people must have been exceedingly pleased with what they got.

The structure of the story, where the Ducks go Indiana Jonesing around the world, is pretty typical for one of the longer DR adventures, and what makes this one work better than some other examples is the compelling motivation, the inventiveness of Rosa at the height of his powers, and the consistent logic and historical plausibility of the mystery. Like Elaine, I find that the feeling of utter satisfaction and rightness when things start to click, and when you start to see the history of Duckburg (already told by Rosa in His Majesty McDuck and other stories) woven together with the history of the library, is just wonderful.

All these concerns over Donald's or HDL characterizations are non-issues as far as I'm concerned. They're well within the range of established variations of the uncle and nephews. Donald as philistine, ignoramus and fan of the most inane pop culture? Completely in character. HDL as boys in the "girls, ick!" phase? Completely in character (especially in Junior Woodchuck stories, where there's no greater humiliation than losing to a bunch of girls).

April 5, 2012 at 3:06 AM  
Blogger Comicbookrehab said...

I recall this story began as an attempt at pushing the "Give a hoot - read a book" message. But I thought the origin of the guidebook was pretty cool,even though Rosa himself can't believe it, either: the bit where the guidebook is actually an "abridged" copy of the entire contents of the lost library is where he cancels it all out and goes back to it being a magic book - the sonic screwdriver of Disney comics.

Donald is cast against type - usually the 10-pagers begin with him pulling the nephews away from the TV. maybe Rosa identifies more with Scrooge and the nephews, whereas Barks always put himself in Donald's shoes - and we've seen Doanld wear shoes (his Duck Avenger boots) ;P

April 5, 2012 at 9:55 AM  
Blogger Comicbookrehab said...

Hey, don't you watch "Ancient Aliens"? The library was SURE to have something on the shelves...;P

April 5, 2012 at 9:59 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Interesting comments, CCC. Thinking about it in the light of day, I would agree that Donald here is acting "in character," at least according to one established side of his character. On HD&L's girl-aversion: it's true that they-as-JWs are humiliated at losing to girls. It's just the actual "ick ick ick" that seems a little too childish to me. They might feel that, but I don't quite think they'd say it. But it's funnier than a more restrained/"mature" negative response. And as I say, it can be seen as a comment on the childishness of the assumption of male privilege with regard to knowledge.

I myself would rank Croesus and Columbus above Lost Library as overall stories, partly because of the action:exposition ratio. Columbus is similar to Lost Library in having a reveal that is deeply satisfying--the reveal that turns the map and our worldview upsidedown and reverses the roles of discoverer and discovered, subject and object. (Literally, this map thing is historically implausible, but metaphorically, it is deeply true.) Kalevala I rank along with the other literary send-ups, mostly successful for those who are very familiar with the original. (It was, after all, Rosa's thank-you note to his Finnish fans.) Eldorado just isn't a very good story. Crusader has its moments, but doesn't work as well for me overall as some of the other stories, partly due to the historical plausibility issue (And yes, this means that while I love the family aspect of A Letter from Home, its treasure aspect doesn't work for me).

And GeoX, if the JWs are the Duckburg Boy Scouts and the Chickadees are the Girl Scouts, part of the difference is the fact that Barks was impressed by the mystique attached to the Boy Scouts' Handbook, and there was no similar mystique surrounding the Girl Scouts' Handbook (at least, not that he was aware of). Anyway, in Barks' stories you very rarely experience anything from a female's POV (though you do empathize with Magica's frustration!). The Chickadees come off best vis-a-vis the JWs in the eagle-saving story; in the bridge-building story, they are competitive due to their steretypically battle-axe-ish leader (not admirable or attractive in personality, despite her service to our nation!) and her willingness to keep the girls working rather than ask them to help the boys save Donald. It's clear in this story that the Chickadees have no Guidebook with bridge-building instructions.

April 5, 2012 at 10:40 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Comicbookrehab, you're right that the tension between the historically plausible explanation of the Guidebook's origin and the Guidebook's magical status is irresolvable, and Rosa in fact does not resolve it. Note that in the Tralla La sequel, the Guidebook does indeed contain any poem you might happen to want! So I'd rather he hadn't said anything about abridgement, or leaving out the fiction, or whatever. No way to explain (or even, to make sound vaguely feasible) how all that knowledge fits into that little book. As you say, it's a sonic screwdriver. In some sense, this tension is just a vivid instance of the constant tension between Rosa's drive to fit the ducks into our historical timeline and the comic-book reality of their world.

April 5, 2012 at 11:14 AM  
Blogger Chris Barat said...


Gotta say, I've always loved this story, though you lay bare some of its (fairly obvious) faults with your accustomed expertise and panache. In particular, Rosa hammered the point about "Books good, TV bad!" into the ground, then sowed said ground with salt and laid a curse upon it. Even GIVEN the fact that the story was meant to make something of a didactic point, Rosa seemed to relish the overkill. I'm a sucker for history, so I had no real problem with the steady accumulation of historical detritus, and at least Rosa was smart enough to cut the dryness with a few clever visual and sight gags, several of which you mentioned.

One possible correction: "plays and comedies by Sophocles and Aristophanes" was probably meant to be read "plays by Sophocles AND comedies by Aristophanes." Even that interpretation seems a bit awkward, however, suggesting that comedies can't be plays.

Here's a horrifying thought: If QUACK PACK had stuck to the supposed original theme of the "What in the World?" TV crew traveling the world in search of exotic stories, then wouldn't the search for the Library of Alexandria seem like a natural? Except in THAT case, Daisy and Donald would have been out doing the searching, while HD&L would have been lounging on the sofa at home, watching TV and whining that there's nothing to do!


April 5, 2012 at 8:55 PM  
Blogger Comicbookrehab said...


The Quack Pack episode you speculate on would have been about finding Cleopatra's lost library of comic books and ended with the nephews being chasing by a giant robot sphinx. Donald would be preoccupied with trying to catch fish on the Nile while Daisy would be trying to get an interview with a shady real estate developer/comic shop owner/whatever. Maybe Brad Garrett or Dan Castellanta would do the voice - they were the recurring guest villains in all the mid-90s DAFT series.

This just writes itself!

April 6, 2012 at 10:38 AM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Um, er… What Elaine said up top!

I don’t think I could have said it better than she, so I’ll move on to other topics.

Also, to “Chicken”: The ducks do NOT go “Indiana Jonesing”. Considering WHO is documented as having influenced WHOM, it would be more proper to describe “Indy’s” activities as “Ducking!” Or, maybe even “CARL BARKSING”!

“Rehab”: That’s a frighteningly accurate speculation of what QP would have done! (Shudder!) Well done!

Finally, it seems everyone’s mileage may vary on Rosa’s overall handling of the story (I thought it was great, though I doped out the end early on!), but MY greatest take-away was the magnificent escalation of the “Flips and bursts into flames!” gag!

It may just be me being attuned toward aspects of writing, but I find this technique of “repeatedly calling back to a gag, and upping the ante each time you do” to be very funny.

It’s been employed in such animated properties from Freakazoid! to Family Guy, and I love it every time.

So much so that I’ve attempted it myself in such Disney comics stories as “A Game of One-Cupmanship” (The escalating entertainment amenities of The Diner Down the Road), “Return of the Titan of Tae-Kwon-Duk” (Mauve/ Mauve Belt), and my favorite of all “To the Moon by Noon” (Ludwig Von Drake continually forgetting that Mickey is there – and “noticing” him for the first time)!

Rosa tends to do this at times – and here he does it to perfection! Anyone agree / disagree?

April 6, 2012 at 8:43 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Ooh, Joe, that was my favorite part of "To the Moon by Noon"--the running joke about LVD forgetting Mickey was there. Did you add that in your translation/dialoguing? Well done!

April 6, 2012 at 10:16 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

I've been thinking more about Comicbookrehab's comment and my initial response, and here's what I would now say: the knowledge contained within the Guidebook is all "natural" knowledge, not magical knowledge. Even when it includes communication with animals or with aliens, it is presented as natural knowledge. What is magical is simply the fact that all that knowledge is available in one little book (and that it is perfectly reliable, and that it is apparently exceedingly well indexed). So there isn't any problem with finding the origin of the core of the *contents* of the Guidebook in historical sources. The problem for me comes when Rosa makes half-hearted attempts to explain the magic: how all that knowledge fits into one little book (leaving out the fiction & poetry, condensing the contents, etc). That element is the sonic screwdriver.

Some people feel that the Guidebook's magic has been matched (or made obsolete, or superseded) by tiny hand-held devices through which one can access all the knowledge available on the internet. And I do wonder whether the Guidebook can have as much magical appeal for kids with iPhones as it did for me. One difference, though, is that (as GeoX pointed out elsewhere) THE GUIDEBOOK IS NEVER WRONG!

April 6, 2012 at 10:39 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Thank you, Elaine!

Yes, that was absolutely my own addition! I wanted to make Ludwig absent-minded, as he was in his TV appearances – and I thought this was a superb way to do this. Really glad you enjoyed it.

The original story was pretty much “Western Publishing Sixties-Era By The Numbers” (Something I *liked*, for what it’s worth!) -- and all of the humor that flowed from Ludwig’s dialogue, including some Barks references, were my own additions.

BTW, on that subject, there’s one secret that I revealed before, but I’ll offer it up again… Read the story all the way through.

Then, go back and read the first panel once again.

Mickey didn’t just “walk in on” Ludwig at that moment. He was already there… ALL MORNING!

And the readers just “walked in on” my little running gag of absent-minded Von Drake noticing him (over and over again, for the first time)… already in progress!

April 6, 2012 at 10:54 PM  
Anonymous TlatoSMD said...

I've always loved [i]Guardians[/i] exactly [i]because[/i] of its action:exposition ratio, because I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE history, just like CCC does above, and I also feel the same "falling into place" thing as does Elaine, that [i]Guardians[/i] is probably the most respectful, most honoring love letter to Unca Carl's creation of the impossible, magical, mysterious Guidebook.

Even though that "everything is in the Guidebook" is the unspoken premise of the Guidebook's conception and function in the stories, that's not what HDL are stating here. All they're saying is that if the Guidebook doesn't mention a big, vast historical event commonly taken as common knowledge and a real, very tragic desaster, then it can't have happened. In other words, the Guidebook neither lies nor omits big facts of "common knowledge" ever.

As for how to compress all that vast information into one little book, my take on it has always been that it's written in a special abridged code and script only known to JW members. That way, you not only solve the space issue, but also make the Guidebook safer from exploitation by non-authorized outside forces.

As for that poem in [i]Return to Tralla La[/i], uh...I never knew that poem in there was ancient, or lost, in any way? I thought it was comparably recent and thus wouldn't have been found in the Library of Alexandria?

Anyway, the thought of [i]Island in the Sky[/i] together with [i]Guardians[/i] suggesting an ancient Erich von Däniken event that resulted in an "alien dictionary" in the Library of Alexandria and preserved via the Guidebook quite amuses me! XD Gonna ask Don's opinion on this over at Papersera right away!

May 5, 2012 at 1:48 PM  
Blogger Natteravn said...

I've got a theory on how the book contains so much information... vectors! In addition to obviously very, very small type, and thin pages, the first part of the book is the index, then the rest is simply a dictionary. The entries in the index doesn't show page numbers, but short, space efficient, symbols corresponding to each word! It would certainly reduce the space required substansially.

May 2, 2014 at 1:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From GeoX's review: "As I think about it, though, I'm not actually sure whether this whole "guidebook origin story" thing works for me, however it's done--how does that li'l book contain all that information?"

The best answer to this question, and to all other similar questions in the comments, is the one Don Rosa gave on DCML on 20 August 1998:

"Speaking of the "GotLL" and the JW Guide, that story was printed recently in the great Greek comic KOMIX, and a reader wrote in to complain that it was a stupid story since the tiny Guidebook could not possibly contain so much information. Some people just don't catch the gag..."

Or, to quote what he wrote on Papersera on 2 June 2012 [answering a previous comment, "I've read there that you yourself regard the JWC Guidebook ultimately as a piece of unrealistic fantasy because you don't believe that all that vast information could be compressed into one tiny book. Is that true Don? My take on this has always been that the Guidebook must be written in a secret, abridged code, script, and cipher."]:

"??? Obviously so much info cannot be compressed into such a tiny book! Even in code, it would take up the same amount of space, right? And there is no 1950's technology to condense so much info only using the printed page.

But that's the fun of it. It's impossible. And there's no possible explanation. Maybe I seem to want to explain many Duckfacts that are *possible* to explain. But when something is clearly IMpossible, that alone is the whole point of the humor.

I thought I'd tried to use absurdist humor to "explain" the Guidebook. Unless your local translations are not accurate, my scripts have several times made cracks about how it is surreal that all that info can be in that tiny book. One time I had a character ask "How can so much information be contained in such a tiny book?" And the Nephew answered "That is explained in appendix 37B." [NOTE: Don was quoting the dialogue by heart. In the real dialogue Donald asks "How can that little book hold so much information?", and the Nephew answer: "I'll check--that's covered in appendix 137Q"] An impossible explanation is explained in an appendix that makes the impossibly long book even longer. See... the humor is in the absurdity, not in an explanation.

You mentioned you liked Monty Python style British humor. This is exactly it!"

I love when a story explains something in the Duck universe (which is one of the reason I love Don's stories), but this is something that should not be explained, like the "trick" of how can Scrooge possibly swim in his money without getting hurt.

Another joke that I like is the one in W.H.A.D.A.L.O.T.T.A.J.A.R.G.O.N., where we see a very small and thin book which is presented as "a Guidebook Recruit Primer! It contains only the contents of a mere set or two of encyclopaedias!". Does this work for you, GeoX?

By the way, in case someone hasn't noticed it: Scrooge's trunk from Don Rosa's stories works like the Guidebook, and contains more object than it is physically possible.

And for "Return to Xanadu" and the Library of Tralla La, I'll quote what Don wrote in the DCML message I mentioned before:
"And I saw some people were wondering about the The Library of Tralla La contained knowledge from the Library of Alexandria. But it was, itself, in my story, a *separate* book collection, and one that was never under the protection of the Guardians of the Great Library. So the Library of Tralla La *does* contain knowledge not found in the Junior Woodchucks Guidebook."

I'll conclude by saying that while Barks is mentioned in this page as the creator of the Guidebook, the object actually made his first appearance (as "Junior Woodchuck Handbook") in a story written by Carl Fallberg and drawn by Jack Bradbury, first published on Donald Duck 30, July 1953.

March 29, 2015 at 11:52 AM  
Anonymous Drakeborough said...

"…and then there's the ending, which I'm really not sure how to read. Are we supposed to think that Scrooge has finally cracked here, what with this nonsense rationale for how he supposedly saved money? Or are we supposed to take it seriously (in, obviously, a cartoony sort of way)? It sure looks to me like the former, but I can't say for sure."

It may seem absurd that Scrooge would have had to pay a fine to return the 2000-year old scrools, but after the recent news of the of the fine given to Sagrada Familia after almost a century and half for lacking a proper building permit I guess nothing would surprise me. I just couldn't help thinking of this story when I read the news, as even the figures are similar: 36 billion fine for Scrooge, 36 million fine for the Sagrada Familia.

The last message by an anon from more than 3 and a half years ago was mine by the way.

October 28, 2018 at 5:49 PM  

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