Thursday, December 27, 2012

"The Code of Duckburg"

Got time for another Christmas thing?  Of course we do!  After all, as we are all aware, the official Christmas season stretches until Twelfth Night and Epiphany on January sixth.  Ever wonder why that's the date specified for Jesus's birth in the "Cherry Tree Carol?"  Huh??  Well all right then.

This 1956 effort is probably a lesser-known Barks Christmas effort, but I like it anyway.  Looking back, it's actually one of the very few Christmas duck comics I actually read as a kid.  My dad didn't have many of 'em.

This opening was sure to draw me in, because I definitely could identify with the first-world-problem agony of having to pull a sled up a hill.  I had all kinds of weird fantasies, chief among them a special hill that would pivot so when you got to the bottom, bam, you were at the top again.  A horse would've been okay too, though.

A rare opportunity to see the kids interacting with Gladstone on their own, and in a non-acrimonious context, no less.  Contrived it may be, but there you go.  Why these "clubwomen" thought this would be a good prize is anybody's guess.

Still, it's some nice wish-fulfillment.  Not only do you get your sledding laziness all resolved, but you get an adorable pet--love his expression going down, though I do kind of doubt that that would work very well.  Seems more likely that his weight would just crush the sled, or at least mash it into the ground.

WHOA WHOA WHOA--WHAT ABOUT BOLIVAR?!?  At any rate, though, it's good that HDL now have carte blanche to rack up a nice squirrel collection.  I always liked HDL-centric stories as a young'un (well, I still do, but you know), and the kind of benign subterfuge that goes on in this one really works for me.

Ah, yes--the "Code of Duckburg" itself.  This always amuses me, because it's one thing to say that there's this arbitrary regulation forbidding gift returns, and it's quite another to call it the "Code of Duckburg," as though it's the single, central principle on which the city was founded.  Seems to me as though this here code would make a good plot point for a future story or two by some enterprising writer.  Who knows; maybe it has been and I just don't know it.

Here's a bit of strangeness that never registered with me when I was small, but it sure does now: Donald has in-universe "admirers?"  Is this a little drop of spillover from the old conceit that the Disney characters are really "actors" within their comics or cartoons, with their own fanbases?  I certainly don't remember seeing this in any other Barks story.  It seems somewhat common in Italian stories, though; I've read a number of them in which the main story is framed as the characters performing roles in TV shows.

I really do admire the nephews' chutzpah.  It's not like it's terribly long or anything, but the tension of the evening really comes home to me.

"Until Spring?"  What kinda wimpy code is this?  I suppose there would have to be SOME sort of statute of limitations here, but this makes the whole thing seem pretty weak.  And what are they gonna DO with ol' Roscoe in the Spring?  It's not like they have a receipt, and in any case, I'd have to think that everyone would be pretty attached to him by that time anyway, making it quite painful to just ditch him.

Ah well--no need to think too hard about such things.  Mostly, this is just a pleasant, gentle story.  We note the functioning of karma here--the kids trick Donald, and so in turn their own presents get riddled with bullet holes--but the stakes are so low and the tone so genial that it's ultimately no big deal; they can just laugh it off, and we neither see nor really expect that there would be any other big explosions from him.  Good fun.



Anonymous Elaine said...

I've always liked this story, too. Favorite moment: Donald talking about how the kids will get him a billfold and slippers, like always (slippers? Donald wears slippers?), and wishing for a more unusual present, as he tosses his hat onto Roscoe's antlers. I also like how when Donald goes to bed, a nephew says, "From here on, it's clear sledding"--an example of Barks's care for detail in writing.

I think your sense that the Code is forbidding *returns* is perhaps a trifle anachronistic. I always assumed it was forbidding getting rid of the present, throwing or giving it away or selling it at a tag sale or whatever. I don't think returning stuff to stores was done near as much in the 1950's. Anyway, I figure that Roscoe can live at Scrooge's zoo during the warm months. Maybe when Blitzen (Christmas Cheers) retires he can replace him as Scrooge's watchdeer.

December 27, 2012 at 10:07 AM  
Blogger Chris Barat said...


There appears to be a glitch in this post -- you used the same image (the boys riding Roscoe down the slope) twice.

I don't think that Bolivar would be relevant here, since Donald was specifically referring to "hay-eating" animals. Of course, it's quite possible that Bolivar might overindulge in foodstuffs and want to eat grass as a result, but that's another story...

I think we may have another "true meaning of Christmas moment" in this story to match the camel-rider and the star in "A Christmas for Shacktown." When Don refers to the Nephews possibly preparing a "tableau," he's almost certainly referring to a creche (manger) scene. gives as the definition of "creche" "a small or large modeled representation OR TABLEAU (caps mine) of Mary, Joseph, and others around the crib of Jesus in the stable at Bethlehem, as is displayed in homes or erected for exhibition in a community at Christmas season." Barks obviously couldn't use the religiously loaded word "creche" in his script, so he selected the more neutral "tableau" instead.

My guess as to Roscoe's ultimate fate is that Donald and HD&L brought him out to Grandma Duck's farm in the Spring. Not only would Grandma take good care of him, but he would still be available for the boys to use for sledding purposes during FUTURE snowfalls. Plus, Donald wouldn't be violating the "Code of Duckburg" because Roscoe wouldn't have been "returned," merely relocated.

I get the distinct feeling that Barks was so tickled by the idea of HD&L having a reindeer "pet" that he didn't pay his usual attention to the "small details" in this story. Even so, I like the yarn.


December 27, 2012 at 7:04 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Yes, "tableau" certainly refers here to a life-sized creche scene. That's a conveniently seasonally appropriate possible use for hay! I don't think using "tableau" rather than "creche" or "manger scene" was necessarily a way of avoiding religiously explicit references; I think "tableau" would have been the more likely word used for a life-sized scene with human actors (creche or nativity set for a miniature scene). "Tableau: a representation of a picture, statue, scene, etc., by one or more persons suitably costumed and posed." At Christmas time, everyone would have known what kind of tableau you were talking about--a manger scene. Today the Christmas tableaux are usually called "living nativities"--they're tableaux when the actors don't move or speak, they just pose to create a scene.

And yes, Grandma's farm might be a better place than Scrooge's zoo for Roscoe to spend the warmer months. But I, too, thought he would come back to Donald's house in future winters.

December 27, 2012 at 10:38 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Man, how did I miss that "hay-eating" bit? The question is, does Donald think squirrels eat hay? Or does he have something else in mind? Hmm.

Should also probably have highlighted that "I suppose the boys will give me the usual slippers and billfold" bit. It seems to be a nice sentiment: sure, they may just get him the same thing every year, but it's not really the thing so much anyway; it's the love and tradition that the thing represents.

Good call about Roscoe going to Grandma's. One can easily imagine quite a wide array of one-shot Duck family pets ending up out there.

December 28, 2012 at 1:28 AM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Why bother with Grandma’s farm? Roscoe simply went to “The Place Where ALL Persons, Places And/Or Things That Are Introduced For The Purpose Of Telling A Particular Story, But Are No Longer Needed Thereafter” go! Whew! Put THAT ONE in your acronym pipe and smoke it, Woodchucks!

Maybe he’s palling around right now with Cheltenham the Chipmunk, roaming the halls of the Cathedral of Notre Duck? Or gawking at the awe and majesty of (pardon the self-indulgence) The Wrathakhan Emerald!

Indeed, anytime anyone other than Scrooge McDuck ends a story by making, or being otherwise rewarded with, a huge pile o’ money, care to guess where it goes? It can’t ALL be bum investments, folks!

But, why-o-why, did the one most glaring exception to this unalterable law have to be the retention of Bubba Duck? Though, we can take solace in the fact that he exists only in the DuckTales universe.

December 29, 2012 at 6:17 PM  
Blogger Chris Barat said...


Would we be able to put the "Code of Duckburg" in that "Place," as well? It's not a physical object, of course, but perhaps the CONCEPT of a "Code of Duckburg" could have been put in storage, for possible future disinterment and (much-needed) explanation.

I think a sequel story explaining the consequences of BREAKING the "Code of Duckburg" would make for an interesting mental exercise.


December 30, 2012 at 10:35 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Chris and Everyone:

“The Code of Duckburg” is indeed, in “that place”, nestled somewhere among Scrooge’s Corn-Crib Money Bin (Don Rosa never addressed that in “Life and Times”, did he?), various “specialty relative Beagle Boys”, and the “Calisota Shore” reality TV special that was way-bigger in Italy than it was here. :-)

I’ll bet EVERYONE can name something that found its way there! …And, without even thinking very hard! Go for it, folks!

December 31, 2012 at 3:01 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...


January 1, 2013 at 5:39 AM  

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