Thursday, November 28, 2013

"A Tale of Two Turkeys"

This story is untitled, but the above is what I suggested that a few years back that it SHOULD be retroactively called, as opposed to "Turkey Trouble" (or possibly "Turkey Turmoil," according to the somewhat confusing inducks page)  But hey--Gladstone (was it Gladstone?) might have thought "Turkey Trouble" was the right title, but they're dead and I'm not (...yet!), so I am unilaterally changing it.  Just try an' stop me!

It's actually a really solid story, packing in a lot of incident and showing more narrative sophistication than most of Barks' ten-pagers of this vintage (1946).

…did I say "sophistication?"  Ahem.  Well.  Okay.  But the dual-turkey business is remains impressive.  It feels to me like more than ten pages.

Nothin' wrong with potato pancakes!

Pretty odd that turkeys are pretty much the only well-known domestic bird that's non-anthropomorphized in the Duckiverse.  I guess it was just too convenient to have one freely available for food-related shenanigans in holiday-related stories and the like.  But in spite of not being anthropomorphized--well, the inevitable happens, and no one wants to eat him.  I distinctly recall reading a Little Lulu story or two that used this same conceit.

You know, I don't eat meat, but far be it for me to proselytize to people, especially on the day when (if you're American, at any rate) you're no doubt busily wolfing down birds of various stripes.  Still, when I think about the implications of stories like this, it looks to me as though there's a certain collective ambivalence about the ethics of meat-eating. 

To wit: "You can't cook Raffles!  He's a pet!"  Well, yes, okay, but if one turkey is unacceptable to eat because he's our pet and we love him, it just seems difficult not to conclude that any turkey can be eaten with a wholly clear conscience.  You're not allowed to murder people, even if you don't know and like them, so I don't know why that doesn't scale down.  Not that our relationships with animals aren't in general exceedingly irrational on an objective level, but still…

I like how pissed off HDL are up there.  Just DARE touch it!

Anyway, so now we pinball to this thing which is referred to as a "turkey shoot," though I don't know if it should really be called that given that no one is actually shooting turkeys--it's just targets.  Also, again as a vegetarian, I maybe shouldn't give advice like this, but I have to note that if you're going to eat that guy, you'd want to kill him sooner rather than later.  If you wait 'til he's elderly, which seems to be your plan, he's not gonna taste like much (not that turkeys taste like much anyway--back when I did eat meat, I always wondered what the big deal was about them).

…you would really think that HDL would extrapolate from Raffles and not be so doggone excited about the prospect of decapitating this other turkey.  As I said, things seem a little confused here. Donald's battle and subsequent outraged "I LOVE this turkey! He's got spirit!" is the best thing in the story.  Really gives some dimension to his character; you might well think he would be all too willing to go through with the slaughter.

And then: one of Barks' ambiguous endings.  If Donald likes "spirit" so much, you'd think maybe he'd accept this sort of take-charge action on the part of the turkeys, but apparently there are limits (I do think that in a later story, the kids wouldn't have been so willing to give up Raffles).  And yet…in spite of that, strangely enough, they don't eat the turkeys.  They sell them to (presumably) be eaten, but they don't do it themselves.  Out of residual affection?  There may be an element of palatability here: for little kids especially, it might be upsetting to see the birds killed in the end, and it would seem awfully vindictive of the ducks.  Still, if that's true, it would seem to support my "ambivalence" theory.  If you don't like thinking about turkeys being slaughtered…  

But regardless of motive: they don't do it.  Go figure.  Good luck finding a hamburger place open on Thanksgiving!

Anyway, this is my humble Thanksgiving offering.  Please accept it.  I should have some okay stuff for Christmas, and also--if we're lucky!--a little something special at some point in December.  Stay tuned.

(And no, that wasn't meant to be the world's most obvious hint that I'm writing about the Rosa story.  Though that's another thing I should do one of those days, no question.)



Blogger tymime said...

I'm pretty sure that if you have a live turkey in any Thanksgiving story EVER, it's not going to be eaten.

November 28, 2013 at 9:58 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

OK, this isn't so much a Disney comics issue as an issue of the cultural anthropology of human-animal relations....but I can think of lots of other instances where there is the sort of "confusion" you see in this story. Culturally, we have long had at least five categories of animal species with regard to their edibility: (1) species we don't eat because they're inedible; (2) species we don't eat because it would be disgusting from our culture's POV(bugs, worms, many of them now being eaten by foodies and environmental activists); (3) species we don't eat because we have dubbed them pets or co-workers (for our culture, dogs, cats, horses), named and befriended them; (4) species we *sometimes* eat and *sometimes* see as pets or co-workers; and (5) species we eat. Bass and tuna would be #5, I believe; but most domesticated species you might raise for food on a farm could be #4. Certainly the trope you refer to, about the prize turkey whom the children see as a pet, is an instance of the problem family farmers often faced, where children would have to be prevented from getting emotionally attached to the livestock (a particular risk when the animals were young and cute). So, the children would be forbidden to name the calves or lambs or whatever.

For Americans, category 4 certainly includes rabbits. (Though it's not that common for Americans to eat rabbit, we accept rabbit-eating as we do not accept dog-eating. I myself had a pet rabbit as a child, yet I was not grossed out by the thought of someone eating a rabbit. As long as it wasn't MY rabbit.) It could also include ducks, chickens, pigs (see Charlotte's Web, not to mention the pet pygmy pig fad) and cattle. Even adult small-scale dairy farmers might name their dairy cows, since the farmers had longterm working relationships with the individual cows and were not going to slaughter them for meat.

It may not be logical to not treat all animals of the same species in the same way, but it's a widespread human practice.

November 28, 2013 at 10:15 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Insightful comment. I'm not sure how, but I'd like to bring in the practice, pretty grotesque in its implications, of the Presidential turkey-pardon.

November 29, 2013 at 2:06 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

I’m actually surprise I never read this Barks story but then again since we don’t have (for SOME wacky reason)Thanksgiving in Europe maybe it was an obvious choice to skip.

I like the fact the Turkey won Donald’s respect by being worthy opponent. That’s a good honor code for our hero.

I find it a bit amusing to imagine this if the fact was the way ALL of Duckburgians chose which Turkey are eaten and which aren’t…
“Well, I bit the crap out of this Turkey way to easily. He seriously lacks spirit! Of to the oven it will go…”

It’s like Calisotas version of Corrida. Only it’s occurs only once a year and is somewhat more humane since the animal that have guts is free to go…

P.S. 1
GeoX reviewing “A Little something special”!? That would be like a dream come true… ;)

P.S. 2
“The Orb saga” would be something I think would be a great – December-themed material for GeoX zany reviews… :D

November 29, 2013 at 5:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Pretty odd that turkeys are pretty much the only well-known domestic bird that's non-anthropomorphized in the Duckiverse."

Actually, if we're not limiting ourselves to just the Barks canon, I do know there's a story (drawn by Vicar) where Donald temporarily moves to a turkey equivalent of Duckburg, inhabited entirely by anthropomorphic turkeys and including turkey versions of some of the regular cast.

Not that turkeys existing as people really means anything in relation to this if Goofy and Pluto can co-exist peacefully. Heck, haven't non-anthropomporphic ducks occasionally appeared alongside our favourite waterfowl?

November 29, 2013 at 6:50 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Yes, the presidential turkey pardon is notably bizarre. Which reminds me...I have long thought it very weird that images of smiling turkeys are used as symbols of Thanksgiving Day. "Oh, boy, I'm excited! It's the day everyone wants to have me for dinner!" But I think that's because there are virtually no other symbols available for T'g...aside from happy pilgrims and Indians, a symbolic picture which is historically suspect and fraught with the memory of later genocide. T'g Day really dates back to the Civil War, and we don't want to remember *that* on T'g, either. Sarah Josepha Hale forgot to provide us with a commercially and culturally viable symbol for the day.

The fact that the ritual actions around Thanksgiving are limited to sharing a feast, watching football, shopping and/or going to church, leads to the poverty of Thanksgiving-set comics stories. There are lots of Halloween and Christmas comics stories I re-read at those times, and a few other holidays have their classics, but there are no T'g comics stories I like enough to re-read every year. I listen to "Alice's Restaurant" instead.

November 29, 2013 at 7:59 PM  
Blogger Chris Barat said...


We also have the Civil War to thank for the society-wide acceptance of Christmas. Before the war, there were still sections of the country (mostly in the Northeast) that regarded Christmas with some suspicion, largely for religious and cultural reasons. The nostalgia for home triggered by the war helped make Christmas more palatable as a "home centered" holiday. Then, too, businesses began to realize that there was money to be made during the season.


December 3, 2013 at 12:05 PM  

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