Dan Turèll and Donald Duck

Thursday 24 December 2009

Donald Duck and the Ghost of the Grotto

An excerpt from a Danmarks Radio interview with Dan Turèll, for the TV programme Rubrik, 1976:

You have written an essay about Donald Duck, and a poem to Uncle Scrooge.

Yes, Donald Duck is a great man. I have said it with the words that in these times where so many offer gurus, and where so many of my own generation suddenly sit on street corners and chant Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, or run joyous and happy after the plump Maharaji, or go for tests with Scientology, in these times the only anti-guru that we can sensibly use to vaccinate ourselves against all that guru devilry, that must be my great guru, the man who taught me all I know and can do, my personal Maharaji Ji, Donald Duck.

I think Donald Duck is the best example we can take in our everyday lives today, where so many sigh after new and fresh inspiration, because what characterises Donald Duck, and it has characterised him since he came to Denmark in the late ’40s, that is that Donald Duck is always ready every Tuesday.

Donald Duck is always being beaten down, Donald Duck gets knocked down by The Beagle Boys, his nephews laugh at him, Gladstone Gander always wins the old sofa at auction where there’s a treasure map hidden away, Uncle Scrooge just orders him about, and tells him that now he has to go over and check on some old railway or other, long derelict and far out in the desert, which hasn’t paid a dividend on its shares in more than thirty years, Daisy Duck laughs at him and is always on the lookout for another better duck, and all the same, despite all this, Donald Duck is ready, and comes down the road, merrily whistling a fresh tune, every Tuesday. This time he knows, this time everything will work out, this time he’ll manage it, Uncle Scrooge will admire him, appoint him as sole heir, Daisy will say “Oh, Donald,” and the nephews will look at him with eyes wide with wonder, and tell their friends just what a fantastic uncle they have.

And it doesn’t work out that way, and we all know that it won’t, because by now we’ve known Donald long enough, we know quite well that it will go in the usual way. He gets a job in a bakery and what happens, he comes to mix concrete in the dough ... he gets a job in the zoo as a night watchman, and all the animals escape, and we know it, and he ends up in the Foreign Legion again, and the nephews get a postcard in the final panel, and all the same there he is again next Tuesday.

And that’s why I think that Donald Duck is a magnificent example for people of today, who also must be ready to start over with the same indomitability every morning, even though the day before has been so full of violence and loathing, as practically everyone’s days are.

My translation. Original film copyright © DR.

For more along these lines, read Michael Barrier on The Mystery of Donald Duck, and see his follow up, and to hear Dan Turèll preach the duck faith in Danish, listen to Anders And Evangeliet.

Image: Cover art by Mike Royer, based on an oil painting by Carl Barks. It illustrates the Carl Barks story Donald Duck and the Ghost of the Grotto, first published in 1947. Copyright © The Walt Disney Company.