Sunday, December 06, 2015

Anatidae finnophily while listening to music from a kantele

Translation of a SébPhilatélie article, published May 22nd, 2014.

After numerous exchanges by Postcrossing and many surprises at every stamp issue, I love Finland almost as Britishness, and that until I associate this country with my other feathered and web-footed passion with metal music in the background.

[At time of the original writing] The 2014 Europa stamp competition is under way with the national musical instruments topic.
Issued May 5th, the Europa stamp of Finland with a kantele. Its twin represent a sort of accordion. (Posti in Finnish and in English).
A topic I am passionated with... until I watch some graphic pearls: the French harp (shame there is this Greek letter...), San Marino reflected on a trumpet... and this Finnish kantele player...

And here, the "Proust's madeleine" effect happened...


Donald Duck!!!

[readers' reaction: yeah, what's hapenning with him again?!]

Here I must tell my first meeting with this instrument, in a magical and mystical context.
After a short complete collection of new issues of French stamps (Summer 1988-1992), reading became fully my main passion: from reading stamps on collected envelopes, classical novels and science-fiction ones, and diving like Scrooge McDuck in the French Disney comic books of a friend who had kept them all.

Little by little, a handful of stories looked and felt different: the memory kept more easily their main intrigue and the secondary incidents lived by Donald, his uncle Scrooge and their nephews. Reareading them was not boring or repetitive: the numerous details of the drawing let many things to discover ; this style very far from the almost "clear line" of the other Disney artists.

The attraction to that United States cartoonist and storyteller Don Rosa had begun without knowing his name yet. His identity is revealed in 1994 with the publication in Picsou Magazine of the first episode of the The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck. Don Rosa created a complete biography of the richest duck in the world from all the little hints Carl Barks, Uncle Scrooge's creator, put in his stories.
Two of the five stamp minisheet the Finnish Post issued in 20001 for the fifty anniversary of Aku Ankka, the Donald Duck universe national magazine (

The two stamps abobe reproduced excerpts from a story by Don Rosa, in which he sent his hearoes to Finland. Why?

Disney cartoonist are in fact freelance hired by youth press editors who bought the print rights to the big Californian company. These artists are paid only once per page, whatever the number of reprints and whoever reprints them... That's why their name were rarely known to readers.

At the time, Don Rosa, an engeneer who inherited the family's company in Kentucky, succeeded to go from a Carl Barks fan to a reknown storyteller for the Danish media group Egmont, Disney's comics retailers for the whole of Northern Europe.

And the Finnish readers were to receptive to Rosa's stories that they get a story miwing their country, their culture and the Duck universe: The Quest for Kalevala. Scrooge McDuck faced the mythology of the Kalevala to get hold of the sampo, a machine that can create gold from nothing!!!

But his thirst of gold waked the two greatest enemies of the Finnish tradition: the witch Louhi and the Hero Väinämöinen (on the left hand stamp), a confrontation that only the latter's kantele can solve... An instrument that can shut up even avarice, but lost during the last fight. The right hand stamp reveals who found it back... but why is he in the streets of Helsinki... That's another story into the story.

From the stories by Don Rosa, Tuomas Holopainen created and performed a music album to listen while reading The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck (Nuclear Blast label).
Unfortunately, between 2002 and 2006, Don Rosa understood the injustice of the Disney's comic book system when he discovered his name was used to promote magazines and books without asking him... A grave problem of health concerning his eye-sight make him announce retirement.

Imagine my surprise, late April, when my eyes ,wandering in the FNAC music section, found a long cd cover with a very known duck on it and with as many details that Don Rosa can put on a page... Not very common in the metal area.

Finnish metal musician Tuomas Holopainen of the group Nightwish concluded a personal project, surely inspired by the soft music of Väinämöinen's kantele: create a soundtrack to Don Rosa's biography of Scrooge McDuck, from the beginning in nineteenth century Glasgow to the Australian Outback, from making fortune in Klondike to the secluded miserly solitary in his manor... until that Christmas 1947 when...

- - - -

All this from one topical stamp I should never have seen and a chance encounter in a music store. My own open philately class, even if I doubt it would please a philatelic jury :)

To discover Carl Barks' and Don Rosa's stories, complete collection tomes are regularly reprinted in many languages from English to central and northern European ones. For Rosa, prefer the one with the author's commentaries like the current Don Rosa Library by Fantagraphic Books and play with him to find his dedication to Barks and Mickey Mouse's head hidden in the drawings.

Now you can reread this article or The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck while listening to Holopainen's music:

A Lifetime of Adventure, whose first scene is the opening of the famous treasure chest.

Last Sled to Dawson and Scrooge's main dilemna of his life after he found the Golden Goose nugget in Klondike. In some stories, Don Rosa eventually get to the heart of the richest duck in the world.

Update: the second episode of my Don Rosa open collection is out in December 2015!

No comments: