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The Golden Helmet

The Golden Helmet is a Donald Duck comic strip story written by Carl Barks in July, 1952. Donald and his nephews go on a treasure hunt for a mythical helmet.

Plot

Warning: Wikipedia contains spoilers

Donald is seen as working in the Duckburg Museum (as also in "Lost in the Andes") but his guard duties are not enough to satisfy him. The relics of the glorious past in the halls of the museum are all but forgotten as the crowds are more interested in butterfly collection and lace cushions. Donald laments his luck for being stuck there while he thirsts for adventure like the Vikings. His wish is soon answered when he becomes involved in a relic hunt of great importance. According to an old Viking saga and a map discovered in the museum Olaf the Blue, a Viking explorer, had reached the coasts of North America in the early 10th century and had claimed this land as his property. A claim that was indeed valid according to one of Charlemagne's laws accepted by all kingdoms of Europe at the time. Now a man who claims to be Olaf's distant descedant is searching for the evidence that his ancestor left behind as proof of his claim. A Golden Helmet, whose owner will gain a claim to all of North America.

The museum's director enlists Donald and his nephews in a rival attempt to find the Helmet first. Its location is estimated to be somewhere in the Northern Atlantic Ocean. Progressively in their search both rival expeditions lose all modern equipment and by the time they find the helmet they have to try to reach Canada's coasts traveling like the Vikings. But this is the least of their problems. Progressively the helmet changes hands between Olaf's heir, the museum's director, Donald himself and a lawyer that had been following them offering his services to any possible emperor of North America and finally deciding to become Emperor himself. The helmet, an object of power, has the same effect on any of its owners; a glitter in their eyes is the physical evidence of awaking greed and ambitions, as they become more ruthless. Each of them reveals the dreams of a tyrant. Ironically the idealistic director is the worst of them as he isn't interested in personal wealth but changing North American culture and education to his own ideals, to the "benefit" of society.

Finally Donald's nephews manage to throw the helmet into the sea and end the madness. But not before one of them got the same glitter in his eyes. At the end Donald is back in the museum and decides to get acquainted with his century and see the exhibits that interest the crowds.

Analysis

Usualy considered as one of Barks' strongest stories its strenghth lies in its characterization as each of the characters exhibits the darkest sides of his personality. The "heroes" prove to be no better than the "villains" when the opportunity arises and the only solution seems to be the loss of the Helmet. The helmet has a similar effect to J.R.R. Tolkien's One Ring but the reason lies in their minds rather than any magical curse. Barks' "successors" have added a number of sequels. The story seems to have inspired a further exploration of the Ducks motivation and the darker sides of their psychology in subsequent stories.



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