Lost in the Andes: the finest Donald Duck story ever written


Of course, it’s possible that all of those people who find new meaning in Lost in the Andes are victims of pareidolia.


Square eggs? Blocky architecture? Chickens?

Sounds like Donald discovered Minecraft…


This was a great read! I think the square eggs might be alluding to the story about Columbus, where he smashes an end of an egg or somesuch.

Barks did a different take on a similar theme later on with Uncle Scrooge- which I would say is one of his best. Scrooge is sick of the world’s obsession with money- so much so, that he develops a nervous illness requiring bottles of medicine to calm his nerves. His doctor then mentions this socialist-collective country in the Andes named Trala La where no money is used, and people just share all their resources. Sounds perfect to Scrooge, so he hops on a plane with his nephews and zips over to Trala La.

True to the doctor’s word, it’s a utopian community, and Scrooge’s nerves finally calm down. Unfortunately, while flying over there he’d popped open one of his medicine bottles, inadvertently sending the bottlecap out the window… which is later found by one of the citizens of Trala La. This shiny, cool, one-of-a-kind object becomes a desired possession in the land, with its value rising steadily as people offer more and more to possess it.

The rest of the story is great, and the critique of capitalism is genius and simple and clear.


So, Donald cracks an egg-stone in 1949 that was presumably collected before 1871 (as the records as to their provenance were said to have been lost in the Chicago Fire). It seems to be that the truly amazing thing about these eggs isn’t that they are square, it’s that they remain apparently fresh with yolks at least 70 years after they were laid.

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Dig it! Barks tells it… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tralla_La

So, how did Ariel Dorfman miss this?


Wait a moment… According to How to Read Donald Duck by Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart, the Donald Duck comics are full of capitalist propaganda.

You beat me to it.

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But isn’t the problem with capitalism that it makes commodities where nothing is a one-of-a-kind object? Pre-capitalistic societies had lots of one-of-kind awesome objects – the difference is they weren’t mass produced things that anyone with the means could get at the local mall (or appropriately enough for a South American adventure), Amazon.

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“Every bit of it is built with square blocks,” Donald notes.

Absolutely! I’m pretty sure I’ve walked the streets shown in the image, although in some other voxel-based game, as I’ve yet to fall into the sinkhole of Minecraft.

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Me either… but I have kids.

I lot of people would be shocked to hear that Carl Banks criticized capitalism. But I agree with you–he was always critical of corporate, consumerist capitalism (yes, it’s ironic in the Disney context). But he always championed individualist, entrepreneurial, free market capitalism. It’s too bad that those two have gotten mixed up, and you can have Republicans saying with a straight face that passing laws to benefit huge corporations represent a defense of capitalism (net neutrality is a key example here).
The Scrooge McDuck stories show this clearly, where the young Scrooge is constantly struggling against authority to make his fortune…

I think the finest DD story was the Christmas one where the kids want a toy steamshovel, but Donald thinks they mean a real one. He gets the money from Uncle Scrooge. But Scrooge also buys a shovel and they have an epic steamshovel fight in the street.

Don’t forget Don Rosa’s equally good sequel Return to Plain Awful.

Donald is someone who just wants more out of his life, which I find exhilarating and inspirational. … For adults caught in meaningless jobs, Donald represents that heroic dream — that some happy accident will come along when we least expect it, and send us on a journey. Donald has no illusions that he’s not going to make any money, or at least doesn’t speak of any kind of remuneration. Instead, he presses forward, for the thrill of adventure.

And don’t you forget it! :wink:

I cannot overstress how much I love Uncle Scrooge as the ultimate encapsulation of the American Dream. If Donald is the everyman, Scrooge is the ideal – and Barks did a truly wonderful job of celebrating the best of that ideal while critiquing the worst of it.

Scrooge is a self-made man, a poor immigrant who scraped and saved and got where he is by being smarter than the smarties and tougher than the toughies. And as his reward for his hard work and his genius, he amasses a fortune – and the constant, oppressive fear that he’s going to lose it, eccentric hobbies that set him out as completely out-of-touch with the common man, and a stinginess that sees him, time and again, taking advantage of his own family and exploiting them as cheap labor.

Through it all, though, he maintains a childlike enthusiasm for exploring the world, finding new things, going places no one else has ever been. And yes, part of that is because he wants to continue amassing wealth – but part of it is that he really does have that wonderful, infectious curiosity and love of life.

He’s such a wonderfully complex and nuanced character – truly one of the richest in American fiction, and I’m not talking about his money bin.


So, before the topic closes, does anyone want to give away the twist ending?

It’s true… though, at the same time, Barks often criticizes him for the money-grubbing miser he is. I get the feeling that while Barks would never embrace a socialist political agenda, he at the same time wrestled with all the contradictions of the “self-made-man” ideal the way conservatives have made it out to be these days. Like everything, there is good and bad to that point of view, and Barks was smart enough to see it, even if he couldn’t totally reconcile it intellectually.

Case in point, the episode where he goes to Trala La- just the name itself, “tra la la” is mocking that hippy-dippy commune attitude of a utopia where everything is great… yet, the reality is, when Scrooge gets there, everything IS great. It really does work as a commune. And when Scrooge criticizes the citizens for getting obsessed with false worth in the form of a bottlecap, his nephew cynically points out that Scrooge is the biggest offender of that exact problem.

So Scrooge is the ideal… in SOME ways, and a cautionary tale in other ways. He’s basically the embodiment of humanity’s struggle with the idea of wealth, and there is no clear answer or system that Barks, or anyone else, has ever come up with to overcome our own short-sighted pursuits. But deep down, Scrooge is a good guy with a big heart, and that redeems him… as well as any conservative, liberal, libertarian, or anything else. Just plain ol’ human decency, regardless of ideology.