Scrooge's addiction to nutmeg

Donald Ault ault at
Mon Dec 11 15:46:05 CET 2000

Regarding US #39 Daniel van Eijmeren wrote:

The lettering of "fibber I am!" looks slightly different from the rest of
the balloon's dialogue. Is this coincidence or could there originally have
been something else? Does the lettering look like being done by somebody
else than Carl or Gare Barks?

The story is about Scrooge being addicted to nutmeg tea. If the dialogue
has been changed, could it originally have contained a reference to his
addiction (instead of a reference to his fibbing in the previous panel)?

To me, the chain and the collar looks like a visualization of Scrooge's
addiction: he's happy having his nutmeg tea again, but by pulling the
chain he hints that he rather would get rid of being dependent of it.
(At least before somebody discovers he's an addict.) What do you think
of that?

The lettering of the word "fibber" and the spacing before and after it
indicate that the published text differed from the original text Carl wrote
for that panel (I've checked the original printing of US #39, and the text
is identical to the reprinted versions, so the change must have occurred
before the story went to press). The lettering looks to me as though it was
probably done by Gare Barks, but that doesn't settle the question of WHEN it
was done or for what reason. There may indeed have been some kind of
reference to Scrooge's addiction, but in an interview with Carl on 5-29-73 I
asked him about dimensions of his characters that showed up only once and
then disappeared (like Scrooge's bad memory in "Back to the Klondike" or the
addiction to nutmeg tea). Here is what Carl said at that time:

"Each was a gimmick, each was the vehicle or the running gag of the story.
Like the story in which he was addicted to nutmeg tea. I've been beginning
to get some clippings out of this underground comic called Cream that
implies that he was a drug addict because he was addicted to nutmeg, because
nutmeg taken in sufficient quantities can have an effect on your mind. The
reason I chose nutmeg was that it was something that grew in the tropics and
gave him an excuse to go to the tropics. Otherwise I could have said,
'codfish tails,' and sent him to Iceland."

This statement implies strongly that he didn't know about the actual
addictive properties of nutmeg. That doesn't rule out the possibility that
he may have wanted to close out the story with a reference in that final
panel to the situation on the first page of the story and to Scrooge's
feeling (financially) vulnerable if other people found out about his
addiction that tea. Daniel's insight that the chain and collar symbolize
Scrooge's addiction seems brilliant to me. I believe it's the kind of thing
that (as Carl told me many times) "crept into" his stories without his being
consciously aware of it. It's the kind of amazing "unintentional" meaning
that pervades Carl's stories and contributes to their depth.

Donald Ault
Dept. of English
University of Florida
ault at
ault at
FAX: (352) 332-0551

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