The Golden Helmet
|"The Golden Helmet"|
Original comic book cover by Carl Barks
|Story code||W OS 408-02|
|Layout||4 rows per page|
Huey, Dewey and Louie
|First publication||Four Color #408|
"The Golden Helmet" is a 32-page funny animal comic book adventure story written, drawn, and lettered by Carl Barks. The story was first published in Four Color #408 (July 1952) with a cover by Barks and three Barks gag stories starring the Ducks: "Full-Service Windows", "Rigged-Up Lawn Roller", and "Awash in Success". "The Golden Helmet", the cover, and the gag stories have been reprinted many times. Donald Duck and his nephews hunt for a Viking helmet that gives the possessor legal claim to North America.
Donald is seen working as a guard in the Duckburg Museum (as also in "Lost in the Andes!"), but he finds his duties unsatisfying. The relics of the glorious past in the halls of the museum are all but forgotten, as the crowds are more interested in the butterfly, lace and tatting collections. Donald laments his luck for being stuck there while he thirsts for adventure like the Vikings.
Donald's 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 coast of North America in the early 10th century and had claimed this land as his property — a claim that was indeed valid according to an international treaty drafted in 792 during the reign of Charlemagne. Accompanied by his attorney Lawyer Sharky, Azure Blue, a man who claims to be Olaf's distant descendant, sets out to find the evidence that his ancestor left behind as proof of his claim — a Golden Helmet, whose possessor will become owner of North America.
The museum's director enlists Donald and his nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie, in a rival attempt to find the helmet first. Its location is estimated to be somewhere on the coast of Labrador. During their search, both rival expeditions lose all modern equipment, and by the time they find the helmet they must try to reach Labrador's coast traveling like the Vikings did. This is the least of their problems as the helmet changes hands between Azure Blue, the museum's director, Donald and Lawyer Sharky.
The helmet, an object of power, has the same effect on each of its successive owners: A cold glitter in their eyes betrays awakening greed and ambitions, as they become more ruthless, each of them in turn revealing the dreams of a would-be tyrant. Ironically, the idealistic museum director is the worst of all, 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 Louie gets the same glitter in his eyes. Working again as a guard in the museum, Donald decides to get acquainted with his century and see the exhibits that interest the crowds.
Usually considered as one of Barks' strongest stories, its strength 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 on those who possess it to J. R. R. Tolkien's One Ring or Der Ring des Nibelungen, where the reason also lies in one's mind rather than any magical curse. Barks' successors have added a number of sequels. It seems to have inspired a further exploration of the Ducks' motivation and the darker sides of their psyches in subsequent stories.
Relevance to Danish culture
In January 2006, the Danish Ministry of Culture published a canon of works significant to Danish culture. This story — the only item in the entire canon not of Danish origin — was included on the list of children's culture items, alongside LEGO building blocks.
In 1989, two Danish teenagers, Jesper Lund Madsen and Theis Christiansen won a competition in the Danish Anders And (Donald Duck) magazine, with a comic produced completely by themselves, "På gensyn med den gyldne hjelm" (The Golden Helmet Revisited.) The comic was produced as a bonus magazine for the October 16, 1989 issue of the magazine. Madsen later went on to work professionally for the magazine.