Donald Duck: we know him as the short-fused, feathered friend of Disney's Mickey Mouse and the gang.
But in Finland — the beloved bird with his blue sailor ensemble (sans pants) and incoherent sputtering, is something of a legend.
That's right, step aside Mickey.
Donald Duck rose to cultural icon status in the Nordic country as the star of his very own weekly comic book magazine, Aku Ankka (Donald Duck in Finnish). First published in 1951, Aku Ankka has remained one of Finland's most popular magazines. It had a circulation of about 228,050 in 2014, and a readership of about 733,000 in 2015 -- in a country of 5.4 million people.
So what is it about Aku Ankka that resonates so much with the Finns?
One reason suggested is the comic strip's brilliant and award-winning use of the Finnish language, making it entertaining for adults and children alike. It has been tradition for new parents to buy a family subscription to Aku Ankka. As a result, generations of Finnish children have learned to read with Aku Ankka, which is reflected in this moving advertisement for Aku Ankka subscriptions.
Finnish author Hannu Raittila theorized that Finns also identify with the fiery bird who is hard working, resourceful and resilient in the face of adversity.
"Donald is forever getting into difficulties or coming under threat from some direction or another," Raittila explained in Finnish newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat in 2007. "The duck hero has to get himself out of all manner of unexpected and unreasonable scrapes using only his wits and the slim resources he can put his hands on, all of which meshes nicely with the popular image of Finland as driftwood in the crosscurrents of world politics."
And speaking of politics, when Finns aren't satisfied with their choice of candidates during an election, some are known to cast protest votes for Aku Ankka, according to Helsingin Sanomat.
Not only is Donald Duck a big shot in Finland, but so too is his American illustrator, Don Rosa. In an interview with Finnish radio station, Radio Rock, Rosa explained that while most Americans wouldn't even recognize him at a comic book convention, Finns recognize him on the street and even tremble with excitement as they approach him for an autograph.
And this Donald Duck fandom spans much further than the borders of Finland. The country's Scandinavian neighbours, Sweden, Denmark and Norway, as well as other European countries like Germany, are also big on the bird and have their own popular Donald Duck publications (though not quite as big as Aku Ankka).
There is even a term for all of this Donald Duck enthusiasm, Donaldism," which originated in Norway, with hardcore followers being called, "Donaldists."
In the words of Donald himself: "Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!" Who knew he was such an icon?!?
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