Remember the adventure where Spirou and Fantasio chase Zantafio from Palombia to New York, to stop him from misusing a powerful, sacred artifact? No? Perhaps you have… amnesia!
La flûte de l’oubli (“The Flute of Forgetting”) is a legendary lost Spirou adventure, but it was never a comic. Written by Yvan Delporte (editor-in-chief of the Journal de Spirou and writer of many comics, including Gaston and the Smurfs), based on an idea by Franquin, it was a radio play for the Belgian broadcaster RTB, broadcast weekly as a children’s show starting on Saturday, 25. February 1961. Unlike a later radio play by Delporte, Les Robinsons du rail (“The Railway Robinsons”), which ran as an illustrated story in the Journal, this was never adapted to or published in any other format, and unlike that play and a radio adaptation The Dictator and the Mushroom, it was never released as a vinyl record.
In fact, the station’s audio tapes have been wiped and the script has been lost (apart from a few pages randomly preserved by Yann), so currently the story is not known to survive in any format. (Christelle and Bertrand Pissavy-Yvernault, authors of La véritable histoire de Spirou, have sent out multiple calls for help in tracking it down.) The most detailed information available is a page from the French edition of the Journal de Spirou #1201, which describes what “our Belgian friends” get to enjoy:
Beware the Flute of Forgetting!
Each Saturday, our Belgian friends can listen to an original adventure with Spirou, Fantasio and the Marsupilami…
Those of you who can receive Belgian radio are in for a treat: each Saturday at 17:45 you get the chance to listen to Spirou and Fantasio! Yes, André Franquin has created an original Spirou adventure especially for RTB: “The Flute of Forgetting”. Adapted by Yvan Delporte and produced by Paul Leponce, this extraordinary episodic suspense drama will bring shivers to our neighbors to the North.
This audio story recounts an untold episode in the adventures of Spirou – a series of events which took place after Spirou and Fantasio first brought the Marsupilami back to civilization.
Zantafio, what a crook!
You no doubt remember that it was in Palombia where Spirou and Fantasio discovered the Marsupilami. They had to capture this animal so that Fantasio could inherit the estate of an uncle who had passed away. And Fantasio had to compete for the inheritance with a cousin, Zantafio. What our heroes didn’t know was that the Marsupilami was the sacred animal to the savage Chahuta Indians, who were determined to avenge their stolen, long-tailed idol. Spirou and Fantasio are captured and brought deep into the jungle, to the Chahutas’ village, where they come face to face with… Zantafio. Zantafio has learned that there’s a temple that holds the treasures of the ancient Popitecs not far away, and decided to sacrifice his cousin and Spirou in order to get hold of the loot.
Spirou and Fantasio are set to suffer a terrible punishment: they will be subjected to the power of the Flute of Forgetting, a mysterious instrument that makes those who hear it lose their memories. But with the help of the Marsupilami, Spirou and Fantasio escape from the amnesia. As for Zantafio, he has the treasure in his grasp… which turns out to be a musical instrument. A flute. The Flute of Forgetting!
Zantafio gets out of the forest, makes his way to the city, and sets out on a terrible series of robberies. Imagine an instrument that turns those that hear it into amnesiacs. You play a tune to a bank clerk, who forgets what he’s doing there, allowing you to get into the vaults at your convenience.
But Palombia is not a big enough playground for Zantafio. He wants more, always more. And so he takes a plane to New York…
New York City memory loss!
Spirou, Fantasio and El Indio, the old Indian owner of the extraordinary flute, chase after Zantafio. But how to find the villain in the ant-hill that is this great American city? Unfortunately, it turns out to be all too easy. Zantafio has realized that in order for his diabolical plan to succeed, he has to give the whole city amnesia at once!
He will use television to achieve his goal. In the middle of the most popular program, he plays a tune on his flute. Spirou and Fantasio could have stopped him, oh yes… but they were arrested by the police just as they managed to get into the studio. They thought they were sabotaging the show!
From their jail cell, Spirou and Fantasio witness the drama. The policeman, from his desk, watches the program as Zantafio lifts the flute to his lips… plays a few notes… And at that same instant, all over New York, hundreds of thousands of TV-viewers are struck with amnesia.
How will Spirou and Fantasio get out of prison? What can they do to give back the memory to all the amnesiac New Yorkers? How will they go about thwarting Zantafio’s plans? You will find out by listening (if you can) to The Flute of Forgetting, this Saturday at 17:45, radio dial set to RTB (483.9m, MW).
If Spirou and Fantasio can reverse the memory loss for a whole city, perhaps this lost radio play can also be recovered. At least, franquin.org lists La flûte de l’oubli as an upcoming publication, if the script can be found.
It’s also worth noting that this story would seem to conflict with the version of Zantafio’s adventures between Les héritiers (Spirou & Fantasio #4, “The Heirs”) and The Dictator and the Mushroom (Spirou & Fantasio #7) that will apparently be given in the Zantafio graphic novel that has recently been rumored.