Aug 272015
 
'La flûte de l'oubli' advertising illustration ("The Flute of Forgetting"; ill. Franquin; (c) Dupuis and the artist; adapted from JdS 1201, via blog.spirou.com)

‘La flûte de l’oubli’ illustration, by Franquin

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:

'La flûte de l'oubli' advertisement ("The Flute of Forgetting"; ill. Franquin; (c) Dupuis and the artist; from JdS 1201, via blog.spirou.com)

From ‘Journal de Spirou’ #1201

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.

(This article originally based on information from franquin.org. The Journal de Spirou scan taken from a now deleted page at Spirou Anthology.)

  26 Responses to “The Flute of Forgetting”

  1.  

    To add some speculation: Although the magazine claims the story was “created by” Franquin, this may just be an attempt to add legitimacy to the show, since Franquin was the “face” of Spirou (even when the scripts were written by others – though he usually rewrote them considerably). Other sources just say it’s based on his “idea”.

    It’s also worth noting that the premise and the plot has many similarities with Peyo’s 1958 Johan and Peewit adventure The Smurfs and the Magic Flute. In that story, the flute makes people dance uncontrollably rather than lose their memory, but it also has a villain who steals it and uses it to commit a series of robberies in different cities, a mysterious tribe that wants it back (the Smurfs, in their first appearance), and the heroes being locked up (by villagers who think they’re the bad guys) as they’re trying to stop the villain. Since Peyo and Franquin were friends, and Delporte was the main writer for the Smurfs, it seems plausible that there was some intentional borrowing here.

    Finally, as for why this story was never adapted for the Journal, like Les Robinsons du rail, I would note that there’s no actual magic in any of Franquin’s Spirou stories (not counting a couple of appearances of St. Nicolas and angels in some early Christmas pages), and I would suggest that it may not have fit with Franquin’s vision for the series. (Franquin did have some miraculous events in the related Petit Noël series, and of course Jijé, Fournier and Tome & Janry all included magic in the Spirou universe.)

  2.  

    So this is legit?… My first thought was that this would be a hoax including Daan Jippes or another skilled copycat…

    •  

      Yes, to my knowledge it’s totally legit. It’s mentioned in a few different, pretty reliable sources, and the Pissavy-Yvernaults have been looking for the script since 2010 without anyone suggesting it’s a hoax, so I’d be very surprised if it isn’t real.

      If they do find the script and publish it as a Robinsons du rail-style book, I would say Jippes would be a good choice to do the illustrations. (Even if his Spirou looks a little different than Franquin’s, particularly around the nose.) Who else does a good Franquin imitation? Conrad, possibly (though he probably wouldn’t be available).

      •  

        If it was aired during the 60’s, I think there could be some home recordings made on scratchy cassette tapes… But maybe the technique wasn’t widespread then, and the tapes wouldn’t be preserved, either way…

        (I remember reading that the anoraks have preserved almost every Dr. Who episode on homemade cassette recordings, even though the filmed tapes themselves were wiped…)

  3.  

    One of the legit sources that address the existence of “The Flute of Forgetting” is the 1988 book “Le Journal de Spirou : 50 ans d’Histoire(s)”. The description (on page 150), however, is extremely brief. Translated (loosely) from the French original, here it is: “In 1961, Spirou confronts Zantafio in a weekly drama on Belgian radio. The Flute of Forgetting induces amnesia in all those who hear it… It is Yvan Delporte who adapted this idea from Franquin for the radio.”

    •  

      Thanks! It’s also listed in Les trésors de Spirou: 1938-1968 by Philippe Mouvet (p. 137), from 1998. The description is similar, and additionally includes a version of the magazine announcement.

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