Jun 122016

"Friends of Spirou Code of Honor" 9 ('Les Amis de Spirou Code d'Honneur' 9; ill. Jijé & Jean Doisy; Copyright (c) 1941 by Dupuis and the artists; SR scanlation)

The last point of the Friends of Spirou (Amis de Spirou, ADS) Code of Honor moves away from matters of general morality, and instead focuses on loyalty to the club itself. (Note that this post does reveal the Spirou Code, thus breaking the ADS bond of trust!)

Secret codes were a popular element of clubs for young boys and girls at the time. “Secret messages” would be printed in the magazine (or, for other clubs, on cereal packages and other products), which members would have to decipher with their key. In America the key would often be in the form of a decoder ring, but the ADS had the key as part of the club membership card:

Amis de Spirou membership card (photo source unknown)

The code itself is trivial – as of course it needed to be so children could easily use it: a simple substitution cipher where the letters in “CLEF SPIROU” (“Spirou Key”) are replaced by the numbers 1, 2, 3… and all other letters are unaffected. Nevertheless, the secrecy of the code was treated very seriously by the club. As its leader, Jean Doisy (using the code name “No. 1”) wrote in response to letters from readers:

I talked about this before and won’t go over it again, except to once again tell the guilty ones that I pity them with all my heart that they’ve sunk so low, that they have made themselves despised even by those whom they initiated unlawfully into our secrets, instead of inviting them to join our club. Understand that they have excluded themselves from our community: by violating the Code, they are no longer members according to our rules.

Partly this severity may just have been a way to make the club seem exclusive and important, and to entice new members to join in order to get access to these secrets so closely guarded. But partly it probably also reflects the wartime and occupation mentality, where betraying secrets could indeed mean life and death. We can seee some of that in the reflection on this final point from the Robbedoes Almanak 1944, translated by Miriam:

A Friend of Spirou must swear to never reveal the secret code to anyone. This is the last point of our code of honor.

Several Rascals might have asked themselves why this point is important. After all, our secret code is not any great mystery, and the coded messages we send each other are safe for anyone to read, if necessary. There’s nothing dangerous or harmful in there. Still, this point is of utmost importance, because it teaches us about keeping a secret, and in general to keep our mouths shut about stuff we aren’t supposed to tell. Oh, the wagging tongues! There are boys and girls who immediately have to pass on everything they hear. Their tongue is burning and they can’t keep silent. Poor tattle-tales! A Spirou Rascal and even a Rascalette isn’t like that. They can keep silent – and if they cannot always, the point of this month is a nice opportunity to practice the noble art of silence.

The boys and girls who do read our Robbedoes Almanak but aren’t a member of our Rascal club, have to practice another point during this month. They have to work on keeping everything they’re told in confidence to themselves. And even if they hear something interesting that they’re allowed to tell, they should still wait a couple of hours – or wait until the next day to be safe – to pass it on. Even if their tongue is really burning. That way we strengthen our own willpower, and that way we’ll become boys and girls who are worthy of Spirou.

In other words, Loose Lips Sink Ships!

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