It’s that time of year again when creatures from the underbelly of the world rise up and roam the land: ghosts, goblins and witches hunting for prey and treasure. Long ago, in dark and dangerous times, they were led by their high god Odin in a never-ending quest for forced labor as he built and strengthened Valhalla, the mighty fortress of Teutonic afterlife. They would corner wary travelers on empty roads and disappear them without a trace. Or they might trick unsuspecting country folk into opening their doors after dark, demanding slaves and other tribute in exchange for a year of peace. But that was in the bad old days, before Odin was banished from our world, and now it’s only his followers, the witches and the goblins, which will scare people into believing they are still the menace of old. Fortunately, a piece of candy is now all it takes to bribe them and send them home to their moms. Times have changed and changed for the better, it seems.
So here we have a real-life story with a happy ending; take out the main guy, and his movement will go the way of history or, alternatively, be a good seller in Halloween popup stores. Will this be Barribal’s fate as well? In our own story, the media giant is at the forefront of a great social turnaround where the disenfranchised have finally found their voice and loudly-worded perspectives are all the rage. It has pervaded every layer of society—from city hall where mayor Hippopod has decided to ride the back of that particular tiger to Squire Bomble’s very own home where his long-time servant, the loyal Jobes, has opted to join the cause. What could be more American than this, to want things better than they are now?
It must have come as a shock to the average reader, then, to see Barribal suddenly reduced to the size of a dwarf. Admittedly, his path to influence was craftily laid out by the clever spin doctor Professor Zicboq (What that man knows about mass psychology could fill volumes, literally), but honestly how many people saw this coming? It certainly came as a surprise to Ocelot—and he is the intellect of the story. But now that the truth is out, is that enough to say mission accomplished? Whatever metaphor you choose, runaway freight train, dumpster fire or the good old Titanic hitting the berg, things don’t change just by showing them in a different light. At least, that’s how it is in our world, and we don’t expect any different in Bomble’s world, either.
Ocelot has gotten us to the point that our eyes have opened and we can no longer unsee the true character of Barribal’s operation. The road forward seems straightforward: Point out the flaw in everybody else’s outlook and hope they’ll shake our hand, saying “Thank you for curing me!’ In other words, our work is almost done and we’ll easily get to the end of our story before Election Day, as promised. If only it were that simple...
But we haven’t heard nearly enough from Squire Bomble yet. Here is the embodiment of timeless values and all things decent, and he’s been holed up in his castle for half the story! Look at us, reading away about social turmoil day after day, and no guidance from a gentleman of quality! It doesn’t seem right. If social change is all about changing hearts and minds, then we need to desperately hear from him. A single sharp insight by Ocelot is a good beginning but we need someone of stature to finish the job—in other words, Squire Ollie himself. So how will timeless values save the day, in concrete terms? It’s all a bit murky at this point, but if we recognize generosity and common decency as the foundation of a strong existence, our good squire seems a pretty safe bet.
So there we have it once again: steady, rational Ocelot searching and probing until he gets it right—like Professor Zicboq but without the hidden agenda—along with his best friend Olivier Bomble, careening from one mishap to another but ready to save the day. They may not seem a likely team, but has anything seemed likely in this story so far? It doesn’t really matter, as long as it all ends well. October has been a good month for our heroes, and what we now hope is that luck—or timeless values, or clearheaded thinking—extends its good run into November. Enjoy your reading.
© Images Toonder Company, Netherlands
‘Tales from the life of Olivier B. Bomble, gentleman,’ was serialized in Dutch newspapers for many years, and Squire Bomble, his good friend Ocelot and many others have become household names in the Netherlands. This is their first appearance in the US after the successful translation into English by Adrian Meerman, a Sparta resident.