Follow TV Tropes


Comic Book / Douwe Dabbert

Go To
Dutch comic series which was originally serialised in the Donald Duck magazine. It was written by Thom Roep and drawn by Piet Wijn. It ran from 1975 until 2001.

Douwe Dabbert is an old drifter who walks the earth. He owns a magical knapsack, which provides him with everything he needs in emergencies. Amazingly, while this is often used to get him out of sticky situations, it almost never becomes a Deus ex Machina; Douwe has to use his wits to bring the adventure to an end. Originally, his adventures took place in medieval kingdoms which never existed, but later the story moved to seventeenth century Holland, a period known as Holland's golden age. The writers also found ways to send Douwe to the Caribbean, Africa, Russia, Japan, North America, the Middle East and the arctic.

Most of Douwe's adventures are stand-alone. However, there are few recurring characters. Douwe has faced the villainous Ludo Lafhart and his henchman Knudde three times and the evil witch Wredulia two times. He has also befriended a family of wizards, who appear in seven of his stories.

The comics have been published in Dutch, Danish (as "Gammelpot") and German ("Timpe Tampert"). Indonesian kids born in the eighties would also be familiar with him as "Pak Janggut" ("Mr./Old Man Beard"), although it's really only that particular generation that would be familiar with him. For some reason, despite his popularity in that time, there are no reprints of any of the albums. A few issues have been translated into Spanish and one album was even published in Saudi Arabia, but for some reason there is no English version.

A complete list of albums can be found below the tropes.

Douwe Dabbert contains examples of:

  • Alliterative Title: Douwe Dabbert.
  • An Aesop: The first story (The Spoiled Princess) is chock-full of these. Later stories tone this down considerably.
  • Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: While no one is completely sure what dodos looked like, they are generally described as brown or gray, so there's really no excuse for the dodo accompanying Douwe to be bright pink.
  • "Arabian Nights" Days: In the story "The Gate to the East", Douwe ends up in an unnamed, stereotypical middle-eastern country. Shortly after this, the series becomes more firmly rooted in the real world - just two albums later, Douwe is travelling with the historical East India Trading Company.
  • Art Evolution: Compare the first and last appearances of the dodo and you'll notice that it becomes significantly more cartoony.
  • Art Initiates Life: The living paintings of long-dead wizards, also in The Black Kimono the painting of a dragon on the black kimono, which comes to life at night.
  • Ascended Extra: Douwe himself, believe it or not! The Spoiled Princess was originally supposed to be a one-off adventure with princess Pauline as the main character. However, Douwe was introduced as Pauline's teacher and the rest is history.
  • Bag of Holding: Douwe's knapsack can hold everything, no matter how large.
  • Big Eater: Domoli.
  • Bindle Stick
  • Black-and-White Morality: If a given story has a villain, that villain will be evil.
  • Book Ends: This happens unintentionally. The final story returns to the characters from the first story, who had not been seen since. This was not planned to be the final story; however, Piet Wijn was forced to stop drawing the comics because of health problems. (Indeed, he couldn't even finish the final story by himself - Dick Matena had to lend a hand.) To drive the point home, on the very last page Douwe and his travelling companion have a conversation in which they paraphrase the blurb that is on the back of every album, followed by Douwe going to sleep and saying "Farewell."
  • But Now I Must Go: Douwe never stays long in the places he visits. The trope is mostly played straight at the end of "The Masked Chieftain", when Douwe says goodbye to the wizard family he has been helping during the past four albums and returns to his live as a drifter.
  • The Cameo: Paulus the Woodgnome in The Deceit of Balthasar, Remi and Vitalin from Sans Famille in Back to the Hidden Animal Kingdom. (Artist Piet Wijn has created a comic book version of Sans Famille.)
  • Cargo Cult: The African natives are quite impressed with Douwe's knapsack...
  • Carnivore Confusion: The wolves in the animal kingdom are vegetarians until they accidentally eat meat. The innkeeper, a chicken, who was cooked by the villains.
  • Character Title: The series is named after the main character Douwe Dabbert. As such, it's also a Protagonist Title.
  • Childhood Marriage Promise: Gwendoline and Roderick.
  • Chores Without Powers: In "De kast met duizend deuren" ("The Closet with a Thousand Doors"), wizard children Pief, Kijfje and Domoli get into an argument that quickly escalates into a huge Food Fight. As a punishment, their fathers have the kids clean up all the mess without using magic. It keeps them up all night.
  • Christmas Episode: A secondary story in The Last Teaser has Douwe meet Santa Claus.
  • Cool Gate: The wizards travel via magical closets. Also, the gates to the four quarters of the compass in the cave underneath Wredulia's house.
  • Cool Old Guy: Douwe.
  • Cool Ship: The ship of ice. Literally.
  • Deus ex Machina:
    • Surprisingly, often averted. Douwe has to use his wits to bring the adventure to an end, even when his knapsack provides him with the items to do it.
    • On occasion, there was nothing in his knapsack when he reached into it, indicating that there were no items he would need at that point.
  • Doofy Dodo: Douwe is accompanied by a dodo on two of his adventures... which he first encountered in the arctic. Domoli mentions having owned an extraterrestrial elephant at some point in his life.
  • The Drifter: Douwe has no home, and wanders the Earth by choice.
  • Earth Drift: Inverted. The earlier albums were set in medieval, fictional countries, but later the setting was updated to the seventeenth century and Douwe began visiting more and more real life locations.
  • The End... Or Is It?: The Last Teaser: after all the trouble Douwe and the wizard kids go through to catch the last teaser, three newborn teasers can be seen hatching from eggs as Douwe walks off.
  • Elemental Powers:
  • Engagement Challenge: In the storybook segment of The Ship of Ice. The challenge is to bring the princess a flying ship.
  • Evil Chancellor: The Big Bad of the Story Within a Story of Het schip van ijs is the Tsar's chancellor.
  • Exposition Fairy: When they travel to Japan, Douwe and Domoli receive a wijsneus (literally a "wisenose", although "smartypants" would get the meaning across better) to explain Japanese culture to them and translate Japanese to Dutch. It takes the shape of a small, flying, crystalline creature. Later in the album we find out that Pief had also been given one when he first came to Japan.
  • Fanservice: The bathing scene in "the Black Kimono". Believe it or not, but the published version - already way more explicit than most kids' comics can get away with - is actually toned down from the original version. The collectors' edition of the comics includes the original black and white drawing, with a woman's exposed rear clearly visible. The published version sticks a bunch of flowers in front of her buttocks.
  • Functional Magic
  • Funny Animal: The titular animal kingdom is populated by these.
  • Hammerspace: Probably the place everything that Douwe stuffs into the knapsack goes to.
  • Going Native: During their time in Japan and America respectively, Pief and Kijfje adapt to their new surrounding exceptionally well. Kijfje even to the point that she managed to become chieftain of the indian tribe she was staying with.
  • Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen: Happens to Douwe in "On the Trail of Evil Things". Fortunately, the thieves leave his knapsack behind (thinking it to be empty), which conjures up a new set of clothes for Douwe.
  • Hypno Ray: Bombasto's eyes.
  • Hypnotism Reversal: In "Bombasto met het boze oog" (Bombasto with the evil eye), Douwe defeats evil hypontist Bombasto by quickly pulling a handheld mirror from his magic knapsack as Bombasto tries to hypnotise him, resulting in Bombasto hypnotising himself. Douwe then has the hypnotized Bombasto put through a Humiliation Conga that ends with the exposure of his crimes in front of a gathered crowd.
  • Immortality Begins at Twenty: Averted with the wizards. While they are not truly immortal, they can live for centuries or even millennia because they age much slower than ordinary humans. However, this process also slows down the time they need to grow up and mature; Pief, Domoli and Kijfje are all several centuries old already but still look and act like children/teenagers.
  • Insistent Terminology: Pief and his family repeatedly tell Douwe that they don't tover (the normal Dutch verb associated with performing magic), they flif.
  • Kissing Cousins: Justus attempts to force his cousin countess Gwendoline to marry him, to become count.
  • Literal Genie: Completely averted, the knapsack always gives Douwe exactly what he needs, whether he knows it or not. Deus ex Machina is averted in that latter case because he has to figure out what he has to do with the item he's been given.
    • For instance; when Douwe asked his knapsack to give him something to defeat a dragon in The Black Kimono, it gave him a needle and thread. At first Douwe thought he had to tie up the dragon with the thread, which failed horribly. It was only after discovering that the dragon was actually a painting on a kimono that came to live at night, that Douwe realised how the needle and thread really had to be used; to stitch the dragon to the kimono during the day so it could never come to live again.
    • However, there is one subtle wording trick to it: The knapsack will always contain something that helps Douwe, even when it's in someone else's possession. When Princess Pauline had it, it gave her items that helped her free Douwe, and when a villain attempts to take something out, it will be either empty or produce a nasty surprise. And when Douwe hits someone with it, it apparently contains a huge chunk of lead, as he once bashed a pirate twice as large as himself straight through the ship's deck with it.
  • Living Drawing: The story "De dame in de lijst" (the lady in the frame) features several living paintings of long-dead wizards, including the titular lady. She can leave her portrait for short amounts of time, and can still use magic. At the end of the story, she makes a living portrait of Douwe since she grew fond of his company. This way, "Douwe" can stay with her while the real Douwe continues his travels.
  • Manchurian Agent: The school teacher in Bombasto with the Evil Eye.
  • Mage Species: Wizards are often treated as a separate species of humanity.
  • Meaningful Name: Several, but Kijfje stands out for being a rather graceful Dutch pun: the word "kijf" is medieval Dutch for "strife".
  • Miniature Senior Citizens: Douwe certainly qualifies.
  • Missing Mom: Pief, Domoli and Kijfje's mothers are never seen or mentioned. Neither are those of Princess Pauline and Princess Liselotte.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: The first reaction from the wolves in the hidden animal kingdom when they learn they ate another animal. They get over it rather quickly however, until the very end of the story.
  • Mysterious Past: When we first meet Douwe, he is already an old man, and the only thing we learn about his past is that he got his knapsack from his grandfather. After nearly thirty years of adventures, all we ever learned were the names of his grandparents.
  • Naked People Are Funny: Lady Cecilia (or rather, her portrait) inflicts a magical revenge on the robbers who tried to rob Douwe...
  • Nice Guy: Douwe is always friendly and polite, and he treats everyone he meets as equals, be they great kings, powerful wizards or humble peasants. However, as he frequently demonstrates, Good Is Not Soft, and he doesn't take kindly to bullies or people who abuse their power or status.
  • Non-Standard Character Design: Douwe stands out compared to other characters. Notably, he has only four fingers on each hand.
  • Not the Nessie: In The Monster of the Fog Lake, Ludo Lafhart has constructed a fake lake monster, which he uses to scare local villagers into paying him tributes. There is a real monster, which he keeps locked up. The real monster is revealed to be very kind.
  • Politically Correct History: Averted. The Dutch traders in South Africa are explicitly shown participating in the slave trade.
  • Portal Network: The aforementioned magical closets.
  • Power Trio: The Witches of the Day Before Yesterday
  • Protagonist Title: The series is named after the main character Douwe Dabbert.
  • Pun-Based Title: "Een strenge vorst", the penultimate story. The Dutch word "vorst" can refer to both a ruler or to frost, and the story concerns a snowman coming to life and styling himself "King Winter".
  • Punny Name:
    • Domoli, which consists of the syllables of "oliedom" (very stupid, literally "dumb as oil") switched around. Domoli is not a particularly intelligent boy.
    • Kijfje, Domoli's sister. "Kijf" is an archaic Dutch word for strife, while the diminutive -je is often used in Dutch to turn a masculine name into a feminine one. It fits Kijfje's argumentative nature very well.
    • One story takes place in a village called Koeterwaal. Koeterwaal doesn't actually exist; it's a play on the Dutch expression "to speak Koeterwaals", which means "to speak gibberish".
  • Really 700 Years Old: virtually all the wizards in the comics, but most notably with Kief, Domoli and Kijfje. In his first appearance, Pief, a wizard boy who looks and behaves just like a ten-year-old boy, is revealed to be, well, seven hundred years old.
  • Royal Brat: Princess Pauline is introduced as one, but goes through a lot of Character Development thanks to Douwe's teachings and her experiences on the road.
  • Santa Claus: Appears in the Christmas story.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The teasers, whivh are accidentally releasedc by Domoli.
  • Shapeshifting: The teasers can turn into anything, and then scare people when they try to touch them.
  • Shout-Out: In the story Het bedrog van Balthasar Douwe says goodbye to Paulus de Boskabouter'' and warns him for Eucalypta the witch.
  • Snowlems: A living snowman appears in the final album.
  • Something Only They Would Say: Douwe, Domoli and Pief discovers the masked Indian chieftain from the album of the same name is actually Kijfje, because the chieftain uses an Unusual Euphemism that the wizards use frequently, but real Indians would not use.
  • Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: Used straight in Florijn the Loafer.
  • Story Arc: There are two four album story arcs in the series:
    • The first one consists of the albums "The Gate to the East", "The Passage to the North", "The Road to the West" and "The Sea to the South". It gets interrupted however by the unrelated album "The Monster of the Fog Lake".
    • The second one consists of the albums "The Closet with a Thousand Doors", "The Ship of Ice", "The Black Kimono" and "The Masked Chieftain".
  • Storybook Episode: Douwe and Domoli enter a living book in The Ship of Ice, although they do not actually take part in the story.
  • Story Within a Story: A few times, with Douwe telling about a past adventure of his. Also in "the ship of ice", in which Douwe and Domoli enter a story book so they can see the story play out in front of them.
  • Taken for Granite: One of the wizards' more often used powers.
  • Talking Animal: the hidden animal kingdom is full of them.
  • Thinking Out Loud: Douwe does this frequently, considering the fact he mostly travels alone.
  • Third-Person Person: Nama, the slave girl Douwe frees in The Sea to the South talks like this, also oddly enough none of her fellow tribespeople do so.
  • Time Dissonance: Because wizards live so long, they have a different perspective of time than regular humans. In a story arc that spends four albums, the two adult wizards send their children away for a stay over with other wizards for "a mere 10 years", and after leaving his host family in Japan, Pief mentions he will ask his love interest to come and stay over at his house in "a hundred years or so".
  • Time Travel: The wizards' stay-over arc. After their children have been away for just one night, the two adult wizards already miss them so much they want them to come back. But because it was arranged they would stay away for 10 years and they don't want to insult their fellow wizards that took the children in, they simply fast-forward time 10 years.
  • Tipis and Totem Poles: This is actually adressed in "The Masked Chieftain": when Douwe, Pief and Domoli visit the tipi-inhabiting tribe of plains indians where Kijfje is staying, they discover that they have a totem pole. Yellow Fang points out that usually only northern tribes have totem poles, but that Kijfje felt that the tribe needed to have one.
  • The Trickster: Florijn.
  • Unplanned Crossdressing: Domoli in "De Zwarte Kimono". When visiting Japan, Domoli and Douwe are given Kimono's to wear because their regular clothes are being washed, but Domoli is accidentally given a women's kimono. Not knowing the difference between the two, he puts it on anyway. Fortunately for him, Pief quickly points out the mistake.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Used by the wizards: Alle vleerpsen in het zuur! ("Pickled vleerpses!" - And no, we never find out what a vleerps is.)
  • Viewers Are Goldfish: At least once per album, Douwe reminds the reader that his knapsack is magical, and always contains whatever he needs. This can be justified if it's done because Douwe explains the nature of his knapsack in-universe to another character who doesn't know this yet, but he also frequently brings it up when he is either all alone or if the only other characters present are already aware of this fact. Then again, the stories were published over a 26-year period and intended for children, so any of the stories might be the first a particular reader encountered.
  • Walking the Earth: Douwe does this by choice, and explicitly refuses the wizards' offer to let them stay at their castle at the end of The Masked Chieftan.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: The Story Within a Story from "Het schip van ijs" is a retelling of the Russian folktale The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship.
  • Wicked Witch: Wredulia, a with who improsined the entire population of a royal palace to gain access to thep owers of the caves underneath.
  • Wizards Live Longer: Much longer. Even 700-year-old wizards can still be teenagers at most.
  • Words Can Break My Bones: The witches of the day before yesterday. They constantly tell everyone "we zijn niet van gisteren" (we were not born yesterday). Douwe eventually figures out that to defeat them, he has to agree with this, but then tell them that they are "from the day before yesterday" instead.
  • You No Take Candle: The Indian wizard Gele Slijptand (Yellow Fang) talks like this in "The Closet with a Thousand Doors", but his speech has somehow become normal when we see him again in "The Masked Chieftain". There are ten years between the two meetings though, so maybe he learned to speak proper Dutch during that time.

List of albums:

  1. De verwende prinses (1977) (The Spoiled Princess)
  2. Het verborgen dierenrijk (1977) (The Hidden Animal Kingdom)
  3. De valse heelmeester (1978) (The Deceitful Healer)
  4. De poort naar oost (1978) (The Gate to the East)
  5. Het monster van het Mistmeer (1979) (The Monster of the Fog Lake)
  6. De schacht naar noord (1979) (The Passage to the North)
  7. De weg naar west (1980) (The Road to the West)
  8. De zee naar zuid (1981) (The Sea to the South)
  9. Florijn de flierefluiter (1982) (Florijn the Loafer)
  10. De tanden van Casius Gaius (1983) (The Teeth of Casius Gaius)
  11. Het flodderwerk van Pief (1984) - (The Messy Work of Pief)
  12. De laatste plager (1985) (The Last Teaser), includes a Christmas story
  13. De heksen van eergisteren (1986) (The Witches of the Day Before Yesterday)
  14. Op het spoor van kwade zaken (1988) (On the Trail of Evil Things), short stories
  15. Het bedrog van Balthasar (1990) (The Deceit of Balthasar)
  16. De dame in de lijst (1991) (The Lady in the Frame)
  17. Bombasto met het boze oog (1992) (Bombasto with the Evil Eye), short stories
  18. De kast met duizend deuren (1993) The Closet with a Thousand Doors), with a short Story Within a Story
  19. Het schip van ijs (1994) (The Ship of Ice)
  20. De zwarte kimono (1995) (The Black Kimono)
  21. Het gemaskerde opperhoofd (1996) (The Masked Chieftain)
  22. Terug naar het verborgen dierenrijk (1997) (Back to the Hidden Animal Kingdom)
  23. De wonderlijke raamvertelling (2001) (The Amazing Frame Story), two adventures in one story