A Donald Duck comic story, which was recently republished in a German Disney magazine, contains an encrypted message. The solution, if it exists, appears to be unknown. Can a reader break this cryptogram?

Blog reader and Disney comic fan Gert Brantner has informed me about an interesting cryptogram that plays a role in a Donald Duck story. This story, titled “Der Baum der Azteken” (“The Tree of the Aztecs”) is contained in issue 53/2018 of the German Disney comic magazine “DONALD DUCK & CO”.


According to Wikipedia, the stories published in this magazine are classics taken from earlier Disney publications. This means that “Der Baum der Azteken” is not new and may have been known to Disney readers for years.


The cryptogram

The story in question starts with a journey Donald Duck, his uncle Scrooge, and his three nephews take to a place where Indians live. One of these Indians, who appears to live in a cave, shouts encrypted messages that are so loud that people who listen to them go deaf.

The following picture shows the first encrypted message mentioned in the story:


Here are all the messages together (I assume that they should be read as one cryptogram):


In the story, Scrooge manages to solve this cryptogram using an “electronic code decipherer”. It turns out that the cleartext refers to a tree that allegedly bears golden apples. The major part of the plot is about the search for this unusual plant, which is finally discovered in a cave.

Unfortunately, the wording of the cleartext is not provided.


Is there a solution?

Although I am sure that this cryptogram from a Donald Duck episode will not lead us to golden apples or any other hidden treasure, I still can imagine that it is possible to decipher it. Here’s a transcription Gert Brantner provided me:


The last line contains the word CAVE. If we assume that the X is meaningless, the last line can be read as ZUR CAVE, which means „to the cave“ (but notice that ZUR is German, while CAVE is English). Caves play an important role in the story (both the Indian shouting out the encrypted messages and the tree bearing golden apples are located in a cave).

If one tries to solve this cryptogram, it is important to find out the cleartext language. The original of this story was probably written in Italian (many Disney comics are produced in Italy, and the authors, Rodolfo Cimino and Luciano Gatto, have Italian names). I am sure that there is also an English translation. However, it is certainly possible that the ciphertext mentioned in the German version is not the original one.

Can a reader solve this cryptogram? Does a reader know a version of this story in another language? If so, please let me know.

Further reading: A new comic strip: Chief Security Officer

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Kommentare (8)

  1. #1 Thomas Ernst
    7. Juni 2018

    The main (American) cartoonist and texter of “Donald Duck” was Carl Barks (1901-2000). The brilliant German translator, or rather interpreter of Barks’s texts, from 1951 till 1988, was Erika Fuchs (1906-2005). Working with cartoons apparently assures longevity. The “cipher” appears to part of Barks’s drawings; thus it would be in English. However, the frequent use of “XYZ” and the lack of vowels make me believe that this is nothing but a pseudo-cipher, a “cartoon-cipher” – there is nothing to solve.

  2. #2 cimddwc
    7. Juni 2018

    As Klaus wrote, this is an Italian story, i.e. not drawn by Barks. It’s originally from 1974, and Inducks shows also 4 previous German publications.

    I found an online copy of the original here (e.g. page 7), and it has different sound “words” that don’t really look like an encryption. So if it really is an encryption here, it must have been added some time later. I happen to have the 2010 publication, and it has the same “words” as this new one, albeit in a different, black lettering…

  3. #3 schorsch
    8. Juni 2018

    The last line reads YXZURCAVE, not XZURCAVE. To assume that X is meaningless is daring even if we ignore the Y. It makes much more sense to assume, that YXZ is just a twisted XYZ, that it is meaningless and that the remainder UR CAVE just accidentally sounds like meaningful words.

  4. #4 Paolo Bonavoglia
    Urca ve'
    9. Juni 2018

    Since Italian is my mother language, I read the Disney story about Paperone and Paperino (i.e. Scrooge Mcduck and Donald Duck). First of all “Urca ve'” or “Urca veh” is a common dialectal idiom meaning more or less: “Damnit, see that!” which was made popular by a television advertising sketch in the 60’s and 70’s. The other “GRRYZZ” “GUZZ” look like mere sounds cried by the duck. Why the German translator changed them into something resembling cryptograms? that is the question … But he left unchanged the final “URCA VE”, a sign that they are still meaningless sequences of letters/sounds?

  5. #5 Posbi
    11. Juni 2018

    what makes the world go round ?
    is this really important to know ? what GRRRYZZ means
    read genuine books about the life where you are in.
    for example “The blind watchmaker” by Dawkins, Richard and you will be back on earth to see what is the reality of your fate
    please dont question me ! I will not not answer back
    Think! and forget this mind garbage

  6. #6 Thomas Ernst
    12. Juni 2018

    @ cimddwc: Pray tell: why is this an Italian version not drawn by Barks??? As far as the execution of the “cipher” goes, red letters framed in black appear to be more convincingly original than just black letters. It appears the Italian translator – sorry, don’t know his name – went a step further than Erika Fuchs, and translated the “cipher” on top of the speech bubbles. Good Grief!! „Die Wolken ziehn dahin. Sie ziehn auch wieder her. Der Mensch lebt nur einmal. Und dann nicht mehr.“ Old Italian canzonetta …

  7. #7 Disneyfan
    12. Juni 2018

    @Thomas Ernst: This particular story (like many others) was drawn by Luciano Gatto and it was written by Rodolfo Cimino. Many of the stories drawn by Gatto were also translated to German and were printed in the “Lustige Taschenbücher”.

    Here is a pretty complete list of Disney comics where Carl Barks was the writer and/or the artist: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Disney_comics_by_Carl_Barks

    • #8 cimddwc
      12. Juni 2018

      Or printed in the “Donald Duck”-100-pagers, as in this case.

      Also note the story code in the last column of Disneyfan’s link: Only the very last entry is an Italian one (starting with “I”), and Barks only did part of the script there.

      (Just wondering, by the way, if Barks ever drew a 3-row comic for these smaller pages at all…)