Penny Wise (remember her?)

Wilmer Rivers rivers at seismo.CSS.GOV
Wed Apr 27 07:09:52 CEST 1994

Forgive me for dragging up a topic which has been discussed on this
list before, but I would like to speculate further on the background of
Miss Penny Wise.  You will recall that Per called our attention to this
interesting character last August.  She was a spinster who made her only
appearance in WDC&S 164.  Scrooge bemoaned the fact that she held a 
promissory note (or something) of his and, if she should foreclose on 
him, he would be left destitute.  Per asked who Penny Wise was, and how 
did Scrooge wind up owing her his entire fortune.  No one had a good 
answer for how this came about, although many people agreed that 
Scrooge's protestations of his impending bankruptcy at her hands was 
probably an exaggeration, and he well could have owed her a much smaller
sum.  (Don Rosa, however, noted that Scrooge seemed to worry explicitly
that he did in fact owe her ALL his money.)  The fact that he owed the
old maid any money at all had to be dismissed as a minor plot contri-
vance needed to set up a gag in a funny Donald story, and nothing that 
anyone knew about Scrooge's background would suggest that his indebted-
ness to Miss Wise should be considered a legitimate part of the Barks 
canon.  However, I would like now to toss some new fuel onto that old 

I offer for your consideration the possibility that Scrooge and Penny 
Wise had been lovers, during their youth.  On the basis of just what
"evidence" could one jump to such a reckless conclusion?  The cover to
US # 1 (well, US FC # 368), no less.  This cover, which properly intro-
duces us to Scrooge's world, shows him in a rowboat sailing through
"Money Lake Number 1".  And what is the name of his rowboat?  It is
shown very prominently on the boat's stern that it is named - you 
guessed it - "Penny Wise".  Now presumably this rowboat never leaves
Scrooge's money bin, so its name is a private matter to him.  Why would
he name his boat after someone to whom he owed money?  Would he even
have named it after a former business partner (who could certainly be
in the position of holding a promissory note), if that's what they were?
It seems more likely that he would name it after a lost sweetheart.  Do
you suppose that in a moment of passion a young Scrooge might have made
a foolish promise to a certain young lady that he would someday give
her all that he owns?  Might he have sealed that promise with a token
of some sort, or have put it into writing in a love letter?  Could it
be that, in moments of solitude in his "money lake", he still has some
feelings of fondness towards her?  Could it even be that - brace your-
selves - out of a sense of obligation over his old promise or out of a
still lingering affection, he actually helps support the old maid?!
Note that when Scrooge and Penny do meet in WDC 164, she declines to
take all his money, explaining that she already has as much money as
she wants or needs.  Could this be because she already receives some
financial stipend from Scrooge?  And in refusing to make him pay his
debt to her, could she be showing that the lingering feelings of 
affection are in fact mutual?

O.K., I realize that Barks certainly never intended for us to place
any significance at all on this one-time character or on the name of
Scrooge's rowboat, and he almost certainly forgot (or didn't care) that
in two different contexts he made reference to the British expression
"Penny wise and pound foolish".  No connection at all exists between
the US # 1 cover and the WDC # 164 Donald story, insofar as Barks is
concerned.  But can't we make a connection anyway?  Can we read between
the lines in the Barks canon and draw conclusions that he never intend-
ed?  As someone (was it Hemingway???) once noted, "There's creative
writing, and there's creative reading."  So can we speculate that the
relationship between Scrooge and Penny Wise, which led to this mysteri-
ous debt, was not purely a business one?  In "Mickey's Christmas Carol"
(to drag up yet another concluded discussion from our archives), should
Miss Wise have played the role of Belle, the sweetheart whom Ebeneezer 
Scrooge lost when he turned to the life of a lonely miser (and deep 
down, misses still)?  Will someday we be treated to the inside story on 
the "Life AND LOVES of Scrooge McDuck"?

Wilmer Rivers

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