Sunday, January 30, 2011

Old Stories – O Rei dos Búzios (1989 – 1999)

O Rei dos Búzios (The King of the Seashells) was published for a time in 1989 on a Portuguese weakly magazine. I have to concede that the idea for the story was interesting but the result was not very satisfactory in terms of both text and drawing. But I didn’t consider this to be a valid excuse for the newly appointed director of the magazine to have interrupted it with no warning or explanation to the author or the readers. For that reason when, almost ten years later, I had the chance to choose one of my stories to be published on CD-ROM, I decided to make deep changes on the existing material and draw an entirely new last chapter.

Bellow, are two pages of the early work. Ten years later I was feeling much more at ease with the crayons, as you may see in the complete last chapter at the bottom, and loosened up a bit the drawing. Text, in this chapter, was kept outside the drawings.

The CD is only available on public libraries, like this one (Bedeteca Ideal). The information on the site of the Bedeteca that this story was formerly published in the newspaper Sete is incorrect.

The story goes like this: in the distant year of 1484 Gil Roiz, the owner of an old caravel from Algarve, in the south of Portugal, trades in goods from the North of Africa.
Business is not very good. The king is limiting seriously the power of private ship owners and declares suddenly monopoly of the crown every item that may be traded for gold in the area of São Jorge da Mina, down the West African coast, an area patrolled by the king’s caravels that also make the trade.
Most of the items that Gil is buying, mainly textiles, fall on the category of forbidden goods. Gil knows about this while at port in the Moroccan town of Azemmour.
At the same time a Jewish merchant he knows proposes him a deal, to take his nephew Sem Tob, a pilot and an old acquaintance of Gil, along with Isaac, introduced as a blacksmith running away from justice, to a certain place in the coast of Africa.

Transporting forbidden goods along with a runaway Jew could coast Gil several death sentences, but he is so furious with the declaration of monopoly that he decides to take the risk.
He forces the passage of the mouth of the Oum er-Rbia river where one of the king’s caravels is anchored and manages to reach the point of the coast where he is supposed to deliver Sem Tob and Isaac.
There (see the last chapter bellow) he discovers that they are looking for a certain cousin Elias, established in a village inland, and to get from him cowry shells to smuggle to Portugal. Those shells would be sold to a person travelling on the king’s caravels and used to buy gold on the surroundings of São Jorge da Mina that would be then smuggled back to Portugal, with enough profit to risk the head and family fortune of the smuggler.
But the caravel that pursues Gil catches with him, thanks to the defection of the master of the ship in a previous watering point, the crew is taken prisoner, Sem Tob is hanged, the old caravel is sank, and Gil, Isaac and the remaining of the crew are stranded in the coast of Africa with cousin Elias.

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