The great success of the Mickey Mouse magazine in Germany is mostly owed to the linguistic genius of its translator.
Erika Fuchs did not confine herself to translating the stories. She conveyed very freely and thus added her own personal touch. She was particularly fond of the Duckburg stories of the comic author Carl Barks. Therefore, the ducks became increasingly more present in the German edition of the Mickey Mouse magazine than the mice. You could say that Erika Fuchs taught Donald how to quack.
Erika Fuchs attributed an individual style of speech to each duck in order to emphasise their corresponding character. Uncle Scrooge as a dignified elderly man always speaks grammatically correct and knows how to use every genitive and subjunctive. Grandma Duck, who refuses every technical innovation in her farm, also speaks in an old-fashioned manner. The moody Donald varies between excessively poetic phrases and outbursts of rage. The Beagle Boys (Panzerknacker in German) converse in the jargon of crooks with a Berlin dialect. Huey, Dewey, and Louie us a trippy teenage slang that Erika Fuchs in her old age overheard from schoolchildren in the tramway in order to keep up-to-date.
Her stylistic device of the inflective grammatical form, which to her honour is called Erikativ, became particularly renowned. Shortening verbs to their stem is not actually intended in the German grammar, however today belongs to the everyday (German) language. Onomatopoeia, however, simulates noise: Peng! (pow), Krawumm! (kaboom) and Klickeradoms! (thud) – the latter she borrowed from Wilhelm Busch, the “father of the German picture story”. Furthermore, the highly educated Erika Fuchs liked to intersperse the stories with quotes form German authors, e.g. Goethe and Schiller (“Children can learn something by reading”).
In addition, she placed/located the fictitious American Duckburg in Oberfranken, the region in Northern Bavaria where she lived. She named towns, mountains and lakes according to real places within her environment: Uncle Scrooge owns a ski lift on the Ochsenkopf Mountain; the family spends their holidays on the Fichtelsee Lake, the nephews go sledging In the Paulahölzchen forest. Many villages in the environment of her hometown were incorporated into the stories. By carrying over their names into the world of Duckburg she erected a literary monument for shops, artisans and physicians.
Erika Fuchs translated stories from Duckburg for thirty years. After having initially translated all stories of the Mickey Mouse magazine, from the middle of the 1970s she limited herself to the Carl Barks stories. She only retired from her work at the age of 80 years. For a few years, she still translated all remaining Barks stories that had so far not been published in German. Therefore, Carl Barks’ complete work is available in the German translation by Erika Fuchs. The two only met one time when they both had already long been retired.
In the 1950s and 1960s, comics were not taken seriously yet, regarded as rubbish or even dangerous to youth. However, the particular quality of Erika Fuchs’ translations was recognised soon. In 1976, an own fan community, the D.O.N.A.L.D. (German organisation of non-commercial adherents of the pure donaldism) was formed, the members of which committed themselves to the exploration of the mutual Barks/Fuchs work. Quotes and sayings that Erika Fuchs put into the mouths of the Duck figures or, more precisely, wrote in the speech bubbles, found their way into the feuilleton. Erika Fuchs was amused about this attention.
In 1994, Erika Fuchs received her first literary award, the Morenhovener Lupe. The literary critic Elke Heidenreich held the laudation at the award ceremony. In 2001, she won the Heimito-von-Doderer literary prize for her contribution to the development of the German language. In the same year, she was awarded the Roswitha prize of the town of Bad Gandersheim for outstanding literary performances of women. In 1991 already, the painter Gottfried Hellwein included Erika Fuchs in his painting cycle “The 48 most significant women of the century”. The musician Farin Urlaub from the band “Die Ärzte” dedicated his second solo album to her.