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Basenhau's Punishment (Le châtiment de Basenhau in French), written and drawn by Peyo, was the first "Johan" comic adventure to be published by Dupuis in Spirou magazine — Johan's previous adventures having appeared as comic strips in newspapers including La Dernière Heure and Le Soir. In those strips Johan was blond-haired; in this and subsequent adventures, he became dark-haired.

Le Châtiment de Basenhau first appeared in 1952 in issues 752-794 of Spirou magazine, and was published in book form two years later.

It was published in English in the Papercutz anthology, The Smurfs and Friends Volume 1, with the title The Punishment of Basenhau.

Plot Summary

During a jousting tournament hosted by the King, Johan the pageboy sees Lord Basenhau sabotage the lance of his undefeated rival, Count Tremaine. Johan warns the Count who obtains another lance, defeats, humiliates and exposes Basenhau's treachery to the King. The King exiles Basenhau from the court.

Back at his own castle, determined on revenge, Basenhau charges his henchman Guillaume to raise an army with which they will then besiege the King's castle and slaughter the occupants, especially Tremaine. Guillaume sends a spy posing as a minstrel to the King's castle in order to find out about its defences. Johan catches the minstrel listening in to a conversation he is having with Count Tremaine. The minstrel is captured and, by tickling his feet, Johan and Tremaine get him to confess that he works for Basenhau. They also make him write a letter to Basenhau stating that Johan is a messenger sent by him to report his findings.

Dressed as a beggar boy, Johan then goes to Basenhau's castle where, on the basis of the letter, he meets Basenhau and supplies him and Guillaume with false information about weaknesses in the defences of the King's castle. On this basis, Basenhau assembles his army and sets off, leaving Johan behind.

Back at the King's castle, the minstrel escapes from the dungeon and makes his way back to Basenhau's castle where he recognises Johan. Johan flees to a nearby wood which is soon surrounded by Basenhau's guards. The minstrel rides after Basenhau's army to warn them that they are heading into a trap but he is recaptured by Count Tremaine who was searching for him. Tremaine then joins Johan in the wood and, through a series of cunning tricks, they manage to evade the guards and return to the King's castle with the minstrel.

When Basenhau's army attacks the castle, the defences turn out not to be as weak as they thought and Tremaine leads the defenders in repealing the assault. The attack having failed, Basenhau sets up camp. That evening, based on a plan that Johan has come up with, Tremaine shoots an arrow with a message to Basenhau's camp. The message is from the minstrel announcing that he has bribed some guards who will lower the drawbridge to Basenhau's army in the morning. Basenhau sees this as his chance to win the battle and even to have himself crowned King.

The next day the drawbridge is lowered and Basenhau and his army charge across it. But then the drawbridge is raised, preventing a large portion of the army from getting in. In the castle courtyard, Basenhau and his men find themselves surrounded by archers with bows and arrows pointed at them and are compelled to surrender. Johan and Tremaine then lead the King's army out of the castle in order to deal with the remaining attackers outside. Guillaume escapes.

The King confiscates all of Basenhau's lands and possessions and sentences him to life in prison, pointing out that it is on Johan and Tremaine's request that he is not being executed. The King then proclaims Johan the hero of the siege and the victory celebrations last several days.

Controversy

When Peyo showed some of the pages of his story to the publisher, they included a scene in which a torturer forces water down the minstrel's mouth in order to force him to talk. When the torturer leaves to fetch more water, Johan finds that the minstrel is ticklish and tickles his feet.

Aware that the French censor would not approve of such a scene, the publisher had it removed. The scene where Johan tickles the minstrel's feet and he finally confesses was retained. In this scene, the minstrel's stomach is noticeably bloated as a result of the unseen water intake.

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