Asterix and the Chieftain’s Shield (1968)

Le bouclier Arverne

Presenting a pretentious thematic undercurrent…

Satire on diet fads with Ancient spas given the contemporary health-farm treatment, all cold baths, regular exercise and regimented diets. Later becomes a study of factory management and manufacturing industry. Asterix and Obelix visit a wheel factory replete with a typing-pool, tannoy-system and a sleeping boss at a euphemistic ‘meeting’.

Notable Nomenclature…

  • Diagnostix: druid in charge of the health-farm at Vichy.
  • Noxius Vapus: envoy to Julius Caesar.
  • Winesanspirix, Localpolitix, Forinpolitix, Thermostatix: Arvernian combined wine and charcoal merchants.
  • Caius Pusillanimus: workshy inebriate legionary.
  • Titus Crapulus: workshy inebriate Centurion, Caius’s drinking partner.
  • Lucius Circumbendibus: once Alesian Veteran now wheel factory magnate.
  • Anaesthesia: his personal secretary.
  • Memoranda: His receptionist.
  • Marcus Carniverus: once Alesian veteran now restauranteur.
  • Applejus, Carrotjus, Prunejus, Tomatojus: health farm employees.

Continuity, observations and occasional gaffes…

  • First of book-sequence Kessler calls “The Teeming Village” refering to greater detail in Uderzo’s drawing; and consequently greater individuality in the characterisation of the villagers.
  • Impedimenta is first presented as a grade A* harridan (p2).
  • There is a touching sequence illustrating Asterix and Obelix’s underlying friendship (31).
  • The title of the book gives away the story’s denouement.

Cleverness and contemporaneity…

  • There is a pseudo-cinematic ‘pre-titles sequence’ that sets the background to the story (p1).
  • Getafix clearly favours a holistic approach to health-care – his potions will cure the symptoms but not the root-cause of Vitalstatistix’s illness (p3).
  • Vitalstatistix adopts the ‘medicinal purpose’ pretext to get drunk (p5).
  • The health-farms employ ‘modern’ shower-systems that consist of slaves flinging buckets of water (p29).
  • Noxius Vapus’s Numidian Litter-bearers become increasingly amused every time he is bashed-up (11, 16 and 17).
  • Caasar’s private spoils include a Swiss Cuckoo Water-Clock and a British seaside souvenir with a shell motif (p14).
  • Caius Pusillanimus hiccups the Latin phrase ‘Hic Haec, Hoc’ (p23).
  • The wheel factory’s Intercom system consists of a speaking horn on a desk leading to a compartment wherein resides a tiny African runner (p24). When Obelix intercepts one of these diminutive couriers, he comments that he has ‘picked up the message’ (p26).
  • Circumbendibus uses the ‘at a meeting’ siesta euphemism beloved of management-class worldwide. (pp 25-26).
  • Circumbendibus has performance charts on the wall of his office; and he sends memos on corporate note-slabs with an official carved letterhead (p26).
  • As a nice ironic touch, it is the two bone-idle inebriates Pusillanimus and Crapulus who are ultimately rewarded with promotion (p43).

Obelix has a tender side…

  • Doesn’t appreciate which ‘fat friend’ the Druid Diagnostix is referring to (p6).
  • Blushes and says ‘Oh, I say’ when a buxom housewife complements his fine gastronomic taste (p17).

Good or What?

Good.

A minor story, but one from Asterix’s middle period when the books were of a consistently high standard. Lots of excellent punning – mostly centered on the Roman legionaries’ predetermined fate to search piles of charcoal.