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’.
- 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?
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.