Asterix and the Goths (1963)

Astérix et les Goths

Presenting a pretentious thematic undercurrent…

An ironic and clever ‘how something began’ story sees Getafix instigating the dissolution of Germania into rival states. Alludes to various facets of 1960s German society including a prototype Cold War where Visigoths from the East take on Ostrogoths from the West. Comparisons with the then recent and therefore extremely sensitive Second World War are avoided – the exception being a sweary-swastika on p19.

Notable nomenclature…

  • Arteriosclerosis and Gastroenteritus: Roman legionaries.
  • Choleric: Gothic chief.
  • Tartaric, Atmospheric, Prehistoric, Esoteric: Gothic Warriors
  • Valuaddetax: British druid.
  • Botanix, Prefix, Suffix: Other convening druids.
  • Metric, Rhetoric, Choleric, Electric, Euphoric: Gothic warriors, interpretors and alternating chiefs.

Continuity; lack-thereof and other gaffes…

  • The Gothic language throughout is English written in Gothic text. This is a common device followed in later books with the ironic result that readers can understand the various dialogues but the characters cannot. In general the Gauls can understand the other ‘Romance’ tongues (e.g. Spanish) in which case it is written with a dialect but not the Germanic tongues in which case different typography is used.
  • This story leads straight on from Asterix and the Golden Sickle. In the previous story Getafix needed the sickle to attend the Druids’ annual conference in the Forest of the Canutes. Having obtained it, he sets off for the conference at the opening of ‘Goths’ (p1).
  • A&O in disguise are wrongly identified as Gauls by legionaries reporting to General Cantankerous. At this stage they in fact think that the duo are Goths dressed as Romans. (I would guess this is a typographical error in the translation) (p17).
  • A border signpost signifies “Roman Empire”. Not yet it wasn’t.(p18).

Cleverness and contemporaneity…

  • An owl has an ideological debate with a woodpecker (p5).
  • Druid Suffix is credited with the invention of powdered soup. He has a lot to answer for.
  • A barbarian exhibits an incongruous liking of flowers (p7).
  • The Gothic customs official’s swear word symbols include a swastika and Gothic typefaces (p19).
  • The Gothic marching song is an ‘earlier’ version of ‘The Grand old Duke of York’.
  • Obelix, unsurprisingly, is not enamoured of Sauerkraut (p24).
  • A Gothic street has a ‘No Through Road’ sign (p27).
  • Obelix is poised to flick a diminutive Goth against a wall (p28).
  • The Goth’s Circus attractions are every bit as sadistic as the Romans’, but accordingly with the Teutonic temperament, they are rougher and readier. Very much the Dunkelbier rather than the Asti Spumante version of public barbarity (p32 and on).
  • The feast is seemingly relocated to beside Cacofonix’s ‘high-rise’ dwelling; allowing the bound-and-gagged bard to be deposited on the walkway outside his house (p43).
  • A one-page pictorial history lesson explains how the Gauls have instigated Two Millennia of German infighting (p41).

Those Druidical entries in full…

  • Druid Botanix: Potion to grow out-of-season flowers.
  • Druid Prefix: Rainmaking potion.
  • Druid Suffix: Powdered soup and (to make it in) powdered cauldrons.
  • Druid Getafix: His famous strength-endower.

Good or what?

Moving toward good.

Very much par for the course for early stories. The drawing and characterisation is undeveloped; but the wit and cleverness is there in abundance.