Asterix and the Great Crossing (1975)

La grande traversée

Presenting a pretentious thematic undercurrent…

Asterix in America and later Denmark. Depiction of Native Americans – who in common with most races visited by the heroes are held up to quite some ridicule – is less than flattering in these post Dances-with-Wolves times though they are also portrayed with some affection. A lot of references to modern-day America (e.g. the Native Americans see US insignia when they are stunned) but little overt satire.

Notable Nomenclature…

  • Hereendethelesson: Viking explorer.
  • Steptoanssen: Viking explorer.
  • Haraldwillson: official saga writer.
  • Nogoodreasson: Viking explorer.
  • Huntingseasson: his great dane.
  • Odiuscomparison: Viking chieftain.
  • Gertrude, Intrude, Irmgard, Firegard: Viking women.
  • Catastrofix: Gaulish fisherman enslaved by Vikings.

Continuity, lack thereof and other gaffes…

  • The Vikings show up 1000 years too soon.
  • Vitalstatistix has to carry his own shield because his bearers have food poisoning (p2).
  • Fishfight (p3).
  • In a somewhat transparent plot device it transpires that fish is a core ingredient of Getafix’s potion (p5).
  • Apart from one brief appearance the Romans play no part in this adventure.
  • Lots of nose-pressed-against-nose arguing (p6 etc.).

Cleverness and Contemporaneity…

  • The Viking language is portrayed as English written with Nordic puntuation.
  • Throughout the adventure Asterix and Obelix assume the Native Americans are mercenaries in the Roman army whose nationality they can’t place.
  • The black clouds on page 11 consist of Uderzo’s thumbprint. (Kessler)
  • Asterix makes a prophetic observation ‘It’s like a new world’ (p17).
  • A dazed Native American sees the upper left corner of the American Flag and, later, US Aircraft insignia (pp 20 and 22).
  • First and only instance of cannibalism in Asterix – Dogmatix is the perpetrator (p24).
  • Asterix adopts a libertarian stance (p31).
  • Herendethelesson quotes Neil Armstrong (p32).
  • If you ever needed further proof that dogs are good at linguistics…(p33).
  • The viking saga-writer Haraldwillson is indeed a caricature of the then British prime minister (p34).
  • Hereendethelesson talks in radio shorthand when his saga is cut short (p40).
  • Odiuscomparison and Hereendethelesson both quote Hamlet (pp41 and 43).
  • Not only is Cacofonix present at the feast but he gets well and truly hammered. Unhygienix keeps the tree warm (p44).

For your listening enjoyment: Some shanties…(p37)

First the Danes…

‘What shall we do with the drunken Viking’ (p 37).

And then the Gauls…

‘Fairwell and adieu to you fair Cretan ladies’ (p37).

Obelix has a tender side…

Pursued by and fights shy of the chieftains daughter (p27).

Non-PC World…

Native Americans given the stereotypical ‘Red-Indian’ treatment, cue totem-poles, tribal dancing and much grunting.

Classic Pegleg…

Donec eris felix, multos numerabis amicos / Tempora si fuerint nublia, solus eris. = As long as you are lucky, you’ll have many friends; / But should the times become cloudy you’ll be alone. (Traditional dystich.) (p9)

Readbeard’s retort…

‘Why don’t you stop making silly remarks and come on deck to summon the crew instead?’ (p9)

Good or what?

Middling.

Entertaining story, well told with funny moments – but (strangely in a series with US cultural imperialism as a central metaphor) Goscinny and Uderzo regretably didn’t take up the opportunity to lay into contemporary American society as they did, say British and Swiss. Instead this is a series of jokes about popular perceptions of Native Americans with a few modern references thrown in. Something of a wasted opportunity.