Asterix and the Magic Carpet (1987)

Astérix chez Rahàzade

Presenting a pretentious thematic undercurrent…

Can’t be done … this is by some distance the least sophisticated Asterix book.

Notable Nomenclature…

  • Watzisnehm: fakir.
  • Rajah Wotzit: Indian King.
  • Orinjade: his daughter.
  • Hoodunit: crooked Guru.
  • Owzat: his henchman.
  • Onthepremises: Greek merchant.
  • Metoffis: Greek oracle/weather forecaster.
  • Lemuhnade: Orinjade’s friend/lookout (by virtue of a higher vantage-point).
  • Howdoo: elephant trainer.

Continuity; lack-thereof and other gaffes…

  • New village is identical to original one (p1).
  • ‘Village Mark 2’ introduced by means of unnecessary extended references to Asterix and Son (p1).
  • Pretty desperate extension of Cacofonix continuity: apparently the atrocious-artistes artistry has acquired a rainmaking side-effect (p2).
  • Rainswept fishfight (p3).
  • Vitalstatistix admits that the bard’s rainmaking-facility is indeed a recent development (p6).
  • More joke-ruining translations/footnotes (pp 9, 13, 14, 23, 24, 25, 28, 29, 33, 34, 34 again, 34 yet again, 39, 41).
  • The face on Hoodunit’s gown changes in accordance with the progress of his devilry (p10 on).
  • The carpet-flight to India comprises a mini-tour of previous “Asterix in…” locations, the links usually and unsubtely given as footnotes. We have Asterix the Gladiator, Asterix and the Laurel Wreath (p13), Asterix at the Olympic Games (p19) and Asterix and the Black Gold (p 20).
  • “Talent” money/ability punning carried over from Asterix and Cleopatra (p23).
  • African lookout executes unnecessary pre-emptive ship-scuttling manoeuvre (p 12).
  • For the first time, Dogmatix’s inner-monologue is revealed (p15).
  • For the first time in Asterix: an aerial strafing manoeuvre (p25).
  • Origin of ‘1001 hours’ made obvious by hookah-toking villains (p26).
  • Another Asterix first: Cacofonix in his underwear (p32).

Cleverness and contemporaneity…

  • Cacofonix’s rainmaking is locally specific: if he sings indoors then that is where the rain falls (p6).
  • Usual nocturnal Arabian timescale is reduced to 1001 hours (p6).
  • Obelix anticipates tapped water supplies (p7).
  • Air-travellers stop at “Little Chef” cafe (p 9).
  • Great aerial views of ancient Rome (p13) and Athens (19).
  • Gauls recall ‘alternative gladiatorial greeting’ from Asterix the Gladiator.
  • Watzisnehm illustrates the perils of drink-driving (p18).
  • Obelix wears hole-burnt carpet as a poncho: it’s about his size too (p22).
  • Owsat references a literary genre who’s creation is usually attributed to Jules Verne and H.G. Wells some 1900 years later (pp21, 30 and 43).
  • The Persians catagorise caviar as “poor man’s fare” (p25).
  • A distinctively double-humped roast camel is presented to Obelix (p25).
  • Wotzit’s doctor’s have varied approaches ranging from the Freudian to the primitive (p30).
  • Dogmatix’s characteristic reaction to Elephant’s tree-felling is shown in silhouette (p31).
  • Some rare Asterix toilet humour. Olfactory side-effect of the bard’s Elephant-dung ablution (p33).
  • Obelix opens one-man hostilies with Indian fauna: a tiger, snake, rhino and several monkeys receive their due decking (pp 36-37).
  • Cacofonix creates lines later made famous by more renowned bard (pp42-43).
  • Village actually holds closing banquet before the heroes’ return. Consequently superfluous Fulliautomatix fidgets under Cacofonix’s tree (p 44).

Those ascetic strictures in full…

  • One meal every three weeks (p5 on).
  • Only sleeping on bed of nails (p10).
  • Teetotalism (p19).

Non-PC World

One or two Hindu references apart, the Non-PC element is lacking here despite the Indian setting. This is very much the Arabian Nights iconography of fakirs, flying-carpets, snake-charming, rope-tricks etc.

Obelix has a tender side…

  • Nonplussed by fakir’s suggestion that his girth may overstretch the carpet’s maximum-carriage specification (p 5).
  • Overcome by the very thought of a mystic’s frugal diet (p5).
  • Clearly does not understand the word ‘Pachyderm’ (p8).
  • Rather taken by Indian princess (p28).

Classic Pegleg…

Sic transit gloria mundi = Thus passes the glory of the world (words at Papal coronation.)

Redbeard’s Retort…

‘They soaked us again! Enough to make you sick!’

Good or what?

Entertaining … but nevertheless ‘what’.

‘Asterix in India’ story represents very much an Arabian Nights pastiche which rids it of any satirical bite (i.e. it’s about Indian legend: not modern India). Also, being free of the Romans (bar a couple of tiny sequences) means the story lacks the usual chauvinist dynamic of Asterix adventures. Still, it’s a well-paced story, it’s amusing in places and it’s – needless to say – fabulously drawn.

Uderzo’s habit in later books of adding a footnote for every last joke and reference really does mar this though. Either people get jokes or they don’t – but it is ruinous to explain your jokes. If the jokes are good enough you can guarantee that lesser talents like myself will crop up to explain them on your behalf.