Asterix and the Soothsayer (1972)

Le devin

Presenting a pretentious thematic undercurrent…

Highly sceptical critique of fortune-tellers, the stance being that they are all charlatans who prey on people’s superstitions.

The Gauls’ adaptibility to each threat is contrsted with Roman rigidity. (Kessler)

Notable Nomenclature…

  • Prolix: false soothsayer.
  • Voluptuous Arteriosclerosus: centurion.
  • Stasistix: druid at conference who makes presentation on future Druidical trends.
  • Bulbus Crocus: special envoy from Julius Caesar.

Continuity; lack thereof and other gaffes…

  • Getafix’s re-visit to the Conference in the Forest of the Carnutes presumably dates this story one year on from Asterix and the Goths. It seems that Getafix does not need A&O; as escorts this year (p1). It also seems that Getafix has won the top award for two successive years (p25).
  • The first indication that Unhygienix’s fish is not the freshest (p7).
  • Three fishfights (pp 7, 8 and 34).
  • Unsubtle chield gag: someone ought to put a max headroom sign on that branch (p9).
  • We learn that Impedimenta’s pet name for Vitaslsatistix is ‘Piggywiggy’ (p11).
  • Geriatrix’s wife is not called Myopia – the footnote explains that Impedimenta is invoking a goddess (p13).

Cleverness and contemporaneity…

  • The parenthesis includes a charming depiction of pate-de-fois-gois production and of a soothsayer predicting 1960s office blocks (p5).
  • The parenthesis also includes a depiction of Uderzo’s own house (p5).
  • The Roman soothsayers have undermined their competitors by insisting/predicting that all Gaulish soothsayers be arrested (p18).
  • The optione is portrayed as an utterly dense but conscientious London Policeman, who insists on following his instructions to the letter – he will only arrest Prolix if he is actually a real soothsayer (p18 etc).
  • Getafix anticipates urban pollution two millennia too soon (p27).
  • Cacofonix sings “Oh I do like to be beside the Litus” (p29).
  • Cacofonix takes his usual banquet place gagged and tied to a tree. Here he fantasises about performing on a proscenium-stage before an adoring crowd (p44).

Those charlatan divination methods in full…

  • Examining the flight of birds.
  • Examining how much meal can be force-fed to a goose.
  • Examining entrails of sacrifical animals.
  • Examing the entrail-equivalent of definitively entrail-deficient foodstuffs like beer.

Obelix has a tender side…

Flattered by the soothsayer to believe that he is a great warrior with red pigtails – to the extent that he makes a pass to put the cuckhold’s horns on Geriatrix (pp 16 and 40).

Good or what?

Good.

Time spent exposing all fortune tellers and mediums as charlatans is time never wasted and here Goscinny does it splendidly. Prolix the false soothsayer is quite likeable (always a sign of good story telling to have a half-way-sympathetic bad guy) – one admires his cheek in getting the villagers to bring him cakes and beer to read and sympathises with his no-win attempts to persuade the Romans he really isn’t a soothsayer. There’s a sort of poetic justice in the fact that he gets off – more or less – scot free.