Asterix The Gaul (1961)

Astérix Le Gaulois

Presenting a pretentious thematic undercurrent…

Indicative of the expository nature of this book is the fact that there is very little beyond exposition in it. In other words there is no pretentious thematic undercurrent to present.

Notable Nomenclature…

  • Crismus Bonus: Centurian.
  • Marcus Ginantonicus: Roman Decurian.
  • Tenansix: Gaulish Villager.
  • Tullius Octopus: Roman squad-leader.

Continuity; lack-thereof and other gaffes…

This being an introductory book, semantics would have it that exposition is order of the day – and indeed the characters of Asterix and Getafix are introduced in this one, along with the significance of the Magic Potion. Semantics doesn’t have it all its own way though because many familiar facets of the later books are left mere striplings in this one. Obelix isn’t developed beyond some fat bloke who carries ovoids about – and exclusively to this story he does not accompany Asterix on his adventure – whilst the other villagers are so many interchangeable coves with moustaches, one of whom rides on a shield.

  • First book of the phase Kessler dubs “The rough-hewn menhir” – referring to the relative crudity of the drawing.
  • Series’ scenario is set (p1).
  • Obelix menhir lacks the finally crafted ovoid look of his later efforts (p1).
  • For the only time, Obelix wears an axe. Uderzo removed this detail, presumably because portraying the oaf swinging an axe in lieu of his fist would re-classify the fight scenes from “knockabout humour” to “Antique Nasty.” (p1) (Kessler)
  • The early Obelix eats his boars with some semblance of table manners (pp3 and 12).
  • Vitalstatistix is introduced – he looks a lot more venerable than his eventual realisation (p6).
  • Obelix carries two menhirs simultaneously (p6).
  • Cacofonix introduced – in this early incarnation his hair is given a decidedly blue rinse (p6).
  • First Instance of Julian quotation Alea Jacta Est (The Die is Cast)
  • Note the proud family of chickens (p11).
  • A rotund, yellow-haired prototype of Fulliatomatix works metal with his bare hands – Getafix’s potion would appear to offer heat-resistance as well as strength (p11).
  • This is the first time the Romans actually learn of the existance of Getafix’s magic potion (p17).
  • Page was apparently redrawn by Uderzo’s brother for French editions after 1970, because the original plate was lost.
  • Getafix’s plan is a little too calculated to be credible, even for a magician – The slightest misjudgement and Asterix would be the hairy one (p30).
  • Julius Caesar introduced as a character (not counting introduction) (p43).
  • For the one and only time, Cacofonix actually sings at the feast (p44).

Cleverness and contemporaneity…

  • Romans play musical Chairs to decide who “volunteers” for an espionage mission (p5).
  • Caligulaminix’s front is that of a Lutetian (Parisian) tour-guide (p13).
  • Cacofonix is perfectly acceptable as a dance-master (p15).
  • Gaulish Line dance involves moustache-pulling (p15).
  • Marcus Ginantonicus ironically quotes gladiator greeting Morituri Salutant (we who are about to die salute you) (p17).
  • A torturer’s initial method is to tickle Getafix’s feet with a feather (p20). Later he brandishes more menacing devices (p27).
  • A Gaulish Road is called the MI (p21).
  • Romans are dispatched to collect needless out-of-season strawberries (pp28-29).
  • Getafix tricks the romans into drinking a hair-restorant allowing for lots of excellent hirsute humour (pp33-39).
  • JC waxes biblical (p43).

Those potion varieties in full…

  • Vegetable soup.
  • Shrimp.
  • Cheese Omelette.
  • Duck with Orange Sauce.
  • Vanilla.

Good or What?

Good for a beginner.

To an extent this suffers from the drawback of all introductory books – that it has to devote space to exposition – but not to a great extent because the only characters really to be introduced are Asterix and Getafix and their personalities are developed as the story progresses. That is a very early book is most evident in the drawing which is so crude as to render some of the characters unrecognisable from later incarnations. The verbal humour, though, is already of a high standard – and the plot development involving a hair-restorative counts as one of the series funniest.