Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Sunday, February 9, 2020


Everyone's favorite Gaulish warrior first appeared in the Franco-Belgian magazine Pilote on October 29, 1959.  The comic strip was written by Rene Goscinny and drawn by Albert Uderzo.  It took place in 50 B.C., a time when Julius Caesar had conquered all of Gaul except for a small village in Armorica (Brittany).  The village resisted the Romans because of an invincibility elixir made from time to time by the village druid Getafix.  The village chief is Vitalstatistix, but because of his shrewdness Asterix is usually in charge of the most important affairs of the village.  Astrix is accompanied by his friend Obelix, a huge, not too bright, hulk of a man who had fallen into a vat of the elixir when her was a baby, resulting in permanent invincibility.

The cast of characters include Dogmatix (Obelix's dog), Impedimenta (the argumentative wife of Vitalstatistix), Cacofonix (the village bard), Geriatrix (the oldest inhabitant), Unhygienix (the village fishmonger) and his wife Bacteria, Fulliautomatix (the village blacksmith), Chanticleerix (the village rooster in love with Asterix's helmet), Pacifix, Atlantix, Adriatix, Analgesix, Operatix, Acoustix, Harmonix, Polyfonix, Polytechnix, Bucolix, Photogenix, and many, many more pun-filled characters.  And, of course, Julius Caesar, who wants nothing more than to conquer the village.

"The humour encountered in the Asterix comics often centers around puns, caricatures, and tongue-in-cheek stereotypes of contemporary European nations and French regions.  Much of the humour in the initial Asterix books was French-specific, which delayed the translation of the books into other languages for fear of losing the jokes and the spirit of the story.  Slome translations have actually added local humour.  In the Italian translation, the Roman soldiers are made to speak 20th century Roman dialect and Obelix's famous Ils sont fous ces romains ("These Romans are crazy") is translated properly as Sono pazzi questi romani, humorously alluding to the Roman abbreviation SPQR.  In another example:  Hiccups are written onomatopoeically in French as hips, but in english as "hic", allowing the Roman legionaries in more than one of the English translations to decline decline their hiccups absurdly in Latin (hic, haec, hoc).  The newer albums share a more universal humour, both written and visual."  [Wikipedia]

Asterix has been translated into at least 111 languages.  The adventures of the feisty little Gaul have now appeared in 38 volumes.  A 1999 poll by Le Monde placed the first book in the series, Asterix the Gaul as the 23rd greatest book of the twentieth century.  Asterix's popularity has been translated into 14 films, 40 video games, 15 board games, and one theme park.

In 1967, a French-Belgian full-length film was made from the first book in the series, Asterix the Gaul..  The animated feature did not please Goscinny and Uderzo, who were unaware the film was being made and managed to block a second planned film.  The two then oversaw a second released film, Asterix and Cleopatra, with more officially sanctioned film to come.

How universal is Asterix anyway?  Here's your chance to find out.  The only copy I could find of  1967's Asterix the Gaul is the Hindi version.  Can you overcome the language barrier  to fully enjoy (or even understand) the movie?  Let's see.

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