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Asterix the Gaul
(Astérix le Gaulois)
Asterixcover-asterix the gaul.jpg

Cover of the English edition
Publisher Dargaud
Date 1961
Main character(s) Asterix and Obelix
Series Asterix
Creative team
Writer(s) René Goscinny
Artist(s) Albert Uderzo
Original publication
Published in Pilote
Issue(s) 1-38
Date(s) of publication 29 October 1959 - 14 July 1960
Language French
Translation
Publisher Brockhampton Press
Date 1969
Translator(s) Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge
Chronology
Followed by Asterix and the Golden Sickle

Asterix the Gaul is the first volume of the Asterix comic strip series, by René Goscinny (stories) and Albert Uderzo (illustrations).

Contents

Plot summary

All of Gaul or Armorica is divided into three parts. No, four — for one small village of indomitable Gauls still holds out against the Roman invaders....

Centurion Crismus Bonus, head of the Roman garrison at the fortified camp of Compendium and very keen to discover the secret of the Gauls' superhuman strength, sends a spy disguised as a Gaul into the village. The Roman's identity is revealed when he loses his false moustache, but not before he discovers the existence of the magic potion brewed by the Druid Getafix and actually manages to taste some. With that potion, Crismus Bonus believes that he could overthrow Julius Caesar, and become Emperor himself. So he and his second-in-command Marcus Ginandtonicus have Getafix captured in order to get the recipe.

Asterix learns of Getafix's capture and manages to get into the camp Compendium where Getafix is being held. Finding Getafix, he and Getafix make plans, the first of which is Asterix joining the druid in captivity. Next they both pretend to crack under torture, and the druid demands a list of hard-to-find ingredients for the magic potion; while Crismus Bonus' soldiers try to find the hardest-to-find ingredients, Asterix and Getafix lounge around in comparative luxury enjoying themselves at the Romans' expense. Finally, all the ingredients are found and the potion prepared, but though magical indeed this turns out to be a very different brew — an extremely potent potion that causes the hair and beard of the drinker to begin growing non-stop at a rapid pace. The Romans eventually convince Getafix to make an antidote, and Getafix agrees to do so (though he in fact makes a cauldron of vegetable soup, as the hair potion is about to wear off anyway). At the same time, he also prepares a small quantity of the real magic potion for Asterix to drink. The two then begin bashing their way out of the Roman camp. As they are attempting to escape, they are stopped by a huge army of Roman reinforcements just outside the camp and are captured again.

Just then a clean-shaven legionary informs Crismus Bonus that he is wanted urgently. When the centurion returns to his tent, he finds Julius Caesar there checking on the condition of the area. Upon meeting Asterix and Getafix, Caesar learns of Crismus Bonus' intentions. As punishment, he sends Crismus Bonus and his garrison to Outer Mongolia where there is a barbarian rebellion and then frees Asterix and Getafix for giving him the information, while reminding them that they are still enemies.

Characters

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Introducing

Development

Because this is the first album, many story points and characterizations are still in their formative stages. In fact, due to its original, serial nature, some develop and change even as the story progresses:

  • The Roman second-in-command changes abruptly a few pages into the story.
  • Getafix begins the story living in a cave in the forest and looking much like a stereotypical caveman. He also uses a walking stick.
  • Obelix is seen carrying an axe in his first appearance. It is never seen again. He is satisfied with helping Asterix eat just one boar between them.
  • Asterix and other villagers appear to be using the potion constantly, yet seeing the potion being made is viewed as an event.
  • Fulliautomatix is seen working metal with his bare hands. He also bears no resemblance to his later appearances.
  • Cacofonix the bard plays and calls a dance, and at the end is seated at the table at the feast. Later albums established a running gag where he is never allowed to sing, and is tied up and gagged at feasts to prevent this.
  • One of the few books where we get to see some of Getafix's other tricks, namely, the hair-growth potion.
  • When he is first introduced in the prologue, Caesar has a completely different look than he has in the rest of the series (NOTE: when he appears in the end of the album, he already has his new look; this can be seen as an error)

Publishing history

The story was first published as a serial in Pilote, a French comic magazine founded by Goscinny and a few other comic artists.

The first page appeared in the promotional issue #0, distributed on June 1, 1959, and the story was serially published in the magazine from issue #1 (October 29, 1959) until issue #38 (July 14, 1960). A small head of Asterix first appeared on the cover of #9 (December 24, 1959), and a full Asterix cover was used on #21 (March 17, 1960).

The next story, Asterix and the Golden Sickle, started in issue #42 (August 11, 1960).

Asterix le Gaulois was published in July 1961 by Dargaud in the so-called "Pilote collection" with a print of 6000 copies. A Dutch translation followed in 1966, and other languages followed soon after.

The English translation by Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge was first published in 1969 by Brockhampton Press.

An audiobook of Asterix the Gaul adapted by Anthea Bell and narrated by Willie Rushton was released on EMI Records Listen for Pleasure label in 1990.

On the 29th of October, 2009, Google prominently featured an integration of Asterix and Obelix in its mast head, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first publication.

Notes

  • This album establishes the convention that all Gaulish male names end in -ix, and all Roman male names end in -us.
  • The plate for page 35 was redrawn by Albert Uderzo's brother Marcel in 1970 because the original was lost. This is why there are some slight differences in the drawing style. All English versions from Hodder & Stoughton (Hodder Dargaud) use the original illustrations, which were made from a copy of an actual printed page, hence the blurriness. The 2004 release from Orion Books uses the redone illustrations from the French editions. [1] [2]
  • Throughout the entire Asterix series, the Roman legionaries use the wrong weaponry and armor for their period. For instance, their armor is the lorica segmentata, which was the standard during the Roman Empire era; in Caesar's time, chainmail armor (the lorica hamata) was in use. Also, the real-life Roman legionaries used pila (javelins) instead of spears, and they usually carried two of them.

Film adaptation

The book was adapted into a film, which was released in 1967. Goscinny and Uderzo were not consulted during the making of the film, and the first they heard of it was a few months before it was released, when they were shown an early version of it. It was generally not well received, and a planned adaptation of Asterix and the Golden Sickle, made by the same animation team, was scrapped.

In other languages

Sources

  1. ^ [1] - Background document from the Official Asterix Website
  2. ^ [2] - Page on the changes from Asterix International!

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