Asterix and the Golden Sickle and the Goths
Monday March 24th 2008, 2:00 pm
Filed under: Asterix
Following up on my goal of reading all the Asterix books in order, I completed Asterix and the Golden Sickle and Asterix and the Goths a few months ago.
Since then I haven’t had a chance to write about these books, as I lost my notes on Toutatis (I just happened to read a book with a paragraph on gory Celtic practices around the same time). However, I find the names in Asterix amusing and am looking forward to reading more of the books to see who else shows up.
Asterix and the Golden Sickle presents only a few unusual names:
- Metallurgix (in fact one of Obelix’s distant cousins)
- Clovogarlix (clove of garlic)
- Navishtrix (knavish tricks)
The Romans are:
- Surplus Dairiprodus (surplus dairy products)
- Claudius Omnibus
Aside from the obvious Paris references (only a child wouldn’t know what Lutetia is), there’s Suindinum, with the ox-cart Suindinum 24 Hours (page 10, Suindinum is now Le Mans, where there is some sort of sports car endurance race) and the Lugdunum in the Lugdunum sausage (page 37). Lugdunum is now Lyon (and its cuisine has plenty of sausages involved). In Lutetia itself, one of the tourist sites is the Mola Rubra – surely this is the Moulin Rouge, while the dreaded “Forest over Where the Sun Sets” is the Bois de Boulogne, now as then a dodgy place of “wolves and bandits.”
The Gaulish gods by which Getafix swears are:
- Belenos (the Celtic god of the sun)
- Toutatis (there’s something about drowning sacrificial victims upsid-down in cauldrons of unspecified liquids)
- Belisama (the goddess of metallurgy and weapon-making, also Belenos’ consort)
I’ve also read both the Romanian and English translations of Asterix and the Goths.
The new Gaulish names appearing in this book were (Romanian first, English second – with the English translation of the Romanian in brackets and italicized):
- È˜aptezecix (76) – Valuaddetax
- Cicatrix (scar) – Botanix
- Prefix – Prefix
- Barometrix – Suffix
Vitalstatistix, we discover, becomes BraÈ›scutarix in Romanian. BraÈ› means arm, but I have no idea to what the -scutarix may be referring.
The Romans were called:
- Eunupotus (I can’t do it) – Cadaverus
- MamsÄƒturatus (I’m full or I’ve had enough) – Cantankerus
- Marcus Cubitus – Marcus Ubiquitus
- Iulius Humerus – Julius Monotonus
Similarly, in their legionary disguises, Asterix and Obelix become Asterus and Obelus (same for both Romanian and English).
As for the Goths, their names ended in -ic. They were:
- Teoric (from theory) – Tartaric
- Pasdfric (anyone know what this may mean?) – Atmospheric
- Histeric – Prehistoric
- Periferic (from periphery) – Esoteric
- Cudetric (also unknown) – Choleric
- Teleferic (ski-lift) – Metric
- Cloridric (anyone?) – Rhetoric
- Electric – Electric (leading to the General Electric gag)
- Piticotic (from midget?) – Euphoric
- Satiric – Satiric
- Liric – Lyric
- Pumndeferic (a fist of something?) – Eccentric
The trivia concerning this book concerns the druid È˜aptezecix, or Valuaddetax, using his pain-inhibiting potion to fish out French fries from a boiling cauldron of oil on page 12 and a wheelbarrow on page 43. Neither the French fries nor the wheelbarrow were around when this story was set.
Asterix is Finally Happening
It’s drawing to the end of the summer, so perhaps the local kids are returning their books back to the library. I finally got my hands on Asterix the Gaul, the very first Asterix comic in the series, which first appeared as a serial comic on October 29, 1959 and were published in book form in 1961. Hopefully, I will have better luck finding the subsequent Asterix books so I can read them chronologically.
Asterix the Gaul sets up the Asterix universe scenario: where do these set of Gauls get their strength? The story revolves around the magic potion, which, for those of you who didn’t grow up on Asterix comics, gives this one last unconquered Gaulish village’s citizens superhuman strength to take on Julius Caesar’s legionaries. Getafix the Druid does explain that the potion gives one strength but not invulnerability. To contain the uncooperating natives, the Roman army has set up four garrisons around the village, resulting in a little-known historical stalemate. With this simple recurring gag, RenÃ© Goscinny fuelled 24 further books and, after his death, illustrator Albert Uderzo continued the series for, so far, another nine books.
In Asterix the Gaul, we’re introduced to many of the major characters, including a last-minute cameo by Julius Caesar to usher in the sequels: “…..this is only a truce, Gaul. We shall meet again.” However, many of the favourite Gauls are either missing or undeveloped. Cacofonix, the lousiest bard in all of Gaul, for example, is a respected musician in this book. On page 19, the Gauls are impatient for him to start playing, probably for the last time in the series. But Vitalstatistix appears in a mere two panels, there is no Impedimenta, Fulliautomatix the blacksmith looks nothing like himself, there is no Unhygenix or Geriatrix yet, which means no Mrs. Geriatrix.
However, the names of the male characters are always a fun puzzle to try and figure out. (The female names all end in -a.) The Gaulish male names always end in -ix, the Roman ones in -us. Aside from the regular cast, a Gaulish bit-player in this book was Tenansix (Ten and six). The Romans were:
- Crismus Bonus (Christmas Bonus)
- Julius Pompus
- Marcus Ginantonicus (Gin and Tonic)
- Caligula Minus (who becomes Caliguliminix when disguised as a Gaul; Caligula means Little Boots – the nickname of the crazy emperor Caligula – and Minus is also a diminutive as pointed out by Asterix NZ)
- Tullius Octopus
- Gracchus Sextilius
- Claudius Quintilius
- Caius Flebitus
I own the next two books, Asterix and the Golden Sickle and Asterix and the Goths, though the latter is in Romanian, a language I am still learning. I will read the Romanian version as well as the English version, and compare the two in an upcoming post.
Tintin’s Cigars and Opium
Reading along smoothly on my Tintin-and-Asterix streak, I recently finished reading the Tintin adventures Cigars of the Pharaoh and The Blue Lotus.
Though Cigars of the Pharaoh is still not a completely cohesive story, HergÃ© was by now losing interest in disconnected episodes. Notable for having the first appearance of the Thompson Twins, Tintin also proves he is cuter in local costumes than the decidedly uncute Twins.
In The Blue Lotus, Tintin also wears the local outift, spending most of the book in a blue Chinese suit. I forgot how cute Tintin looks with his new friend Chang Chong-chen, inspired by HergÃ©’s real-life friend and Chinese culture advisor Zhang Chongren.
Father Gosset, the University of Leuven Chinese students’ chaplain, introduced Zhang to HergÃ© so that the cartoonist wouldn’t mess up the depiction of China as he did in previous books (apparently there is a Fu Manchu torture chamber in Land of the Soviets). HergÃ© ended up doing so well in depicting the realities of 1930s China, that the Japanese diplomats complained to the Belgian government.
(HergÃ© and Zhang were eventually reunited in 1981 in France; Zhang received French citizenship in 1985, living in Paris until his death in 1998.)
Hopefully, I can track down the next Tintin adventure, The Broken Ear.
Other Tintin links found while writing this post:
Where Art Thou, Asterix?
I’ve been to three public libraries. All the Tintins and the Asterixes are out. Borrowed by little whippersnappers who should be absorbed in the new Harry Potter.
I cannot find the first Asterix book. That’s Asterix the Gaul. The first book I was to read in order to make my 60-book quota before December 31.
Nor can I find Asterix and the Goths.
I can, however, find the later Asterixes: Asterix and the Actress, Asterix and the Black Gold, Asterix and the Magic Carpet. Not the canonical Asterixes.
The Tintins, meanwhile, are not quite as reclusive.
I found and read Tintin in America. The subsequent Tintins also appear accessible through the local libraries.
But the first two Tintins, Tintin in the Congo and Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, are nowhere to be seen.
I know the former is out there, because the UK’s Commission for Racial Equality recently put out a call to bookstores to ban this book for its racist colonial attitude towards Africans (as reported by the BBC). The book already carries a warning just like CDs with “bad” music. The warning alerts potential readers that the book contains “bourgeois, paternalistic stereotypes of the period – an interpretation some readers may find offensive.” Since the resulting publicity, sales of the 1931 comic has risen by almost 4000%.
I am prepared to be offended by Tintin in the Congo. But until the library succumbs to popular curiosity and purchases a copy, I skipped ahead to Tintin in America.
Replete with 1930s American stereotypes – Chicago gangsters, rampant development, cowboy lynch mobs, innocents tied across railroad tracks – the book is most offensive when it comes to the representation of the First Nations. We’re talking boys and arrows, tomahawks, papooses, references to scalping, and “torture poles.” You’ve also got the usual, mostly hyphenated “Indian” names: Big Chief Keen-Eyed-Mole, Browsing-Bison, Bull’s-Eye, and Lame Duck.
Yet, with six more books to go until I get to the expletive-rich Captain Haddock, I do appreciate this gem from the mouth of the Mighty Sachem:
Let us raise the tomahawk against this miserable Paleface with the heart of a prairie dog!
This Post Is About Books
Early in 2006, I read that That Rabbit Girl was attempting to read 50 books in a year:
I’ve only started keeping track of my reading habits the past two years, and in 2004 and 2005 my final year-end books counts were 39 and 41, respectively. Fifty books will be a serious challenge.
I decided to try out the 50 book thing too.
I started keeping a list of books I read in 1996 when I completed 14 books. The inspiration came from a women’s magazine article. The writer explained how keeping a “read” list gave her a sense of accomplishment. She’d been adding books to the list for three or four years, and each title carried some memory. That novel followed the break-up with boyfriend #34, this one spanned twelve visits to the dentist, while another represented mom’s chemotherapy.
My list, rather than a memory aid for past emotions, serves to goad me into reading more and, more importantly, reading better. I look back and cringe that I wasted time with Steven Langhorne Clemens’ Tokyo Pink Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Tokyoâ€™s Sexy Pleasure Spots â€“ What, Where, & How Much! in 2000 or that I can’t remember a single idea from Pasolini on Pasolini: Interviews with Oswald Stack or Samuel Y. Edgerton, Jr.’s Pictures and Punishment: Art and Criminal Prosecution during the Florentine Renaissance, both of which I read in 1997. I still can’t belive I made it through Michael Herr’s Dispatches in 2001.
But the numbers are a big thing. In 1999, I managed to finish only eight books. In 2003 (an unfortunate year), I muddled through eleven books, a lot of them cheats like graphic and children’s novels. I look with pride at 2001 and 2002, both also unfortunate years yet with 31 and 33 respectively to demonstrate that those years weren’t a complete waste.
Fifty books in a year seemed like a good goal for 2006. In 2005, I got through 26 books: fifty meant I merely had to read four books a month instead of two.
Luckily, I discovered that books on tape go along splashingly with my overdrawn commute. Thus I slipped into 2007 with a glorious 56 books under my belt.
So. I decided I was close enough in 2006 to reaching 60, that that was where I set the bar for this year.
And here I am, the end of the first half of the year, and I am only at 26. Not even halfway.
Part of the problem is that I have taken to daydreaming during my commutes. I end up at work in the morning, not really sure that it was I who drove all that way. Books on tape disrupt my dream time, so I returned Umberto Eco’s The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana back to the library.
I do have a plan.
It came to me in Rome. Insatiable for knowledge of more ancient Roman atrocities (and rather bored with the Julius Caesar chapter in Suetonius), I vowed to re-read all the Asterix books when I got home. And for good measure, I would re-read all the Tintin comics too.
In 2002, I borrowed and read nearly all the Tintin books. I fought off nine-year-olds at the public library to snag every single last copy. I scoured the floors and under shelves for any misplaced copies and mercilessly put holds on other kids’ copies. I braved desiccated kid snot smeared into the creases and ignored unusual stains.
It’s been five years and it’s that time again.
This time, however, I will read all the Asterixes and Tintins in chronological published order.
More for myself, here’s a list of the books in the order I shall attempt to tackle them:
1. Asterix the Gaul (1961)
2. Asterix and the Golden Sickle (1962) (own it, in English)
3. Asterix and the Goths (1963) (own it, in Romanian)
4. Asterix the Gladiator (1964)
5. Asterix and the Banquet (1965)
6. Asterix and Cleopatra (1965)
7. Asterix and the Big Fight (1966) (own it, in Romanian)
8. Asterix in Britain (1966)
9. Asterix and the Normans (1966)
10. Asterix the Legionary (1967)
11. Asterix and the Chieftain’s Shield (1968)
12. Asterix at the Olympic Games (1968) (own it, in English)
13. Asterix and the Cauldron (1969)
14. Asterix in Spain (1969)
15. Asterix and the Roman Agent (1970)
16. Asterix in Switzerland (1970)
17. The Mansions of the Gods (1971)
18. Asterix and the Laurel Wreath (1972)
19. Asterix and the Soothsayer (1972)
20. Asterix in Corsica (1973)
21. Asterix and Caesar’s Gift (1974)
22. Asterix and the Great Crossing (1975)
23. Obelix and Co. (1976)
24. Asterix in Belgium (1979)
And maybe I’ll even go as far as to read the Uderzo-only Asterixes, depending on how much they live up to their bad reputation:
25. Asterix and the Great Divide (1980)
26. Asterix and the Black Gold (1981)
27. Asterix and Son (1983)
28. Asterix and the Magic Carpet (1987)
29. Asterix and the Secret Weapon (1991)
30. Asterix and Obelix All at Sea (1996)
31. Asterix and the Actress (2001)
32. Asterix and the Class Act (2003)
33. Asterix and the Falling Sky (2005)
As for the Tintins, other than first two, I think my local library will have all of them.
1. Tintin in the Land of the Soviets (1929â€“1930)
2. Tintin in the Congo (1930â€“1931)
3. Tintin in America (1931â€“1932)
4. Cigars of the Pharaoh (1932â€“1934) (own it, in English)
5. The Blue Lotus (1934â€“1935)
6. The Broken Ear (1935â€“1937)
7. The Black Island (1937â€“1938)
8. King Ottokar’s Sceptre (1938â€“1939)
9. The Crab with the Golden Claws (1940â€“1941) (own it, in English)
10. The Shooting Star (1941â€“1942)
11. The Secret of the Unicorn (1942â€“1943) (own it, in English)
12. Red Rackham’s Treasure (1943â€“1944)
13. The Seven Crystal Balls (1943â€“1948)
14. Prisoners of the Sun (1946â€“1949)
15. Land of Black Gold (1948â€“1950) (own it, in English)
16. Destination Moon (1950â€“1953)
17. Explorers on the Moon (1950â€“1954)
18. The Calculus Affair (1954â€“1956)
19. The Red Sea Sharks (1958)
20. Tintin in Tibet (1960)
21. The Castafiore Emerald (1963)
22. Flight 714 (1968)
23. Tintin and the Picaros (1976)
24. Tintin and Alph-Art (1986)