When Roman Centurion Crismus Bonus finds out about Getafix's magic potion, he kidnaps the druid to force him to reveal the recipe. So Asterix joins his friend in captivity and together the two plan to whip up a surprise with truly hair-raising effects.
Original publication date
Digri, lliwgar, a Chymreig. Gyda’n cefndir cyffredin Celtaidd, yn cael ein goresgyn gan ‘y Rhufeiniaid gwallgo ’ma!’, roedd rhywbeth naturiol mewn trosi helyntion ein lled-gefndryd Galaidd, gyda’u derwydd a’u bardd yn gymeriadau stoc, i’n hiaith a’n diwylliant ni. Daeth saith cyfrol hardd o Wasg y Dref Wen i ddwylo’r plant, ac yna – ‘myn Twtatis!’– sychodd y ffrwd. Yn ofer y chwiliais am Asterix a Cleopatra, yr unig un nad oedd gennym, yn y siopau llyfrau.
Yna, eleni, daeth y newyddion fod Asterix yn ailymddangos. Gwych, meddwn. [...]
Asterix and his trusty friend, Obelix, have superhuman strength from the magic potion devised by the aptly named, Getafix--the village druid. When Getafix is captured by Romans, Asterix sets out to rescue him--but not before having a bit of fun at the expense of his adversaries. Page by page, the reader learns that Asterix is not only strong, but cunning as well. The ensuing mission unfolds into a series of hilarious pranks on the invaders.
Asterix the Gaul is a terrific book for boys who will enjoy the colorful graphics and action-packed fight scenes (which are cartoonish in nature). Originally written in French, nothing appears to be lost in translation. In fact, it is a wonder that the jokes work so well in English as well. With thirty-seven books in the series, Asterix entertains for many hours of enjoyable reading.
Albert Uderzo's illustrations were excellent. In particular, I loved the way Crismus Bonus looked with his long, long beard :)
This is the first album and it does show a lot, especially after you have read a lot of the others. In a way it seems very deficient, however we must remember that this is the first and we are seeing an introduction to the characters and the setting. In a way this is something that could only come out of France. It is amusing, silly, and the use of puns is very clever. This is seen a lot more in the later comics, though here the main antagonist, the centurion Crismus Bonus, gave me a good chuckle when I first encountered him.
Most of the comics, when dealing with the little village in Gaul, will only have one of the camps. The four camps are Aquarium, Totorum, Laundanum, and Compendium. The camp that has the focus of this book is Compendium. As you read more and more of the comics you will encounter the style that Goscinny (who wrote the dialogue, Underzo did the drawings) uses. Each of the nationalities have their own little prefix, the Gauls having 'ix' at the end of all of their names (most likely being taken from the Gaul Ubercheiftain Vercingetorix) and all of the Roman's names end in 'us' (most likely taken from the name Julius, though other Romans of note also have a name ending in 'us' though you should note that not all of them follow that convention, though in the books they will generally have two names, such as Calligula Minus, the poor Roman that is picked to spy on the Gauls).
The plot of this comic involves the Romans trying to find out the secret of the Gaul's ability to resist their might, so they disguise a Roman as a Gaul who sneaks into the village, finds the potion, and then returns back to the camp as strong as ever. Upon learning of the potion, they kidnap the druid Getafix (there are lots of puns like this, Vitalstatistix the chief, Fullyautomatix the blacksmith, and Cacofonix the bard). Asterix, who learns of this must then sneak into the camp to get the druid back.
It is rather amusing, especially how the mighty Romans are scared stiffless of the little Gauls, and in many cases Asterix uses his ability to bluff to enable him to get around and reach his goals. Of course, upon learning of the potion, Crismus Bonus decides that to have this power would give him much more influence back in Rome, so decides to go his own way to depose Ceaser and set himself up as dictator. Okay, the history in these stories is really bad, particularly since at this point Ceaser would have been fighting the civil war. There simply did not seem to be a period of peace where Ceaser was ruling unchallenged, but this is a really minor aspect. These comics are not to teach history but to entertain.
A fairly light and quick read, you get a good introduction to Asterix and his friends, mainly his best friend Obelix and
In Asterix the Gaul, after Asterix singlehandedly defeats four Roman guards, Crismus Bonus sends a spy into the Gaul village to find out their secret. The Romans then kidnap Getafix to force him to make the magic potion that gives the Gauls their super-strength. Asterix goes to the rescue and then allows himself to be captured so that he and Getafix can have some fun at the Romans' expense. After some calamity with a super-strength potion that has some adverse effects, Asterix and Getafix are released through the help of an unlikely ally.
Asterix the Gaul is a fun introduction to the Asterix characters and world. The art is fluid, colors are bright and the story is clever and humorous. Worth reading if you want a light, fun read.
Some nationalistic inaccurate views are openly supported: Gauls=French, Iberes=Spanish, Bretons=English, etc. These same nationalistic views built on historic misconceptions and nonfactual assertions were sometimes misused in order to confer abusive ancestral ethnic-cultural "legitimacy" being conspicuously responsible for turmoil, unrest, persecution and war during the last centuries.
The Gauls were a loosely united confederation of Celtic tribes who lived roughly (but not exclusively) on some of the ground where France exists today. Overall their archaeological artifacts, language and known culture were not significantly different from the Germanic Celts or British Celts or Iberian Celts. Most of the "nation" nonsense in this and many other cases seems to have been purposely created by the conquerors (Romans in this case) in order to enhance their prestige: We conquered a "nation" (not a mere loosely united bunch of tribes)! See "Beyond Celts, Germans and Scythians" by Peter Wells.
We must allow however for the time period of most of the books who were first published on the 60's and 70's.
Conversely, from what we know today, the global caricature of the Celts in these books seems surprisingly accurate in many aspects: individual indisciplined warfare, view of war as competition for social prestige, collecting helmets (heads) and booty, ritual feasting, woman discrete but powerful social role, small self-limited settlements (villages) with avoidance of complex urban settlement organization, druid (priest/shaman) exclusive social role, warrior elite council decision and chieftain (limited) ruling.
A milestone in historical comedy comics, with universally known characters already in the collective imagination.
Getafix is kidnapped by the Romans, meaning Asterix has to penetrate the Roman camp to get him back.
Now, having read it in English (my native language), I have to say there's a lot more I enjoyed. The artwork is fantastic, the word-play and puns are
A great start to the adventures of Asterix and Obelix.