Asterix and Caesar's Gift
|Asterix and Caesar's Gift
(Le Cadeau de César)
|Date of publication||1974|
|Preceded by||Asterix in Corsica|
|Followed by||Asterix and the Great Crossing|
Asterix and Caesar's Gift is the twenty-first volume of the Asterix comic book series, by René Goscinny (stories) and Albert Uderzo (illustrations). It was the first Asterix adventure that was not published in serial form in Pilote magazine prior to its publication as a book.
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (July 2007)|
Having completed twenty years of service in the Roman Army, veteran legionaries Tremensdelirius and Egganlettus await their honest missio (Latin:honorary discharge); but Tremensdelirius, who has spent most of his enlistment being intoxicated, is imprisoned for insulting Julius Caesar while drunk. Upon hearing of this, Caesar suggests playing a practical joke, in which Tremensdelirius is awarded a Gaulish village in Armorica: the only territory of Gaul not yet conquered by the Roman legions, inhabited by protagonist Asterix and his friends. A few days later, Tremensdelirius is drunk again and, unable to pay the innkeeper, offers his land share. Having agreed, innkeeper Orthopaedix, his wife Angina, and their daughter Influenza emigrate to the village and request a meeting with Chieftain Vitalstatistix to state their claim; but Vitalstatistix and the whole village dismiss their claim as absurd. When Angina berates her husband for selling their inn to travel to Armorica, Vitalstatistix offers Orthopaedix a building next to the fish-stall for his use as a tavern. Obelix helps the new family and soon becomes enamored of Influenza. On the opening night of the new inn, the merriment is spoiled when Vitalstatistix's wife Impedimenta quarrels with Angina over the ownership of the village and a comment about the smell of fish starts a fight (originally between fishmonger Unhygenix and his neighbor, the blacksmith Fulliautomatix, but later including all the male villagers). In the morning, Orthopaedix offers to quit the village and return to his wife's relatives in Lutetia; but Angina, for revenge on Impedimenta, makes a claim to the leadership of the village on behalf of her husband. Vitalstatistix has Cacofonix obtain an opinion poll of the villagers and the results are disappointing for Vitalstatistix. Soon both candidates and their families search for supporters by offering insincere support to the individual concerns of each villager. Geriatrix originally supports Vitalstatistix due to his distrust of Orthopaedix, but later tries to stand for Chief himself, and Asterix becomes worried that internal conflict could benefit the Romans. Meanwhile, Tremensdelirius arrives at the village to visit Orthopaedix and claim his land share, on grounds that all his later attempts at trade and piracy have failed. When Angina refuses, he threatens the family by drawing his sword; but is overcome by Asterix in a contest of swordsmanship. Thereafter Tremensdelirius seeks allies at a neighboring Roman legionary camp and finds his old friend Egganlettus re-enlisted as an aide-de-camp under the local centurion. With his support, Tremensdelirius makes an official request on the centurion to restore the land share. The centurion is reluctant to face the Gauls; but when the veterans threaten to report him to Caesar, he agrees to plan an attack based on siege engines, but demotes Egganlettus to the ranks.
The following day, Influenza expresses her admiration to Asterix, and Obelix, envious, ignores Asterix's investigation of Tremensdelirius. Therefore, Asterix investigates alone and overhears the Roman plan of attack, but lacks the magic potion (withheld by the village Druid to prevent its use in the election) needed to end their preparations. The Romans see him, but fear to attack, enabling him to escape; but his escape persuades the Romans that the Gauls can no longer resist the Romans, and Egganlettus recovers his higher authority. Asterix returns to the village and attempts to sound the alarm, but is ignored in favor of a public debate between Vitalstatistix and Orthopaedix, with Cacofonix serving as a (biassed) referee. They are interrupted by rocks thrown into the village by the Roman catapults outside. When Vitalstatistix and Orthopaedix are reconciled by this common threat, the druid prepares new magic potion while Obelix delays Roman attempts to enter the village. Thereafter, the rival factions of villagers combine against the Romans and destroy their war machines. Orthopaedix himself confronts Tremensdelirius and breaks the stone tablet that claims ownership of the village over Tremensdelirius's head. Egganlettus, whom Tremensdelirius had tried to put the blame on to the Gauls, succeeds this a blow with a stick, and Tremensdelirius is abandoned on the battlefield while Egganlettus, demoted again, is ordered to clear away the broken engines. In the Gaulish village, Vitalstatistix concedes the election, but Orthopaedix refuses the chieftainship in favor of return to Lutetia. When Angina objects, Orthopaedix refuses her objection (to Influenza's delight) and hopes to boast of his adventure to his brother-in-law. Impedimenta and Angina, reconciled, exchange recipes and addresses of their relatives in Lutetia, while Geriatrix discards his own claim to chieftainship. Obelix mourns the loss of Influenza but is reconciled with Asterix shortly before the victory celebration concluding the book.
- The granting of land to Roman soldiers after long years of service is historically true.
- Tremensdelirius, in English, was named after his drunkenness; in the original French language his name is given as Roméomontaigus after Romeo Montague, one of two title characters in Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. The connection between the two characters is not particularly evident.
- Orthopaedix is drawn as a caricature of André Alerme (September 9, 1877 - February 2, 1960), an actor.
- Influenza is called 'Zaza' for short (a possible reference to Zsa Zsa Gabor), and therefore interprets Asterix's victory over Tremensdelirius, in which he cut the letter 'Z' in Tremensdelirius' clothing, as dedicated to her. In fact the Z is a reference to Zorro; the TV series was often shown on TV in continental Europe. Asterix's dialogue during the swordfight is a reference to Cyrano de Bergerac. (In the English translation it includes references to the climactic swordfight in Hamlet.)
- Vitalstatistix and his brother-in-law Homeopathix confront each other in person at the beginning and the finale of Asterix and the Laurel Wreath, and Impedimenta entertains hopes of the two entering a partnership in Asterix and the Soothsayer; whereas here, Vitalstatistix befriends Orthopaedix on grounds that the latter, like himself, has quarreled with in-laws in Lutetia.
- This is the second time Vitalstatistix is challenged by a contender to the leadership of the village, and the first time his leadership is challenged by the population of the village. He is not challenged again until Asterix and the Secret Weapon.
- This is the first time the Gauls of the story are shown electing leaders as if in democracy; but here, the leader has no fixed term and retains leadership until challenged; potentially until death.
- This story has one of only a few scenes where Asterix uses his sword, and one of an equally few in which Cacofonix is not bound and gagged at the end of the story.
- The story parodies political campaigns in general, election campaigns in particular, and perhaps especially the French presidential election of 1974, date of publication of the album. Election day is mentioned as set for the celebration day of Lugh; but the election is cancelled after the withdrawal of Orthopaedix.
- In some of the scenes (after Vitalstatistix falls off his shield), there is a hen in love with Vitalstatistix's helmet.