Asterix the Gaul
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|Asterix the Gaul
(Astérix le Gaulois)
Cover of the English edition
|Main characters||Asterix and Obelix|
|Published in||Pilote magazine|
|Date of publication||29 October 1959–14 July 1960|
|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). In Le Monde's 100 Books of the Century, a 1999 poll conducted by the French retailer Fnac and the Paris newspaper Le Monde, Asterix the Gaul was listed as the 23rd greatest book of the 20th century.
Centurion Crismus Bonus, head of the Roman garrison at the fortified camp of Compendium is very keen on discovering the secret of the Gauls' superhuman strength after four soldiers are knocked out by one man, and 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. He also manages to drink the potion after pretending he needs it to get back home as he claims the Romans think he is a spy, and reports his discovery back to the Centurion. Crismus Bonus believes that with this potion, he could overthrow Julius Caesar, and become Emperor himself. So, he and his second-in-command Marcus Ginandtonicus have Getafix captured using a pit in order to get the recipe. He is tortured by having a feather tickle his feet for hours, but does not give in.
Asterix learns of Getafix's capture from a local man, and manages to sneak into the Roman camp where Getafix is being held captive in the man's cart after telling him Compendium has a second-hand cart stall on. He hears Crismus and Ginandtonicus planning to overthrow Caesar using the magic potion. Asterix finds Getafix and they concoct a scheme to trouble the Romans. Getafix pretends to agree to the Centurion's ultimatum of making the potion when Asterix pretends to give in to torture, despite the torture not actually having started yet, and demands an unseasonal ingredient, strawberries. While Crismus Bonus' soldiers try to find strawberries, Asterix and Getafix lounge around in comparative luxury, enjoying themselves at the Romans' expense. When the strawberries are bought at a vast sum from a Greek Merchant, the two Gauls eat them, causing anger to Crismus, before Getafix says the potion can be made without strawberries, they just leave a taste in the mouth.
After all the ingredients are found, a potion is prepared that causes the hair and beard of the drinker to grow at a very accelerated pace. The Romans test it on the local man from earlier as Crismus worries about it being poisoned, and when he tests his strength on Asterix, Asterix pretends to be knocked out. The Romans are tricked into drinking this potion and before long, all of them have long hair and beards. They plead with Getafix to make an antidote, who makes a cauldron of vegetable soup (as the effects of the hair potion are about to wear off anyway) and also prepares a small quantity of the real magic potion for Asterix to drink so that they can fight their way out.
As Getafix and Asterix are attempting to escape, they are stopped by a huge army of Roman reinforcements just outside the camp and are captured again. It turns out that Julius Caesar is leading the army and 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 frees Asterix and Getafix for giving him the information, while reminding them that they are still enemies.
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.
- Asterix – Gaulish warrior
- Obelix – Gaulish menhir delivery man and warrior
- Getafix – Gaulish druid
- Vitalstatistix – Chief of the Gaulish Village
- Cacofonix – Gaulish bard
- Fulliautomatix – Gaulish blacksmith
- Julius Caesar – Roman leader (historical)
Because this is the first album, many story points and characterisations 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. Obelix is only a peripheral character in the first album, and doesn't truly become Asterix's sidekick until the next album.
- 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 (except in Asterix and the Normans, The Mansions of the Gods and Asterix and the Magic Carpet), and is tied up and gagged at feasts to prevent this.
- When he is first introduced in the prologue, Caesar has a completely different look than he has in the rest of the series, including at the end of this album.
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 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.
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.
British comic adaption
Valiant comics saved #59 (16th Nov 1963) carried a British version of Asterix with just the names changed which ran for a time, on the back page (so it was in colour). It was called "Little Fred and Big Ed" and they lived in a British village called Nevergiveup, the druid was named Hokus Pokus and the chief Roman was called Pompus.
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
- Albanian: Gali Asteriks
- Arabic: أستريكس بطل الأبطالل
- Basque: Asterix Galiarra
- Bengali: গলযোদ্ধা অ্যাস্টেরিক্স
- Bulgarian: Астерикс - Галът
- Catalan: Astèrix el Gal
- Croatian: Asteriks Gal
- Czech: Gal Asterix
- Danish: Asterix og hans gæve gallere
- Dutch: Asterix de Galliër
- Estonian: Gallialane Asterix
- Finnish: Asterix gallialainen
- French: Astérix le Gaulois
- Frisian: Asterix de Galjer
- Gaelic: Asterix an Ceilteach
- Galician: Astérix o Galo
- German: Asterix der Gallier
- Greek: Αστερίξ ο Γαλάτης
- Hebrew: אסטריקס הגאלי
- Hindi: एस्ट्रिक द गाल
- Hungarian: Asterix, a Gall
- Icelandic: Ástríkur Gallvaski
- Indonesian: Asterix Prajurit Galia
- Italian: Asterix il Gallico
- Latin: Asterix Gallus
- Mirandese: Asterix, L Goulés
- Norwegian: Asterix og hans tapre gallere
- Polish: Przygody Gala Asteriksa
- Portuguese: Astérix o Gaulês
- Romanian: Asterix Galul
- Serbian: Астерикс Галски јунак
- Sinhalese: සූර පප්පා
- Slovak: Gal Asterix
- Spanish: Asterix el Galo
- Swedish: Asterix och hans tappra galler
- Turkish: Galyalı Asteriks
- Welsh: Asterix y Galiad
-  - Background document from the Official Asterix Website
-  - Page on the changes from Asterix International!
- (French) "BDoubliées". Le journal Pilote par année. Archived from the original on 9 May 2006. Retrieved 2006-06-09.