Asterix and the Black Gold
|Asterix and the Black Gold
|Date of publication||1981|
|Preceded by||Asterix and the Great Divide|
|Followed by||Asterix and Son|
Asterix and the Black Gold (original title: L'Odyssée d'Astérix) is the twenty-sixth volume of Asterix comic book series, originally published in 1981. It is the second book to be published after the death of René Goscinny and is thus both written and drawn by Albert Uderzo.
The book begins with Asterix and Obelix hunting wild boar. One boar is crafty and leads them straight into a Roman patrol. The Gauls promptly forget about boars and beat the daylights out of the patrol instead. In the midst of the battle, the boars escape with their lives. Later in the story, Asterix ponders on their constantly finding Roman patrols whenever they go boar-hunting.
Back in Rome, Julius Caesar hears of this, thinks the Gauls are training wild boars to find Roman patrols, and is humiliated. He orders M. Devius Surreptitius, the head of M.I.VI, the Roman Secret Service, to send an agent to infiltrate the Gauls. This agent is a Gaulish-Roman druid known as Dubbelosix, who travels in a folding chariot full of secret devices. Dubbelosix and Surreptitius communicate via a carrier fly, who develops a crush for Dubbelosix. However, it is revealed Surreptitius is plotting to overthrow Caesar and sends a self-destructing letter to Dubbelosix telling him they will rule together, though Dubbelosix says he will rule Rome himself.
In the Gaulish village, Getafix is extremely frustrated and depressed, because he has run out of rock oil. Without rock oil, he can't make any more magic potion and the village will soon fall against the Romans.
The next day, Ekonomikrisis the Phoenician merchant arrives in Gaul. This cheers Getafix up, but he soon finds out that Ekonomikrisis forgot to bring any rock oil. This causes him to have a stroke, and chief Vitalstatistix tells Asterix and Obelix to fetch another druid to treat him. This druid turns out to be Dubbelosix, who successfully revives Getafix with an alcoholic tonic.
Asterix decides that the best thing to do would be for himself, Obelix and Dogmatix to go to Mesopotamia and bring back the rock oil. Dubbelosix insists on coming with them and they set off on Ekonomikrisis' ship. Along the way, they fight pirates and Roman warships, obviously winning each battle: but unknown to them, Dubbelosix is sending covert messages to the Romans so they can prevent the Gauls from completing their quest.
The Phoenician ship is finally able to land at Judea, where Asterix, Obelix, Dogmatix and Dubbelosix disembark and head for the city of Jerusalem. The Romans form a heavy presence in the city but some sympathising merchants help the Gauls to get in secretly in spite of an attempt by Dubbelosix to alert the city guards. Leaving the treacherous druid behind, Asterix and Obelix make contact with Ekonomikrisis' friend, Samson Alius who advises them to go to Babylon since all the rock oil in Jerusalem has been seized and destroyed by the Romans.
The way to Babylon is across a huge desert, but in the middle of the desert, Asterix, Obelix and Dogmatix find a source of rock oil in the ground so they fill a waterskin with it and head back home. Since Caesar has all ports sealed off to prevent their escape, the two Gauls simply capture Caesar's personal galley — along with Surreptitius and Dubbelosix who have been awaiting the developments on board. However a message is sent to the Romans that makes them decide to attack the village, thinking they cannot make magic potion.
Unfortunately, just before landing back in Gaul, Dubbelosix grabs hold of the waterskin of rock oil and, as he tries to force it open, Obelix, despite the objections of Asterix, leaps upon him, causing the waterskin to break open and send the oil into the sea; the first oil spill in recorded history. Asterix has lost all hope, but when they come back to the village, they find the Gauls fighting Romans as merrily as ever. It turns out that Getafix has been able to substitute beetroot juice for rock oil and thus produce more magic potion, which also tastes nicer. Asterix has a stroke when he realises that the journey has been for nothing.
All ends well for the Gauls; at their usual celebratory feast the crafty boars comment that the holidays are over. The Gauls send the bound and gagged Dubbelosix and Surreptitius back to Caesar in a gift-wrapped box. Caesar sends them to the Circus Maximus as punishment for failure — with a new show added for a twist: they are covered in honey and chased by bees. The lovesick carrier fly follows behind.
- An audiobook of Asterix and the Black Gold adapted by Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge and narrated by William Rushton was released on Hodder and Stoughton's Hodder Children's Audio.
- The character Dubbelosix is an obvious homage to Sean Connery, star of the early James Bond movies. Uderzo modelled him on the appearance of Connery at the time the book was being drawn. Dubbelosix uses many ancient times versions of the popular gadgets of the Bond movies. His name is a pun on "006" (i.e. "007") — the "six" being required for the "-ix" suffix of all Gaulish names in Asterix, and also reflecting the number of times Sean Connery portrayed the role of James Bond on screen, which at the time was six.
- When attempting to cure Getafix, Dubbelosix administers "a grain spirit called Caledonian", which is explained as "Ancient Scotch". This is a pun referring to the drink and the people — all the more so since Connery is Scottish himself.
- The secret service run by Surreptius is referred to as M.I.VI. "VI" is 6 in Roman numerals, and MI6 is the name of the British espionage service.
- Surreptitius is a caricature of actor Bernard Blier and bears some resemblance to James Bond's early bosses M (played in the films by Bernard Lee and Robert Brown)
- The scene where the papyrus bearing instructions self-destructs after being read is a reference to Mission: Impossible where messages destroyed themselves after being received.
- Saul ben Ephishul ("It's All Beneficial"), the Jew who escorts Asterix and Obelix from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea is based on Asterix creator and writer René Goscinny (also of Jewish stock), who had died four years earlier.
- Asterix's and Obelix's visit to Jerusalem is full of references to the Bible. For example, Economikrisis mentions on page 29 that they have arrived in "the promised land". Asterix and Obelix spend the night in a stable in Bethlehem, and Saul ben Ephishul mentions the story of David and Goliath and the Roman procurator — known as "Pontius Pirate" (a reference to Pontius Pilate) — is constantly washing his hands.
- Pontius Pirate resembles French actor Jean Gabin.
- In the desert, Asterix and Obelix run into several warrior groups from historical Mesopotamian cultures — Sumerians, Assyrians, Hittites, Medes etc. — who each greet them with a hail of arrows because they mistake them for their enemies. Incidentally, the cultures have conquered each other in the reversed order in which they appear in the comic; i.e. the Medes conquered the Assyrians, the Akkadians conquered the Sumerians etc. Their presence is, however, anachronistic, as these cultures no longer existed in Roman times. The entire sequence is a reference to the later 20th century conflicts in the Middle East.
- The Herodian Kingdom of Israel is anachronistically referred as Palestine — this name came into use only in the 2nd century CE, whereas Asterix is set c. 50 BCE.
- The bird who gets oil over him and angrily shouts: "Oh no, don't tell me you are starting already!" is a reference to oil spills, most notably the Amoco Cadiz which sank in 1978 in front of the coast of Brittany, where the home village of Asterix is located, according to the series.
- The scene of Jerusalem is taken one on one from the Holyland hotel 2nd temple model as can be seen here  in its original location (in a 3d view). This model has been moved to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
- The Jews are all depicted as Yemenite Jews, with dark skin and black eyes and beards, a tribute to Marc Chagall the famous painter whose painting of King David hangs at the Knesset (Israeli Parliament).
- Uderzo includes several small references to Jewish traditions.
- The Gauls leave Jerusalem through the Lions' Gate, which, while drawn very accurately, was in fact built more than 1500 years after the timeline of the Asterix comic. The gate is part of Sultan Suleiman's outer wall, which still stands today.
- Several characters in the story comment on the uselessness and nastiness of rock oil, wondering why anybody would want it; this starkly contrasts the dependency on petroleum which marks our own time.
- In the Norwegian translation, the new magic potion ingredient that has replaced rock oil is not identified.
In other languages
- Catalan: L'odissea d'Astèrix
- Croatian: Asterixova odiseja
- Czech: Asterixova odysea
- Dutch: De odyssee van Asterix
- Finnish: Asterixin harharetket
- German: Die Odysee
- Greek: Η οδύσσεια του Αστερίξ
- Hebrew: אסטריקס וירושלים של זהב שחור
- Indonesian: Perjalanan ke Mesopotamia (Journey to Mesopotamia)
- Italian: L'Odissea di Asterix
- Norwegian: Asterix' Odysse
- Portuguese: A odisseia de Astérix
- Polish: Odyseja Asteriksa
- Spanish: La odisea de Astérix
- Turkish: Asteriks ve Kara Altın
- Swedish: Asterix på irrvägar
- L'Odysée d'Astérix annotations (French)