Asterix and the Chieftain's Shield
|Asterix and the Chieftain's Shield
(Le bouclier arverne)
Date(s) of publication
|Preceded by||Asterix the Legionary|
|Followed by||Asterix at the Olympic Games|
Asterix and the Chieftain's Shield (original title: Le bouclier arverne) is the eleventh volume in the Asterix comic book series, written by René Goscinny and drawn by Albert Uderzo. It was originally published as a serial in Pilote issues 399-421 in 1967.
The book is inspired by the battle of Alesia, where the Gaulish warrior chief Vercingetorix surrendered to Julius Caesar. However, only the very end of the actual battle appears in the book - the main plot concerns what happened after the battle.
This episode, like Asterix and the Cauldron, is plotted like a detective novel, with a mystery to be solved at the very end.
The book begins with Vercingetorix conceding his defeat to Julius Caesar. He throws his weapons at Caesar's feet — or rather, on Caesar's feet. In pain, Caesar hops away to the infirmary while Vercingetorix is arrested. The weapons remain where they were thrown, for several hours, until a curious, somewhat greedy Roman archer sees that no one's looking, and steals Vercingetorix's famous shield. He then loses the shield in a game of dice to another legionary, who is himself out of camp without a pass. He is spotted by a drunken centurion, who confiscates the shield. The centurion himself uses the shield to pay for a jar of wine at a nearby Gaulish inn; later on the shield is given by the innkeeper to a survivor of the Battle of Alesia, who wanders off into the night...
Then begins the actual story. Chief Vitalstatistix is horribly ill with a sore liver (to the point that any contact with his liver causes him to scream in agony). The druid Getafix diagnoses that this is the result of too much roast wild boar, greasy, spicy sauces and beer: liver trouble. Other Gauls repeatedly poke the Chief's chest, causing him intense pain. As Getafix's magic potions cannot cure weight problems (although they soothe the Chief's liver briefly), he sends Vitalstatistix off to a health spa in Arverne to be cured. Asterix and Obelix (with Dogmatix) go as his escort. At first, Vitalstatistix proposes having a banquet before they leave, but his wife Impedimenta goes off in a rage, forcing him and his escort to make a hasty departure. On the way, they stop at various inns to have the banquet the chief wanted, only to bring back his liver trouble, pain is caused merely by a leaf landing on his stomach.
When they arrive, Obelix is mistaken for a patient by a druid, who punches his stomach. At first all the Gauls stay there together, but because Asterix, Obelix and Dogmatix are perfectly healthy and in no need of special diets, they feast on wild boar and beer while everyone else's diets are boiled vegetables daily. This, and other incidents, seriously annoy Vitalstatistix and the other patients, putting pressure on the management, some people break down at this, and the Chef is attacked. One man even tries to steal food from Dogmatix, but is stopped by Obelix. Vitalstatistix advises his men to tour the countryside of Arverne, visiting such beautiful places as Gergovia. Asterix asks about Alesia, but Vitalstatistix angrily shouts that he does not know where Alesia is. (The exact location of Alesia was unknown for centuries, including when this book was published. It also seems to be a sore point for people like Winesanspirix and Vitalstatistix who were there.)
Along the way, the Gauls are met by special Roman envoy, Noxius Vapus. A fight ensues, with obvious results: the Romans are left beaten up, with their weapons broken, while the Gauls proceed merrily on their way. In the aftermath Asterix, Obelix and Dogmatix meet an old Gaul called Winesanspirix, who has set up shop as a wine and charcoal salesman in Gergovia. Winesanspirix takes the Gauls to his home as his friends. Asterix asks if wine and charcoal shops next to each other causes competition, but Winesanspirix says they buy wine and charcoal from each other. His wife then cooks vegetable soup which Obelix loves. Followed by a party, where the neighbouring wine and charcoal owners gather to talk, someone who brought sausages opens and slammed the door quite loudly. Asterix then asks why Winesanspirix about this and says, "We Arvenians are very fond of bangers". Obelix, grabbing three sausages, tastes them and realise that they are actually wild boar sausages when Winesanspirix tells him.
Meanwhile, when Noxius Vapus makes his report to Caesar in Rome. Caesar decides that the Gauls must be taught a lesson. He plans a triumph on Vercingetorix's shield, only there's one small problem — he does not have the shield any more. Caesar orders Vapus to send search parties to Arverne, looking for it.
Soon the Roman search parties arrive at Winesanspirix's shop. They find nothing, but Asterix's curiosity is piqued. The Romans send a spy, Legionary Pusillanimus, a noted drunk, to find out more, but on drinking too much wine at Winesanspirix's tavern, he accidentally discloses the plan. In order to thwart it, Asterix, Obelix and Dogmatix set off in search of the shield themselves. Pusillanimus actually knows about the legionary who originally took the shield as he was at the Battle of Alesia himself, but he fails to inform his superiors and only tells the Gauls while drunk.
They follow the shield's trail, meeting those who possessed it before it disappeared- the first legionary, Lucius Circumbendibus who now owns a wheel manufacturing business, the second legionary, Marcus Carniverus who worked at a health resort before going on to open a restaurant called The Boar in Wine (much to Obelix's annoyance when they learn that they have spent days at the resort trying to find Carniverus undercover for nothing), and the drunken Centurion Crapulus who is still in the army, and fighting the Roman search parties who are following the same trail. It eventually leads them back to Winesanspirix, for he was the tavern keeper the Roman centurion originally gave the shield to.
Winesanspirix confesses that he does not have the shield any more, as he gave it as a comfort to a Gaulish warrior who was trying to drown his sorrows in wine after having witnessed Vercingetorix's defeat. Right after Winesanspirix explains how he originally ran away from home after Asterix and Obelix left out of shame at giving away something so important and just came back to confess, the Gaulish warrior appears. This Gaulish warrior actually turns out to be chief Vitalstatistix — who returns to the group now significantly thinner than before — who, as it turns out, has had the shield with him all along!
Asterix, Obelix, Dogmatix, Vitalstatistix and Winesanspirix organise a Gaulish (instead of Roman) triumph on Vercingetorix's shield, much to the surprise of Vapus and his troops. As a further twist of fate, Caesar himself arrives to check on Vapus's progress, and seeing the results (they have become black all over from charcoal dust after searching the charcoal cellar in Winesanspirix's tavern), he punishes Vapus by sending him and his troops to Numidia. As an added measure, Caesar promotes Centurion Crapulus to Officer commanding the garrison of Gergovia and Legionary Pusillanimus to Centurion- on the grounds that they are the only clean legionaries present, despite them both being drunk — and orders them to keep the whole incident a secret, Crapulus assuring Caesar that they will remain on good terms with the local wine merchants. The Gauls return to their village (Vitalstatistix regaining his original weight from having banquets at the inns they visited earlier in the story) and have their traditional, huge feast — without Vitalstatistix this time, however, for his wife has something to say about his intention to eat well again and put the shield to an offensive rather than defensive use!
- A running gag in this book is various Gaulish people claiming "I don't know where Alesia is! No one knows where Alesia is!". The reason for this seems to be their Gaulish pride preventing them from mentioning Vercingetorix's defeat. Actually, knowledge of where Alesia is has been lost for a long period of time and its likely location has only been rediscovered in the late 20th century — after this book was published.
- This book establishes the origin of Vitalstatistix's famous round, blue shield with a white five-pointed star pattern as being Vercingetorix's.
- This is one among a minority of Asterix books where the bard Cacofonix is not tied up and gagged at the feast. He joins in to eat and drink like everyone else — instead, it's chief Vitalstatistix who has to miss the feast, as he is kept home by his wife, who threatens to put the shield to an offensive as opposed to a defensive use.
- This is the first album where Vitalstatistix's wife Impedimenta is named.
- The wheel factory is a reference to Michelin, which is based in Clermont-Ferrand, or the Gaullish Nemessos. In real life, the main square in Clermont-Ferrand has a statue of Vercingetorix, as opposed to the statue of Caesar in the book.
- In the wheel factory, Obelix shows his desire for business success for the first time, a theme which would later be central to Obelix and Co.
- In the Asterix books there is a map of Gaul with the caption that by 50 BC all Gaul was occupied by the Romans, but it does not necessarily mean that the Asterix stories themselves are set at that time. The historical battle of Alesia took place in about the year 52 BC. It is treated as having occurred at least 15 years before the time this story is set in, making the Asterix era as being based in the mid-30s BC (though the real-life Julius Caesar had been murdered long before then).
- This book serves as a loose basis for the Sega Mega Drive video game Asterix and the Power of the Gods.
In other languages
- Arabic: أستريكس والترس المختفى
- Bengali: Dhaler Khonje Asterix
- Catalan: L'escut arvern
- Croatian: Štit iz Overnje
- Czech: Asterix a Slavný štít
- Dutch: Het ijzeren schild
- Finnish: Asterix ja kadonnut kilpi ("Asterix and the Missing Shield")
- German: Asterix und der Arvernerschild
- Greek: Η ασπίδα της Αρβέρνης
- Hungarian: Asterix és az auvergne-i pajzs ("Asterix and the Shield of Auvergne")
- Italian: Asterix e lo scudo degli Arverni
- Norwegian: Asterix og Obelix, Romernes skrekk! ("Asterix and Obelix, The Scare of the Romans") No traditional "Asterix"
- Polish: Tarcza Arwernów
- Portuguese: O Escudo de Arverne
- Serbian: Галски штит / Galski štit
- Spanish: El escudo arverno
- Swedish: Romarnas skräck ("The Scare of the Romans")
- Turkish: Asteriks Galya Kalkanı