Asterix and the Goths
|Asterix and the Goths
(Astérix et les Goths)
Cover of the English edition
|Main characters||Asterix and Obelix|
|Published in||Pilote magazine|
|Date of publication||1961–1962|
|Translator||Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge|
|Preceded by||Asterix and the Golden Sickle|
|Followed by||Asterix the Gladiator|
Asterix and the Goths is the third volume of the Asterix comic book series, by René Goscinny (stories) and Albert Uderzo (illustrations). It was first published in 1963 in French and translated into English in 1974.
Asterix and Obelix, nervous about Getafix traveling alone to the annual druids' conference in the Forest of the Carnutes, accompany him on his journey and remain outside the forest during the conference. Meanwhile, on the Roman Empire's border, two legionaries are captured by a band of Goths (Tartaric, Esoteric, Atmospheric, Prehistoric, and Choleric), intending to kidnap the Druid of the Year and use his skills to conquer Gaul and Rome.
En route to the Forest, Asterix, Obelix, and Getafix meet another druid, Valueaddedtax, who uses his magical powers to convince the Romans to let them pass. At the edge of the Forest of the Carnutes, Getafix and his friend leave Asterix and Obelix for the druid's conference. Unaware that the Goth band is hiding nearby, the druids enter their inventions in a contest, in which Getafix wins the "Golden Menhir" prize with his potion, which gives superhuman strength. As he leaves his colleagues, the Goths take him prisoner. Asterix and Obelix, fearing for their friend's safety after they do not see him leave the Forest, enter the woods and find a Visigoth helmet (actually a pickelhaube like those worn by Germans during the first years of World War I). They instantly set out towards the east (thoroughly confusing Obelix) to rescue Getafix.
Unfortunately, they run into another Roman patrol, which spots the helmet Asterix is carrying and mistakes them for Goths (who are wanted for assaulting Roman border guards). Obelix and Asterix easily defeat the Romans, but the Roman general is informed of the incident and sends out pictures of Asterix and Obelix with a reward for their capture.
Asterix has the bright idea of disguising himself and Obelix as Romans and ambush two legionaries, stealing their armor and weapons and leaving them tied up and gagged. Two other legionaries, searching for the Goths, come across our heroes, in which Obelix's laughter at what they should say if they meet other Romans almost blows his and Asterix's cover, although the legionaries think their comrades' hair and whiskers are suspicious. Soon after, the two legionaries spot the two tied-up Romans and mistake them for Asterix and Obelix, "a fat one and a little one". Thinking another Legionary captured them and has gone for reinforcements, they decide to take the reward, and take the prisoners to the general's tent. They are told they will get seats in the circus for this. When the captives are ungagged, however, the full story comes out, and the Romans promptly begin capturing each other left and right, believing each other to be Goths, much to the disappointment of the General. The two Legionaries, when asking about their seats, are told by the General they will get them in the best position, with the lions. Asterix and Obelix, back in Gaulish clothing, are completely untouched, along with the Goths, who approach the border.
The Goths cross the Roman Empire's border back into Germania, stunning a young legionary whose eagerness to report an invasion becomes a running gag. (He initially reports an "invasion" of Goths invading the Goths, then an invasion of Gauls crossing into Germania — which his centurion dismisses as their territory is not the one being invaded—, and then finally reports the Gauls returning to Gaul, which causes him to get 8 days inside). They present the druid first to a customs officer, who at first refuses to let them through on charges of importing foreign goods. Meanwhile, Asterix and Obelix also stun the young legionary and enter the Gothic lands. While running into a Gothic border patrol, Obelix stupidly uses the cover up names he and Asterix used for their Roman disguises, making the patrol think our heroes are Romans. After Asterix and Obelix beat up the patrol, they disguise themselves as Goths by attacking two of them, infiltrating their barracks as members of the army.
Eventually, the Goths present Getafix to their Gothic chieftain, Metric, calls in a Gaulish-Gothic translator, Rhetoric, who is threatened to be executed if he does not convince Getafix to cooperate and brew magic potion. Although Getafix flatly refuses, Rhetoric lies and says that he has agreed to do so in a week's time, at the New Moon.
Asterix and Obelix escape from the Gothic army, but are soon captured again by the Goths and thrown in jail along with Rhetoric, who was also trying to flee. Although they are thrown in prison, Obelix easily breaks the door (another running gag) and they flee, gagging Rhetoric and taking him with them to question. When he is ungagged, Rhetoric at first speaks Gothic, but accidentally reveals that he can speak Gaulish when he thanks Asterix for saying "Bless you" when he sneezes, and when he refuses to spill the beans, Asterix allows Obelix to threaten to bash him, which makes Rhetoric immediately talk. While trying to sneak into the Gothic town, Rhetoric screams and attracts a patrol. Although Asterix and Obelix beat up the patrol, they surrender to the last standing man to be brought to the Chief.
The Gauls are brought before Metric. Getafix reveals that he can actually speak Gothic and informs Metric that Rhetoric had been deceiving him. Once again, he is thrown in jail with the Gauls, and they are all sentenced to execution.
Asterix, Obelix and Getafix devise a scheme in which many Goths are given magic potion, so that they spend time and energy fighting each other for Chieftainship instead of invading Gaul and Rome, which they figure Rhetoric may play a part in. Under the pretext of cooking a last Gaulish soup, Getafix gives the jailer a list of ingredients and brews the potion when he acquires them.
During the public execution, Rhetoric asks to go first. Full of magic potion, he resists all attempts at torture, and beats up Metric, throwing him in jail and making himself Chieftain of the Goths. The Gauls visit Metric in his prison, and give him magic potion. As the two Chieftains had the same magic potion in them, a direct fight proves futile and each storms off, promising to raise an army.
Meanwhile, the Gauls wander around the town, giving potions to any Goth who looks browbeaten and who would be glad of a chance of power (their first two candidates being Electric, who is poor and has to sweep up streets, and Euphoric, who is being bossed about by his dictator-like wife). The would-be Chieftains each raise an army, and a confusing set of conflicts begins, known as the "Asterixian Wars", thus successfully sowing so much discord in Germania that the tribes will be more occupied with fighting each other rather than trying to invade other countries.
Although their peace-keeping mission probably created more casualties than a Gothic invasion of Rome would, the three Gauls make it back to Gaul, again running into the over-eager young legionary at the border, return home confident and are welcomed with open arms by the village, who throw their usual banquet in celebration.
- This story follows closely from Asterix and the Golden Sickle (in which the heroes acquire a sickle for Getafix in preparation for this trip) - one of very few Asterix stories that connects so closely with another.
- Long before Asterix in Belgium, Valueaddedtax is seen while putting his hands into boiling oil for french fries, which of course did not exist in Europe that time because potatoes had not yet been brought over from the New World. In later English translations, Valueaddedtax describes the chips as being those of "ground roots", most likely those of turnips, demonstrating the historical consciousness of Derek Hockridge and Anthea Bell, who were responsible for the translation.
- The Goths are one of a handful of people (far more so than the Romans) who are portrayed as villains in the Asterix series. Other people also depicted as villains are the Vikings, the Scythians in Asterix and the Magic Carpet and the Nagmas in Asterix and the Falling Sky. Albert Uderzo has claimed regret about this in later interviews. He said the album was drawn only some years after World War II when anti-German sentiments were still vivid. In later Asterix albums, the Goths are represented as more likeable characters, although still clearly based on the French perception of Germans.
- The Goths wear pickelhaubes, like the German soldiers in the nineteenth century. These helmets were made famous by statesmen like Otto von Bismarck and Wilhelm II.
- Whenever the Goths speak, they speak in gothic letter type.
- The discovery that Rhetoric (Holperik in German) can speak Gaulish when he is caught off guard is a clear reference to the film The Great Escape.
- When the Goths speak in their letter type, they are unable to be understood by the Gauls. Despite this, they are clearly able to understand a Goth who speaks the same way at his restaurant in Asterix and the Golden Sickle.
- The Goths are represented as being militaristic, a reference to World War I and World War II.
- When the Goths have to go through customs in order to enter their home country, their leader gets so angry he starts to swear. Amongst the other swear words, a swastika can be seen. The swastika is referred also in a flag in the gothic arena, substituted by a bird drawing.
- After he drinks the magic potion, the Goth Electric exclaims he "will be General Electric!"
- On page 27, the Goths sing "Oh grand old Alaric, he had ten thousand men / He marched them up to the gates of Rome..." This version of The Grand Old Duke of York refers to Alaric I who sacked Rome in 410 AD.
- The Gothic Chieftain Metric (Cholerik in German) is well-built and has a huge white beard and moustache, and bears a strong resemblance to Otto von Bismarck.
- In the first German translation of the album, highly politicized and divergent from the original (under the title "Siggi und Babarras"), the Gauls were made into Western Goths and the Goths into Eastern Goths.
- The Visigoths are described as Goths from the West and Ostrogoths as Goths from the East (Ost = "East" in German.) This can be seen as a satire/comment on the division of Germany into East and West at the time, and Obelix's confusion that they had to travel East (from Gaul) to get to the Visigoths who were Goths from the West. As he commented, "these Goths are crazy!"
- The language referred to as Gothic was actually still Proto-Germanic during the time period depicted.