|Title||Asterix and Caesar's Gift (1974)|
|Mangaka||Goscinny and Uderzo|
|Read Online||Click Here|
Asterix and Caesar’s Gift is the twenty-first volume of the Asterix comic book series, by René Goscinny (stories) and Albert Uderzo (illustrations).
This article’s plot summary may be too long or overly detailed. Please help improve it by removing unnecessary details and making it more concise. (July 2007)
The gift of Caesar
The story begins c. 50 BC, at night, outside a drinking establishment situated in an ill-reputed district of Rome. The streets outside seem abandoned but from inside the establishment comes loud singing. Veteran legionaries Tremensdelirious (pun name based on Delirium tremens) and Egganlettus (egg and lettuce) celebrate their last night as soldiers of the Roman Army. Having completed twenty years of service, the two friends await their honesta missio (Latin:honorary discharge) for the morning. Their services will be paid in land shares, awarded by Julius Caesar himself. Egganlettus seems quite sober but Tremensdelirious is already in a stage of drunkenness. He begins to express his opinion on Julius Caesar just as the night patrol enters the establishment. The veteran legionary spends the rest of his night in a prison cell.
The following morning Caesar prepares himself for the discharge ceremony in honor of his veterans. An unnamed centurion who served as their commanding officer informs Caesar that all of them served well. All but one drunkard who has not had a single sober day in twenty years of service and is currently incarcerated for insulting Caesar himself the previous night. Caesar smiles and suggests playing a practical joke. He will receive his honorary discharge after all but Caesar has a “special” gift for him.
In the ceremony itself every veteran smiles after receiving his land share in the form of stone tablets. Mentioned are shares in Nemausus, Arelate and Sextiae. Egganlettus receives a share in Nicaea. The still drunk Tremensdelirious receives his special gift: a Gaulish village in Armorica, situated by the Sea (actually the Atlantic Ocean) and surrounded by Roman military camps. The laughing Caesar has just gifted the only territory of Gaul not yet conquered by the Roman legions, the village inhabited by Asterix and his friends. He clearly intends for the Gauls to punish Tremensdelirious on his behalf.
A financial exchange
However Tremensdelirious sees little merit in such a gift since one cannot drink a village. He unsuccessfully attempts to sell his land share immediately following the ceremony. A few days later the man is drunk again in an inn of Arausio. Innkeeper Orthapedix (from Orthopedic surgery) has waited patiently for his payment and finally announces it is closing time. Tremensdelirious finds himself unable to pay for his dinner and wine but instead offers his land share as payment on the condition of receiving a few more drinks. Orthapedix consults his wife Angina (from Angina, localized pain) and the two quickly agree it is a bargain. They had recently moved there from Lutetia and they have little to hold them in Arausio. Plus their young daughter Influenza (from Influenza, an infectious disease commonly known as the “flu”) was unhappy there. Tremensdelirious has successfully exchanged his land share for a dinner and some wine.
Soon enough Orthapedix, Angina and Influenza arrive at “their” new village. They are at first disappointed to find it already inhabited but quite confident that a look at the land share with the seal of Julius Caesar would successfully convince the villagers to evacuate their private property. They request a meeting with Vitalstatistix and state their claim resulting in the village chief bursting in laughter, soon joined by Asterix, Obelix and a number of villagers. Vitalstatistix points out that nobody can offer a gift not already possessed by himself. The rule includes Caesar and this particular village is the only one not held by him. He wishes them farewell and leaves as the villagers cheer for their leader in approval of his answer.
Settling in the village
Angina starts berating her husband for his decision to leave Lutetia for Arausio and then selling their inn to gather the money needed to travel to Armorica only to find their land share having no value. She envies her sister for marrying Dithyrambix (from Dithyramb) who has succeeded in his business and become wealthy in Lutetia. Vitalstatistix is reminded of his own rivalry with his affluent brother-in-law Homeopathix who also prospers in Lutetia. He decides to offer Orthapedix a chance to get out of his situation and privately enquires on his profession of choice. He informs the new arrival that their village has no inn and offers him an available building that would be suitable for this purpose. The building was fine but had been abandoned because it is situated next to the shop of their fishmonger Unhygienix. No one could stand the smell of his fish for long but the two men agree that the empty building provides a temporary solution to the housing problem of the new arrivals.
Obelix lends a helping hand to their guests and soon has a crush on the young Influenza. The family gets to work preparing their inn as the entire village seems to be discussing them with attitudes ranging from the enthusiasm of Obelix to xenophobia of Geriatrix. The latter explains to his wife that he has no problem with foreigners and that some of his best friends are foreigners. But he accusingly points that these particular foreigners were different from the villagers. Mrs. Geriatrix, who is typically unrivaled as the beauty of the village, voices her suspicion of Influenza with the main problem being that she is a younger woman and a rival beauty.
The opening night of the new inn soon arrives and all the villagers are invited to attend. Everybody seems at first to be enjoying themselves. Mrs. Geriatrix and other women seem to be gossiping about Influenza but quiet enough to not be heard by the young woman. The merriment seems to end when Vitalstatistix and his wife Impedimenta arrive. Impedimenta and Angina greet each other coldly. Impedimenta then points out the smell of fish around the inn and her own social position being superior to that of Angina. Before long the two women enter an argument about who owns the village. Meanwhile the comment about the smell of fish has set off Unhygienix and Fulliautomatix to their usual argument. A fight starts and all present seem to be participating. Including a beaten and seemingly confused Cacofonix.
The morning finds the inn abandoned except for the bruised Orthapedix, a sobbing Angina and Influenza attempting to console her mother. Orthapedix is ready to quit and return to Lutetia. Influenza is delighted, but Angina will not have it. She wants to have revenge on Impedimenta and makes a claim to the leadership of the village on behalf of her husband. Vitalstatistix is shocked to have his long-held position challenged but Getafix points out that according to their laws anyone has the right to claim leadership. The candidate leader with the majority of supporters has the right to lead.
An insecure Vitalstatistix soon has Cacofonix obtaining an opinion poll on who the villagers plan to support. While waiting he paces up and down his hut bitting his fingernails. The results are disappointing at best. Geriatrix supports his leader only because of his xenophobia. He is quoted saying he has nothing against foreigners but they should be kept away from their village. Most of the others are indifferent to who leads as long as boars and Romans remain available. Fulliautomatix could not be questioned because he gave Cacofonix a black eye before listening to him. Cacofonix himself points out having little reason to support a leader who does not love his singing voice. Vitalstatistix makes an attempt to win his support by asking the bard to sing for him. His insincerity becomes apparent when he cannot stand waiting for the song to end and tells Cacofonix to leave his house. An enraged bard states his support for Orthapedix in hope that he would prove less of a barbarian.
Soon enough both candidates and their families search for supporters by offering their markedly insincere voice of support to the individual concerns of each villager. For example, Angina becomes the best customer of Unhygienix and wins his sympathy despite having all the fish buried in her back yard. Influenza agrees to date Obelix despite his idea of romance consisting of offering boars and Roman helmets to his lady.
New factors in the game
The only villagers who seem to stay far from the political race are Asterix who is worried that internal conflict would only benefit the Romans and Getafix who refuses to offer his magic potion to members of either faction. Getafix states that the potion is supposed to strengthen their defense against the Romans and not become a factor to a civil conflict.
Geriatrix for his part wants to drive the foreigners out with direct combat but Vitalstatistix does not go this far. The village elder abandons Vitalstatistix and claims leadership for himself as a third party candidate. Nobody seems to take him seriously but his political speeches provide entertainment for the children. A new twist in the situation is provided by the sudden arrival of a seemingly sober Tremensdelirious at the village. Being a Roman but not a soldier, the veteran gains free entry and pays a visit to Orthapedix. He explains that since their last meeting, luck was not kind to him. He unsuccessfully tried all kinds of trade. He even sailed on a pirate boat only to end up shipwrecked. He has returned to claim his land share and points out that veterans are not allowed to sell their shares to Gauls.
The family attempts to throw him out but the man has kept one last souvenir from twenty years of military service, his sword. He draws the sword in a threatening matter but at this moment Asterix arrives and draws his own sword in defiance. The two proceed in a demonstration of their swordsmanship but Asterix quickly overwhelms his opponent, in a scene containing many references to Hamlet. His finishing moves include disarming the other man and he uses his own sword to sign with a Z on his clothing (This is a clear reference to the typical finishing moves of Zorro). Influenza is clearly impressed with the diminutive Gaulish warrior and expresses her enthusiasm in a number of ways. However, the Roman has departed and no one is ready to explain the situation to a suspicious Asterix.
However the situation is hardly defused. Tremensdelirious visits one of the four Roman camps surrounding the village and introduces himself as a veteran legionary to gain entrance. He is pleased to find his old friend Egganlettus serving as an aide-de-camp under the local centurion. The other veteran explains his unsuitability as a farmer and his decision to re-enlist in the Roman Army. With his support Tremensdelirious makes an official request on the centurion to restore a stolen land share to a veteran soldier. The centurion is rather reluctant to face the Gauls but the veterans threaten to report him to Caesar who would not like the Gauls taking advantage of his veterans. He agrees to prepare a military attack but Egganlettus has clearly fallen out of favor.
Countdown for battle
The following day Influenza personally expresses her admiration to Asterix. A jealous Obelix feels betrayed by both his best friend and his love interest. Geriatrix gains his first supporter. Asterix attempts to express his concerns about the mysterious Roman from the previous day. But Vitalstatistix refuses to listen to a person of doubtful loyalty while Getafix has retreated in self-isolation for the period of political conflict. Asterix decides to investigate the forest area for the Roman and soon finds unusual activities in one of the Roman camps. They are preparing siege weapons for an extended campaign. Among them are siege towers, onagers, Catapults and battering rams.
He listens to their plans but lacks the magic potion needed to end them. He has to escape them when discovered. The Romans note he was trying to avoid them rather than fight them. Romans were at this point preparing for battle but unconvinced of their potential victory. The encounter with Asterix convinced them that for some reason the Gauls no longer have their magic potion. The troop morale rises and for the first time, victory seems at hand.
Asterix returns to the village and attempts to sound the alarm. But the village pays no attention to him. Everybody is gathered to witness the public debate between Vitalstatistix and Orthapedix with Cacofonix serving as a referee. Vitalstatistix opens by questioning the impartiality of Cacofonix. The angered bard immediately offers the speaking turn to Orthapedix and undermines any pretense of being an impartial referee.
Orthapedix starts by pointing that Vitalstatistix has held leadership for quite a while with no evident contribution to the financial life of the village. No new industries have flourished under his term. The veteran leader prepares his answer but first threatens Cacofonix to not interfere. Orthapedix points this as a typical sign of the mindset of his rival.
Vitalstatistix points that twelve anvils were sold this year (actually bought by his wife a few days ago), representing 100% increase in comparison to sales of the previous year. Orthapedix scoffs and points that numbers can be interpreted in any manner of ways while the village trade is in decline, offering the fishmonger trade as an example and pointing to low sales. When Impedimenta threatens Unhygenix, Vitalstatistix tells her to calm down. “Let’s not cast the first stone.” At this point the debate is interrupted by the rocks thrown in the village by the Roman catapults outside.
Battle between Gauls and Romans
Vitalstatistix begs for Getafix to give them magic potion but the druid refuses even though he must know the village is under attack. He is just too disgusted by the Gaulish in-fighting. Orthapedix blames himself for not reporting on the existence of Tremensdelirious and his intentions on the village. He wants to meet the Romans outside in a desperate attempt to convince them to stop the attack. Vitalstatistix holds him back and again shouts for Getafix and his magic potion: not for himself this time but for his rival. Getafix approves of this change of attitude and agrees to help them. Obelix single-handedly attacks the Romans and delays their attempts to enter the village. His efforts provide enough time for the potion to be prepared. The rival factions of villagers combine their efforts against the Romans and counterattack, demolishing the war machines.
Orthapedix himself confronts Tremensdelirious who screams out his status as a civilian and tells him to take on Egganlettus instead. But Orthapedix simply wants to return the stone tablet that claims ownership of the village and smashes it on Tremensdelirious’ head. Egganlettus is also furious by his “friend”‘s treacherous nature and follows this up with a blow with a stick, even when Tremensdelirious tries to remind him that they are old friends and veterans.
This results on Tremensdelirious falling into unconsciousness with a very pronounced lump on the head. Both Gauls and Romans seem to want nothing more to do with him and his body is left on the field.
The centurion has Egganlettus demoted to second-class legionary and assigns him to clean up the remains of the war machines with a mere broom.
The Gauls have reconciled following their victory. A much more confident Orthapedix befriends his former rival but decides to withdraw his claim for leadership. He has decided that the “peaceful life” of the village is not for him. He belongs to the city and plans to return to Lutetia. Angina is about to object, but Orthapedix angrily puts her in her place, making it clear that the decision has been made and there is no room for argument. Now he has something to brag about to his brother-in-law. Influenza, of course, is delighted.
Impedimenta and Angina have nothing left to fight about. They exchange recipes and addresses of their relatives in Lutetia. Geriatrix is left forgotten and quits in frustration. Obelix mourns for losing Influenza but reconciles with Asterix. They are no longer rival suitors. There is a victory celebration at night and everyone takes part. The narration claims that the events happened long ago, when such matters were not considered so important.
- The granting of land to Roman soldiers after their long years of service is historically true.
- Tremensdelirious was named after his most notable characteristic, being a drunkard. However, in the original French language his name is given as Roméomontaigus. He was named 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.
- Orthapedix 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). She interprets Asterix signing with a Z as dedicating his victory to her and he does not protest. 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 is peppered with references to the climactic swordfight in Hamlet.)
- Vitalstatistix and his brother-in-law Homeopathix confronted each other in person at the beginning and the finale of Asterix and the Laurel Wreath. Impedimenta entertains hopes of the two entering a partnership in Asterix and the Soothsayer.
- This is the second time Vitalstatistix is challenged by a contender to the leadership of the village. The previous time was by Cassius Ceramix of Linoleum in Asterix and the Big Fight. However the previous event was an attempt by another village to annex them. This is the first time his leadership is challenged by the population of the village. He would not be challenged again until Asterix and the Secret Weapon.
- This is the first time the Gauls of the village are revealed to have a method of electing leaders resembling a democracy. However it seems that the leader has no fixed period of term and retains leadership until challenged. This leaves the possibility of the leader holding his position for life.
- This story has one of only a few scenes where Asterix uses his sword. Asterix always has it with him, but usually fights with his wits or his magic potion-augmented fists. This story shows that although Asterix rarely uses his weapon, he is a skilled swordsman.
- This is another rare instance where 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 which took place in 1974, date of publication of the album. However, no election is actually held in it. Election day is mentioned as set for the celebration day of Lugh but the election is cancelled after the withdrawal of Orthapedix.
- In some of the scenes (after Vitalstatistix falls of his sheid), there is a chicken who falls in love with Vitalstatistix’s helmet.
In other languages
- Catalan: El regal del Cèsar
- Czech: Asterix a Dárek od Caesara
- Dutch: Het geschenk van Caesar
- Finnish: Asterix ja Caesarin lahja
- German: Das Geschenk Cäsars
- Greek: Το δώρο του Καίσαρα
- Italian: Asterix e il regalo di Cesare
- Norwegian: Keiserens gave
- Portuguese: Um presente de César
- Polish: Podarunek Cezara
- Serbian: Цезаров поклон
- Spanish: El regalo del César