Title Asterix and the Goths (1963)
Category Asterix Comics
Mangaka Goscinny and Uderzo
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Plot summary

Asterix and Obelix, nervous about Getafix traveling alone to the annual druids’ conference in the Forest of the Carnutes, decide to accompany him on his journey, provided that, as non-druids, they remain outside the forest during the conference. Meanwhile, on the Roman Empire’s border, two legionaries are ambushed by a band of Goths (Tartaric, Esoteric, Atmospheric, Prehistoric and Choleric), intending to kidnap the Druid of the Year and use his magic to conquer Gaul and Rome.

Asterix, Obelix and Getafix meet another druid, who uses his magical powers to convince the Romans that they are actually druids (he makes a legionary bray like a donkey). 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 begin their conference.

Getafix easily wins the “Golden Menhir” prize with his potion, which gives superhuman strength. Realizing Getafix is just the druid they need, the Goths ambush him while he is leaving the woods. Asterix and Obelix, fearing for their friend’s safety, 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 almost blows his and Asterix’s cover, although the legionaries think their fellow comrades’ hair and whiskers are suspicious. Later, the two legionaries spot the two tied-up Romans and mistake them for Asterix and Obelix, taking them to the general’s tent. 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 disappoinment of the General. Asterix and Obelix, back in Gaulish clothing, are completely untouched.

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. 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, 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.

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, taking Rhetoric with them as a hostage. Rhetoric accidentally reveals that he can speak Gaulish, 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.

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.

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 to 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 potion 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”.

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.

Notes

  • 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.
  • Before the formation of the German Empire in 1871, Germany was indeed divided into a large number of smaller duchies and kingdoms, as detailed at the end of the story. See also Holy Roman Empire.

Trivia

  • The Goths are one of a handful 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.
  • 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 swearing words a swastika can be seen. The swastika is not shown in the German translation. 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!”
  • One of the Gothic Chieftains 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!”
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