|Title||Asterix and the Magic Carpet (1987)|
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Asterix and the Magic Carpet is the twenty-eighth volume of the Asterix comic book series, by René Goscinny (stories) and Albert Uderzo (illustrations). It was first published in 1987. It is the fourth book to be published after the death of René Goscinny and is thus both written and drawn by Albert Uderzo alone.
The full original French title was Astérix chez Rahazade ou Le compte des mille et une heures (Asterix meets Orinjade or the 1001 Hours Countdown), a reference to Queen Scheherazade who tells the famous 1001 Arabian Nights collection of stories.
Watziznehm arrives in Gaul
In the opening scenes, the Gaulish village inhabited by Asterix and his friends has been newly rebuilt by the Romans (it had been burned down in Asterix and Son). Though Chief Vitalstatistix is trying to give a speech, he is interrupted by the bard Cacofonix, who is testing the acoustics of his new hut. This causes it to rain; a pivotal point in this comic.
A small, dark-skinned man suddenly falls from the sky and introduces himself as Watziznehm the fakir, who had been brought off of his flying carpet by Cacofonix’ downpour. The carpet itself lands near the huts of Vitalstatistix and Geriatrix, causing there to be an argument between their wives as to whom the carpet belongs to. The result is an all-out fight between the villagers. Watziznehm however is delighted because it means that he has found the village of madmen which he was looking for — having been told about it by a Roman trader. He soon settles the argument by terrifying the two ladies with a short flight.
Watziznehm explains that he is searching for a way to make it rain in his country (a kingdom in India in the valley of the River Ganges). He reveals that if it doesn’t rain in 1001 hours (a reference to The Book of One Thousand and One Nights), Princess Orinjade, daughter of Rajah Wotzit, will be executed as a sacrifice to the gods. This prophesy is actually part of an evil scheme by Grand Vizier Hoodunnit, who plans on taking the Rajah’s throne once he had disposed of the only heiress. Vitalstatistix agrees to send the rain-making Cacofonix to India, accompanied by Asterix, Obelix and Dogmatix.
Journey on a Magic Carpet
The group sets out slightly disgruntled, as Cacofonix is not allowed to sing and Obelix isn’t allowed to bring a whole cart-load of roasting wild boar with him (Obelix’ constant request for food is a running joke in the story). When Asterix points out some wild boar in the forest, Obelix leans over in such excitement that Cacofonix falls from the carpet, but manages to catch hold of a tree branch.
The next day, they encounter their “old friends” the pirates. Although the Gauls do not, as customary, sink the ship, Obelix throws out all of the ship’s booty on the grounds that it is just junk and not food. The captain hurredly calls for all the food to be brought and the Gauls and the fakir leave with it, paying with just one small coin. After the captain remarks that they got off easily this time, the African lookout reveals that he scuttled the ship to preserve honor.
The carpet flies over Rome, where the Gauls say hello to a feverish Julius Caesar, causing him to go into a further delirious state, and on over the Adriatic Sea. Cacofonix insists on singing, to the point that Watziznehm jumps off the carpet in horror. Without a fakir to steer it, the carpet plummets into the sea, where they are picked up by a Greek merchant’s ship. Watziznehm has fallen into a jug of wine. To sober him up, Cacofonix sings yet again, causing a storm and grounding the ship on a tiny island. Obelix and Asterix free the ship easily, sending the Greek merchant on his way. Obelix is still complaining about the lack of food.
After flying over Athens and Tyre, they enter another thunderstorm (this time, not of Cacofonix’ making). A bolt of lightning strikes the carpet and Watziznehm is forced to make an emergency landing in a Persian village, where a carpet seller refuses to fix Watziznehm’s or sell one of his own carpets. However, after saving the Persians from Scythian raiders, the Persian gives one of his carpets to the Gauls.
The Gauls arrive in India with exactly 30 hours, 30 minutes and 30 seconds left in which to save Orinjade. When told to sing, however, Cacofonix can do little more than produce three dots: … . He has lost his voice during the journey. Rajah Wotzit’s doctors (some of which, oddly, can speak Latin) proclaim that to regain his voice, Cacofonix must take an overnight bath in elephant milk.
The Gauls take Cacofonix to elephant-man Howdoo’s home and set up the bath, leaving him to sit in it. The evil Hoodunnit, however, sends his henchmen to kidnap the bard, and they take him to an ancient elephant meeting-place and graveyard, tie him up and leave him to the elephants. In the morning, Watziznehm, Asterix and Obelix set out to pick up the bard, but are stopped by Owzat, Hoodunnit’s fakir sidekick. While Watziznehm and Owzat shoot curses at each other, Asterix and Obelix escape down an enchanted rope and go to Howdoo’s to pick up Cacofonix, only to find that he has disappeared.
Dogmatix picks up the smell of elephant milk, and after being held up by tigers, monkeys and a rhinoceros, not to mention Hoodunnit’s henchmen, they arrive at the elephant graveyard to find Cacofonix alive and well; his elephant-milk smell led the elephants to believe that he was one of them.
They return quickly to the capital city with the help of Watziznehm, who has finally defeated Owzat, and arrive right on the count of 0. Asterix sky-punches Orinjade’s executioner into the air and saves her in the nick of time. With the help of his magic carpet, Watziznehm catches Hoodunnit and throws him against a tower. While fighting the Indian guards, Cacofonix realizes that he can speak again (because of the dose of magic potion he had taken), and sings Singin’ in the Rain at the considerable top of his lungs, causing it to rain at last.
At the victory feast in the palace, Obelix muses that now their fellow villagers might be (and indeed are doing so) having their traditional banquet, this time without him. And back in the village, some of the Gauls begin to express some desire to have the bard back, since it hasn’t been raining for some time now. The most unhappy of all appears to be Fulliautomatix the blacksmith who sits apart from the others, cradling the hammer with which he usually knocks Cacofonix out, but appears to be missing him.
- Watziznehm – the fakir
- Orinjade – the princess
- Hoodunnit – the scheming Grand Vizier
- Owzat – Hoodunnit’s fakir henchman
- Howdoo – the elephant man
- An audiobook of Asterix and the Magic Carpet adapted by Anthea Bell and narrated by Willie Rushton was released on EMI Records Listen for Pleasure label in 1988.
- This is the first reference to India in an Asterix book. Although some things are depicted in historical fashion (the Rigvedic deities, for example), many of the architectural details and styles of clothing are distinctly Islamic, as is the concept of a fakir. Islam was not brought to India until the late 11th century CE.
- In the original French version the princess is called Rahàzade. The title of the comic is thus; “Astérix chez Rahàzade” (“Asterix meets Rahàzade”) a pun on the famous storyteller Scheherazade who told the 1001 Arabian nights stories.
- The gag that Cacofonix’ singing induces rain was used for the first time in this book. The gag appears later on in Asterix and the Secret Weapon.
- When Cacofonix sings in Vitalstatistix’ hut, it begins to rain inside (causing an angry Impedimenta to chase them outside). However, when he first sings in his own hut, it rains all over the village.
- At one point Cacofonix (page 18) starts singing a song “confused with another comic strip”, according to the accompanying text. The song is indeed Bianca Castafiore’s famous aria from Charles Gounod’s Faust, which she sings often in the Belgian comic strip The Adventures of Tintin.
- On page 23 the princess starts asking her handmaiden if she sees anything arriving (they are awaiting Asterix and Obelix’ arrival). This a reference to the fairy tale of Bluebeard where Bluebeard’s wife asks the same thing of her sister, while waiting for her brothers to rescue her.
- On page 29 Asterix, Obelix and Cacofonix eat caviar, just a meal for “poor people”, according to the cooks. This is of course a reference to the fact that nowadays only rich people eat it.
- When Cacofonix sings in his own hut, causing Watziznehm to fall from his carpet due to the racket, the song is Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head by B.J. Thomas.
- Whodunnit makes a reference to another Goscinny character, Iznogoud, as his cousin and borrows his catchphrase by declaring that he will be Rajah instead of the Rajah. (page 43)
- Upon recovering his voice, Cacofonix sings Singin’ in the Rain by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown.
- Orinjade is one of the few to express a liking for Cacofonix’s music, the others being Justforkix of Asterix and the Normans and Pepe of Asterix in Spain. Then again it might just be out of gratitude for saving her life.
- When Owzat stops Watziznehm from passing, Obelix says “Not out”, a reference to the sport of cricket where bowlers appeal to the umpire. Cricket is extremely popular in India.
- When Orinjade is taken to be executed, the public call out the countdown, and Asterix and co. rescue the princess just in time — when the count reaches zero. A reference to the numeral zero discovered in ancient India.
In other languages
- Ancient Greek: Αστερίκιος παρά Σακχαραζάδι
- Catalan: Astèrix a l’Índia
- Czech: Asterix a Rahazáda
- Dutch: Asterix in Indus-land
- Spanish: Astérix en la India
- Finnish: Asterix Intiassa – Tuhannen ja yhden tunnin matka (Asterix in India – The Thousand-and-One-Hour Journey)
- German: Asterix im Morgenland
- Greek: Ο Αστερίξ και η Χαλαλίμα
- Italian: Le mille e un’ora di Asterix
- Norwegian: Asterix og det flygende teppet
- Portuguese: As 1001 horas de Astérix
- Polish: Asteriks u Reszehezady
- Serbian: Астерикс и летећи ћилим
- Swedish: Asterix i Indien