|Title||Asterix in Belgium (1979)|
|Mangaka||Goscinny and Uderzo|
|Read Online||Click Here|
Asterix in Belgium is the twenty-fourth volume of the Asterix comic book series, by René Goscinny (stories) and Albert Uderzo (illustrations).
It is noted as the last Asterix story Goscinny worked on. The rainy atmosphere in the second half of the adventure, from when Asterix and Obelix set off to meet Caesar, is a reflection on the mourning of his passing.
After fighting the Belgians in the northern part of Gaul, Caesar states that they are the bravest enemies he’s ever faced (historically this statement really was made by Caesar). His soldiers agree with him, to the point when they consider being posted to the camps outside Asterix’ village as a period of leave.
Chief Vitalstatistix is aghast at the idea that his village, which has been the terror of the Romans for years, is now looked upon as relatively harmless. He is further outraged when he hears of Caesar’s remarks. He claims that his villagers are in fact the bravest men of Gaul, and travels to Belgium to prove his point. A reluctant Asterix and Obelix go with him.
After crossing the border they encounter a village of Belgians who rely on brute strength (and a regular diet of meat and beer) to successfully scare off Caesar’s troops. These Belgians are led by two chiefs, Beefix and Brawnix (though Brawnix comes across mainly as a second-in-command).
To prove that the Gauls are the bravest, Vitalstatistix proposes a competition. The contest consists of raiding and destroying Roman camps. Caesar goes to Belgium himself to restore order unaware of the fact that the whole thing is to get him to decide once and for all which side is the bravest.
Outraged at being reduced, in the eyes of the Gauls and Belgians, to a mere umpire (as opposed to emperor), Caesar furiously declares that he will meet them in battle. The Belgians tell the Gauls to stay away as it is now a purely local issue.
Through the use of catapults the Romans get their way in the early stages of the battle. But then the Gauls, and their magic potion, join the Belgians and, by combining their efforts, are the final victors.
Caesar decides to leave for Rome. On his way he comes across the Gaulish and Belgian chiefs. Caesar proudly announces that he will lay down his life, but they say that they are there to remind him of their competition and want to know who is the bravest. Caesar angrily declares them simply all crazy and leaves.
Vitalstatistix and Beefix laugh the incident off. They have to face the fact that they are all equally brave and, after a victory feast, part on good terms.
About two-thirds through, the comic was interrupted by the death of Goscinny. From that point on, the weather becomes rainy and the colours are much darker compared to the rest of the book.
The whole premise of the story is based on Julius Caesar’s description of the Belgae as the bravest of the Gallic people on the first page of the first book of the Commentarii de Bello Gallico.
- Jokes about the Belgians (page 7) are still told in The Netherlands and France. In France they even have a special name (“les histoires Belges” — “stories about Belgians”), similar in a way to British jokes about Irishmen.
- The Roman legionary who goes out for a walk is a caricature of Pierre Tchernia.
- Throughout the book the stereotypical Belgian dislike of being patronized, oppressed or looked down upon is satirized. Belgium has been conquered and occupied numerous times in history.
- The Belgian way of speaking is imitated too: In the French version they use the word “une fois” (“one time” as in “Tell me one time what you are going to do?”) several times. Also the double use of the polite word “you” (In Dutch “u”, in French “vous”, which is used when talking to strangers and/or formal people) and the more common “you” (In Dutch “jij”, in French “toi”, which is used when talking to friends) is imitated. Flemings and Walloons use the formal version of “you” more often, even when talking to their best friends and/or relatives. The fact that the Walloons use the verb “savoir” (to know) instead of “pouvoir” (to be able to) is satirized too. Finally the authors ridicule the expression “ça est” which is used instead of “c’est” (“that is” instead of “that’s”).
- Obelix’s question about the Belgian lunch is a reference to the difference between Belgium and France in naming these meal times. In France breakfast, lunch and supper are called “le petit déjeuner”, “le déjeuner” and “le dîner”, whereas in Wallonia they are named “le déjeuner”, “le dîner” et “le souper”.
- True to the geography of the region, the Belgian landscape is depicted as broad and flat. This is however an exaggeration, since Belgium does have forests and hills in the Ardennes.
- In the original version Beefix’ name is Gueuselambix, a pun on the Belgian beer Gueuze Lambic.
- Beefix’s remark, ” Oué, dans ce plat pays qui est le mien, nous n’avons que des oppidums pour unique montagnes.” (“Yes, in my flat country oppida are the only mountains we have.”) is a reference to the song le Plat Pays (1959) by famous Belgian singer Jacques Brel. In this song about his flat country, he sings that: “cathedrals are the only mountains my country has”.
- Beefix’s wife is a caricature of the famous Belgian actress and singer Annie Cordy.
- The scene on page 21 where Asterix is amazed by the amount of food the Belgians consume satirizes the Belgians’ reputation as pleasure lovers and their famous food products (see Belgian cuisine). Throughout the album other famous dishes are mentioned, such as French fries (page 25), Brussels sprouts (page 34), waterzooi (page 39) and mussels (page 46).
- The fact that the Belgians have two chiefs refers both to Caesar’s campaigns in the area against two chiefs (Ambiorix and Catavolcus) but more symbolically to the dual nature of modern Belgium composed of the Dutch-speaking Flemish Community and Francophone Wallonia (the Official Asterix website uses Brawnix as the icon for its Dutch language version). The country is known for its bilingual community and problems thereabout. On page 21 Beefix and Brawnix quarrel about an ox tongue. Beefix’s wife ends their discussion and says to Asterix: “Il y a toujours un problème de langue entre ces deux castars là !…” (“There’s always a language problem between those two.”- “une langue” means “a tongue”, but also “language” in French).
- In the English translation the Roman centurion calls Brawnix “a gallant little Belgian” (page 25). This is a reference to the nickname the British gave to the Belgians in World War I for the brave defense of their country against the Germans, despite the small size of Belgium in comparison to Germany.
- On page 31 Thomson and Thompson, from the famous Belgian comic strip The Adventures of Tintin, make an appearance. For these two characters Uderzo even used Hergé’s characteristic ligne claire style, which is quite different from his own style. This also references the fact that Belgium is one of the most important countries in the field of comic strips (See Belgian comics).
- Asterix asks the little boy on page 33 “if there’s a city around here?” The boy answers: “Not yet, only a little economic community. Come with me.” This is a reference to Brussels, where the headquarters of the European Community are situated. Before 1993 the European Community was called the “European Economic Community”.
- When Asterix asks the Belgian couple for a white flag, the wife gives him cloth, which resembles the famous lace, made in Bruges.
- The little boy who needs to go to the toilet is of course the famous Manneken Pis. When Asterix and Obelix meet him (page 33), Obelix makes an amused comment: “He is rather busy at the moment.” This probably implies the little boy is urinating off screen.
- The “fast runner” on page 39 is the famous cycling champion and often called “best cyclist ever”: Eddy Merckx.
- The entire battle between Caesar and the Belgians is a parody of the Battle of Waterloo. Caesar’s arrival on horse resembles a famous painting by Ernest Meissonier of Napoleon I of France and his troops. (http://asterix.openscroll.org/books/asterix_in_belgium.html) The actions during the battle are accompanied by a text on parchment which parodies Les Chatiments by Victor Hugo.
- The surprise attack by Asterix, Obelix and Vitalstatistix when Caesar nearly seems to win the fight mimics the reinforcements sent by Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher who completely surprised Napoleon at Waterloo.
- The round rocks which are fired from the catapults are an allusion to the Atomium.
- The final scene where the Gauls enjoy their meal with the Belgians is a parody of the painting The Peasant Wedding by Flemish painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder. (http://asterix.openscroll.org/books/asterix_in_belgium.html)
- On page 11 of the English translation, Vitalstatistix says “It’s far, far better thing that I do than I have ever done…”, a reference to Charles Dickens’ novel “A Tale of Two Cities.”
- During the great battle at the end, there is a poem inserted in the action which names certain types of Roman legionaries, like hastati, triarii, principes, and velites. These rankings originate from the days of the old republic, when the Roman army consisted of citizen-soldiers but not of a standing military force. These titles were no longer official (except for centurion ranks) since the military reform by Marius in 107 BC, i.e. about 57 years before the Asterix series’ timeline.
In other languages
- Catalan: Astèrix a Bèlgica
- Croatian: Asteriks u Belgiji
- Czech: Asterix u Belgů
- Dutch: Asterix en de Belgen
- Finnish: Asterix Belgiassa
- German: Asterix bei den Belgiern
- Greek: Ο Αστερίξ στους Βέλγους
- Italian: Asterix e i Belgi
- Norwegian: Styrkeprøven (The test of strength)
- Polish: Asteriks u Belgów
- Portuguese: Astérix entre os Belgas
- Spanish: Astérix en Bélgica
- Turkish: Asteriks Belçika’da
- Indonesian: Asterik Di Belgia
- Swedish: Asterix i Belgien