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In the course of their travels, Asterix and Obelix regularly cross paths with — and beat up — a group of pirates. The Gauls then proceed to sink their ship, causing the pirates severe financial difficulties. The pirates make their first appearance in the fourth album (Asterix the Gladiator), and feature in almost every subsequent album.
On one occasion (in Asterix the Legionary) after the wreck the pirates were depicted in a scene similar to Théodore Géricault’s Raft of the Medusa. In the English version of this scene, the captain also refers to an ancient Gaulish artist called “Jericho”, an alternative spelling of the name Géricault.
Such is the fear that the pirates have for the Gauls that, having unknowingly taken them aboard, they fled their own ship in the middle of the night while the subjects of their fear were sound asleep (Asterix in Corsica).
At other times, it is Asterix and Obelix who have boarded the pirates’ vessel and captured booty, thus reversing their roles of hunter and prey. This has happened mainly in the quest for food in an empty ocean (Asterix in Spain). On another occasion, Asterix and Obelix take all the food on the ship, leaving the pirates with a single sausage for the Captain’s birthday (Asterix and the Great Crossing). It happened again (in Asterix and the Magic Carpet) with Asterix leaving a single coin for payment; the Captain told his depressed crew that it was better than nothing and that at least they hadn’t been beaten up and they still had the ship, but then their lookout proudly announced that he had upheld their honour and scuttled the ship himself. The other pirates were not impressed.
This had actually happened in earlier Asterix adventures, such as in Asterix and Cleopatra when the captain himself sunk the ship, reasoning that that would be the eventual outcome and doing it themselves would spare them a punch-up. Curiously enough, at the end of the same adventure, he and his crew were having to work as rowers aboard the very galley taking the Gauls back home and he announced the unusual determination to hunt them down and get his revenge.
On another occasion the pirates destroyed their ship simply at the sight of Asterix and all his fellow villagers in another taking them to the Olympic Games. In the event though the villagers did not attack since the captain of their ship announced that attacking the pirates would cost them extra.
On two occasions, Asterix also forced the Captain to spend all his hard-won loot on the merchandise of Ekonomikrisis the Phoenician merchant (Asterix and the Black Gold).
On one occasion (The Mansions of the Gods) they appear on land, as part of the group of slaves (later freed) in the story.
However, in Asterix and the Cauldron they end up happy for a change when a cauldron full of money that Asterix has been chasing throughout the story is tipped over a cliff and lands in their laps.
The main pirates are:
Redbeard (Barbe Rouge)
captain of the pirates.
Pegleg (Triple Patte)
an old pirate with a wooden leg who makes classical quotations in Latin.
The Unnamed Pirate Lookout(Baba)
the African pirate in the crow’s nest. He also has a cousin who is a gladiator (see Asterix and the Cauldron). In the original French and some other language versions he fails to pronounce the letters ‘R’ and ‘L’, leaving blanks in his speech. Early English translations also had him speaking something that resembled Jamaican Patois but this has been replaced by standard British English in re-editions, his manner of speaking no longer being a source of humour.
the captain’s son. Seen in Asterix and the Banquet, he is mentioned in Asterix and Cleopatra as being left as a deposit on a new ship.
In addition a number of members of the pirate crew are sight gags, some of whom have appeared on more than one occasion such as Frankenstein’s Monster and a Mongol warrior.
It should also be noted that in the films where the pirates are seen, Erix replaces Pegleg on the jetsam with Redbeard.
The main pirates are based on the French comic series, Barbe Rouge (1959 and continuing). The adventures of Barbe Rouge (Redbeard) and his son Eric were published in the comic Pilote, where Asterix’ adventures were also published prior to appearing in book form.
Although, in continental Europe, Barbe Rouge is a popular character in his own right, the popularity of Asterix’s pirates is one of the few occasions when parody figures have overshadowed their originals.