[Very important note: all of the reviews will be based on the English language publications researched and painstakingly translated by Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge.]
Synopsis. “At the time of the Roman occupation of Gaul, there were two kinds of Gauls … First, those that accepted the Pax Romana and were trying to adapt to the powerful civilisation of the invaders … And then there were the other Gauls, indomitable, brave and tough, who liked their food and drink, a good fight and a bit of fun …” So opens the book.
Centurion Nebulus Nimbus of Camp Totorum has had enough of the indomitable Gauls when seeing yet another patrol return after taking a beating from our boys. He consults with his second in command who suggests a rather novel idea of having Gauls fight each other rather than fight the Romans. A Gaulish custom allows a chief of one tribe to take over another tribe by besting the other tribe’s chief in single combat. Felonius Caucus, the Centurion’s right hand man, knows a Gaul of the first type, meaning one that has embraced the powerful civilisation of the invaders, who is brawny enough to beat up any chief. He could easily take down Vitalstatistix. But what of the magic potion? Ah, part two of the plan: get rid of Getafix.
Cassius Ceramix, chief of the Gallo-Roman village of Linoleum, is petitioned to do the deed. He agrees tentatively assuming the Romans can deal with Getafix. Upon returning to the camp, a patrol is tasked with capturing Getafix. However, while sneaking up on Getafix in the woods, they are discovered. Asterix and Obelix have been trailing the druid and Obelix uses one of his menhirs as a missile in an attempt to flatten the squadron. He misses and crushes Getafix. When the druid is uncovered, the boys discover that he has been knocked completely silly. He doesn’t know who he is and he most certainly doesn’t remember anything about a magic potion. The Romans intended result is met, even though the method is not what was planned.
Chief Ceramix learns of the events and hastens to challenge Vitalstatistix. Without the potion, our brave chief and his warriors must concoct a solution that will help them avoid the takeover of the village by Cassius and the Romans. Efforts to get Vitalstatistix into physical shape through a regimen are clearly failing so our heroes must find a way to fix Getafix. Is there a way to revive his lucidity and memory? Can they get it done in time to avoid Vitalstatistix’s sure-bet loss in The Big Fight?
Funny Names. Professor Berlix, schoolmaster for modern languages; Legionary Infirmofpurpus (Shakespearean allusion from Macbeth that defines “infirm of purpose” as weak-willed, as is the legionary); Psychoanalytix, the druid that cures mental and immotional ills, Cassius Ceramix (i.e., Cassius Clay cum Mohammed Ali).
Details of Particular Interest. Impedimenta makes her first appearance, although she is larger and unnamed at this point. Obelix’s weight becomes a decidedly important issue after he is evaluated by a psychoanalysist. The fat jokes are still somewhat funny at this point but they’ll become plenty tedious in future volumes.
We love this book. It’s zanier than many of the rest because Getafix, normally the steady one with the level head, is absolutely off his rocker for most of the story. We also think Goscinny did a clever job of tying in what was then modern-day events (Mohammed Ali was all over the place in the 1960’s and the field of psychiatry was making leaps forward). Asterix and the Big Fight is a really funny story that progresses nicely and has wonderful puns.