Essential Explanatory Tedium

and some three-dot ellipses...


Alea Jacta Est is not meant as an introduction to Asterix and the assumption is that you have access to the books. Excellent introductory sites can be located here. For this reason these categories are replete with in-references. They are not meant to expound a plot but annotate and comment on the book.

Categories…

The bulk of this site is devoted to an examination of Asterix that focusses on the books' sophistication, their 'adult content, if you will. To that end I have assessed each book using categories selected from the following as well as individual book-specific ones:

Notable Nomenclature...

The best of the names. That usually means all of them.

Presenting a Pretentious Thematic Undercurrent...

Goscinny and Uderzo being the sophisticates that they are, their books more often than not lend themselves to layers of meaning. These are some I have dug up. Like most dug up layers, what is a truffle of profundity to me may be a lump of bovine ordure to you. Bulls**t, in other (less polite) words.

Continuity; lack thereof and other gaffes...

Although each Asterix book can be enjoyed on its own terms it is better to read them in sequence. There is a plethora of continuity in-jokes as the series evolves which is entirely lost if they read in the usual manner of 'whichever the library's children's section happens to have on the shelf'. The bizarre numbering-system employed by the English translations does not help one jot here.

Attendant on continuity, of course, is the occasional lapse in continuity: the identification and public exposure of which constitutes an entire counter-culture for Doctor Who anal-retentives worldwide. As I am proud to consider myself in that category, I here mention any glaring continuity glitch; as well as mistakes in historical accuracy.

Cleverness and contemporaneity...

To back up my assertion that the humour in Asterix is of an adult level of sophistication, I here list specific examples. In particular, given that Asterix books are heavily and astutely satirical I point out examples of the many contemporary references. Contemporaneity, of course, is relative to the date of the books' composition and could refer to any period from the early 1960s of Asterix the Gaul to the late 1990s of Asterix and Obelix all at Sea.

Those...in full...

Several books contain a particular running gag that lends itself to a list-form. In this category a list-form has availed itself of the loan.

That army recruitment drive...

As the series progresses it becomes clear that the Roman legionaries have at one point been persuaded to enlist by a singularly effective recruitment drive offering them all the luxuries of a package holiday abroad; and getting paid for it to boot. As the series further progresses, and increasing numbers of soldiers are obliged to unflatten their faces from the impact of Obelix's fist, it becomes further apparent that the army experience has failed to match up with the propaganda. Here I note examples of what the soldiers thought army life would be like.

Non-PC World...

Although no nation or race is spared the authors' unapologetic caricature, some escape more lightly than others. Here I note salient stereotyping: and sort out the 'affectionate ribbings' from the 'near-vitriolic-attacks'.

Obelix has a tender side...

Although the titular Asterix is - in terms of narrative - the hero of these stories, he is not in all honesty that sympathetic: he is just a shade too smug and self-righteous to be likeable. Everyone's favourite character - it is fair if hyperbolic to say - is Asterix's monolith-toting sidekick. Obelix's combination of warm-heartedness, slow-wittedness and misapplied Herculanean strength makes his character eminently sympathetic.

Here I note examples of the obese oaf's tender underside: these usually see him in denial of his weight-problem, in a drunken reverie after one half glass of vin rouge too many or in a deep shade of beetroot red after being approached in any capacity by a woman.

Classic Pegleg... and Redbeard's retort...

Probably my favourite running joke in Asterix is the monopedal ancient buccaneer's philosophical propensity to quote the Latin masters whenever his vessel has been scuttled. Here I list any such quotation and, with help from the superlative Asterix Annotations Site, identify their source. I also give his red-bristled gaffer's invariably nonplussed rejoinder.

Chubby-cheeked bloke...

(Courtesy of Kessler)


Attentive readers may notice an occasional cameo appearence in Asterix by a fat-faced cove with droopy eyes. He is a French TV personality called Pierre Tchernia who was a friend of Goscinny and Uderzo. The extent of their friendship can be seen in the affectionate denigration of his rank in successive caricatures: he first appears, in Asterix the Legionary, as one of Caesar's generals and in susequent books is gradually demoted to common legionary.

In this occasional category I identify the presence of the chubby-cheeked bloke and comment on his current military status.

Good or What?

Given that Asterix books are never bad, here I place the book within a Good-What gradation.