Albert Uderzo, co-creator of Asterix
Asterix and Obelix: when you think about it, they may well have been the first Erasmus students ever! Admittedly, they didn’t travel Europe to study languages or experience pokey houseshares – but rather to teach the Romans a lesson. But still… going to a foreign European country, meeting locals and tasting their delicacies sounds pretty much like the European exchange programme which appeared a mere two millennia later… with the difference that our famous indomitable Gauls went to not just one foreign country but several: having adventures with delicate Brits, irascible Spaniards, joyful Belgians and the fearless Norse! Below, we offer you the first attempt ever to map Asterix’s European friends. If your country is not listed, don’t worry: our friends’ European adventures are not over yet!
Bitovamess and Undaduress
By Toutatis! We had to wait quite a long to meet the first Portuguese characters in Asterix’s adventures. In fact, the Lusitanians are mentioned several times in the series, but were only portrayed for the first time in the 2018 album Asterix and the Chariot Race. Now they are part of the gang – to our greatest pleasure! In this story, Asterix and Obelix must race against Bitovamess and Undaduress – a pair of never-in-a-hurry easy-going Lusitanians. Although always late thanks to chariot maintenance, and despite finishing fifth, the two Portuguese end up with the trophy. And who knows, maybe we’ll see them again…
Chief Huevos Y Bacon and Pepe
Ay yai yai! Chief Huevos Y Bacon’s and his son Pepe first crashed into Asterix’s life in his fourteenth adventure: Asterix in Spain. In this epic trip, a group of Iberian resistance fighters are holding out against the Romans, very much as Asterix’s own village is, so the Romans kidnap Pepe the highly demanding son of the chief. Spain is, of course, full of tourists – then as now being the country where people of northern Europe go on vacation (before asking for exactly the same food they’d get back home), causing tremendous traffic jams on the Roman roads. Other recurring topics are flamenco, bullfighting, Don Quixote, and gallons and gallons of olive oil in the cooking. ¡Ay, caramba!
There is no better depiction of the home country than Asterix and the Banquet, where Asterix and Obelix travel round Gaul to collect local delicacies. Among several lively depictions of French regional stereotypes, well-oiled pub landlord César Drinklikafix borrows the features of iconic French actor Raimu, and takes things up where Marcel Pagnol’s scripts left off, re-enacting the card game and the equally legendary bowls game from his film Marius. Thanks to his chattiness and bombast, César Drinklikafix frightens a whole Roman garrison all by himself, allowing Asterix and Obelix to leave Massilia (Marseille) without any hold-ups…
Ok… Asterix and Obelix have never been to the Emerald Isle… But that doesn’t mean that they never came across an Irishman in their adventures! In Asterix in Corsica, and Asterix in Britain, the indomitable Gauls meet briefly Mykingdomforanos, McAnix and O’Veroptimistix – British chieftains representing, respectively, England, Scotland and Ireland. O’Veroptimistix, known in French as O’Torinolaringologix (“ear, nose and throat”), is thus the one and only representative of the Irish people in the series. This is the best Irish character we have so far, but be patient, the adventures are not over yet…
Anticlimax is Asterix’s first cousin, once removed, and lives in a British village holding out against the Romans in Asterix in Britain. A classy dresser with a correspondingly wealthy tailor, he exhibits remarkable phlegm and keeps a stiff upper lip at all times. Anticlimax is hooked on cups of hot water (with a splash of milk) and is the perfect guide to the ways and customs of the (Great) Britons as described by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo. I say, enough to make one rub one’s hands with glee, what? The character also appears in Asterix in Corsica and his nephew makes an appearance as an escaped galley slave in Asterix and Obelix All at Sea.
Norway – Sweden – Finland
Olaf Timandahaf is the chief of the Norman warriors. He is an ambitious leader who wants to know everything – especially for the “secret fear that lends people wings” – and sails to Gaul with his best troops to find it. Here he meets Justforkix, hands-down winner of the title of world champion of fear! Olaf Timandahaf first appears in Asterix and the Normans – but he is not the only Viking in Asterix’s series: in Asterix and the Great Crossing, Asterix’s crew meets Vikings Herendethelessen, Steptøånssen, Nøgøødreåssen, Håråldwilssen, and Firegård!
Herendethelessen (the Ådventurøus)
At two occasions at least, Asterix comes across Danes, also known as “Cimbris”, after the ancient tribe originating in Jutland. First, in Asterix and the Chariot Race where Zerogluten and Betakaroten sabotage other chariots; and second in Asterix and the Great Crossing, where Herendethelessen crosses the misty Atlantic Ocean to reach the distant coasts of North America, and returns with two “natives” to prove his claim: yet, when he comes back with Asterix and Obelix, nobody believes him. In this album, there are several references to Danish culture: the Little Mermaid, Hamlet and anachronistic Danish spelling with the letters Ø and Å.
Beefix and Brawnix
Who are bravest, the Belgian tribes or the Gauls? Gaulish Chief Vitalstatistix claims that his own villagers are: and he travels to Belgium to prove his point. There, they meet the clans of Belgians, led by the chiefs Beefix and Brawnix (though Brawnix comes across mainly as a second-in-command) and decide to have a contest, with Caesar himself as impartial arbiter. In Asterix in Belgium, you will encounter many references to Belgian culture: cameos from Tintin detectives Thomson and Thompson and cyclist Eddy Merckx, a reference to the iconic Manneken Pis and a parody of the Flemish painting The Peasant Wedding by Pieter Bruegel the Elder…
Germany – Austria
Together, Prehistoric, Atmospheric, Tartaric and Esoteric form the vicious barbarian escort of the Gothic chief, Choleric. They won’t hesitate to beat, tie up, kidnap or fight anyone who stands in their way! Its not surprising, therefore, that the Supreme Chief of the Goths, Metric, has entrusted them with this villainous mission: to capture Getafix, elected best druid by his peers at the annual meeting held in the forest of the Carnutes. Their aim: to snatch the magic potion for the greater glory of the Gothic family. You can appreciate this adventure in Asterix’s third album, snappily titled Asterix and the Goths.
Can Getafix brew an antidote to poison? Only if Asterix and Obelix find a certain flower for the druid’s potion in Helvetia. What with bank safes, cuckoo hourglasses, yodeling and holes in the cheese, they’re soon on a real Helvetian roll. The suggestion for our heroes to visit Switzerland followed a suggestion by Georges Pompidou, at the time French Prime Minister. There they get help from some courageous Helvetians, including the hotel manager Petitsuix (petit suisse, a French cheese) and Zurix the bank manager. Petitsuix appears again in Asterix in Corsica and if you’re lucky, you may even find the most famous Swiss ever… William Tell.
Innkeeper in Parma
In Asterix’s adventures, there are too many Italians to single out just one: with the most prominent being, of course, Julius Caesar. Think about The Mansions of the Gods or Asterix and the Chariot Race. In the latter, Asterix and Obelix are eventually meeting the Italics! To Obelix’s delight, the inhabitants of Ancient Italy are not all Romans! Far from it! The Italics want to keep their independence and take a dim view of Julius Caesar and his legions’ plans for total domination. In this adventure, Asterix and Obelix follow the advice of the innkeeper of Parma – who unfortunately has no name but bears a strange resemblance to opera singer Luciano Pavarotti…
Belarus – Ukraine – Romania – Moldova
Tekaloadov and Wotaloadov
You didn’t expect it, right? But yes, there are Europeans from further east represented in the adventures of Asterix and Obelix! In the 2018 album Asterix and the Chariot Race, Tekaloadov and Wotaloadov are two Sarmatians competing in the famous chariot race around Italy. You may have not heard about them, but the territory of Sarmatia corresponded to the western part of greater Scythia – a part of the world which is today Ukraine and Southern Russia, and to a smaller extent the north-eastern Balkans and Moldova. Unfortunately, in this album, Tekaloadov and Wotaloadov are not particularly subtle: but loud-speaking, hard-drinking trouble-makers.
In Asterix at the Olympic Games, the athletes of the ancient world assemble in Athens for the Olympic Games. Asterix enters too, but as magic potion is an artificial stimulant, it is banned. In this adventure, Asterix and Obelix encounter Diabetes, a tour guide, who shows them Athens, brings them on to Olympia for training and introduced his cousins, Thermos and Kudos. This album makes plenty of gags about Greek history and culture, with the indomitable Gauls sampling kebabs and resinated wine, and village elder Geriatrix enthusiastically taking part in some lusty Greek dancing. At some point during the games, one panel even shows a Greek woman protesting against the gendered games – and swears that one day women will also participate…
Iceland – The Netherlands – Luxembourg – Malta – Czech Republic – Slovakia – Poland – Lithuania – Latvia – Estonia – Hungary – Slovenia – Croatia – Serbia – Bosnia and Herzegovina – Montenegro – Kosovo – Albania – Bulgaria – Macedonia – Cyprus – Turkey
Sorry to disappoint! But there are no Asterix characters from any of those countries at all. Just be patient a little while longer: rest assured the indomitable Gauls will go throughout many other adventures before the sky falls on their heads…
Special Thanks to Jack Schickler for his great advice.
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