Monday, March 23, 2009

A tribute to Anthea Bell & Derek Hockridge...

Rather an odd tribute, one would think.

But I am a die-hard fan of the Asterix series. The kind who can quote call-outs verbatim; Many of the issues I do not even need to read; I can play it like a slide-show in my mind.

Which is why it never ceases to amaze me how wonderfully Anthea Bell & Derek Hockridge have translated an essentially French series (in language, but more importantly, in character as well) into full-blooded Queen's (Dictator's?) English, while preserving the spirit of the original.

The first thing that strikes me are the names. The Bard, a torture for the auditory senses, is named Cacofonix, while the old gentleman with a pretty & young wife is named Geriatrix (incidentally his wife is the only major village character which is never named in the entire series, apart from the village itself - YES, the village is NEVER named in the entire series!) Dogmatix is one of the best-named characters - He's actually a very dogmatic character (witness his howling whenever a tree is cut)

The names of one-time characters are even more mirth-inducing. Many of the British characters are named after esoteric taxes - Getafix's British druid friend is called Valueaddetax (in Asterix & The Goths), while a trainee legionary is called Selectiveemploymentax (in Asterix the Legionary). Another favourite name is Courtingdisastus (in Asterix in Corsica); The pun on his name when one of the Corsicans warns his sister about flirting with Romans is too funny!

The beauty lies in revealing something about the character through his name and always ending it appropriately - ix for the Gauls, ic for the Goths, us for the Romans & a for the Ladies. So you have a scheming Gaulish traitor named Uptotrix (in Asterix & The Banquet), a tough Briton chief (in Asterix in Britain) named a after a line from Hamlet (Mykingdomforanos) & a decadent Roman Governor named Varius Flavus (in Asterix in Switzerland).

And now. the repartee, the conversations, the lines. One can go on and on and on, but to pick out a few: (Warning: Read the original, to get the full drift of the remarks!)

Asterix in Switzerland: The entire sequence in the beginning, when Vitalstatistix sacks his shield-bearers, is a sublime classic; Some sample lines:

"The Chief will lose his standing in the tribe if he throws his weight around like that" (In a reference to Vitalstatistix falling off his shield)

"The Chief is bent on getting a good angle on things. Proves what you can do if you have got the inclination" (Asterix & Obelix are carrying him on the shield; He is in an inclined position because of their height difference)

"He's just serving half a pint of mild & bitter" (Obelix alone is carrying Vitalstatistix like a waiter, Vitalstatistix complains of feeling like a half-pint chief & being a mild man who is now feeling very bitter)

Asterix in Britain:

"He's been removed once, but you mustn't shake him too hard even if he asks you to" (Obelix says this for Anticlimax, Asterix's first cousin once removed, who had previously asked Obelix to shake him by the hand)

Asterix & The Big Fight:

Cassius Ceramix, the Roman stooge chief after challenging Vitalstatistix to the Big Fight, says "Gloria Victus! I turn my back on you" & turns around on his shield, after which his shield-bearers turn & he is facing Vitalstatistix again.
"No, not you! If you also turn back, then I get back where I started!"

Asterix & the Banquet:

Obelix is interrogating the traitor Unpatriotix; He ask's him which place the Romans have captured & taken Asterix to;
"I don't care whether you have ordered rum or not! You don't soften me up like that!"

Asterix & The Secret Weapon:

One of the village ladies argues with Cacofonix:
"Oh, so a woman can't be a bard"
"No Ma'am, shes barred from being a bard"
He gets bashed left right & centre.
Asterix observes his black eye and remarks:
"No holds barred, eh?"

Genius. Pure genius.


  1. btw geriatrix's wife is Myopia I think !! (one reason why she must have married Geriatrix in the 1st place ... and woos obelix too)

  2. had me in still laughing. good to see you back in smashing form...way to go, brother. :D

  3. @Shyamu: Check this link out:

  4. You reminded me of Asterix after a very long time with this one. Great quotes mate, true classics; I remember how I managed to read 12 of them in a day during my one day stay in Banglore...

    Anthea and Derek - a big bow coming your way !

  5. wow ! super post. brought back childhood memories. by any chance, would you be having the entire collection?

  6. @PP: I know at least 4 people with those initials...Could you let me know your full name?

  7. I love how the smallest things have so much humour..
    For example check out the names of the roman camps in Asterix in Corsica..
    Also what I find amazing is how Asterix appeals to you ate every age - when young you like the potion and the ensuing fights, when older you understand the puns and when even older get the historical and geographical references..

  8. BTW disagree with Shyam... "There is a common misunderstanding that she is named Myopia, because of a panel in ''Asterix and the Soothsayer'' where Impedimenta said to her: ''"Oh, Myopia!"''. However, as explained in the album itself, Impedimenta was invoking the name of a Gaulish goddess."

  9. Classic! Fabulous series.. guaranteed laugh riot every time irrespective of how many times you've read and re-read the books! Thanks Akshat for these pearls :)

  10. Those events you describe are indeed quite hilarious! And yes, the names are really clever throughout the series. I remember one in "Asterix the Legionary" when they run into a Gaulish spy whose code name is H2SO4. When asked for his real name, it's revealed to be "Vitriolix".

  11. @Kishan: That's one of my favourites as well...There's another one (I don't remember the issue)...Theres a fight happening...and they have shown callouts:

    "By Toutatis"
    "By Jupiter"
    "Bye Bye"