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Title: Asterix and the Normans
Series: Asterix #9
Authors: Goscinny & Uderzo
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
The story begins with Vitalstatistix receiving a missive from his brother Doublehelix in Lutetia (Paris), to ask for the education of Doublehelix’s teenage son, Justforkix. Justforkix then arrives in a sports car-like chariot. The village holds a dance in honour of his arrival; but he is unimpressed by the traditional way of dancing, snatches Cacofonix’s lyre, and sings and plays in the manner of Elvix Preslix (the Rolling Menhirs in the English version). Some of the younger villagers dance to this new form; but Cacofonix tries to show off his own skills, and is struck down by Fulliautomatix. Justforkix thereupon suggests that Cacofonix’s talents would be better appreciated in Lutetia.
Meanwhile, a Norman crew arrive in Gaul to discover “the meaning of fear”, on grounds that they are fearless to the point of not understanding the concept, but have heard of people “flying in fear”, and believe that being afraid will grant them the ability to fly. Most of the Gauls welcome the chance of a fight; but Justforkix is horrified and decides to return home. Viewing Justforkix as an expert in fear, the Normans kidnap him to teach them; but this fails, and he remains their prisoner until Asterix and Obelix come to the rescue. A small Roman patrol is also involved in the resulting fight. At length, Norman chief Timandahaf orders an end to the battle and explains his mission to the Gauls. To teach the Normans fear, Asterix sends Obelix to fetch Cacofonix, while himself remaining as a hostage. When Obelix reaches the village, he finds Cacofonix gone to perform in Lutetia, and pursues him through a series of tell-tale clues.
Meanwhile, Timandahaf becomes impatient and tries to force Justforkix to teach the secret of flight by tossing him off a cliff. Just before this can be carried out, Asterix challenges the Norman warriors; and seeing him surrounded, Justforkix gains the courage to fight as well — albeit to no visible effect. Obelix and Cacofonix stop the fight, and Cacofonix’s discordant songs are exhibited to the Normans, which provokes their first real fear, and an immediate retreat to their homeland. When Asterix questions the Normans’ interest in fear, Getafix replies that courage is achieved only by having first been afraid, and superseding the fear to the desired effect. Thereafter Justforkix is claimed to have gained courage himself, and the story ends with the customary banquet, but with Cacofonix as guest of honour and Fulliautomatix tied up, with his ears filled with parsley.
Goscinny and Uderzo use the “hip young kid who is pretty dumb” trope (I wanted to say “again”, but looking at my other Asterix reviews Justforkix hasn’t been in any of them) and they use it well. Justforkix is the absolute epitome of a 60’s teenager and to be honest, a teenager from almost any modern era. He’s brash, rude, thinks he knows everything and won’t listen to his elders.
The Normans were just as amusing as the Gauls. They were trying to find out what “fear” was and as such they were talking about it like it was an artifact. They thought it could make them fly, as they had heard the phrase “fear gives you wings”. It made for some very amusing back and forth conversations.
Sadly, there were several times where I could tell that the characters were making word play jokes but it completely passed over my head. I couldn’t tell if it was me being ignorant of a situation, the translators doing a bad job or if it was referencing something from the 1960’s that I had no knowledge of. Usually Hock&Bell have done a bang up job of translating the jokes into something a modern reader can understand. And I can’t believe I just wrote that. 1967 is not some ancient and hoary mystical time that we don’t know about. While I wasn’t to be born for another decade, it’s part of the modern age. And since this translation was done in 2005, that really negates the “1960’s is Ancient Mystical History” idea.
But the important thing is that Asterix and Obelix got to do a lot of biff’ing and bam’ing of somebody new (the poor Romans, they need a break from all that thumping after all) and roast boar was enjoyed. That’s pretty much all I really want from these books.