Asterix and the Gaul – Book 1

Asterix and the Gaul – Book 1

Asterix or The Adventures of Asterix is a French bande dessinée series about Gaulish warriors, who have adventures and fight the Roman Empire during the era of Julius Caesar. The series first appeared in the Franco-Belgian comics magazine Pilote on 29 October 1959. It was written by René Goscinny and illustrated by Albert Uderzo until the death of Goscinny in 1977. Uderzo then took over the writing until 2009, when he sold the rights to publishing company Hachette. In 2013, a new team consisting of Jean-Yves Ferri (script) and Didier Conrad (artwork) took over.

Asterix the Gaul is the first volume of the Asterix comic strip series, by René Goscinny (stories) and Albert Uderzo (illustrations). In Le Monde’s 100 Books of the Century, a 1999 poll conducted by the French retailer Fnac and the Paris newspaper Le Monde, Asterix the Gaul was listed as the 23rd greatest book of the 20th century.

All of the Gaul area is under Roman control, except for one small village in Armorica (present-day Brittany), whose inhabitants are made invincible by a magic potion created periodically by the Druid Getafix. To discover the secret of the Gauls’ strength, Centurion Crismus Bonus, commander of a Roman garrison at the fortified camp of Compendium, sends a spy disguised as a Gaul into the village. The Roman’s identity is revealed when he loses his false moustache, shortly after he discovers the existence of the magic potion; whereupon he reports his discovery to the Centurion.

Crismus Bonus, hoping to overthrow Julius Caesar, orders Getafix captured and interrogated for the recipe; but to no avail. Protagonist Asterix learns of Getafix’s capture from a cart-seller; infiltrates the Roman camp in the latter’s cart; and hears Crismus Bonus revealing his intended rebellion to Marcus Ginandtonicus, his second-in-command. Following Asterix’s suggestion, Getafix pretends to agree to the Centurion’s demand of the potion when Asterix pretends to give in to torture, and demands an unseasonal ingredient: strawberries. While Crismus Bonus’ soldiers try to find strawberries, Asterix and Getafix relax in relative luxury; and when the strawberries arrive, consume them all, and console Crismus Bonus that the potion may be made without them.

After all the ingredients are found, a potion is prepared that causes the hair and beard of the drinker to grow at an accelerated pace. The Romans are tricked into drinking this potion and before long, all of them have long hair and beards. When Crismus Bonus pleads Getafix to make an antidote, the druid makes a cauldron of vegetable soup (knowing that the hair-growth potion shall soon cease to take effect), and also prepares a small quantity of the real magic potion for Asterix. As Getafix and Asterix escape, they are stopped by a huge army of Roman reinforcements commanded by Julius Caesar. Upon meeting Asterix and Getafix, Caesar hears of Crismus Bonus’ intentions against himself; deports Crismus Bonus and his garrison to Outer Mongolia; and frees Asterix and Getafix for giving him the information, while reminding them that they are still enemies. The two Gauls then return to their village, where their neighbors celebrate their recovery.

Next book in the series: Asterix and the Golden Sickle

Saint of the Day – July 01

St. Junipero Serra

St. Junípero Serra was born on November 24, 1713 on the island of Majorca, Spain. He joined the Franciscans in 1730, and became so accomplished as a student that he was appointed a lector of philosophy before his ordination.
 
As an academic, he was promising. After earning his PhD, he began teaching eventually earning the Duns Scotus chair of philosophy. However, at 36, he gave up this career, desiring instead to be a missionary in the New World. 
 
Padre Serra began his missionary work in Mexico. While working among the Pame Indians, he learned their language and translated the catechism for their understanding. Working in Mexico, he gained a reputation as a preacher deeply devoted to penance and mortification. He would pound his breast with a stone and even hold a lighted torch to his bare chest. He was also known for doing the work of young boys in cleaning the convent of San Fernando, where he was first assigned. Soon after his arrival in the New World, he sustained a spider bite to his leg that would leave him permanently injured. However, he was still known to walk everywhere whenever possible.
 
In 1767, Serra  was assigned to preach in what was then called Upper California, encompassing much of the modern-day state. Here, he established several missions, for which he became famous. These missions remain today, and stretch from San Diego to San Francisco.
 
Padre Serra died in 1784. Many native peoples whom he had worked with wept openly at his funeral. He is at San Carlos Borromeo Mission in Carmel by the Sea. He is credited with bringing the faith to the California region.

Reflection

The word that best describes Junipero is zeal. It was a spirit that came from his deep prayer and dauntless will. “Always forward, never back” was his motto. His work bore fruit for 50 years after his death as the rest of the missions were founded in a kind of Christian communal living by the Indians. When both Mexican and American greed caused the secularization of the missions, the Chumash people went back to what they had been.