Title: Asterix and the Normans
Author: René Goscinny, illustrated by Albert Uderzo, translated by Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge
Publisher: Orion Books
Format Read: Paperback
So…just to shake things up a little, I’m going to focus on a comic book for this post. I’ve always enjoyed the Asterix comics and there are so many titles I’ve yet to read. They’re hilarious, masterfully drawn and vibrantly inked, and the just the sort of comic relief you need when the chips are down.
In these stories you are basically cast back in time to a not-quite-real little village in Gaul. The little village has, by its sheer indomitable spirit, remained independent of Roman control. The villagers are all indomitable (obviously) and they are hedged in by four Roman camps with soldiers who would rather be anywhere but here.
‘Asterix and the Normans’ introduces one more group of fabulously fearless people – the Normans. Their landing on the beach is discovered by Asterix and his friend Obelix, who are in the middle of entertaining Asterix’s nephew Justforkix. Justforkix is a snooty little rebel with a penchant for loud music. He gets along famously with the bard Cacofonix.
Who also has a talent for loud…what he thinks is music.
He is terrified of the Normans. Who also have interesting names. After all, who wouldn’t be amused by the mighty chief Timandahaf? Or his associates Fotograf and Chiffchaf?
Only the Gauls, including their chief Vitalstatistix, and his comrades Getafix, and Polyfonix, and Operatix. They’re intrigued by the landing of the Normans and their dreams of conquest.
Justforkix thinks they’re all mad. The Normans are to be feared, not laughed at. They do not know the meaning of fear themselves, and there is nothing, or almost nothing, that can frighten them. Despite their best efforts to scare themselves.
The story all comes together very nicely in a plot that includes the bard Cacofonix. And a young Roman recruit who’s obsessed with preparing reports in triplicate. There are fights and brawls and Asterix eats a lot of meats in cream sauce before the Normans are given an opportunity to pursue their quest – they are here, after all, to discover the meaning of fear.
It is a wildly humorous story that reads quickly. I am not going to compare this title to the other Asterix stories, nevertheless, I found it relaxing. And funny. There is a whole cast of characters to wade through but they’re so uniquely individual that you remember them all, even with their names. There’s a cadence about the whole thing, a richness to the pages that makes every reread a joyous one.