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Title: Asterix & the Chieftain’s Shield
Series: Asterix #11
Authors: Goscinny & Uderzo
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
The book begins with Vercingetorix conceding defeat to Julius Caesar. His surrendered weapons remain at Caesar’s chair for several hours, until a Roman archer steals Vercingetorix’s famous shield, which he loses in a game of dice to another legionary, who then loses it to a drunken centurion, in return for the centurion not reporting him for a military offence. The centurion himself uses the shield to pay for a jar of wine at a nearby Gaulish inn; later, the shield is given by the innkeeper to a survivor of the Battle of Alesia.
Following this prologue, Chief Vitalstatistix is made helpless by a sore liver, a consequence of overeating and drinking at his last banquet. Having demonstrated this, and temporarily eased the chief’s pain, the druid Getafix sends Vitalstatistix to a hydrotherapeutic center in Arverne to be cured, with Asterix and Obelix (and Dogmatix) as his escort. On the way, they stop at various inns, where the heavy food revives the chief’s sickness. At Arverne, the Gauls initially remain together; but because Asterix, Obelix, and Dogmatix are in no need of special diets, they feast on wild boar and beer while everyone else eats “boiled vegetables”. When other patients complain, Vitalstatistix sends Asterix, Obelix, and Dogmatix to Gergovia.
Along the way, the Gauls are offended by Roman envoy Noxius Vapus, and vanquish his guards. In the aftermath, Asterix, Obelix, and Dogmatix befriend the local tavern-keeper Winesanspirix, who retains them thereafter as guests. When Noxius Vapus makes his report to Caesar in Rome, Caesar plans a triumph on Vercingetorix’s shield to “show them who’s boss”, and orders Vapus to search Arverne for it. When the initial investigations fail, the Romans send a spy, Legionary Pusillanimus; but on drinking too much wine at Winesanspirix’s tavern, the latter discloses Caesar’s plan and reveals his own knowledge of the shield’s history, whereupon Asterix, Obelix, and Dogmatix set off in search of the shield themselves. To that end, they interrogate the archer, Lucius Circumbendibus, who now owns a wheel manufacturing business; the second legionary, Marcus Carniverus, who worked at a health resort before opening a restaurant; and the drunken Centurion Crapulus. Vapus and his men in turn search in vain for both the shield and Asterix and Obelix, as a running gag dirtying themselves with charcoal dust while searching the coal heaps belonging to Winesanspirix and their neighbors.
The search eventually leads the two Gauls back to Winesanspirix, to whom Crapulus had given the shield in the prologue. Upon the protagonists’ reunion with him, Winesanspirix confesses having given the shield to a dispirited Gaulish warrior, who is thereupon identified with the arrival of a newly cured and much slimmer Vitalstatistix. Vitalstatistix reveals he had the shield the whole time and it is the very one he is always carried upon. Upon Caesar’s arrival at Gergovia, Asterix and the locals organize a triumph in which Vitalstatistix is carried on Vercingetorix’s shield. Caesar then deports Vapus and his troops to Numidia, and Caesar promotes Centurion Crapulus to command of the garrison of Gergovia, and Legionary Pusillanimus to Centurion, on the grounds that they are the only “clean” legionaries present (despite both being visibly drunk). The Gauls return to their village (Vitalstatistix regaining his customary weight at the inns visited earlier in the story) to celebrate; but Vitalstatistix is forced into abstinence from the latter by his wife Impedimenta.
Hmm, this one was hard to get enthused about. The word plays seemed even worse than normal (or I just might be reaching the end of what I’ll accept anymore), the plot was utter nonsense (not bonkers funny, but just nonsense) and no pirates were sunk.
This felt very dated, ie going to a health farm to lose weight. This was originally done in ’68 and that kind of thing was way more prevalent then. It would have been like if Asterix and Obelix had made jokes about 8track tapes or something. It didn’t help that the Chief was pretty much forced to do this by his wife and that the Druid wouldn’t keep fixing him up. He was a middle aged man trying to still act like a 20 year old and it hit home, and not in a nice comfy way either!
With all of that complaining, this was still a good riotous story. Julius Caesaer wants a shield to hold a Triumph with and Asterix and Obelix have to find the shield first to prevent that from happening. So of course their Chief has the shield all along, sigh. While no pirates were sunk, plenty of romans were biffed and bammed and ol Julius Caesar himself shows up only to slink away when the boys parade their chief Vitalstatistix on the shield.
I was amused the whole time but just barely and if I feel this same way for the next book, I’m going to take it as a sign that I need to take a break. There can be too much of a good thing and my refined literary palate can only take so much cleansing after all.
- Asterix the Gaul (Book 1)
- Asterix and the Golden Sickle (Book 2)
- Asterix and the Goths (Book 3)
- Asterix the Gladiator (Book 4)
- Asterix and the Banquet (Book 5)
- Asterix and Cleopatra (Book 6)
- Asterix and the Big Fight (Book 7)
- Asterix in Britain (Book 8)
- Asterix and the Normans (Book 9)
- Asterix the Legionary (Book 10)