The conflict between progress and the ideal

Asterix and the Chieftain's Shield -

I didn't like this particular album as much as I did the others, though the story was still quite good, particularly with the rather interesting twist at the end. Actually there are a few twists in this story, and it does take time for the actually plot of the story, that is the quest for the shield of Vercingetorix, to come to fruition. Basically, after Vercingetorix threw his arms and armour at Ceaser's feet (which ended up being quite painful for Ceaser):



the shield ended up going missing. However, it appears that a part of Gaul was beginning to revolt, namely because Asterix and Obelix were wondering through and decided to beat up the local Roman envoy. Actually, it wasn't because they decided to have some fun (which hadn't stopped them in the past) but rather that the Roman decided to throw his weight around, and Asterix and Obelix generally do not appreciate Romans doing that and tend to put them back into their place. Anyway, Ceaser decides that to remind the Gauls who's boss he wants to be paraded around the area on Vercingetorix's shield, however, as it turns out, the shield went missing shortly afterwards, so it ends up being a race between the Romans and Asterix and Obelix to get the shield first.

I guess the reason that I didn't really like this particular album is because I felt that the translation was not really all that good. I say that because some of the jokes simply did not make sense. It is not that I do not have a funny bone (we all have a funny bone, but I am not speaking anatomically here) but rather that the jokes simply did not make sense. Some of them, such as the Gaul's crying out that they do not know where Alesia is took some time to work out (Alesia is where Vercingetorix was eventually defeated by Ceaser) – and for those who know about Ceaser's exploits, here is a water colour of Alesia:



Others of them (and I can't remember it quite clearly) simply did not come out all that well.

Anyway, I have sort of thought a bit more about the ideas behind the Asterix comics, and while some may suggest that there isn't anything deep in them, I would be inclined to disagree. Hey, even Superman has ideas behind it (that being the American's desire for a super hero to come down and save them from all the bad things, which may even have a connection to their Puritan heritage). Asterix has a similar idea though and I suspect that it stretches back to the writings of Rousseau, who suggested that technology and advancement were the main causes of humanity's ills, and as such a return to the ideal, that is the simple village life where everybody is self sufficient, is the answer. As such we see throughout the Asterix comics a continual battle between development, as represented by the Romans, and the idealistic life style, as represented by the village. While we do not see it as much here, we do get deeper exploration of the theme in some of the other albums.

Obviously the theme behind the story is one of control (as are many of them) and that it is the desire to finally remind the ideal that that time is long gone and that we now live in an age of progress. The shield of Vercingetorix symbolises the ideal, and obviously whoever holds onto the shield pretty much dictates where society is heading (which seems to also be the case with the Spear of Destiny). If the Romans have the shield then progress has won, however if the Gauls have the shield, progress many not necessarily have lost, but there is still hope for the ideal to exist and that progress can at least be halted.