Resistence to Modernism

Asterix and the Normans - Rene Goscinny

Once again this entire adventure takes place in the little village we know so well. One of Chief Vitalstatistix's nephews has been sent from Lutetia (Paris) out to Amorica to toughen him up, and as it turns out he comes across as one of those young people who do not understand the concept of work. He arrives in a sporty chariot (made in Milan, which made me think of the Ferarri) and in a way brings the idea of the city life out to the country. However, the album is more than this because way up north in Scandanavia the Norsemen, who are the Normans, want to learn the meaning of fear so that they might be able to fly, so they jump in a boat and sail to a random place (which happens to be this little village we know so well) to find out all about fear.

There are quite a few jokes about Normans and conquests here, and a part of me when I read this album about ten years ago thought it was wrong. However (and I have not researched this) I suspect that the Normans originally were Vikings that during the period of the Viking invasions, came and settled in the region known now as Normandy. The Vikings actually did that quite a lot. There was a period of English history when the Danes pretty much controlled a large chunk of central England which, at the time, was called the Dane Law. Further, there are a number of jokes about how the Normans were not actually supposed to arrive for a few centuries yet.

Now, I understand that Asterix is not necessarily supposed to be historically accurate, but one thing that it is is satire. As I read this one I came to understand what the whole basis of these albums are supposed to be. As I said, it is not necessarily political or social criticism but rather satire. The idea that I came across is that struggle that exists between the pastoral idealism of the country and the modernising influence of the city. Where the little village we know so well reflects the tranquil idealism of the country, the Romans reflect the modernising influence that is rolling out over our world.

Many of us on the modernising side like to see our ideas as being progress, however being on the intellectual, university trained side we fail to see the pleasant aspects of a rural setting where things do not change and have not changed for years. For instance we have the green grass, the singing birds, the communal feasts, and the general aspect where everybody knows everybody else. However there tends to be a resistance among such places against the modernising influence, as can be represented by Cacofonix the bard. The truth is that it is not that Cacofonix is playing modern music, it is simply that he cannot sing and cannot play music at all. When the Lutetian tells him that he will be a hit in Lutetia, it is not because he is any good, it is more because the variety of tastes that come about in the big city will mean that people will actually come to see that maybe this person that cannot play music for the life of him is simply somebody who is experimenting and trying something new.