#11 – Asterix the Chieftain’s Shield (1967)

[Very important note: all of the reviews will be based on the English language publications researched and painstakingly translated by Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge.]

Legionnaires in Asterix and the Chieftain's Shield

Synopsis. Vitalstatistix has fallen ill. His overeating and excessive gluttony has caused him serious liver damage and Getafix cannot cure him. He suggests that the chief, accompanied by our trusty warriors, head to the healing spas in Aquae Calidae. Upon arrival, Vitalstatistix is put on a rigorous regimen of exercise and healthy foods. Since Obelix and Asterix are along simply to accompany the chief, they eat what they please in great quantities. Unable to bear watching his companions enjoy their food, the chief orders them away. Asterix and Obelix decide to take a holiday to Avernia, the region of France where Vercingetorix’s warriors were defeated by Caesar just a few years before. Along the way, they run into (and through) a  tribune (a special Roman envoy), and they befriend a Gergovian who takes them into town. Meanwhile, after the assault by Asterix and Obelix, the tribune heads back to Rome to tell Caesar that the Avernians are rebelling again.

Vercingetorix's shield in Asterix and the Chieftain's ShieldGergovia is the location of the last major Gaulish victory in their resistance to Rome. Shortly thereafter, however, Caesar’s military force and strategic acumen was too much for the Gauls and he defeated them at Alesia. Caesar ordered the great Gaulish chief to throw down his arms in front of him upon defeat. Determined to show them who is the boss, Caesar orders that the shield of Vercingetorix be brought to him so he can head arrive on Gergovia atop it to remind the Gauls of their humiliation. However, upon inspection of Caesar’s spoils of war, the shield is not to be found. In the book’s prelude, we learn that the shield was forgotten on the field and has exchanged hands several times and is therefore knowledge of its location is lost to the Romans. Furious, Caesar orders the envoy to return to Gaul to find the shield.

The prefecture of Gergovia is enlisted in the hunt. They recruit a dim-witted and lazy legionnaire to go do some ferreting around, incognito, to see if he can get information about the shield’s location. His idiocy spoils the secrecy of the hunt, however, and Asterix and Obelix determine to find the shield themselves at all costs. The race is on to find it. Who will recover it first? Asterix and Obelix or the Romans? Read the book to find out more.

Funny Names. Noxius Vapus, the special envoy from Rome; Diagnostix, the druid that runs the health spa; Winesanspirix, the Gegovian that befriends our lads; Therapeutix, the druid that runs the hydro spa in Borvo; Titus Crapulous, the unscrupulous and drunken legionnaire that traded the shield for an amphora of wine.

Details of Particular Interest. The ancient town of Gergovia was known for its charcoal and wine. Both figure in heavily into the story. This is the first time we hear Impedimenta, Vitalstatistix’s wife, speak. It is also the first time she is named, but she doesn’t quite appear as she will eventually look in future stories.

Asterix and the Chieftain's Shield - Impedimenta

The chase for the shield is clever and the story has a surprise ending.  We enjoy the change of pace by making Vitalstatistix a central part of the story. In all, it’s an enjoyable book in the period of the better Asterix stories. We only wish there had been some stronger antagonists.

Rating: 4.5/5

Asterix and the Chieftain's Shield - Vitalstatistix over-indulging

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Asterix and the Chieftain's Shield - Obelix diving into pool

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Asterix and the Chieftain's Shield - Caesar

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Asterix and the Chieftain's Shield - Pusillanimus

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Asterix and the Chieftain's Shield - Obelix at the Hydro

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Asterix and the Chieftain's Shield - The charcoal

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