English translations of Asterix

All Asterix stories, created by Goscinny and Uderzo, have been translated into English.[1] The vast majority of the albums were translated by Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge. Their first volume, Asterix the Gaul, was published by Brockhampton Press in 1969. Bell retired in 2016 due to ill health and died in 2018; Hockridge died in 2013. Adriana Hunter currently serves as translator, with Asterix and the Chariot Race being her debut.[2]

Translating namesEdit

In Asterix stories, many of the original names are humorous due to their absurdity. For example, the bard is Assurancetourix (assurance tous risques or "comprehensive insurance"), the translation of which is pointless since the bard has no connection to insurance of any kind — it's the silliness that makes it humorous. To maintain the spirit and flow of the story the translators change the joke in the name to a comment on the character. Thus in the English language edition the bard's name is Cacofonix which is an allusion to the term cacophony (a discordant and meaningless mixture of sounds), since the central trait of the bard character is that the Gauls all hate listening to his music.

This happens in the original as well, as with Geriatrix (French: Agecanonix — canonical age — a French expression meaning very old or ancient), but it is not common, while absurd names in English, such as Dubius Status, are reserved for minor or one-story characters. Fictional place names however tend to be equally silly in all translations, for example the four camps (castra) which surround Asterix's village: Compendium, Aquarium, Laudanum and Totorum (Tot o' rum, colloquial English for shot of rum) — in French this camp is called "Babaorum", a pun on baba au rhum or rum baba, a popular French pastry. (In one of the American translations, one of these camps is named Nohappimedium.)

Lost in translationEdit

Bell and Hockridge were widely praised for their rendition of the English language versions, maintaining the spirit and humour of the French original even when direct translation is impossible — as it often is when translating puns between languages which are not closely related. A good example occurs in Asterix and the Chieftain's Shield — when Obelix redistributes the water in the spa pools by diving in, the other guests complain and the druid in charge arrives asking Vitalstatistix, "Where are your Gauls?" In the original French he responds Mes Gaulois sont dans la pleine ("My Gauls are in the full one") which is a play on a famous (in French) quote Les Gaulois sont dans la plaine ("The Gauls are on the plain") which sounds exactly the same, though not in English. Instead the translated reply is "Pooling your resources" (the water), a clever double entendre on a common phrase even though the original pun is lost.

Sometimes, nothing of the original joke is salvageable. In Asterix in Britain, there is a scene in Londinium where a greengrocer argues with a buyer — in the next panel Obelix says (in French), "Why is that man wearing a melon?" This relies on the fact that the French word for melon is also the name for the iconic British bowler hat; with no way to convey this in the English translation, in the British edition Obelix says, "I say, Asterix, I think this bridge is falling down" (a reference to the children's rhyme "London Bridge is falling down"), leaving the original joke incomplete. In the preceding panel, the reply of the British man was, in some publications of the book, "Rather, old fruit!"; a good pun and typical of the way the British address each other in Asterix in Britain. In the same album, much of the humor came from Goscinny's high-fidelity rendition of the English language using French words. This, of course, is totally lost by re-translation into English, but compensated for by making the British characters speak in an antiquated, early-twentieth-century style.

Sometimes, the translators even go further and add their own humor when it is appropriate. An example of this is in Asterix and the Goths, where a group of Goths who kidnapped Getafix run puzzled through a forest populated by Romans looking for Asterix and Obelix, who they think are responsible for the kidnapping. In the original, the Goth chief says "Faut pas chercher à comprendre", meaning "We shouldn't try to understand", a common French phrase with no particular pun attached. In the English version, the chief instead comments "Ours is not to reason why", a reference to The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, which states in its third stanza "Theirs not to reason why/Theirs but to do and die".

Comparison of names of major charactersEdit

Original name
Meaning Description British name American name
American name
Portuguese name
Astérix asterisk (because he is the star), also the medical term asterixis refers to a periodic loss of muscle tone, the opposite of what Astérix displays when he drinks the magic potion Gaulish warrior Asterix Asterix Asterix Asterix
Obélix obelisk (An obelisk is similar to a menhir; and the obelisk symbol † often follows the asterisk.) Menhir
delivery man
Obelix Obelix Obelix Obelix
Idéfix idée fixe (theme or obsession) Obelix’s dog Dogmatix Dogmatix Dogmatix Ideiafix
Panoramix Panoramique (panoramic) Druid Getafix Readymix Magigimmix Panoramix
Abraracourcix à bras raccourcis: (hit, lambast) violently Village Chief Vitalstatistix Vitalstatistix Macroeconomix Abracurcix
Bonemine Bonne mine (healthy look) Chief's Wife Impedimenta n/a Belladonna Naftalina
Agecanonix âge canonique (canonical age) Village elder Geriatrix Geriatrix Arthritix Veteranix
Assurancetourix Assurance tous risques (comprehensive insurance) Bard Cacofonix Cacofonix Malacoustix Chatotorix
Cétautomatix c'est automatique (it's automatic) Blacksmith Fulliautomatix Automatix
Alambix Winesanspirix
Ordralfabétix ordre alphabétique (alphabetical order) Fishmonger Unhygienix Fishtix Epidemix Ordenalfabetix
Iélosubmarine Yellow Submarine Wife of Fishmonger Bacteria Ielosubmarina
Falbala falbala, a furbelow; a piece of clothing added to a dress, usually seen as a bad taste luxury Minor recurring character Panacea n/a Philharmonia Falbala

In earlier translations, such as in Valiant and Ranger/Look and Learn (see below), other versions of names have appeared.

Other English-language translations and versionsEdit

Valiant comicEdit

An edited-down version of Asterix the Gaul appeared in Valiant, a boys' comic published by Fleetway Publications, beginning in the issue dated 16 November 1963.[3] It appeared in colour on the back page. Set in the Britain of 43AD, the strip was originally called Little Fred and Big Ed. Little Fred and stonemason Big Ed lived in the village of Nevergivup which was surrounded by eight Roman camps: Harmonium, Cranium, Pandemonium, Premium, Rostrum, Aquarium, Maximum and Laudanum. Their druid was called Hokus Pokus. As the story progresses and Obelix is absent from the action, the strip was renamed Little Fred, the Ancient Brit with Bags of Grit. The story concluded in the issue dated 4 April 1964.

Ranger magazineEdit

Ranger was a British magazine for boys published in 1965 and 1966.[3] It included a version of Asterix and the Big Fight with the action transferred to Britain. Beginning in issue one, the strip was called Britons Never, Never, Never Shall Be Slaves! with Asterix renamed Beric the Bold and Obelix being called Son of Boadicea. They are referred to as the henchmen of Chief Caradoc and Son of Boadicea has a dog named Fido. Their druid is called Doric. The story concluded in issue 40 at which point Ranger was merged with Look and Learn magazine. The first combined issue, number 232, saw the beginning of a version of Asterix and Cleopatra called In the Days of Good Queen Cleo.

National GeographicEdit

In their May 1977 issue, the publication featured an article titled "The Celts: Europe's Founders". The article featured a section called Vive Les Celts devoted to Asterix with a comic strip exclusively drawn for the magazine. The inclusion of the article was an attempt by Asterix's creator to make the character well known in the United States. The strip, which was the first to ever appear in the publication, was later reprinted in Asterix and the Class Act.[4]

American newspaper syndicationEdit

From November 1977 until early 1979, five albums were serialized in syndicated form in a number of North American newspapers. Since these were printed as part of the standard daily comics, and were broken into separately licensed but concurrent daily and Sunday strips, the art needed considerable reworking. This required editing a lot of the dialog. In addition, a number of names, jokes, and pieces of art were further changed to be more politically correct or idiomatic for the newspapers' family-oriented audience. The results were very different from the original translations. The stories printed appeared in, essentially random order as well, and the experiment came to an end quickly.

The stories which appeared were

The Sunday color comic between stories contained the end of one story and the start of the next, each as a half page.

American albumsEdit

Robert Steven Caron translated five volumes into American English. These are Asterix and the Great Crossing in 1984, Asterix the Legionary and Asterix at the Olympic Games in 1992, and Asterix in Britain and Asterix and Cleopatra in 1995.[5] For copyright purposes, most of the names of the characters names were changed. With Asterix never achieving great popularity in the United States, this series of re-translations was halted after these albums, leading to some confusion among the few American fans of the series (the other volumes were issued with the British translation in the same market).

In 2019, The New York Times reported that new Americanized translations of Asterix would be published by Papercutz, starting in May 2020.[6] The new translator is Joe Johnson (Dr. Edward Joseph Johnson), a Professor of French and Spanish at Clayton State University.[7] The Papercutz editions refer to the village druid by his original French name of Panoramix, and various other minor characters have been renamed as well.[8]


  1. ^ "The collection of the albums of Asterix the Gaul - Asterix - The official website". www.asterix.com. Archived from the original on 2018-07-25. Retrieved 2018-10-03.
  2. ^ (1959-....)., Ferri, Jean-Yves (2017). Astérix et la transitalique. Conrad, Didier (1959-....). pp. Credits. ISBN 9782864973270. OCLC 1006739570.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ a b "Asterix the Briton | PAUL GRAVETT". www.paulgravett.com. Archived from the original on 2018-10-03. Retrieved 2018-10-03.
  4. ^ "Asterix and Obelix Archives | National Geographic Kids". National Geographic Kids. Archived from the original on 2018-10-03. Retrieved 2018-10-03.
  5. ^ "Availability: Asterix and the great crossing / text by Goscinny ; drawings by Uderzo ; translated by Robert Steven Caron". avrl.catalogue.library.ns.ca. Archived from the original on 2018-10-03. Retrieved 2018-10-03.
  6. ^ Gustines, George (7 November 2019). "Asterix and the New Translated Editions". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 January 2020.
  7. ^ Milligan, Mercedes (12 May 2020). "Papercutz Brings Beloved 'Asterix' Comics to US This Summer". Animation Magazine. Retrieved 12 May 2020.
  8. ^ De Blieck Jr, Augie. "First Look: Papercutz's Asterix Translation". Pipeline Comics. Augie De Blieck Jr. Retrieved 4 July 2020.

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