After conquering Gaul, Julius Caesar set his sights on Britain. The Britons, who are similar to the Gauls (they are also Celts and are descended from Gaulish tribes who crossed the water centuries earlier and who speak the same language as their Gaulish cousins, but with some peculiar idioms of their own, eh, what), frustrated the Romans with their tendency to stop a battle to drink cups of hot water and their refusal to fight on weekends; Caesar decided to only attack during hot water breaks and weekends, and the Britons under their chief Cassivellaunos were defeated. Now, only one village in Cantium (known as Kent today) is still fighting the Roman Empire, aided by such visiting chieftains as O'Veroptimistix the Hibernian (Irishman) and McAnix the Caledonian (Scotsman). The chief of said village, Mykingdomforanos, knows they can't hold out against the Romans forever without help. Warrior Anticlimax mentions that the village of his Gaulish cousin-once-removed Asterix has a magic potion that grants super-strength, and volunteers to retrieve it.
Asterix and Obelix are more than happy to help Anticlimax bring a barrel of magic potion to Britain, and offer to come along (in a reference to contemporary British animal quarantine laws, Dogmatix must stay behind). Before leaving, Asterix notices some herbs at Getafix' house, and the druid tells him he's welcome to take some along - they might come in handy in Britain. En route to Britain, the three warriors come across a Roman galley on its way back to the continent, some of the passengers on which, including centurion Tullius Stratocumulus, were previously posted to the fortified camp of Aquarium near the Gauls' village. Anticlimax gets his first experience of the magic potion's effects as the trio board the galley and thump everyone aboard, but Obelix lets slip that they are carrying a barrel of magic potion, and once the trio have returned to their boat and moved on, Stratocumulus orders the captain to return to Britain to warn the local Roman legions of the Gauls' plan.
Problems set in quickly for our heroes once they land in Britain; aside from weather that alternates between rain and fog, food that revolves around boiling everything until it has no flavour left and serving it with bitter mint sauce, and beer served at a far warmer temperature than the Gauls can stomach, they have the Romans trying to chase down the barrel of magic potion, and soon they are caught between two patrols on the road to Londinium (called London today), forcing them to cut across country and wait until fog sets in before entering the city. Once there, Asterix, Obelix, and Anticlimax try hiding in the Jug and Amphora, a pub run by Anticlimax' friend Dipsomaniax, with the barrel of magic potion disguised as one of his barrels of wine, but the Romans have orders to raid every inn in the city and confiscate every barrel there, and Dipsomaniax is powerless to stop them.
The local legionaries are instructed to sample every barrel they have confiscated until they find the magic potion - which inevitably leads to the entire garrison becoming fall down drunk. When one legionary does stumble on the barrel and is surprised to suddenly gain superhuman strength, he is too soused to report to his superiors, and when Asterix and Obelix arrive, Obelix knocks out the now belligerent drunk before he can tell them which barrel he sampled. Obelix tries the "sample every barrel" method, with predictable results, and Asterix is forced to load all of the barrels from Dipsomaniax' inn and the plastered Obelix onto an ox-cart borrowed from the publican. As they pass a Roman patrol, Liquid Courage sets in and Obelix gives his and his friends' identities away by jumping down to bash them in; Asterix and Anticlimax have no choice but to join in, and while their backs are turned, a thief steals the cart. Obelix passes out, and Asterix and Anticlimax leave him at Dipsomaniax' pub to sober up while they look for the cart.
But as the only barrels stolen back from the Romans belong to Dipsomaniax, the local garrison know exactly where to continue their own search, and after a few hours' unsuccessful searching for the stolen cart, Asterix and Anticlimax return to find Dipsomaniax' pub burned to the ground, and one of his neighbours tells the duo that the publican and "a fat man asleep under a pile of helmets" were taken prisoner. Specifically, they were taken to the Tower of Londinium; by now, Obelix has sobered up (though he is suffering from Hangover Sensitivity) and easily breaks himself and Dipsomaniax out of first their cell, then the tower itself... just as Asterix and Anticlimax break into the tower to rescue them. A few misunderstandings later, the four are finally re-united.
Dipsomaniax takes our heroes to a pub run by his friend Surtax, who reveals that a strange man sold him a barrel of wine with Dipsomaniax' name on the side; he had the man followed and gives Anticlimax and the Gauls his address. Now that they know where to look for the thief, they drop by his house and shake him down until he gives them a list of the names and addresses of every pub to which he sold one of the stolen barrels. The trio promptly tour the pubs on the list, though they only sniff the wine rather than tasting it; unfortunately, this attracts the attention of a Roman patrol led by a decurion with more intelligence than is usually seen in the Asterix series, and he tails them in the hopes of being led to the magic potion. The publican of the Dog and Dux, the last pub on the list, reveals that he did buy one of Dipsomaniax' barrels, but he sold it to the rugby team from Camulodunum (now Colchester), who are playing a big match the next day against Durovernum (now Canterbury).
The Gauls and Anticlimax go to the rugby match the next day (as do the surprisingly intelligent decurion and his men, disguised in civilian clothes), and discover that the Camulodunum team now has the barrel of magic potion when a player named Hipiphurrax is given a sample and single-handedly runs roughshod over the Durovernum team. Our heroes rush the pitch and steal back the barrel (Obelix proves to be quite adept at rugby in the process, foreshadowing the game's future popularity in France), while the Roman decurion and his troops try to follow them but get caught up in the rugby match. However, when the Gauls and Anticlimax try to escape on the Tamesis river (called the Thames nowadays), the Romans are waiting for them, and one boulder from a catapult later, the barrel has been splintered into fragments and the contents lost in the river.
Nonetheless, they continue on to Anticlimax' village. There, Asterix gets the idea to brew a potion from the herbs Getafix gave him - he doesn't know if they'll be magical, but it might encourage the village's warriors. Sure enough, the placebo effect works, the Romans are routed, and Mykingdomforanos decides to make the concoction the national drink. He invites the Gauls to join in a celebratory banquet, but Obelix has had all he can stomach of boiled boar, and he and Asterix bid farewell to Anticlimax and return home (passing Redbeard and his pirate band again on the way back; the Gauls completely ignore them, though, and Redbeard is so relieved he accidentally runs the ship aground) to a reunion with Dogmatix and a celebration with boar cooked as it should be - roasted over an open fire. Meanwhile, Asterix asks Getafix about the herb. The druid reveals that they came from a plant that grows in barbarian lands. The name of the plant? Tea.
Tropes present, "what".
- Accent Adaptation: One of the Britons named McAnix (MacAnoterapix in the original French) speaks with a Scottish accent and expressions in the English translation, while he did not speak differently from the other Britons in the original French.
- Affectionate Parody: In the first edition of the English translation, Goscinny and Uderzo felt compelled to include a note to British readers insisting that they really were fond of the British ("in spite of their strange way of putting Nelson on top of their columns instead of Napoleon"), and that they were as much making fun of French perceptions of the British, including their Stiff Upper Lip tendencies and fondness for tea, warm beer, and boiled food with mint sauce, as they were making fun of the British themselves; they added that were they British artists writing a comic about the Ancient Gauls, they might show them all wearing berets, eating frogs and snails, drinking red wine for breakfast, and being highly emotional. The note was dropped from subsequent editions; British readers found the jokes just as funny without it.
- Alcohol-Induced Idiocy:
- When the Romans try to find the barrel of magic potion among dozens of identical looking wine barrels, they see no other way to find the correct one than to taste the contents of all barrels. By the time a legionary finally drinks from the magic potion, he and his fellow legionaries are all fall down drunk, and they proceed to have a fistfight (with the lucky legionary greatly enjoying his new super strength) without realizing they found what they were looking for.
- Later, Obelix himself gets drunk. He becomes overly emotional, is hit by a case of No Indoor Voice, doesn't even try to hide his and Asterix' identities, and after beating up some Romans in his drunken state, he falls asleep and is thus easily taken captive.
- Alcohol Hic: Thanks to all those confiscated barrels of wine the legionaries go "Hic!", "Haec!" and "Hoc!".note
- Anachronism Stew: The aspects of British culture satirized in this album would not exist for nearly 2,000 years. The Britons also stop fighting at 5:00 PM and on weekends, concepts that definitely did not exist in ancient Roman times.
- Artistic License History:
- Julius Caesar did not conquer Britain as such during his two campaigns there, but rather installed a client king named Mandubracius in what is now Essex, and the real Cassivellaunos was made to submit to Mandubracius. The actual Roman conquest of Britain happened a century later under Emperor Claudius. But then, without a Roman conquest of Britain, Asterix and Obelix would have had no excuse to go there.
- British culture is portrayed as near-identical to modern-day England. In reality, the ancient Britons were a Celtic people who were invaded by the Anglo-Saxons (who didn't even arrive for another 500 years). If anything, they should be acting like the Welsh. This fact is ignored, since the French people's relationship with the English has been longstanding and the authors could not pass up an opportunity for the usual good-natured stereotyping.
- Bait-and-Switch / Borrowed Catchphrase: After being swallowed by fog in a matter of seconds, we hear voices coming from the unseen characters.Voice 1: These Britons are crazy!Voice 2: Just what I was going to say, Asterix!
- Been There, Shaped History: Asterix introduces tea To Britain.
- Obelix becomes quite fond of rugby and mentions they should really bring this "nice game" back to Gaul. France is one of the worlds' best rugby nations.
- Bilingual Bonus: Mykingdomforanos' name in the original French version is actually an English pun - one of the few characters in the original language books whose name isn't French. His name? Zebigbos note .
- Blatant Burglar: The thief of the magic potion barrel and other wine barrels. Luckily, the receipts he gives make it easy to track down.
- "Blind Idiot" Translation:
- In the French original, the British talk French but use English syntax. They also use direct French translations of typical Britishisms like "My goodness" note , "I say, ..." note , or "It is, is it not?" note , which doesn't make any sense in French, since these words are not used the same way in French and English.
- Anticlimax describes his jolly boat as "smaller than the garden of my uncle", but "larger than the pen of my aunt". French speakers may recognise these as English transliterations of the sort of phrases used to teach elementary French in British schools at the time Asterix in Britain was translated (in particular, "pen of my aunt" = "plume de ma tante"), and their use here parodies just how useless they really are in conversation.
- Later, an irate lawn owner tells a Roman that "My garden is smaller than your Rome, but my pilum is harder than your sternum."note
- In the original, when asked about the price of his tweed trousers, Anticlimax replies "Mon tailleur est riche". "My tailor is rich" first appeared in a French-English textbook and is often parodied in France.
- Brits Love Tea: Britons didn't have tea until Asterix unwittingly introduces it to them at the end of the story, so they drink cups of hot water, often with a spot of milk.
- Borrowing the Beatles: Asterix and Obelix encounter a group of bards who are being mobbed by hysterical screaming girls. The four mop-topped bardic singers have a suspicious resemblance to...
- Britain Is Only England: Downplayed. The undefeatable British village includes a Hibernian and a Caledonian, there are Caledonian bards with bagpipes and a snark about Caledonian thriftiness. Mostly, however, "Britain" is really just "England if it existed in ancient Roman times". The ancient city of Londinium (which did not actually exist when the story is set) is a stand-in for modern-day London, and there are multiple jokes about the English language.
- The Cameo: A Roman legionary bearing a striking resemblance to Achille Talon can be seen on the galley the Gauls board in the beginning of the story.
- Comically Missing the Point:
- When Obelix has his first taste of British beer, he is disgusted by how warm it is. Anticlimax asks if it isn't warm enough.
- Mint sauce is so universally reviled by every non-Briton that two Romans have this exchange on learning they're to be boiled alive then thrown to the lions with mint sauce.Roman General: How horrible!
Other Roman General: Yes, poor creatures!
- Culture Clash: Obelix isn't happy to learn how the Britons prepare their boars.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Once Hipiphurrax has been given some magic potion, the Camulodonum-Durovernum rugby match quickly turns into one of these. Although Durovernum are the first team to get on the scoreboard, the final score is a thoroughly lopsided Camulodunum DCCCIV (804), Durovernum III (3).
- Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: The Roman governor when chewing strips off his men threatens to have the entire garrison drowned in warm beer or fed to the lions with mint sauce. They object... on behalf of the lions.
- Didn't Think This Through: In order to identify which of the countless wine barrels contains the magic potion, the Romans have their legionnaires taste test every single barrel they have and report back to them once they've discovered it. Apparently none of the higher-ups considered what the predictable outcome to taste testing such a large amount of wine could be if left unchecked, resulting in everyone who participated in the process getting completely smashed, both metaphorically and eventually literally after one of the drunkards actually finds the Magic Potion.
- Drunk with Power: Probably the most literal example of this trope you'll ever find! One of the nameless Roman legionnaires eventually finds the barrel of Magic Potion during the Roman's taste testing process, and ends up using it in his stupor of drunkenness to trounce everyone he sees once he realizes he has its strength.
- Dub-Induced Plot Hole: Inverted; the French version of the comic refers to Londinium (London) as the capital of Roman Britain, which was incorrect; while it was the biggest city in the country, the actual capital was Eboracum (York). The English version fixed this by just saying that Londinium was a big city.
- The Film of the Book: Was adapted as an animated film in 1986 and as a live action movie, Asterix & Obelix: God Save Britannia, in 2012.
- A Foggy Day in London Town: While crossing the channel, the Gauls and Anticlimax are suddenly caught up in fog and can't see anybody or anything.Asterix: Do you often get fog like that?
Anticlimax: Goodness, no, old chap! Only when it isnt raining.
They reach the British coast in pouring rain.
Asterix: But that might take ages!
- Outside Londinium, Anticlimax wants to wait for fog to evade the Romans.
Anticlimax: Oh no, old boy! Fog comes down jolly fast at this time of year.
While he is talking, the fog becomes too thick to see.
- Foreign Queasine:
Decurion: Id have confiscated Gaulish wine But warm beer! Right! On your way!Then he learns that the barrel contains a secret weapon.Decurion: Warm beer!Legionary: That weapon's no secret.
- Even Big Eater Obelix finds British food and drink revolting; one mug of warm beer and a meal of boiled boar and mint sauce, and he loses his appetite completely until the return to Gaul.
- Asterix tells a Roman officer that the barrel contains warm beer.
- The Roman generals threatened with being boiled alive and thrown to the lions with mint sauce object on the lions' behalf.
- Asterix makes "potion" by carelessly tossing tea leaves into boiling water. Mykingdomforanos remarks that it is as simple as a British recipe.
- Garlic Is Abhorrent: A Briton hopes that there isn't any garlic in the magic potion.
- Gratuitous English: Mykingdomforanos's original name was Zebigbos ("The big boss" in a French accent).
- Hangover Sensitivity: Poor Obelix and the legionaries, especially the latter being yelled at by a centurion.Throw me to the lions if you must, but someone make him stop yelling!
- Ill-Fated Flowerbed: While fleeing a Roman patrol, our heroes cut across a lawn whose owner has just been remarking on the fact that it took years to train into its current immaculate state.
- Loose Lips: Obelix mentioning that the Gauls are taking Magic Potion to Britain while thumping a Roman Galley gives the Romans' a heads-up about their plans, and thus the local Roman presence in Britain harass our heroes at every turn.Asterix: Careless talk costs lives!
- Lost in Translation:
- When suffering of a hangover while imprisoned in the London Tower, Obelix's Imagine Spot shows a block of wood. The French term for hangover is "gueule de bois", which translates as "wooden mouth" or "wooden face".
- The joke about the Britons not fighting on weekends makes a lot more sense in French since the French word for "weekend" is just "weekend", identical in spelling and pronunciation to the respective English word.
- In the original text the Britons keep using what for French readers is inverted syntax, putting adjectives ahead of nouns instead of after. This joke is completely lost in the English translation.
- Magic Feather: With no potion, Asterix tries to lift the spirits of the Britons with a cauldron of water and some herbs Getafix gave him. It works, and Mykingdomforanos plans to make the concoction the national drink. What plant did the herbs come from? Tea.
- Mid-Battle Tea Break: The Britons were in the habit of stopping a battle just so they could have a cup of hot water with milk. This, added with their refusal to fight on two days out of the week, led to their defeat when Caesar (unsporting chap that he is) launched attacks at 5:00 and on weekends.
- National Stereotypes: The Britons are depicted as calm, polite, reserved and imperturbable. Except when rugby is involved.
- Needle in a Stack of Needles: The barrel of magic potion ends up in a cellar full of identical looking wine barrels. Hilarity Ensues (see Alcohol-Induced Idiocy above).
- No Celebrities Were Harmed:
- Out-of-Character Moment:
- Anticlimax, normally calm and imperturbable, gets very excited when the rugby players arrive on the field. It even surprises Asterix and Obelix.
- Obelix leaves Dogmatix behind instead of taking him to Britain, while other albums have him take the dog everywhere.
- Placebo Effect: By lack of actual magic potion, Asterix makes a fake potion using a herb Getafix gave him and tells the Britons it's the real deal. It works.
- Punny Name: Zebigbos ("The big boss"), Anticlimax ("anticlimax", though in the French version he is named "Jolitorax" ("nice thorax").)
- Reference Overdosed: As with most Asterix stories this one is full of references and shout-outs. Several things Great Britain is famous for are referenced: rain, fog, their eccentric cuisine, tea, inns, darts, the Tower of London, double decker buses, The Beatles, umbrellas, gardening, driving on the left side of the road, imperial measurements and rugby.
- Rugby Is Slaughter: Even before Magic Potion is used (the only real rule is "use of weapons is prohibited unless agreed upon in advance"). Obelix approves.
- Stiff Upper Lip: The Britons. Even their displays of fear or anger in the face of adversity are usually subdued; when Asterix, Obelix, and Anticlimax cut across a Briton's immaculately kept garden, he simply grumbles, "Oh, I say! That's a bit off!" Then he calmly threatens the pursuing Romans with a spear.
Surtax: I heard about the Romans arresting you. It gave me quite a turn.Dipsomaniax: I say, Im fearfully pleased, too, Surtax!Surtax: We mustnt let our emotions run away with us.
- During the following conversation, neither Briton displays any hint of emotion.
- A Tale Told by an Idiot: In the original French version, Asterix's Briton cousin Jolitorax introduces himself as Asterix's "cousin germain" (the French term for first-degree cousins; in the English version, they are cousins "once removed") and asks to shake the Gauls by the hand. Obelix obliges (to Asterix's horror), and later explains to the chief that Jolitorax is a German Briton (in English, he says instead that "He was once removed") who must not be shaken even if he asks for it. Fortunately, as the narration notes, Asterix's explanation was rather clearer.
- Thrifty Scot: On learning that Asterix, Obelix and Anticlimax only want one cup of wine for three, the barkeep caustically guesses they're Caledonian.
- Time Marches On: As they arrive in Britain in the rain, Obelix suggests digging a tunnel. Anticlimax tells him the British have started digging one, but it looks like taking a jolly long time. Though proposals for a channel tunnel had repeatedly been made since the early 19th century, when the comic came out in in 1966 it still seemed unlikely to ever be built. Work on the tunnel began in 1988 and was completed in 1994. The joke still works because it took such a jolly long time indeed.
- Undefeatable Little Village: After all their problems with Asterix's village, the Romans have come up against one of these in Britain, too.
- Vacation Episode: Asterix and Obelix travel to Britannia, aka Great Britain.
- Verbal Tic:
- In the English version Anticlimax and all other Britons add "what" to the end of their sentences.Obélix: What do you keep on saying what for?
Anticlimax: I say, sir, don't you know what's what, what?
- Which was a splendid Woolseyism, as the original version had the Britons speak a form of literally translated English, peppering their speech with literal translations of "isn't it", "I beg your pardon", "I say", and occasionally, "what". Goscinny and Uderzo also reversed the word order in the sentences to make the French languages appear more "English" — they used the English grammar rule of adjectives always being placed before the name in French, where it may be grammatically incorrect — "magique potion" instead of "potion magique", "chaude eau" (hot water) instead of "eau chaude", and so on.
- In the original version, the quote above had Obélix asking Anticlimax why he reverses his words (the position of the adjective and noun is often inverted between French and English). Ironically, the one time he tries to imitate it he gets it wrong ("Have you seen my dog little?").
- In the English version Anticlimax and all other Britons add "what" to the end of their sentences.