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Recap / Asterix in Spain

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For the fourteenth Asterix album, Goscinny and Uderzo's satirical eyes turn to France's neighbours South of the Pyrenees mountains.

A year after defeating Pompey's supporters at Thapsus, Julius Caesar has swept up the remnants at Munda (Montilla today), putting all of Hispania under Roman control. However, one village continues to resist the Romans. Having seen this sort of thing before, Caesar decides to investigate this village personally. Nearing it, he's confronted by an Iberian boy claiming to be the son of the village's chief, Huevos y Bacon. Caesar has the boy captured, and tells Bacon that his heir will be safe as long as there's no more trouble. Unhappy, Bacon consoles himself with the knowledge that the Romans will have their hands full keeping his son in line. Caesar decides that the chief's son needs to be taken out of Hispania, and has him sent to a garrison in Gaul - Totorum, to be exact.

Sure enough, the hostage proves to be quite a handful, especially for the transfer's head, Spurius Brontosaurus. The little brat makes outrageous demands, and holds his breath if he doesn't get it. Since Brontosaurus is under orders to keep the hostage well (and asphyxiation does the opposite) he has no choice but to comply. At the forest near the village of indomitable Gauls, the Legionary squad bumps into Asterix and Obelix, who are out hunting boars. One thumping later they have rescued the hostage, who explains his situation and gives his name, Pepe (short for Pericles - there are Greek ancestors in the family line). Brontosaurus tries to retrieve Pepe with help from the Legionaries of Totorum, but that does no good. Ultimately, Brontosaurus decides that it doesn't matter who takes care of Pepe - so long as he stays in Gaul. Totorum will watch over the village, and the Gauls can have the displeasure of caring for Pepe. With that, Brontosaurus returns to Hispania.

Pepe shows himself to be as bad a guest as he is a hostage; he refuses to eat the boar Asterix has prepared for him and demands fish instead, but changes his mind eats his own boar and Obelix's boar while the latter visits Unhygienix; an unsuccessful attempt to return the fish causes the series' first fish fight. Asterix tries to punish the brat by letting Cacofonix sing bedtime lullabies, but the Iberian child actually likes the bard's voice as it reminds him of home - especially the goats. One night of this is enough to convince the Gauls that it's their moral duty to return Pepe home. After shaking down the Legionaries keeping watch for directions to Pepe's village, Asterix, Obelix, Pepe (and Dogmatix, whom Pepe smuggled along) depart by sea on Unhygienix's boat for the Gaul-Hispania border. The Legionaries, for their part, choose not to say anything as they don't want their commanders to get upset.

After crossing the mountains along the border to avoid Roman patrols, the group stops by a restaurant in Pompaelo (now called Pamplona) for dinner. It just so happens that Brontosaurus is also having a meal there, and he has a panic attack when he sees that the hostage he was in charge of somehow made his way back to Hispania. Buying an Iberian's clothes and hay cart, Brontosaurus follows Asterix's crew, who have also bought a cart. The heroes stop by a camp of Nomads for the night, where Brontosaurus attempts to kidnap Pepe. A howl from Dogmatix gets the Nomads dancing again, spoiling the attempt.

The next morning, Asterix's cart breaks a wheel, and Brontosaurus, giving his name as Oloroso El Fiasco, lets them ride in his cart, hoping for a chance to grab Pepe when the Gauls aren't looking. But that chance never comes, and by the time they reach Hispalis (called Seville today), just north of Pepe's village, Brontosaurus is feeling desperate. As the group stops at an inn for the night (Asterix and Brontosaurus in one room, Obelix, Pepe and Dogmatix in another), Brontosaurus attempts to steal Asterix's gourd of Magic Potion while the Gaul sleeps. His theft is spoiled by Obelix's loud reaction to another of Pepe's demands, and the Roman flees into the street, causing him and Asterix to be arrested by a Legionary patrol. At the commander-in-chief's office, Brontosaurus explains the situation, and the C-In-C has some Romans check out the inn. But Obelix and Pepe aren't there, and Huevos y Bacon's village will be besieged.

Asterix and Brontosaurus are sent to the circus of Hispalis, where they learn that instead of lions, the Hispanian circus uses aurochs. A Roman noblewoman drops her red cloak into the arena, and Asterix's attempts to keep it from being dirtied ironically causes the aurochs to crash into a wall, defeating it. The noblewoman, who happens to be Caesar's half-sister of a cousin by marriage, requests that Asterix be pardoned, who requests, and gets, a pardon for Brontosaurus. Though he's drummed out of the Legion, Brontosaurus decides to become an 'aurochero' (not, an annotation remarks, 'aurocheador') in the arena.

Asterix arrives at Pepe's village, where a siege is happening. Obelix took Pepe there after Asterix got arrested, but the large Gaul powers through the siege to greet his friend, and powers back to take him into the village. The Romans decide to change tactics and build fortified camps around the village. Huevos y Bacon thanks the Gauls for returning his son. With a tearful farewell on Pepe, Obelix, and Dogmatix's part, the Gauls return for home. At the Gaulish village's celebratory banquet, Obelix shows off the singing and dancing he learned from the Nomads, much to the amusement of the Bound and Gagged Cacofonix and irritation of Fulliautomatix.

Note: The first appearance of Unhygienix and his wife Bacteria, as well as the first major fight between the villagers.


  • Actually Pretty Funny: Obelix is as annoyed with Pepe as everyone else, but he cracks up every time Pepe tells Vitalstatistix that he's got a big nose.
  • Been There, Shaped History:
    • Asterix introduces bull fighting to Spain when he and Brontosaurus are thrown in an arena with a large bull, and Asterix uses a red cloak that accidently fell in to defend himself. Brontosaurus, who watched the whole thing, decides to make a new career out of it for himself.
    • Unhygienix asks Obelix to make a payment in menhirs because he wants to "develop" a property in Carnac (Stonehenge in the English version).
  • Boring Return Journey: The journey back from Hispania to the Gaulish village is described very briefly.
  • Brats with Slingshots: Pepe dings Caesar twice with his (although while definitely a brat, he's actually armed with a sling, not a slingshot).
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Pepe. So much that Pity the Kidnapper ensues (and is expected both by Pepe's father and the Romans once the Gauls take him back).
  • Breath-Holding Brat: Currently provides the trope image; this is Pepe's main tactic for getting his way. When Obelix notices how effective it is, he starts using it too.
  • Brought Down to Badass: Having lost his magic potion doesnít make Asterix any less badass, as he singlehandedly fights off an enraged bull. It earns him the respect of the crowd, including a noblewoman whose red cloak Asterix used (and subsequently saved), who has him pardoned.
  • Brutish Bulls: In Hispania, you don't get thrown to the lions. You get thrown to the aurochs.
  • Canine Companion: Pepe becomes very fond of Dogmatix during the story.
  • Catchphrase: ďOleĒ is the catchphrase of all Iberians.
  • Characterization Marches On: When Asterix tells Vitalstatistix that the villagers are having a fight, he immediately comes out and reprimands them. In later comics, he would certainly take part in it himself. Granted, part of it was that he didn't want them fighting in front of a child, but he didn't know about that at first, and in later albums it's doubtful he would care.
  • Checkpoint Charlie: There is a huge traffic jam on the border between Gaul and Spain due to the Romans checking each carriage. Since they have Pepe with them, Asterix and Obelix hire a guide to get them across the border without getting seen by the Romans.
  • Dashing Hispanic: The Gauls party along with some Spanish musicians who anachronistically play flamenco music with castanets and beautiful female Spanish dancers.
  • Defector from Decadence: Brontosaurus quits the army to become the first torero after surviving his bout with an aurochs.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: There are a few references to The Franco Regime in the comic. The first one is that Asterix and Obelix must be extra careful when crossing the Spanish border, which of course didn't exist in Roman times. This references the smuggling that existed on the border in the 1960s. The Roman legionaries in Spain wear uniforms consisting of a blue tunic and red scarf, reminiscent of the Falange's blue jacket and red beret, and unlike the green fatigues used by all other Romans in the series (this number's Gaul section included). Finally, also uniquely in the series, Spain is run by an unnamed general when the Gauls arrive, despite Caesar himself appearing and antagonizing Pepe's father in person at the beginning of the comic.
  • Enfante Terrible: Wherever and whoever he is with, Pepe causes trouble. Even his own father points out that his son captured as a Roman hostage is bound to give the Romans more trouble than they bargained for, calling it his one consolation over the event.
  • Escalating Brawl: An argument between Obelix and Unhygienix about the latterís fish (Obelix wanted to buy one for Pepe, then tried to return it after the boy no longer wanted it) leads to a huge brawl between all the villagers. Much to Pepeís amusement.
  • Expy: Our heroes bump into expies of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in Hispania.
  • Historical Character's Fictional Relative: The noble-woman who pardons Asterix is Caesar's half-sister of a cousin by marriage.
  • Historical In-Joke: Unhygienix demands to be paid in menhirs for the renting of his boat, because he needs to lay out a plot in Carnac.
  • I Have Your Wife: Son rather than wife, but Caesar captures Huevos y Bacon the son to force Huevos y Bacon the father to submit to the invading Roman army.
  • The Highwayman: Asterix, Obelix, Pepe and a disguised Brontosaurus run into a group of bandits while on their way to Pepeís village. When he sees Asterix and Obelix fight them off, Brontosaurus realizes Asterix has a gourd of magic potion with him.
  • It's Always Mardi Gras in New Orleans: In all Spanish cities they visit, there is a national holiday involving a procession of the Druids.
  • Lazy Mexican: Asterix visits Spain, where several jokes are made about the supposed Spanish laziness. At one point, for instance, they travel over a bad road. Asterix complains about it, but his Spanish companion tells him: "Yeah, it's bad now, but in a few years you'll see it will be much better." As he says this there is one Spaniard calmly working on the road, all by himself. The underlying joke is that even today Spanish roads are still bad and the authors suggest it is because the Spaniards are just too lazy to do something about it.
  • Lost in Translation: A two-panel scene depicts Julius Caesar publicly pardoning a captured barbarian chief he has just been parading before the Roman public, after receiving much applause from everyone (including the prisoner!). This was done for a Caesar-relevant pun that only works in French: when asked what Caesar is doing, one of the bystanders explains "il affranchit le rubicond" ("he is freeing the red(head)"). Which is almost the same, in French, as "il a franchi le Rubicon" ("he has crossed the Rubicon"), one of Caesar's most famous historical deeds, and the one that started the civil war that Caesar is now returning victorious from. In translated versions, this was completely lost; while the English version was fairly amusing in providing the excuse for a few puns about having a "captive audience" or the chief being "clapped in irons", it seemed to serve no other purpose than being a page filler (it served as the last two panels on the page it appeared on).
  • Man Bites Man: Pepe frequently bites the people that try to restrain him or donít do as he says.
  • Moving Buildings: In a parody of modern day tourists with caravans, the various tourists waiting for the Spanish border all have houses on wheels, pulled by horses.
  • National Stereotypes:
    • The Hispanians (Spaniards) are depicted with black hair, moustaches and are all proud but lazy people who enjoy watching bull fights. The Spanish roads are bad.
    • In the hotel obese Gothic (German) tourists are seen. This is Truth in Television: whenever you go on a holiday in Europe you're bound to meet some obese German tourists.
  • Oh, Crap!: Brontosaurus when he sees Asterix and Obelix have brought Pepe back to Spain.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Pepeís actual name is Pericles (his family has some Greek ancestors), but he only once mentions this name to Asterix and Obelix. The rest of the time, heís called Pepe by everybody.
  • Pity the Kidnapper: The Roman squad chosen to bring Pepe to Gaul. Among other things, the bratty boy forces them to play hide-and-seek, and demands oysters in the middle of Gaul.
  • Running Gag:
    • There is one about the fact that Unhygienix might rent out fish instead of selling it. Itís all due to a misunderstanding between him and Obelix, who tried to return a fish after he no longer needed it.
    • Pepe, and later Obelix, holding his breath until his demands are met.
  • Save the Villain: While in the arena, Asterix saves Brontosaurus from the bull. And after being pardoned himself, he convinces the Romans to pardon Brontosaurus as well.
  • Shout-Out: When Cacofonix is asked to sing Pepe a lullaby, he sings ďIím dreaming of a white solsticeĒ.
  • Spoiled Brat: As the chieftain's son, Pepe has been brought up with the knowledge that he's got certain rights, and by golly he's going to insist on having every last one of them observed!
  • Throw the Dog a Bone:
    • Cacofonix finally encounters another person who likes his music; Pepe.
    • The Gauls spare the pirateís ship for once, though they do take all the provisions.
  • Undefeatable Little Village: The village ruled by Huevos Y Bacon. Caesar notes that he's seen this sort of thing in other places...
  • Toros y Flamenco: Obviously. In typical Astérix fashion, both titular ones make a direct appearance despite the centuries older setting.
  • Vacation Episode: Asterix and Obelix travel to Hispania, aka Spain. Also used as a satire of French tourists, as Spain was a popular low-cost vacation spot at the time (hence the comments about the roads, the food, etc.).
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: After Asterix is taken captive, his gourd of magic potion is confiscated by the Roman general. He drinks from it and sees the effects of the potion for himself when he punches a legionary. But afterwards, the gourd simply vanishes from the story, never to be seen or mentioned again. Of course, one could argue that the general drank the last of the potion, but itís still strange Asterix never tries to get his gourd back.
  • Xanatos Gambit: After the Gauls rescue Pepe and the Romans fail to get him back, Brontosaurus concludes that it makes no difference; whether the Romans keep Pepe in their camp or the Gauls keep him in their village, he will be looked after and kept in Gaul, away from his father, either way. Of course, as long as the Gauls decide not to take Pepe anywhere.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: Said word for word by Pepe as he single handedly tries to stop Caesar and some of his soldiers, armed with nothing but a slingshot. Itís how he ends up captured by the Romans.

"These Hispanians are crazy!"