Obelix Publication information Publisher Dargaud First appearance Asterix the Gaul (1959) Created by René Goscinny
In-story information Abilities Superhuman strength provided by magical potion
Obelix (Obélix in French) is a fictional character from the French comic book series Asterix. He works as a menhir sculptor and deliveryman, and is Asterix's best friend. Obelix is noted for his fatness, the menhirs he carries around on his back and his superhuman strength. He is the only Gaul in Asterix's village who is permanently superhumanly strong since he fell into a cauldron of magic potion when he was a baby. Because of Obelix's already enormous strength, he is not allowed to drink the magic potion ever again, a ban he regards as being tremendously unfair. Other characteristics are his simplemindedness, his love and care for his dog Dogmatix, his anger when someone refers to him as being "fat", his enthusiasm for hunting and eating wild boars and beating up Romans. His catchphrase is: "Ils sont fous ces romains", which translates into "These Romans are crazy!", although he considers many other nationalities to be just as strange.
He is a large man who does not see himself as fat, preferring to call himself "well covered" or having a chest that has "slipped a bit". From Asterix and the Banquet onwards—previously he had simply expressed ignorance of being fat, such as when he merely commented that he wished he had known he was too fat to pose as a lion in Asterix the Gladiator—Obelix is so in denial over this matter that he usually does not even notice when other people refer to him as "that fat one", and often shows total confusion over which fat person people are referring to. When he does understand the allusions are made on his behalf he flies into a rage and starts beating up the person who said it. Sometimes, when he is in a bad mood, just hearing the word "fat"—even if it is not in reference to him—can quickly enrage him. Being called fat, or being hinted as being fat, is one of the main causes of conflicts between Asterix and Obelix which leads to more developing conflicts in which they must work together, once escalating to the point that Obelix actually gave Asterix amnesia when he hit him too hard during an argument (Asterix and the Actress). Although they usually simply insult each other verbally they inevitably make up swiftly. Sometimes, Obelix can be so paranoic over the allusion of the word Fat that he can even break the fourth wall with the mere mention of this. Visibly in Asterix and the Black Gold, when the narrator points out that their (Asterix and Obelix's) vessel was pulled like a "Big and fat fish", Obelix become clearly offended and yells "WHO IS FAT!?.
Obelix is Asterix's closest friend (they even have the same birthday - although this is inconsistent with the comic Obelix and Co., where only Obelix's birthday is celebrated). He generally works as a menhir delivery man. His passions in life are hanging around with Asterix, hunting and eating wild boar, making and carrying his menhirs, and beating up Roman legionnaries (and occasionally collecting their helmets). Obelix has a little dog named Dogmatix (Fr. Idéfix), whom he adores. His parents live now in Condate (as seen in Asterix and the Actress) and his distant cousin Metallurgix, a golden sickle maker, lives in Lutetia (as seen in Asterix and the Golden Sickle).
Obelix's favourite food is roast wild boar which he usually hunts with Asterix, but he has a voracious appetite, and will try eating nearly anything with few exceptions; in Asterix and Obelix All at Sea and Asterix in Britain he seems to not like boiled boar. In fact, he eats nuts and oysters in the shell, and is completely oblivious to drugs, spicy food and poison. However, when he consumes alcohol, he gets very drunk very quickly. Although he has his own house, Obelix is occasionally shown staying overnight at Asterix's.
Obelix owns the quarry where he chisels the menhirs himself. It is never directly stated what the menhirs are used for, though it is hinted that they are just oversized knick-knacks; however they are probably a running-gag regarding the origins of the mystery surrounding Menhirs in ancient Europe, with the joke being that Obelix delivered them. Obelix usually trades the stones away for whatever he needs, resulting in the village having a literal field of menhirs.
Obelix is kind-hearted, but socially inept — possibly because his strength means that others have had to adapt to him instead of vice-versa. He is still not completely aware of his own strength and almost invariably breaks any door he gently knocks on. He is frequently used as a human battering ram for opening locked doors or breaking through walls. Similarly, he is unaware that others do not share his superhuman strength, and shows great surprise when others are crushed by what he calls "a little menhir", or when Asterix attempts to explain to him that a small dog like Dogmatix cannot lift a menhir. He also has little interest in subjects of formal education or intellectual pursuits, since sheer strength usually solves his problems; he generally leaves any decisions to Asterix. However, Obelix is not completely stupid. In Asterix and the Normans he deduces from various clues that Cacofonix the bard has gone to Lutetia to pursue a career in popular music: this unusual display of intelligence on Obelix's part surprises Getafix. He also surprises Asterix in Asterix and the Black Gold by reeling off a dictionary definition of wild boar in conversation (including the Latin taxonomical classification).
While cheerfully violent and enjoying a good fight, Obelix is far from brutal or sadistic: he tends to view fighting as a game and is generally friendly and polite (to the point of inappropriate courtesy) towards his opponents. He extends this benevolence even towards the Romans, whom he rarely seems to view as oppressors but more as less-willing participants in his rough-housing.
Like Asterix, Obelix is a bachelor, but he is easily smitten by a pretty face. He harbours a hopeless crush on Panacea, the daughter of Soporifix (one of the other villagers), and occasionally other young women, most notably Mrs. Geriatrix (which enrages her husband). However, one may think that he will eventually find a mate and have children since in Asterix and the Class Act, he is shown to be the founder of a long dynasty of French warriors that lasted well into the 20th century.
Obelix's trademark phrase is "These Romans are crazy" ("Ils sont fous ces romains": in the Italian translation, it is "Sono pazzi questi Romani", which can be shortened to S.P.Q.R., Rome's motto), although he has applied a variant of it to nearly every group he's met in his travels: "These Britons are crazy", "These Corsicans are crazy" etc. This remark is followed by him tapping his forehead. It is a parody of the quote "These Gauls are crazy", which Julius Caesar famously said while describing the Gauls' fighting style during his conquest of the region.
Unlike the other villagers, Obelix has no need to drink Getafix the druid's magic potion that gives superhuman strength, because he fell into the cauldron as a baby and its effect on him became permanent. The story of that incident is told in How Obelix Fell into the Magic Potion When he was a Little Boy. Since this effect was not intended or expected, Getafix refuses to allow him even one more drop except under the direst circumstances (either out of fear for his life, or fear for the lives of others should the inattentive and uncoordinated strongman become any stronger), which annoys Obelix greatly. (In Asterix and Obelix All at Sea, it is revealed that too much of the potion can turn the drinker to stone; exactly how much is not known, but a whole cauldron will certainly do the trick. This appears to only work on grown people as Obelix did not turn to stone as a baby, or may simply occur after drinking an excessive amount while still under the effects of a previous dose). However, in Asterix and Cleopatra, Getafix gives him a few drops to open a door in the Great Pyramid's Labyrinth but he comments that he does not see much difference between "before and after the potion".
Although it has been clearly stated by both Getafix (in Asterix the Gaul) and Asterix (in Asterix and the Laurel Wreath) that the magic potion does NOT grant invulnerability as well as superhuman strength- meaning that they could be injured by the Romans in their fights but their raw strength generally prevents the Romans getting the chance to do so-, the same does not seem to be true of Obelix; he does not even notice when attackers attempt to knock him unconscious with blows to the head, when Roman spearheads are stuck in his bottom in Asterix in Corsica or when anyone else attempts to harm him in any way. This may imply that Obelix, either by stupidity or ignorance, simply does not notice or react to the pain that should be inflicted, or that the potion has enhanced his overall strength- since it has been shown to increase the drinker's endurance allowing them to run faster- to such a point where his muscles allow him to effortlessly absorb the attacks in question (Since most of the occasions where Obelix demonstrates invulnerability include him being attacked physically rather than with sharp objects, since that in Asterix and the Magic Carpet, an arrow accidentally hits Obelix buttocks and he yells in agony, and thus showing that Obelix isn't above physical pain).
Obelix does sometimes display twisted views, especially when it comes to the relationship between the Gauls and the Romans. As far as he is concerned the more Romans he can beat up the better and nobody should deny him this, not even the "selfish" Roman victims themselves:
- In Asterix in Britain, he dismisses the claim that the Romans have invaded Britain; he believes that the Britons dragged the Romans over there in order to have all the fun for themselves. During a rugby match, Obelix is bored until he sees how violent the game can get, and is overjoyed, recommending that they play rugby in Gaul.
- In Asterix in Corsica, it is revealed that the villagers attack the Romans at least once a year in order to celebrate the Gaulish victory at Gergovia. When the Romans leave their camps in order to avoid the attacks, Obelix sees this behaviour as crazy and detrimental to their "friendly" relationship.
- In Asterix and Obelix All at Sea, he has a dream (or nightmare as he puts it) in which the Romans pull out of Gaul. He's horrified at the idea of such a dream coming true. He also declares that the idea of peace with the Romans is offensive to the memory of Vercingetorix. Far more likely is the fact that peace will mean that he will not be able to bash the Romans anymore, a prospect he dreads. He then comments on the good "sense" of the Romans in attacking the village (Although they were actually merely planning a parade to welcome an admiral).
- The Roman civil war between the Caesar and Pompey features in Asterix and the Actress. When he witnesses a battle between Roman troops, Obelix murmurs "What a waste!". But this is not so much on the wasted lives as the fact that it means that he has fewer Romans to bash himself.
Gerard Depardieu portrays Obelix in all three life-action French films based on various comics. Late Jacques Morel and Jacques Frantz voiced him in 1967-1968 and 2006 cartoons, respectively. Pierre Tornade voiced him in most French versions of cartoons. Bernard Bresslaw, Howard Lew Lewis and Brad Garrett voiced him in English dubs of cartoons.
Obelix's name is a pun on the French word obélisque (obelisk), suggested by rotund physique and his habit of casually carrying heavy stone monuments (menhirs) around with him. In fact "obelisk" is also (in both French and English) a variant of the word obelus (obèle), a typographical mark ("†") often found in a companion role to that of the asterisk, after which his friend Asterix is named.
Notes and references
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