The Asterix Project
Advertisement
The main pirate trio

In the course of their travels, Asterix and Obelix regularly cross paths with — and beat up — a group of pirates. The Gauls then proceed to sink their ship, causing the pirates severe financial difficulties.

The pirates made their first appearance in the fourth Asterix adventure, Asterix the Gladiator, first published in Pilote magazine in 1962. They were parodies of the stars of the comic series Barbe-Rouge (French for "Redbeard"), created by writer Jean-Michel Charlier and artist Victor Hubinon, which was also being published in Pilote at the time.

Barbe-Rouge tells the adventures of a red-haired 18th-century pirate and his crew which includes Eric, his adopted son; Triple-Patte ("Tripod"), his peg-legged second-in-command; and Baba the African sailor. These four characters were all parodied by Goscinny and Uderzo and are supported by a varying crew. (Eric was parodied only once as Erix in Asterix and the Banquet but mentioned in Asterix and Cleopatra as being left as a deposit on a new ship.)

The pirates' appearance in the Gladiator adventure proved so popular that they have featured in most of the subsequent stories. Although Barbe-Rouge is a popular series in its own right in continental Europe, the popularity of Asterix's pirates is one of the few occasions when parody figures have overshadowed their originals.

In the later adventures, the crew has included sight gags, such as a Frankenstein's Monster and a Mongol warrior.

Most of the time, Asterix and Obelix simply board the pirates' ship, beat them up and then sink them, but the pirates sometimes sink their own ship in order to at least avoid a beating, which they did in Asterix and Cleopatra. Later the pirates got jobs rowing the very ship which took the Gauls back home from Egypt — the captain also expressing the rather unusual determination to later find the Gauls and get his revenge.

The pirates again sank themselves when they came across a ship which included all the men from Asterix's village. In the event, however, the captain of the Gauls' ship told the passengers that fighting the pirates would be an extra cost, whereupon the villagers decided not to bother (Asterix at the Olympic Games).

At other times, it is Asterix and Obelix who have boarded the pirates' vessel and captured booty, thus reversing their roles of hunter and prey. This has happened mainly in the quest for food in an empty ocean (Asterix in Spain). On another occasion, Asterix and Obelix take all the food on the ship, leaving the pirates with a single sausage for the Captain's birthday (Asterix and the Great Crossing).

It happened again in Asterix and the Magic Carpet with Asterix leaving a single coin for payment; the Captain told his depressed crew that it was better than nothing and that at least they hadn't been beaten up and they still had the ship, but then their lookout proudly announced that he had upheld their honour and scuttled the ship himself. The other pirates were not impressed.

On one occasion (in Asterix the Legionary) after the wreck the pirates were depicted in a scene similar to Théodore Géricault's Raft of the Medusa. In this scene the captain also refers to an ancient Gaulish artist called "Jericho".

The pirates once tried to earn an honest living by turning their grounded ship into a restaurant, only for Asterix and Obelix to smash the place up. While the rest of the crew got bashed by the Gauls, the African lookout hid in a boiling cauldron on a fire. The pirates returned to sea and ended up rich when a cauldron full of coins landed on their ship (see Asterix and the Cauldron).

Such is the fear that the pirates have for the Gauls that they would rather flee even when the subjects of their fear are in a vulnerable position. This occured when they were hired by a Corsican exile to take him and some friends to Corsica. The friends were in fact none other than Asterix and Obelix but, when they boarded the ship in the middle of the night, it was so dark that they and the captain failed to recognise each other. During the crossing, the pirates sneaked into their passengers' cabin with the intention to rob and kill them, but, when they realised that the sleeping passengers were their Gaulish nemesis, they fled in a rowing boat rather than take the risk of awakening them (see Asterix in Corsica).

Asterix also twice forced the Captain to spend all his hard-won loot on the merchandise of Ekonomikrisis the Phoenician merchant (see Asterix and the Black Gold).

Gallery[]

Advertisement