Getafix is the village druid. In appearance he is tall with a white beard, white robe, red cloak. He is usually seen in possession of a small golden sickle. While his age is never stated, in the story of Asterix's birth (in which all but the oldest villagers are seen as small children) he appears unchanged. In Asterix and the Big Fight the druid Psychoanalytix (who appears quite old) refers to him as his elder and teacher. In Asterix and Obelix's Birthday: The Golden Book, as a gag, Getafix at age 50 appears to be frail and old while in the other books he appeared healthy. In Asterix and the Goths while on the annual conference to show his potion he said. I need a frail druid and that druid appeared to have a walking stick which Getafix did not need despite his long beard.
Although known for his strength-enhancing magic potion, he has many other magical and medicinal potions at his disposal — including a potion to make hair grow quickly, a potion to cure a man who has been poisoned with a drug that would kill him in a matter of days, and a potion that restores a person to full health after injury (although this potion also causes the person who takes it to lose their recent memories while also interacting badly with the magic potion) — and acts as the village doctor and occasional teacher. Asterix (and most other villagers) will consult him whenever anything strange occurs. He does not engage normally himself in combat, whereas most of the villagers enjoy a good punch-up (even with each other). One exception is one of the stories explaining Gaulish women, using Mrs. Geriatrix as an example, in which he involves himself in a fight sparked by Impedimenta. The final cut is shown with all the male villagers and two females, Impedimenta and Bacteria included, with Getafix running to stop the fight, with a piece of fish flying towards him. His most notable brawl is when, masquerading as a cook in The Great Divide, he makes a magic potion (passing it off as soup) to free the enslaved men from the divided village, captured by the Romans — and doing a test run on the slaves who were present — and then starts distributing slaps with obvious enjoyment.
As the only individual able to produce the "magic potion" upon which the villagers rely for their strength, he is the focus of many stories ranging from the Romans attempting to put him out of commission in some manner to requesting that Asterix and Obelix help him find some missing ingredient-, and the conscience of the village. On a few occasions, he has refused to make the potion when the villagers become too selfish, most notably in Asterix and Caesar's Gift where he refused to provide the potion for anyone while the village was divided by an upcoming vote for a new chief, only to provide them with it once again when Vitalstatistix asked Getafix to provide the potion for Orthopedix, the man he had been running against for chief. He has also occasionally been taken prisoner by hostile forces to get access to the potion, only to be freed again thanks to Asterix and Obelix. Finding ingredients for his potions has also sent Asterix on several adventures. The full recipe of the magic potion itself has never been revealed, but known ingredients are mistletoe (which must be cut with a golden sickle), a whole lobster (an optional ingredient that improves the flavour), fish, salt, and petroleum (called rock oil in the book), which is later replaced by beetroot juice. Replenishing the stores of ingredients for the magic potion has led to some adventures for Asterix and Obelix, including Asterix and the Great Crossing, Asterix and the Golden Sickle and Asterix and the Black Gold.
Getafix is very similar to many wise old men who act as mentors and father-figures to the heroes, including Merlin, Gandalf, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Albus Dumbledore. In Goscinny's earlier works, however, Getafix came across more as just a friend of the protagonists rather than a wise old counselor. He was also, from the very beginning, shown as a figure of fun and had a wonderful sense of humour: in Asterix the Gaul he'd cut his finger while using his sickle and roar with uncontrollable laughter at Asterix's teasing of the Roman Centurion; in Asterix and the Big Fight he was shown as going literally crazy.
Asterix, France's Superman and Ego
In the land of Voltaire and Balzac, of Proust and Sartre, it is Albert Uderzo who has sold more books than any French writer before him. Albert Uderzo? Well, as Ian Fleming discovered with James Bond, invented heroes have a way of stealing the limelight. And in this case, it is actually Mr. Uderzo's comic strip character, Asterix, who is the crowd-puller.
Indeed, 37 years after he was created by Mr. Uderzo and his late partner, Rene Goscinny, as France's answer to the Disney characters, the feisty Gallic warrior with the droopy mustache has become such a monument of French popular culture that publication of a new Asterix adventure book is a national occasion.
This month, accompanied by the customary newspaper articles and interviews, television news items and long lines outside book stores, 'La Galere d'Obelix,' the 30th hard-cover book in the series, appeared. Its first printing in French: 2.8 million copies, with some 120,000 books sold on Oct. 10, the day of publication.
So what is the appeal of Asterix and his merry band of Gauls? The story so far (or actually from the beginning and ever since) revolves around a little Gallic village on the Brittany coast that is holding out against the Roman invaders in the year 50 B.C. Four Roman camps have long besieged the village, but somehow the legionnaires are always outmaneuvered by the hapless Gauls.
Being hapless is, of course, part of the joke. The idea is that like the French, the Gallic villagers spend their time arguing and eating. But when threatened, they unite and magically (thanks to a magic potion) defeat the enemy. That the lessons of recent French history suggest a different outcome is not the point. 'They're like us, exasperating but endearing,' one French woman said. 'Asterix is our ego.'
The texts also include many 'in' jokes for the French. For example, there was a genuine Gallic rebel leader called Vercingetorix, so a lot of the comic strip Gauls are given names with double meanings ending with -ix, including Asterix's overweight pal, Obelix; the venerable Druid Panoramix; the villager Choucroutegarnix, and the ever-present dog Idefix (idee fixe, of course, equals fixed idea).
All of which has the French tittering, which is fine, except how to explain that Asterix has also conquered more territories than Napoleon? Along with 2.8 million French-language copies of 'La Galere d'Obelix' ('Obelix's Galley'), 5.2 million copies in 13 other languages went on sale this month in every country of Western Europe and as far away as Indonesia and Brazil. Worldwide sales of Asterix books have reached 280 million in 78 languages. The breakdown of these numbers brings further surprises. For example, 2.4 million copies of the new book have been printed in German, while total sales of Asterix books in Germany now exceed 75 million (compared with some 90 million in France).
In contrast, Italy, which has no comic tradition, has printed only 50,000 copies this time around, although the misfortunes of the Romans seem to amuse people in Milan. Still, with Asterix as popular in Spain as he is in Finland, his appeal is fairly broad.
'It's a puzzle to me why Asterix happened the way it did,' Mr. Uderzo said in an interview. 'Rene and I had previously created other characters with as much passion and enthusiasm, but only Asterix was a hit. I think it's perhaps because everyone recognizes himself in the characters. The idea of the weak who defeat the strong appeals. After all, we all have someone stronger lording it over us: the Government, the police, the tax collector.'