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 became clearly offended and yelled "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 inAsterix 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). He can also be quite dangerous when angered.
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" though this is presumably because Obelix is used to accomplishing any physical task with ease.
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. Most of the occasions where Obelix demonstrates invulnerability include him being attacked physically rather than with sharp objects, as in Asterix and the Magic Carpet, when an arrow accidentally hits his bottom and he yells in agony, and thus showing that Obelix isn't above physical pain).
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.'