Time out of joint? Why Astérix fought the Norsemen in Astérix and the Vikings

Elliott, Andrew B. R. (2011) Time out of joint? Why Astérix fought the Norsemen in Astérix and the Vikings. In: The Vikings on film: essays on the depictions of the Nordic middle ages. McFarland, Jefferson, NC, pp. 165-177. ISBN 9780786460441, 078646044X

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“Far, far to the north lies an unforgiving land where the nights last several moons, and the winters are cruel: this is the land of the Vikings. Here, fierce chieftains lead their mighty warriors to battle.” So begins the prologue to Asterix and the Vikings, introducing the fierce warriors as savage, marauding gangs to whom the concept of fear is so alien that they take literally their elder’s comment that “fear gives you wings”.
Such a short, albeit comic, introduction tells us, among other things, that already within the popular consciousness, the heterogeneous mix of Northmen gleamed from the pages of history have given rise to a single, unambiguous popular legacy. We, a twentieth-century audience, already know what to expect of them. This in turn raises two important questions, to which this essay will be addressed. The first of these is how this came to be—a question in part answered by other chapters in this volume—and how it is perpetuated in this short animation; the second is why and how their ubiquity has allowed them to make an appearance in a film about a remote village in Gaul under Roman occupation, and how Vikings can come to fight Romans at all.
Over the course of this study, then, I will examine how and whether their depiction here deviates from their ‘popular legacy’ elsewhere, before moving on to look at what I term the Peripatetic Viking Syndrome, through which (much like Arthur and Robin Hood), the Vikings have in this film been dislocated from any chronological setting and are free to ransack their way at will through the annals of History.
Factual and fanciful tales of the Nordic warriors known as Vikings have proven irresistible to filmmakers for nearly a century. Diverse, prominent actors from Kirk Douglas, Richard Widmark and Sidney Poitier to Tim Robbins and John Cleese, and noted directors, including Richard Fleischer, Clive Donner and Terry Jones, have all lent their talents to Viking-related films. These fourteen essays on films dealing with the Viking era discuss American, British and European productions. Analyzed in detail are such films as The Vikings (1958), The Long Ships (1964), Alfred the Great (1969), Erik the Viking (1989) and Outlander (2008), as well as a pair of comic-strip adaptations, the live-action Prince Valiant (1997) and the animated Asterix and the Vikings (2006).

Keywords:Vikings, Asterix, Middle Ages, Medieval, Medieval History, Historical film, History on film, Medieval film
Subjects:P Mass Communications and Documentation > P303 Film studies
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V130 Medieval History
Divisions:College of Arts > Lincoln School of Film & Media > Lincoln School of Film & Media (Media)
ID Code:4530
Deposited On:06 Jun 2011 14:51

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