Tuesday, April 21, 1998

The Asterix Fribble
By Selena Maranjian (

There's a series of comic books that some of you might be familiar with. (The odds of your being familiar with it might increase if you've ever lived abroad or traveled abroad, especially when young.) Full of puns and clever language play, the "Asterix" series is set in Gaul around 50 B.C. Let me describe this comic some more, as I explain its parallels with Foolishness.

In the time of Asterix, all of Gaul has been taken over by the Romans, doing their empire thing. (The entire financial world is teeming with the Wise.) Except for one little village of Gauls. (Except for a modest online community of Fools.) The villagers are constantly engaged in battles with Roman soldiers. (The Fools are constantly battling with conventional Wall Street wisdom.) Helping the villagers fend off the Romans is a magic potion, brewed by the druid Getafix. (Helping the Fools is the truth, brewed and published online by Fool staffers and readers alike.)

The village is full of lots of colorful characters. (The online community features a motley band of Fools.) There's Obelix, the guy who delivers menhirs -- menhirs being large monoliths, like the ones in Stonehenge. (There's TMF RFK, our Fool deliveryperson, who sends the Evening News and other subscription products on their way to you -- and scribbles Fribbles, too.) There's Asterix, the cleverest and perhaps most respected villager, the main protagonist of most episodes. (We've got David and Tom Gardner, our own protagonists and spokesmodels.) There's Dogmatix, Obelix's furry little canine friend. (There are so many doggies running in and out of Fool HQ every now and then that I don't dare try to name them all.)

Asterix comics teach you a little about the life and times of ancient Gaul, while entertaining you with wordplay. Indeed, some jokes are so esoteric that scholarly websites exist to offer a little extra illumination. Character names include Absolutlifabulous, a priest; Edifis, an Egyptian architect; Vitalstatistix, the village chief; Impedimenta, the chief's wife; Justforkix, the chief's teenage nephew; Anticlimax, a Gaul; Cacofonix, the village bard; Unhygienix, the fish monger; Bacteria, the fish monger's wife; and Geriatrix, the village's oldest inhabitant. (Fools teach you a little about investing and money and also use humor and wordplay. And some of us have funny names, too.)

Asterix comics have been translated into scores of languages. For example, a common refrain, "These Romans are crazy!", reads as "Erromatar hauek burutik jota daude!" in Basque; "Y Rhufeiniaid 'ma, mae nhw'n wallgo!" in Welsh; "Orang-orang Romawi memang gila" in Indonesian; "Ili frenezas, tiuj romianoj!" in Esperanto; and "Ils sont fous ces Romains!" in French, the comic's original language. (Foolishness has also begun crossing linguistic and geographic bounds. We now have Fools in almost every corner of the globe, and have launched Fool UK, carefully translating our fare into words that the British will understand. We're considering translating our website into Latin next.)

Asterix comics have been terrific sellers in bookstores. Indeed, a CNN report in 1996 noted that the latest new book had "an initial print run of 8 million copies, in 15 languages, one of the largest in publishing history." (Fool investing books have been on many a best-seller list and remain there at the time of this writing.)

According to that same report, Asterix is the best-known comic character in Europe, putting to shame both Mickey Mouse and Tintin. (Motley Fools are the best-known fools on Wall Street and, dare we say it -- beyond?)

There's a popular Asterix theme park located outside Paris. (Hmm... well, who's to say that in a few years we won't see Fool-land open in America's heartland, complete with a short-term-trader roller coaster?)

If this has piqued your interest at all, I recommend you check out an Asterix comic or two. The first one is Asterix the Gaul. All are fun and most poke fun at a particular culture or historical phenomenon, as Asterix and Obelix often travel to other countries in their adventures. Consider Asterix and Cleopatra or Asterix at the Olympic Games or Asterix in Britain. Or any of the 25-some other books.

Fool on!

Here are some other Fribbles Selena has written:

The Hippo Feet Fribble
The Donner Party Fribble
The TV Guide Crossword Puzzle Fribble
The Lady and the Tramp Fribble
The Spellchecking Frizzle
The Pterodactyl Wing Fribble
The Burt Bacharach Fribble
The Marching Band Fribble
The Solid Gold Cadillac Fribble
The Klark Kent Fribble
The Fred Schwed Fribble
The Oseola McCarty Fribble

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