Thursday, July 07, 2011

Druid Dumbledore and Wizard Getafix

Albus Dumbledore casts a spell on himself.
Books, comics and movies are a delightful source of trivia—little scraps and pieces of information that are of little or no significance. Yet, it is in the books we devour, the comics we read and the movies we see that we often find something fascinating and out of the ordinary. Mere observations, they go unnoticed unless someone tells us about them or they just pop into our minds.

Here’s one: Did J.K. Rowling fashion Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, on Getafix the Druid from the tiny Gaulish village in Asterix comics? Of course, she didn't! Or did she?

The similarities between the two old warhorses are so remarkable that they wouldn’t be out of place if they switched places—Dumbledore as the venerable druid in the Gaulish village and Getafix as the great wizard of Hogwartz. Harry and Asterix wouldn’t know the difference. Neither would their friends Ron and Hermione or Obelix and Dogmatix.

Druid Getafix whips up a goulash.
To start with, both Dumbledore and Getafix are masters of their occupations, as well as preoccupations. If Albus is the greatest wizard of all time (let’s forget Voldemort for now), Getafix is the brightest druid of all (strangely, he has no rival); Toutatis knows how many times he has won the competition at the annual druids conference in the Forest of the Carnutes.

Both are mentors and father-figures: Dumbledore to Harry Potter and Getafix to Asterix. Friend, philosopher and guide neither of our little heroes can get by without. But they do get by, ever so often, out of the shadows of their guardians and headlong into daring and dangerous adventures that imperil everyone in their path.

The wise old men are very fond and protective of their wards; orphans really, for we know Harry’s parents were murdered when he was in diapers, while little is known about Asterix’s folks except that his mother was Sarsparilla and his father was Astronomix, and the druid was already around when the brave warrior was born.

In appearance, the wizard and the druid might as well be looking into a mirror (the magic Mirror of Erised, if you like). Who looks first doesn’t matter. Both are tall, sport long hair and beard, have hooked noses, and wear flowing robes and cloaks. Even their mannerisms are alike, whether it is their eccentricity, mischievous look, twinkle in the eye, principled stand, righteous anger or wonderful sense of humour.

The magical Elder Wand is to Dumbledore what the resourceful Golden Sickle is to Getafix. Neither can do without his ‘weapon’. Imagine Albus fighting Voldemort without his wand or the druid getting ready to prepare his magic potion without the aid of his sickle.

Read Asterix and the Golden Sickle and you’ll know what the sickle means to Getafix. It’s very unlike the grand old sage to scream out “It’s a disaster!” when, perched on a tree, he accidentally breaks it into two. And off goes Asterix, with Obelix in tow, to Lutetia to buy a new one for his druid.

In the weapons department, Dumbledore’s powerful magical spells are evenly matched by Getafix’s secret potion that gives superhuman strength. Together, they would be a deadly combination. 

The wizard and the druid have another thing in common: both have mastered the art of fighting death. No one knows exactly how old they are, and they are very, very old. Dumbledore is supposed to be 116 when Rowling bumps him off in The Half-Blood Prince though the Philosopher’s Stone could have kept him alive to play godfather to generations of Harry’s descendants. Getafix’s age is never talked about and he appears unchanged in the 30-plus Asterix comics.

Breaking news in The Daily Prophet: Getafix the Druid replaces Severus Snape as potions master at Hogwartz, and Albus Dumbledore, wand at the ready, teleports himself into the Gaulish village with a loud pop—and lands on top of a menhir.

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