He is the moustached crusader bravely defending the customs of ancient Gaul from stereotyped foreigners - from Brits who drink hot water with a dash of milk to the militaristic Germans and the short Portuguese. He has ribbed the Corsicans for being work-shy, violent and producing explosively smelly cheese, and Normandy villagers for lathering their food with cream. But now it seems that Asterix the Gaul is just too much of a "Gaul" for modern, multicultural France.
The belligerent hero is in a scrape over a new project illustrating the text of the UN charter for children's rights. When the illustrator, Albert Uderzo, celebrated his 80th birthday by offering Asterix's services to promote children's rights, France's children's ombudsman was delighted. The adventures of the magic potion-fuelled patriot have been read by three-quarters of French people.
The UN charter was duly illustrated with Asterix and his sidekick, Obelix, informing the children of Gaul of their rights in cartoons, including a bunch of children with black eyes patiently listening while they are told not to fight each other like barbarians.
But Jean-Pierre Rozenczveig, of Defence for Children International, complained that Asterix and his "Gaulish vision" were not representative of a modern, multicultural society. He said the hero "resisting the invaders" was a bad choice to defend a France "aspiring to a happy and peaceful coexistence of all its diverse groups".
The Gauls show no sign of surrender. The ombudsman, Dominique Versini, dismissed the row as a "storm in a tea-cup".