20

In Asterix and the Magic Carpet, Cacofonix's singing produces rain. (Previously, this had never happened.)

Why is it that when Cacofonix sings, it rains in #28 (Magic Carpet, 1987), but not in Books #1-27 (1961-83)? (Others may disagree, but I find this problematic, puzzling, and in need of explanation.)

(This effect also continues in the next book Asterix and the Secret Weapon.)


Four of the five current answers simply quote from Wikipedia's (unsourced) assertion that there is a French saying that when one sings poorly, it rains.

This could very well be an explanation. But absent either in-universe (i.e. within the comic books, perhaps cleared up in later books) or out-of-universe (e.g. interviews with Uderzo) evidence, this is just speculation. Moreover, it is unsatisfying because it fails to address my above question (in bold).


Edit: In case it isn't clear, I am not disputing the existence of such a French saying. I am disputing that the existence of such a French saying is a satisfactory explanation to my question. In particular, it fails to explain why Cacofonix's singing had not previously produced rain in the previous 27 books.

  • 3
    Whow, that is interesting. Today, I learned something new. In German, that character's name is Troubadix, and for 30 years until 30s ago, that was always the one and only name I associated with that character. – Jörg W Mittag Jun 15 '20 at 17:22
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    @JörgWMittag I assume the names are all puns in the relevant language? Troubadix seems like a play on “troubadour”. Cacofonix is from “cacophony”. – Darren Jun 15 '20 at 17:26
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    Actually, "troubadour" is not even German, it is French (although intelligible to an educated German audience as a loan word), but interestingly, in French, that character's name is something completely different (meaning "comprehensive insurance"), which seems kind of … strange. It's always interesting how puns get translated … or not. It took me 10 years until I saw the original version for the first time to get the "ketchup" joke in Pulp Fiction. In the German dubbed version, she tells the exact same joke, but of course the word "ketchup" is not a pun in German. – Jörg W Mittag Jun 15 '20 at 17:33
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    … So, the joke makes absolutely no sense. – Jörg W Mittag Jun 15 '20 at 17:34
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    @JörgWMittag The Asterix books are famous for their translations making the jokes relevant to the translated language, pioneered by Anthea Bell in the English version. The most obvious example is the dog Ideefix (in French) becoming Dogmatix (in English), which not only has the original meaning but of course is also a pun on "dog". Goscinny is on record as having seen some of Bell's equivalent English jokes and saying admiringly "I wish I'd thought of that". – Graham Jun 15 '20 at 18:30
43

This is an ongoing joke that Cacofonix's singing is so bad, it causes negative things to happen (a common trope).

A group proposes a toast at a banquet but Cacofonix starts signing in a  treehouse which causes it to rain; when he stops singing the rain stops again

According to Wikipedia (My emphasis):

In Asterix and the Normans [his singing] is so unbearable that it teaches the fearless Normans the meaning of fear. In later albums his music is so spectacularly horrible that it actually starts thunderstorms (even indoors), because of an old French saying that bad singing causes rain.

The joke even leads to him causing it to rain inside:

Cacofonix sings inside and it starts raining in the building, a gentlemen walks passed in the sun and notices it is only raining inside the bulding

And sometimes even leads to Cacofonix saving the day:

Cacofonix's singing started the monsoon season which was delayed resulting in people bathing in a stream

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    This doesn't answer the question at all and simply reproduces a few screenshots from Asterix and the Magic Carpet which is what the question is about. (All three of your attached images are from that book.) – JerryS1988 Jun 15 '20 at 7:55
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    @JerryS1988 Q:"Why does Cacofonix's singing produce rain?". A: "It's a recurring joke and common trope that his singing is so bad it makes it rain, its origins lie in an old French saying." Not sure what else you want. Do you mean you want an in-universe scientific answer, because I don't think you'll get one – Darren Jun 15 '20 at 7:57
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    This seems like the perfect answer: It's a running joke. – Kwola-T Jun 15 '20 at 10:38
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    having english names of different, originally french characters' names different from those I know from reading all volumes in german, is a challenge. this proves very helpful. – dlatikay Jun 15 '20 at 17:24
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    To add a better source than Wikipedia, Nobel Prize winner Frédéric Mistral wrote, in Mémoires et récits, "Chanter fait pleuvoir, disaient nos pères": Singing causes rain, our fathers use to say. (gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k1022795/f60.image) – Maxime Jun 15 '20 at 18:55
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According to the Wikipedia section on Cacofonix:

In later albums his music is so spectacularly horrible that it actually starts thunderstorms (even indoors), because of an old French saying that bad singing causes rain.

A French person reading the comics would automatically get the reference, and thus it isn't stated.

  • 4
    The trope that bad singing causes rain is also known in Spain. – SJuan76 Jun 15 '20 at 23:28
  • It is also known in some Asian countries: thelogictruth1.blogspot.com. – sergut Aug 12 '20 at 15:51
12

On page 6 of Asterix and the Magic Carpet (in-panel numbering), Vitalstatistix says regarding Cacofonix’ rainmaking abilities:

Oh, yes … I was forgetting, Cacofonix has new string to his lyre these days.

As noted by Darren, this is probably a pun involving adding a string to one’s bow, which analogously works with avoir plus d’une corde à son arc in the French original.

Now, there are two ways to interpret this:

  • The pun only happens out-of-universe, in which case the new string actually is responsible in-universe.
  • The pun happens in-universe, i.e., Vitalstatistix (as opposed to only Uderzo) makes the pun, in which case Cacofonix somehow acquired a new “skill” to do this.

Either way, the new rainmaking effects of Cacofonix’ music are addressed on the page: Either it’s because he actually upgraded (or rather: downgraded) his instrument or his abilities.

  • 4
    I don’t think that’s right. The quote is a pun that you have taken a bit too literally. The actual saying usually refers to adding a new string to your bow and means gaining a new ability or skill. The pun in this case is that the lyre is used instead of a bow to reflect Cacofonix’s position as a bard. – Darren Jun 15 '20 at 11:08
  • @Darren: That’s a good point, but even if Vitalstatistix (as opposed to just Uderzo) is actually making a pun here, it still addresses the change on page. – Wrzlprmft Jun 15 '20 at 12:18
  • I suppose. I didn’t DV BTW. – Darren Jun 15 '20 at 12:18
  • This is possible and perhaps the best (if somewhat unsatisfying) explanation we'll ever get now that Uderzo has also passed away. – JerryS1988 Jun 17 '20 at 0:54
  • In previous book the village was burned to the ground, presumably Cac's old lyre burned as well. – Darth Hunterix Jun 17 '20 at 7:42
9

In France we have this saying that if you sing badly it will produce rain. More precisely if you sing out of key, or pitchy, then you'll make it rain. "Cacophonix" means "cacophonie" which is French for "cacophony": harsh discordant mixture of sounds. Thus triggering the rain.

4

As many have pointed out, it could be because of the French connection and the French proverb that bad singing may cause rain.

Another possibility could be interpreted from the fact that Watziznehm requests the Gauls to help him with draught in his region in the Ganges region. In the Ganges region, although the timeline doesn't match, back in the days, there exists a myth that a singer "Tansen", residing in a Mughal emperor's court, was capable of causing rain and thunderstorms merely by his singing. It might be a small chance that the writers slipped a reference to Tansen but I wouldn't put it past them to have thought of this too!

0

Perhaps not immediately clear for English readers, the original French name of the bard in the cartoons is Assurancetourix, a contraction of the French term Assurance tous risques, literally "all-risk insurance".

An all-risk insurance includes coverage that automatically covers any risk, including natural disasters. It's not unreasonable to assume that in the development of the character the new writers (Goscinni, the original story writer died in 1977) some of the "all-risk" natural disasters are being incorporated.

  • This answer seems very good. We have to remember that the books are being read in translation. – Huw Evans Jun 18 '20 at 13:51

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