March 05, 2007


wuould it be fare to say taht in genral 'gargantuan' is smaler then 'brobdingnagian'? im thnking gargantua wasn that big.

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Gargantua rode a horse the size of six elephants, so he was probably at least twelve times the size of a man.
The Brobdignagians were "as tall as the ordinary Spire-steeple." So go figure.
Six elephants which way? By height? By weight? Rabelais was hopelessly vague by modern standards.

Swift is a little better. He makes it pretty clear he's talking roughly ten times the height of a person and similarly proportioned, i.e., about 1000 times the weight if we assume that the materials all weighed the same. Still the work is far from credible by modern standards. A 50 foot chambermaid weighing 50 tons probably couldn't stand up.

Today's children read amusing tales like these and they get a terribly skewed sense of reality. Publishers should fix things up or add explanatory notes. If that proves unwieldy or impossible, better to abandon works that don't 'work' than to make our younger generation pay the price.
Another example, from a very well regarded source:

"This early Gargantua text enjoyed great popularity, despite its rather poor construction. (Rabelais's giants are not described as being of any fixed height, as in the first two books of Gulliver's Travels, but vary in size from chapter to chapter to enable a series of astonishing images as though these were tall tales. For example, in one chapter Pantagruel is able to fit into a courtroom to argue a case but in another the narrator resides inside Pantagruel's mouth for 6 months and discovers an entire nation living around his teeth.)"

Nonsense, in other words. Any college student could commit to a particular scale before beginning the story.

(As has been well established within the blogosphere, the Wikipedia is superior to the Encyclopoedia Brittanica. NB The latter isn't bad -- until the development of web technology it was the ultimate research reference of the academic community.)
Gargantua was about the size of King Kong and Godzilla. Good flick!
What do they teach you kids these days? My English teacher made us learn this stuff by heart. Here's the line-up from biggest to smallest:

uour techars mad e us read a antigolbalist tract caled polyphemus shruged.
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