Gulliver’s Travels is linked with St Mary’s church, Banbury
In The Indian in the Cupboard we enjoyed the way Omri comes up with miniature things for Little Bull to use. The difference in scale between the huge boys and the tiny Indian is colossal!
There’s another really famous book in which there is a huge difference in scale between some of the characters – and it’s called Gulliver’s Travels, by Jonathan Swift. The book was published in 1726, and what’s really exciting is that it has a link with Banbury! These are the very opening paragraphs in which the publisher introduces the main character:
The author of these Travels, Mr. Lemuel Gulliver, is my ancient and intimate friend; there is likewise some relation between us on the mother’s side…
Although Mr. Gulliver was born in Nottinghamshire, where his father dwelt, yet I have heard him say his family came from Oxfordshire; to confirm which, I have observed in the churchyard at Banbury in that county, several tombs and monuments of the Gullivers.
In St Mary’s churchyard in Banbury, there is a stone which commemorates Swift’s book although there are no Gulliver graves there any more.
So what happens in the story? We read some of part one of the book, called A Voyage to Lilliput, and discovered Gulliver is a sailor who was shipwrecked in the East Indies. He describes how he eventually wades out of the water, extremely tired and hot, and lies down on the grass to sleep. When he wakes up:
I attempted to rise, but was not able to stir: for, as I happened to lie on my back, I found my arms and legs were strongly fastened on each side to the ground; and my hair, which was long and thick, tied down in the same manner. I likewise felt several slender ligatures across my body, from my arm-pits to my thighs…
So Gulliver is somehow tied down on the ground, inspiring famous illustrations such as this one from an 1860 edition of the book (photo here)
But by whom? He eventually finds out:
About fifty of the inhabitants came and cut the strings that fastened the left side of my head, which gave me the liberty of turning it to the right, and of observing the person and gesture of him that was to speak. He appeared to be of a middle age, and taller than any of the other three who attended him, whereof one was a page that held up his train, and seemed to be somewhat longer than my middle finger…
Gulliver persuades the people of the land he discovers is called Lilliput to release him, but they call him the Man Mountain and want to examine what he’s carrying in case he has any weapons. So they make a report of everything in Gulliver’s pockets. In our Book for Breakfast session, we read out the descriptions they gave, imagining what it would be like to see ordinary things if we were tiny, like the Lilliputians.
Can you do the same? We drew some of the things to try to make it easier! The answers are below.
- In the right coat-pocket of the great man-mountain we found only one great piece of coarse-cloth, large enough to be a foot-cloth for your majesty’s chief room of state.
- In the left there was a sort of engine, from the back of which were extended twenty long poles, resembling the pallisados before your majesty’s court.
- In the large pocket, we saw a hollow pillar of iron, about the length of a man, fastened to a strong piece of timber larger than the pillar; and upon one side of the pillar, were huge pieces of iron sticking out, cut into strange figures, which we know not what to make of.
- In the smaller pocket on the right side, were several round flat pieces of white and red metal, of different bulk; some of the white, which seemed to be silver, were so large and heavy, that my comrade and I could hardly lift them.
- Out of the right fob hung a great silver chain, with a wonderful kind of engine at the bottom, which appeared to be a globe, half silver, and half of some transparent metal; for, on the transparent side, we saw certain strange figures circularly drawn, and thought we could touch them, till we found our fingers stopped by the lucid substance. He put this engine into our ears, which made an incessant noise, like that of a water-mill: and we conjecture it is either some unknown animal, or the god that he worships; but we are more inclined to the latter opinion, because he assured us, (if we understood him right, for he expressed himself very imperfectly) that he seldom did any thing without consulting it.Answers: 1: handkerchief, 2: comb, 3: keys, 4: coins, 5: pocket watch
Did you get them right? Join us next time to find out what happened next in our exploration of big and small.