Gargantua And Pantagruel Summary

François Rabelais

Gargantua And Pantagruel

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Gargantua And Pantagruel Summary

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The Life of Gargantua and Pantagruel is a series of five novels written by François Rabelais in the sixteenth century. It tells the story of the adventures of two giants in a satirical prose laced with irony and sarcasm.

The first book is titled Pantagruel. Although the story takes place second in the series, it was actually published first. At the beginning of the book, the father giant, Gargantua, and his wife give birth to a son, but the wife dies in childbirth. He grows up to be just as giant as his father, and scholarly. The rest of the book tells tales of his reading list, mostly humorously titled books.

He makes friends with Panurge, a jokester, and they intoxicate some invading giants, burn their camp, and drown all the survivors in urine. Another character dies when his head is cut off, but Panurge sews his head back on. He reports then that all the souls of hell work terrible jobs and earn inadequate wages. The narrator finds himself in Pantagruel’s mouth and discovers a civilization among his teeth.

After Pantagruel, the author wrote the second book about his source material, Gargantua. It begins with his miraculous birth after an eleven-month pregnancy. The birth is so difficult that his mother threatens to castrate his father, and Gargantua eventually emerges from his mother’s ear, demanding ale. Over 17,000 cows are required to feed him the milk, and his maids marvel over the size of his codpiece.

He is sent to Paris to be educated, but the crowds annoy him, and he drowns thousands of them in urine. Meanwhile, he steals the bells of St. Anthony (later returning them) and mounts an army to rebuff an attack from a neighboring Lord who felt that his bakers had been insulted. He wins the battle, and is given enough money to start an “anti-church.”

In the third book, we return to Pantagruel. The narration style changes to parody philosophical style; Panurge always gets the last word. He gives sermons on the morality of indebtedness and preaches against restraint, all while accepting Pantagruel’s offer to pay his creditors,.

Panurge decides that he will marry now that he is financially able to for the first time. He stops wearing his codpiece and begins seeking advice. Everyone he consults agrees that if he marries, his wife will cheat, rob him, and beat him up. He reinterprets all their predictions to work better in his favor. They decide to take a sea voyage to settle the question of marriage once and for all. The ship is well stocked with a particular phallic herb, and the narrator gives a scandalous written history.

In the fourth book, the sea voyage continues. It is a comical retelling of the Odyssey and a satirical criticism of the excesses of the Roman Catholic Church, as well as the political figures of the time. They sail to East Asia and buy exotic animals, but they quarrel with a merchant and drown him with his flock. They sail by the Island of Bailiffs, whose inhabitants charge to be beaten.

They encounter a storm at sea, and Panurge is terrified. He pretends almost insufferable courage later, but they slay a sea monster anyway. The half sausage beings of Chitterlings mistake Pantagruel for their enemy, Lent, not knowing that he is dead. A divine pig stops the battle. They continue to other islands where people eat only air, where a husband and wife outwit the devil, where people worship the pope, and where people worship the god of food. It ends with Pantagruel firing a salute at the muses.

Scholars debate that the original author completed the last novel. The characters make their way through various islands, finding strange things such as birds living in the same hierarchy as the Catholic Church. They are kidnapped by the Furred Law-cats but escape by solving a riddle. There are other people so fat they slit the skin to allow the fat to spill out. There is an island of lawyers that nourish themselves on court cases, and in the Queendom of Whims, they watch a live chess match.

They continue to the realms of darkness. Along with a guide from Lanternland, they go below the surface to find the Oracle they seek. They admire the architecture and the religious ceremonies, and they come upon the Oracle of Bacbuc. The sacred bottle says “trinc,” and they drink liquid text from the book of interpretation. Panurge swears then that wine spurs him to right action, and he vows to marry as soon as possible.

Throughout the text, excess is a key ingredient in the storytelling. The giants are never formally measured and seem to change size to suit the story. At one point they are able to argue a case in a courtroom, and in another, they are so large the narrator lives inside the mouth of one of them for six months. Everyone in the story has an overdramatized personality, and this drives the satire of the story.

No one is safe. Rabelais criticized the Catholic Church, the political establishment, the common people, and philosophers among others. The series is considered a classic of Renaissance literature. It gave the French language hundreds of new words and has been analyzed for its satirical structure by many critics. Although the style is not one modern readers are familiar with, it is part of the classic canon of French literature.