Gulliver's Travels (originally published as Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts by Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon and then a Captain of Several Ships) is a 1726 novel by Jonathan Swift. It was a great success when it was first published and has never been out of print. Gulliver's Travels can be enjoyed simply as a comic fantasy, although Swift originally intended it to be a satire of 18th century politics and society.
Contents of the novel
A Voyage to Lilliput
The first part of the novel begins with the narrator Lemuel Gulliver introducing himself and briefly describing his life before his first voyage.
Following a shipwreck, Gulliver finds himself on the island of Lilliput, a land inhabited by human beings one twelfth the size of people in Europe. The Lilliputians give Gulliver the name "Quinibus Flestrin" which means "Man Mountain" in their language. Gulliver gradually gains the confidence of important and influential people on the island, including the emperor.
Gulliver learns that Lilliput is at war with the neighboring island empire of Blefuscu and that the cause of the war is a disagreement over how to eat a boiled egg. The "Little-Endians" of Lilliput cut off the small, pointed end of an egg before eating it, the "Big-Endians" of Blefuscu begin eating an egg at the opposite end. Gulliver helps the Lilliputians in their war by capturing Blefuscu's entire naval fleet. However, he refuses to go to Blefuscu to conquer the island and place it under the rule of the Lilliputian emperor.
When a fire breaks out at the imperial palace Gulliver puts it out by urinating on it. Although he saves the life of the empress, Gulliver is accused of treason for his disrespectful behavior. He escapes to Blefuscu where he finds an abandoned boat. He rows out to sea, is rescued and returns to England.
This section of the novel satirizes the relationship between England and France in Swift's time and religious disputes, "Little-Endians" represent Protestants and "Big-Endians" represent Catholics.
A Voyage to Brobdingnag
Gulliver's ship is sent off course and the crew go ashore in search of fresh water. When they see a seventy-two foot tall man approaching, the crew quickly return to their boat and leave, Gulliver remaining stranded in the land of Brobdingnag.
Gulliver is taken by a farmer and given to his daughter, Glundelglitch, as a pet. Glundelglitch gives him the name "Grildrig" which means "Little Man" in her language. The farmer exhibits Gulliver as a curiosity in exchange for money. Eventually, the queen of Brobdingnag finds out about Gulliver and wants to buy him. The farmer agrees to sell Gulliver and allows Glundelglitch to go with him to the royal palace to continue looking after him. He is given a box with a handle to live in, filled with furniture his size.
In discussions with the king, Gulliver learns that Brobdingnagians are not interested in studying anything that does not have practical applications, the only mathematics that they know of helps them to build houses. The king does not like what Gulliver tells him about life in Europe; especially not the use of gunpowder in wars.
Gulliver has some troubles due to his small size, a jealous dwarf drops him into a bowl of cream, he has to fight off wasps the size of pigeons, and a monkey mistakes him for a baby monkey and carries him off to the top of a tower.
During a trip to the coast, Gulliver's box is carried off by an eagle. It is dropped into the sea and Gulliver is eventually picked up by some sailors who take him back to England.
A Voyage to Laputa, Balnibarbi, Luggnag, Glubbdubdrib and Japan
After his ship is attacked by pirates, Gulliver is marooned on an island near India and rescued by the flying island of Laputa. The people of Laputa have been able to colonize several other islands because they can use their flying island to block out the sun or to drop missiles on people below. The people of Laputa love music, arts and abstract mathematics but they have no understanding of practical mathematics, as a result, their buildings often fall down. Gulliver visits some of the scientists of Laputa and learns of their plans to extract sunlight from cucumbers and turn human waste into food.
Gulliver is told that a Dutch ship, which can take him back to Europe, will soon arrive at the island of Balnibarbi. While waiting for the ship he visits the island of Glubbdubdrib, a magician on the island raises the ghosts of several famous historical figures. Gulliver has conversations with them but finds them disappointing.
On a trip to the island of Luggnagg, Gulliver learns that there are some people on the island who are destined never to die. At first, Gulliver wishes that he could be one of those immortals, imagining that he could gain limitless knowledge. However, he is told that the immortals grow old at exactly the same rate as other people and generally lose their physical and mental capabilities by the age of eighty.
Gulliver is able to gain passage aboard the Dutch ship, he briefly visits Japan before returning to Europe. When he arrives home he promises never to go to sea again.
A Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnms
Gulliver begins work as a surgeon but becomes bored with his work. He breaks his promise and becomes captain of a ship once more. His crew mutiny against him and decide to leave him on the first piece of land that they see.
Gulliver finds himself on an island inhabited by intelligent horses, named Houyhnhnms, and disgusting savage humans, named Yahoos. Gulliver is taken in by a Houyhnhnm and becomes a member of the horse's household. He tries to have as little contact as possible with the Yahoos. To begin with, he tries to convince himself that the Yahoos are not the same as humans. However, when a Yahoo girl tries to have sex with him, Gulliver is forced to admit that Yahoos are humans and he is a Yahoo.
After his unpleasant experience with the Yahoo girl, Gulliver further distance himself from them and begins to imitate the horses as much as possible. He begins to trot like a horse and repairs his shoes with patches of Yahoo skin. However, an Assembly of the Houyhnhnms decides that, as an intelligent Yahoo, Gulliver is dangerous and he is banished.
Gulliver is rescued by a Portuguese ship. He finds the ship's captain to be kind and intelligent but cannot stop thinking about him as a Yahoo. On returning home, Gulliver sees all the people around him, including his wife and children, as Yahoos and tries to have as little contact with other people as possible.
Many readers find this section of the book, with its emphasis on the worst qualities in human nature, to be very disturbing.
- Video of Georges Méliès' 1902 silent film Gulliver's Travels among the Lilliputians and the Giants
- Robinson Crusoe
- Text of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels on Wikisource.
- Quotations from Gulliver's Travels on Wikiquote.
- Free public domain audiobook of Gulliver's Travels from LibriVox.
- Gulliver's Travels on the SparkNotes website.
- Gulliver's Travels Wiki.
- Video of the 1939 American animated film Gulliver's Travels on Wikimedia Commons.