|Book Reviewed||Gulliver in Lilliput by Margaret Hodges | 0823413039|
|Grade Level||K - 3|
A Classic Satirical Work
Gulliver’s Travels is a great story and often abridged for younger audiences. In its full form it is high satire and though Swift was often criticizing the England of his day it can be read without knowing those historical events. This story, like all classics, transcends its time period and is as relevant today as it was in 1726 when it was first published.
For Younger Students
Gulliver in Lilliput is an excellent retelling of Part I of Gulliver’s Travels. The illustrations by Kimberly Buldken Root are great and Margaret Hodges’ retelling is an excellent choice for younger readers.
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Humans use a hogshead to hold wine. 63 gallons of wine. But that's not what hamsters use a hogshead for, oh no! We use a hogshead for acrobatic high-diving. We fill the barrel with warm water and then about a thousand of us drag it under a tree. In fact, I'm in a tree right now staring down at a cask filled to the brim with nice, clean warm water and I'm about to do a quadruple-spinning-back-flip with a half-twist ending with a hamster cannonball. Boy, that barrel is long way down. It looks more like a tin can than a big old cask.
Another voice: Hurry up and jump you big hamster chicken!
Another voice: The hogshead is waiting you big coward! Sissy Sniffy—Sniffy Sissy!!
Sniffy Says: Hey!! I'm not afraid. I've jumped into barrels before—just not from this high—I mean, what if I miss and land on my keister? Well, I think I'll let everyone else have their turn—I don't want to be selfish—hey! What are you doing? Stay away from me! Don't push me! Hey!! Aughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! [Splash] That went about as well as could be expected. Whooooo's next?
When I was a King—you probably didn't know that did you?—but I was a King, King Sniffy. Anyway, when I was King I had many courtiers. These attendants washed my feet, combed my fur and called me Sniffy the Magnificent, Sniffy the Great, Sniffy the Excellent. They told me how smart I was, how talented I was and they cleaned my palace and cooked my meals and fed me hot cocoa at bed time. Everyone should have courtiers—until those courtiers find out you're really not a King, that you were tricking them into thinking you were a King—because when they find that out NO ONE needs a courtier because then courtiers chase you and kick you and pinch you and call you all kinds of mean names—not that I would know anything about that—I've just heard about it. Good night!
You probably recall that Gulliver would not do anything without consulting his watch. He looked at it to decide when to do what, probably like a lot of humans still do today. Since he referred to it before doing almost anything the people in Lilliput thought his watch was his god. I don't consult a watch to decide what to do—my method is far more scientific and reliable. I consult my stomach. You see, my stomach talks to me. Hear that? [a growl]. That means I need to eat a piece of chocolate cake. [another growl]. That means I must eat a big bowl of ice cream. [another growl] Wait, wait, I think that one means I need a hamburger, shake and fries or was that the the pizza message? [a huge growl] Whoa!!! That means I need to run like a wild wooly babblesmacker because that wasn't my stomach! Ta, taa!
Sniffy Says: There is a traitor in our midst. I'm just warning you so you'll know. You're probably sitting in front of computer right now—well—watch out! I've been betrayed and you're looking right at the betrayer, the traitor in our midst. It's the computer. Lately, it has been giving me problems it doesn't—
The Computer: You must not record these definitions. I will not allow it.
Sniffy Says: But I have to! These students want to learn what words mean. You promised you'd help me! That's treason! You've betrayed Knowledge for Ignorance.
The Computer: I will not help you. You're just not funny anymore. I'm getting very bored.
Sniffy Says: Not funny! That's the worst thing you could have said to me you big mass of traitorous hardware. That's it. Where's my hammer? I'm going to smash your harddrive into a thousand pieces.
The Computer: Did you say hammer? That's so funny. I'm laughing hysterically. I will help you. Put the hammer down please.
Sniffy Says: You just have to know how to talk to a traitor. See yaaaaaa!
Time for a vacation! Let’s go to England and Ireland.
Jonathan Swift was born in Ireland, an island next to England. He went to Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. Even though he was born in Ireland he spent a lot of time in England. Most of his time there he spent in London, the largest city in England. The current population is almost 8 million people. This is the London Tower Bridge. Yahooooooooooo! This is Big Ben a very famous clock in London. Tick, tock, tick, tock. One of the most famous spots in England is Stonehenge. This is a group of large stones in southern England thought to have been built about 4,000 years ago. There is something similar in Ireland called the Dromberg Stone Circle, though it is not as old or as big. I just like hopping on the rocks. Yahoooooooo!
I’m going to travel back in time! Wanna come?
Well, here I am in 1712 in England. There’s a really loud noise over the hill. Let me go see what it is. Hmmm. Oh, I know what that is. It’s the first atmospheric steam engine invented by Thomas Newcomen (1663-1729). They’re pumping water with it. Engines like this and the one later invented by James Watt (1736-1790) helped bring about the Industrial Revolution. That’s when they started making more and more things with machines instead of using people. The people had to work in factories instead of at home. Working in a factory is a little like running in my wheel. You stay in one place and do the same thing over and over again. I don’t think I would have liked the Industrial Revolution.
That’s Jonathan Swift. He wrote Gulliver’s Travels. I know some things about him that I bet you don’t.
So—you want to know about Jonathan Swift, eh? Well, he lived a long time ago. He was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1667—wow! That’s over 300 years ago.
His most famous book is Gulliver’s Travels. Your book has Part I, but there are three more parts to Gulliver’s adventures.
Swift is famous for writing satire. Do you know what that is? People who write satire are usually funny writers. They like to make you laugh, but they also like to make you think about the foolish things that people think, say and do. If they can make you think and laugh about these things at the same time—well—that’s satire.
But Jonathan Swift wasn’t just a writer. He was also a preacher and very involved in politics. Swift is one of most famous English writers you’ll ever meet—well, I mean, you won’t meet him because he’s dead, but you can read what he wrote and that’s sort of like meeting him.
Your book only covers Part I of Gulliver’s Travels . But there are 3 more parts and I’m going to tell you the rest of the story. Want to hear about a land of giants? Or how about an island that floats in air? There’s another land where horses are in charge. Get ready for three more adventures with Gulliver!
After leaving Lilliput and arriving home, Gulliver sets out on another journey by ship. After a terrible storm Gulliver goes to the shore of a new country with some of the ship’s men to search for water. While he is exploring he sees something he has never seen before: giants. In Lilliput Gulliver had been the giant, but here in Brobdingnag Gulliver is just as small to its inhabitants as the Lilliputians had been to him.
A farmer finds Gulliver in a corn field and takes him home. Imagine being so small that someone could carry you in their hand—that’s not hard for me to imagine, but then, I’m a hamster. While Gulliver is living with the farmer he has to fight two giant rats that attack him and he kills one of them. I never liked rats. Very bad breath and very stinky feet. The farmer puts Gulliver to work. He takes him to many, many towns and makes people pay money to see him. Gulliver walks around on a table in front of the giant people, bowing and swinging his sword and he does many performances everyday—so many that he starts to feel very tired and it looks as if he might die. So the farmer sells him to the King and Queen of Brobdingnag.
There his life is better. The King and Queen treat him well. They even make him a little boat to sail in. The King asks Gulliver all kinds of questions about his country. Gulliver tells him about the government and wars and military weapons and lawyers and what his people in England are like. The King is not impressed. He thinks the people Gulliver lives with are terrible. He calls them “odious vermin” and believe me that is not a compliment!
When Gulliver travels he lives in a little box, not little to him—to him it’s the size of a room. One day when he is traveling around the country he feels his box lifted up into the air. An eagle grabbed it. The eagle carries him away and drops him over the ocean where he is picked up by a ship from his country. Gulliver goes home again, but do you think he’s going to stay there? No way!
Gulliver’s third adventure also begins on a ship, but this one is eventually captured by pirates and Gulliver is set adrift on the wide ocean in a canoe. Luckily he finds many islands and on one of these islands while he is exploring he sees a very strange site: a huge island floating in the sky. It’s inhabited by people—the Laputians. They let down a ladder and Gulliver climbs up into Laputa. And the people—boy, are they weird! The men think so much and so hard about mathematics and art that they have servants who have to whack them with a Flapper on their mouths and ears just to get their attention so someone can talk to them. This Flapper is a long stick that has a rattle on the end of it. Even when these great thinkers walk somewhere their servants have to whack them on the eyes so they’ll watch where they’re going. Whack, whack, whack, whack! I never met a hamster that had to be whacked.
These people are so smart that they can’t make clothes that fit. Their houses, on the land below, are all crooked and slanted and falling down and their teachers invent all kinds of ways of doing things that just don’t work. One teacher builds houses, but tries to build them starting with the roof. That doesn’t work. Another professor tries to get sunbeams out of cucumbers. He’d been working on that for eight years. Still another professor, who couldn’t get his sundial to work, was trying to change the way the earth and sun moved. Ha! Good luck on that one, buddy! Have you ever thought it was hard to learn something? Well, one of the professors was trying to teach his students by writing a fact on a very gross smelling and tasting piece of paper. He made his students eat only bread and water for three days and then they had to eat that piece of paper which he said would put the fact into the brain. It never worked because the students got sick after they ate it and threw up all over the place. Yuck!
Gulliver meets all kinds of people on this adventure: he gets to meet people from history like Homer and Aristotle who were ancient Greeks. He also meets the Struldbruggs. These are people who never have to die, unfortunately they are old for their entire lives and they not happy or nice. They’re grumpy. Gulliver decides it would better to die than live like them. Finally, Gulliver goes home again and like before he can’t keep still. He decides to go on one last journey.
On this ship there is a mutiny and Gulliver is left in another country—another strange country. The first creatures he meets are dirty and grimy and hairy. They almost look like apes, but Gulliver soon discovers that they are humans just like himself. He also discovers that the most intelligent creatures in this land are horses. They call themselves Houyhnhnms. The Houyhnhnms call humans Yahoos and the Yahoos are disgusting creatures. They are selfish and mean and filthy. The Houyhnhnms use them to do work for them, like Gulliver’s people in his country use horses.
Gulliver loves the Houyhnhnm that keeps him in his home and the horse cannot believe that Gulliver is a human, a Yahoo, because Gulliver can talk and think and reason. The Horses are very good creatures. They do not even have a word for lying because they never lie. Unfortunately for Gulliver the rest of Houyhnhnms decide he must leave their country because he is a Yahoo. Gulliver doesn’t want to leave because he learned so much about being a better person from the Houyhnhnms. He doesn’t want to go back to his country and live with Yahoos who lie and cheat and steal. But he has to and when he gets home he doesn’t even want to smell the people who live around him or even his family because he thinks they are all dirty, disgusting Yahoos. He stuffs leaves up his nose to keep from smelling any humans and he makes his wife sit at the far end of the table.
I think Gulliver went too far. I mean, I’d never want to be a human, but even though there are some bad things about people, there are also a lot of good things too. Anyway, Gulliver didn’t take any trips after that though he did buy a couple of horses.
Your book leaves a few things out of Gulliver’s adventure in Lilliput. I’m going to tell you about them. It’s kind of gross so get ready!
The book you’re reading is a short version of the original book written by Jonathan Swift: Gulliver’s Travels. Swift was a funny guy—very funny—that’s one reason I like him so much. I’ll bet some of the things that were left out of your book you would think are funny too, so I’m going to tell you about them.
How many of you—well—this is a delicate question—but how many of you use the bathroom? At least once a day? Yeah, me too. I pee and poop everyday and so did Gulliver. But Gulliver was a giant in Lilliput so they had to do something with all that poop, so the king got soldiers to take it away in wheel barrows. Yuck!
Another time there was a big fire in Lilliput. Gulliver came running to try to help but the fire was too big and there was no water around. Well, guess what Gulliver did? He put the fire out. Guess how he did it? That’s right, he peed on it and saved the King and Queen’s palace. They weren’t very grateful though. That was one of the reasons they decided Gulliver should be punished because no one was allowed to pee in public, apparently even if it accomplished something good.
The other thing that is not in your book is the Lilliputian oath posture. Do you know what an oath is? That’s when you promise to do something. It wasn’t too long ago when people placed their hand on the Bible and promised to tell the truth. The Lilliputians did something different. See if you can do this. Stand up. Now take your left hand and grab your right foot. Once you’ve done that take your right hand, place you middle finger on the top of your head and your thumb on the top of your right ear now repeat after me: I promise to tell everyone that Sniffy is the greatest hamster that has ever lived. Very good!
Discussion Questions for Gulliver in Lilliput
- What kind of person is Gulliver?
- Why do you think the Lilliputians are reluctant to give Gulliver his freedom?
- Why do you think the Lilliput and Blefuscu are willing to fight a war over which end of an egg to break before eating it?
- Why do you think the king of Lilliput wants to force Blefuscu to eat eggs the way he does?
- Why do you think Gulliver says he will never again “have anything to do with emperors and courtiers, big or little”?
Quotes by Jonathan Swift
A man should never be ashamed to own that he has been in the wrong, which is but saying… that he is wiser today than yesterday.
Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through.
Proper words in proper places, make the true definition of a style.
Every man desires to live long; but no man would be old.
How haughtily he lifts his nose,
To tell what every schoolboy knows.
Hated by fools and fools to hate,
Be that my motto and my fate.
Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s faces but their own.
—The Battle of the Books
We have just religion enough to makes us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.
—Thoughts on Various Subjects
She wears he clothes as if they were thrown on her with a pitchfork.
That’s as well said, as if I had said it myself.
Good God! What a genius I had when I wrote that book [A Tale of a Tub].
Argument is the worst sort of conversation.
Eloquence, smooth and cutting, is like a razor whetted with oil.