Stories of Gulliver's Travels Told to the Children - John Lang

Gulliver's Life at Court, and Some of the Accidents that Befell Him

The king, however, was inclined to believe that what Gulliver said might have some truth in it. He had begun to take much interest in the little creature that the Queen had bought, and he requested her Majesty to give orders that the greatest care should be taken in attending to all his wants.

The Queen's cabinet-maker was set to make a box for him to live in, and in three weeks he finished a very neat little affair, with two windows and a door. The ceiling, or roof, could be raised on hinges. Into this little room were put a bed, some chairs, a table, and a little cabinet for his clothes, all so small as to be looked on as toys. The room was quilted all over, ceiling and floor and walls, so that there might be no danger of an accident when he was carried about in it.

From this time onward, Gulliver was a great favourite with all the members of the Royal Family, and at meals his little table and chair were always set on the Queen's own table, near her left hand.

But for all these marks of favour he had to pay. The Queen's dwarf became jealous of the attention that was shown to Gulliver, and constantly played spiteful and nasty tricks on him, for which, of course, Gulliver was too small to take any revenge, except by means of his tongue. Often he made the dwarf perfectly furious by the things he said, for, like most dwarfs, this one had a very irritable temper, which was easily roused. He could not bear to be laughed at.

One day, at dinner, the dwarf was so angered by some remark made by Gulliver that he jumped up on the frame of the Queen's chair, seized Gulliver by the middle, before any one could interfere, dropped him into a bowl of cream, and then ran away. Gulliver struck out, but the cream was so thick that it was hardly possible for him to swim in it, and when he struggled to the side, choking and spitting, the bowl was so smooth and slippery that there was nothing to hold on by, and he was like to drown. For the Queen was so frightened that she lost her head, and instead of snatching him out, only screamed. Luckily, Glumdalclitch was not far off, and she saved him, but not before he had swallowed nearly a quart of cream. For this trick the dwarf got a sound thrashing, and was made to drink up all the cream in which Gulliver had swum.

Another day the dwarf played him a particularly nasty trick. The Queen was very fond of marrow-bones, and had had one for supper. She knocked out the marrow, and had stood the bone on its end in her plate. The dwarf watched his chance. When no one was looking, and Glumdalclitch had gone to the sideboard, he jumped on to the stool on which she usually stood when attending Gulliver at meals, took him up in both hands, and squeezing his feet together, thrust him into the marrow-bone as far as he could go, and there left him.

At the moment no one noticed, and Gulliver was too proud to cry out. There he stuck in the bone for some time, struggling vainly to get out. Luckily the marrow that remained was not very hot, but his clothes were completely spoiled. What hurt him, however, was the fact that everybody laughed loud and long at this trick, because he looked so ridiculous sticking out at the end of the bone.

After this the Queen got rid of the dwarf. It was feared that he might some time really injure Gulliver.

As summer drew on, the flies, always troublesome in that country, became a perfect pest to Gulliver, especially when he was at meals. These flies were nearly as big as larks, and they swarmed over his food, buzzed about his ears till they nearly drove him crazy, and sometimes they bit him. He was for ever slashing at them with his knife, till the Queen made jokes on the subject, and asked if all his countrymen were afraid of flies.

One fine hot morning, it chanced that Glumdalclitch had put Gulliver's box on the window-sill, in order that he might have more air. He had opened the windows of his room, and it happened that on a plate on his table there was a large piece of sweet cake. This attracted wasps, and they came swarming in by the open window, as big as partridges, and humming louder than bag-pipes. Some carried off lumps of his cake, whilst others buzzed around his head till he was terrified lest they should sting.

Gulliver in Brobdingnag


At last, in a sort of frenzy, he drew his sword and attacked them. Four he cut down, and stamped on till they were dead; the others were driven out by the windows. Gulliver had the curiosity to take out the stings of these wasps and measure them. They were nearly one and a half inches in length. Some of them he afterwards brought home to England, where they were long preserved in a museum at Cambridge University.

Whilst he was attached to the Court, Gulliver saw much of the country in which he now found himself. It was called Brobdingnag, and the capital of the kingdom, the city in which he lived, Lorbrulgrud.

It was the custom of the King to visit even the most distant parts of his dominions, but the Queen, whom Gulliver always attended, never went further with the King than about two thousand miles from the capital.

Brobdingnag, Gulliver learned, is a great peninsula, whose communication with the rest of the world is cut off by a range of mighty mountains, many miles high, and which are impossible to cross because of terrible volcanoes. As there are in the kingdom no seaports, the people of Brobdingnag had no dealings with the outside world, and were ignorant that any other nations lived on the earth.

There are many great rivers in this country, but outside the mouth of each river is a bar of sand, which prevents vessels from ever coming nearer this land than Gulliver's ship had come.

These rivers are full of huge fish, which the people eat, but they do not trouble to catch the fishes of the sea, for these are but similar in size to European fish, and are thought to be too small to be fit for food.

Sometimes, indeed, Gulliver knew them to eat a whale which had been cast ashore, but this was considered a coarse fish, and was seldom eaten except by the poorer people. Hampers of the smaller kinds of whale were sometimes brought to market, but there was no great sale for them.

For use on these journeys that he went with the Queen, Gulliver had another box built, somewhat smaller than the one in which he lived. He called it his travelling closet. It was square, with a window on each of three sides latticed with iron wire outside to prevent the risk of accident on a journey. On the fourth side two iron staples were fixed, through which a belt was passed so that the box could be fastened round the waist of a person on horseback. All his furniture in this room was screwed to the floor, and when in it at night, he slept in a hammock slung between two of the sides.

But travelling thus at its best was not a great pleasure, though as long as there was not too much of it, his life was happy and contented enough, except for the fact that his smallness, in that country of giant people and giant things, continually exposed him to accidents.

Many of these mishaps were absurd enough, though at the time to him they were very serious. There was one occasion when the dwarf, before he was sent away from Court, seeing Glumdalclitch carry Gulliver into the garden, followed them. Gulliver had been set down to have a walk, and the dwarf joined him.

They were walking near some dwarf apple trees, and Gulliver was foolish enough to make some silly joke about these trees, which made the dwarf very angry. He said nothing, however, but watched his chance, and when Gulliver happened to be right under one of the trees, the dwarf seized hold of it and shook down a shower of the ripe fruit. One huge apple, as big as half a dozen foot-balls, struck Gulliver between the shoulders and dashed him violently to the ground, knocking all the breath out of his body. He was not badly hurt, but had the apple struck him fair on the head the result must have been serious.

Another day, Glumdalclitch left Gulliver on a lawn in the garden, whilst she herself went for a walk with her governess. He was strolling about, thinking of home, and wondering if ever again he should see his wife and family, and he did not notice that the sky had darkened and that clouds were breaking up.

Suddenly it began to hail, and before he could get to shelter he was beaten to the earth and badly bruised. For a time he lay where he had fallen, the hail scourging down, and cruelly hurting him. At last, with great difficulty he crawled to the sheltered side of a border of lemon thyme, where he lay till Glumdalclitch found him.

For many days after this Gulliver had to stay in bed, so battered and bruised was he by the huge hailstones. In that country everything is big in proportion, and hail-stones there are more than a thousand times the size of hailstones in England. To be quite sure of this, Gulliver measured and weighed some that fell in another storm.

Many, indeed, were the accidents that befell him. Once when walking alone, he tripped and broke his shins badly over the shell of a snail, which he had not noticed in the grass. And another day, having climbed to the top of a freshly-cast mole-hill, it suddenly gave way with him and he sank to his chin through the soft earth into the hole the mole had left. It was with difficulty that he scrambled out, with earth down his neck, and in all his pockets.

Even the thrushes and robins and linnets of Brobdingnag were so large that they had no fear of Gulliver, but would hop about within a yard of him, looking for worms and other food. Once a thrush snatched a piece of cake out of his hand; and if ever he tried to catch any of the birds, even the smallest of them would turn and peck at his fingers.

One day, however, with a thick stick he made a good shot at a linnet, and knocked it over. Rushing up, he seized it round the neck and dragged it off in triumph to Glumdalclitch.

But the bird was only stunned. Quickly it recovered and began to struggle, buffeting him on the head and body with its wings till he could not see, and held on to it only with great difficulty. He stuck to it, however, and one of the servants seeing the struggle, came up and wrung the linnet's neck. Gulliver had it for dinner and supper next day and found it very good eating. It was rather larger than an English swan.

But one of the most unpleasant accidents that befell him, one which caused Glumdalclitch to vow that never again would she allow him to go out of her sight, was this.

The head gardener owned a small spaniel. Though dogs were never allowed in the gardens, this animal one day managed to follow its master in, unknown to him. Gulliver had been carried at that very time into the garden by Glumdalclitch, and left by her where she imagined that he would be perfectly safe.

The dog, however, hunting about, came on his scent, and following it up, soon pounced on him. Luckily, it was a very well-broken and soft-mouthed dog, and it carried him straight to its master, wagging its little stump of a tail, and greatly pleased with itself.

When the gardener saw Gulliver set gently at his feet by the dog, he was horrified, for Gulliver had lost all his breath, and for some time could not stand up nor speak a word. The gardener feared that he must have been badly hurt by the dog's teeth, and that he himself would certainly lose his position as head gardener.

Gulliver in Brobdingnag


But there was no damage done whatever, even to his clothes, and for the sake of the gardener, who was his very good friend, Gulliver asked Glumdalclitch to say nothing about the matter. Besides, to tell the truth, Gulliver did not care to be humiliated by hearing people laugh at him for having been carried about in a dog's mouth.

These are a few of the little accidents that happened to him, but Gulliver never told Glumdalclitch how very narrow an escape he had from being caught by a large hawk, which one day swooped at him. If he had not struck at it with his sword, and then run under a tree, he would certainly have been carried off and eaten.