Gargantua and Pantagruel

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Lyons edition: Denis de Harsy, 1537.
Gustave Doré : Pantagruel, 1873.

Gargantua und Pantagruel is a cycle of novels by François Rabelais , whose five volumes were published in 1532, 1534, 1545, 1552 and 1564; especially the first two volumes were very successful.

The two protagonists, Pantagruel, a young giant, and his father Gargantua, are still today mainly through the French adjectives pantagruélique (“avoir un appétit pantagruélique” - have a pantagruelian appetite) and gargantuesque (“un repas gargantuesque” - a gargantuesque feast ) known. The first Pantagruel , for which Rabelais had initially not planned a sequel, is entitled Les horribles et épouvantables faits et prouesses du très Renowned Pantagruel, Roi des Dipsodes, fils du grand géant Gargantua. Composés nouvellement par maître Alcofrybas Nasier ( Eng . "The terrible and appalling adventures and heroic deeds of the famous Pantagruel, king of the dipsods, son of the great giant Gargantua. Compiled by master Alcofrybas Nasier" - an anagram from Francoys Rabelais ). The work was thus immediately recognizable as a parody of the genre of chivalric novels published under a funny pseudonym and thus as humorous.

After the success, Rabelais quickly followed the Gargantua under the same pseudonym and in a similar style , with the title La Vie très horrifique du grand Gargantua, père de Pantagruel (German: "The very terrible life of the great Gargantua, father of Pantagruel"). The other volumes, which were printed much later, appeared under his real name and had the sober titles Le tiers livre , Le quart livre and Le cinquième livre (Eng. "The third book", "The fourth book", "The fifth book"). In addition, they are no longer, like their predecessors, in the tradition of parodies of chivalric novels.



The full title for the book commonly known as Pantagruel is "The Horrible and Horrific Adventures and exploits of the famous Pantagruel, King of the Dipsods, son of the great giant Gargantua." (The original title of the work was Pantagruel roy des dipsodes restitué à son naturel avec ses faictz et prouesses espoventables ). Although some modern editions of Rabelais' work classify Pantagruel as the second volume of the cycle, it was actually published first. Pantagruel was actually the successor to an anonymously written book called The Great Chronicle of the Outstanding and Enormous Giant Gargantua (French: Grandes chroniques du grand et enorme géant Gargantua ). This early Gargantua text, poorly structured, enjoyed great popularity.

Rabelais' giants are not fixed to a certain size, as in the first two volumes of Gulliver's Travels , but change their size from chapter to chapter so that the narrative appears like a story of lies. For example, in one chapter Pantagruel fits into a courtroom, but another time the narrator lives in Pantagruel's mouth for six months and discovers a people who live on their teeth.


After the success of Pantagruel , Rabelais revised his source material and created a refined narrative about the life and deeds of Pantagruel's father in The very terrible life of the great Gargantua, father of Pantagruel (French: La vie très horrificque du grand Gargantua, père de Pantagruel ) , known as Gargantua . The volume closes with the now famous chapters on Thélème Abbey (chapters 52–57). In a satirical exaggeration, Rabelais designs a monastery as an upside-down world : Here young men and women live together, wear precious clothes, chat with games and parties, can get married and leave the abbey at any time. The people live in complete freedom: "Their whole rule of the order consisted of a single paragraph, which was: Do what you want" ( "Fay ce que vouldras" ). The descriptions of the Thélème Abbey thus represent a social utopia based on the fact that "free people of noble birth, good knowledge and grew up in respectable society ... flee the vice, which drive is called honor" . The sometimes exaggerated, detailed descriptions of the architecture and clothing also convey urban planning and aesthetic ideas, which of course can also be interpreted as a parody of utopian literature .

The third book

In the last three books, Rabelais returns to the story of Pantagruel. The third book Pantagruel (French: Le tiers-livre de Pantagruel , original title Le tiers livre des faicts et dicts héroïques du bon Pantagruel ) concerns Pantagruel and his friend Panurge, who does nothing but think about the pros and cons of marriage to break without coming to a conclusion. The book ends with the start of a voyage by ship to find the oracle of the divine bottle, which should clarify the question of marriage.

The fourth book

The sea voyage continues throughout the fourth book of Pantagruel (French: Le quart-livre de Pantagruel , original title Le quart livre des faicts et dicts héroïques du bon Pantagruel ). Pantagruel encounters many strange people.

The fifth book

At the end of the fifth book Pantagruel (French: Le cinquième-livre de Pantagruel. Original title Le cinquiesme et dernier livre des faicts et dicts héroïques du bon Pantagruel ), which was published posthumously around 1564, the divine bottle is finally found.


Rabelais' success is based on the way in which he mixes playful irony and sarcasm, crude wit and pedantic scholarship, puns and comically used real and fictional quotations; At the structural level, he usually combines brief action sequences that repeatedly cross the boundaries of the fantastic and the grotesque with longer narrative and character speeches. The satirical intention cannot be overlooked, even if it is hidden, e.g. B. behind a mock naivety. After the publication of the volumes, Rabelais was attacked by the conservative theologians of the Sorbonne , who recognized Rabelais as a supporter of an unorthodox, non-denominational ecumenism .


The amusement park Mirapolis near Paris, which existed from 1987 to 1991, had a 35 m high, walkable Gargantua figure.

The French singer France Gall sang Gargantua and Pantagruel in the song Gare toi ... Gargantua on her 1968 album.

In the film Interstellar (2014), a black hole is called Gargantua.

There are dozens of menhirs bearing the name Gargantua ( Le But de Gargantua , Dent de Gargantua, Doigt de Gargantua , Gravier de Gargantua (Port-Mort), Pierre de Gargantua (Doingt), Pierre de Gargantua (Neaufles-Auvergny) or Verziau de Gargantua ).

Gargantua and Pantagruel come u. a. in Point-and-Click Adventure Tales by Ape Marina and Screen 7 published in 2016 .

See also

German-language editions


  • Bettina Rommel: Rabelais between orality and writing. Gargantua: Literature as a way of life . Niemeyer, Tübingen 1997, ISBN 3-484-55024-4 .

Web links

Commons : Gargantua  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Commons : Pantagruel  - collection of images, videos and audio files