Gulliver's Travels

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Captain Lemuel Gulliver (illustration from the first edition of Gulliver's Travels from 1726)

Gullivers Reisen ( English Gulliver’s Travels ) is a satirical novel by the Irish writer, Anglican priest and politician Jonathan Swift . In the original version, the novel consists of four parts and was published in 1726 under the title Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World in Four Parts By Lemuel Gulliver, first a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Shipsreleased. In a vivid narrative style, Swift expresses his bitterness at contemporary grievances and his view of the relativity of human values. The vivid narrative style of the two-part children's book edition, in which Gulliver first discovered the land of the dwarves and then ended up in the land of the giants, and in which the socially critical and satirical positions were missing, made the work a world-famous book for young people . After Campanella's Civitas solis and Bacons Nova Atlantis , the novel is the culmination of a genre that is in contrast to religious designs and which has images of an ideal society as its theme without any direct claims to reality.


The satirical work is divided into four parts, which correspond to Gulliver's four journeys:

  • To Lilliput , to the land of the dwarfish Lilliputians
  • To Brobdingnag , to the land of giants
  • After Laputa , Balnibarbi, Glubbdubdrib, Luggnagg and Japan
  • To the land of the Houyhnhnms and Yahoos

Part 1: Journey to Liliput

Map of Lilliput southwest of Sumatra (Illustration by Herman Moll for the first edition of Gulliver's Travels from 1726)
A midget parade marches through Gulliver's legs. Illustration by Louis Rhead, 1913.
Gulliver among the residents of Lilliput

Gulliver takes a job on a ship and soon after works as a doctor on the ship. But this gets caught in a storm. Gulliver and five other crew members seek shelter in a rowboat, but it capsizes. The castaway reaches a beach and falls asleep there; he never sees the other crew members again. When he wakes up, his arms, legs and hair are tied to the floor with cords. Six-inch tiny creatures climb around on his body. Gulliver succeeds in loosening the threads on his left arm, whereupon the little ones fire a volley of arrows at him, whereupon he decides to be better still. The dwarves bring him food and drink and then drag him on a wooden frame to their city, where he is chained to a temple building that has been abandoned a long time ago. Gulliver asks the Lilliputian Emperor to release him, but the latter denies him. Instead, the Lilliputians make an inventory of everything Gulliver has brought with him and take away his weapons. The emperor decides to put on shows for Gulliver's entertainment, and so he is shown Liliputan tightrope walkers. The Emperor then asks Gulliver to stand like a giant statue, legs wide apart, and gives his general orders to have his troops march under Gulliver. Finally, the Lilliputians bring a number of articles to Man Mountain , as they call Gulliver, stating, among other things, that Gulliver must assist the Lilliputians in times of war. After Gulliver vows to heed the articles, his chains are removed.

About two weeks after his release, Gulliver receives a visit from Government Secretary Reldresal. He explains to him that the empire is threatened by two evils: an internal division and an external enemy. The inner groupings are the Trackmesan with high heels and the Slackmesan with low heels; His Majesty had chosen to keep only the lowly in the government, hence the conflict. The hostilities between the members of both groups went so far that they no longer spoke to each other. The external enemy, however, are the inhabitants of the island of Blefuscu, who are threatened with invasion. This is based on the following: The emperor's grandfather once cut his finger on the broad side when opening an egg and then decreed that all his subjects must open their eggs at the pointed end. This led to uprisings in Lilliput, which were fomented by the monarchs Blefuscu and after which the suppressed Lilliputians fled to Blefuscu. Blefuscu's rulers had accused the Lilliputans of having violated their great prophet Lustrog, who had written: all true believers break their eggs at the convenient end ( all true believers break their eggs at the comfortable end). - Gulliver finally agrees to protect Lilliput against these enemies. Gulliver therefore attaches a rope to each iron rod bent into hooks and takes it to Blefuscu, where he attaches an iron hook to each of the ships in the port and thus pulls the ships to Liliput. Three weeks later, an embassy from Blefuscu appears in Liliput with an offer of peace that is complied with. The ambassadors invite Gulliver to Blefuscu. One night the empress' apartment was on fire - Gulliver, called for help, extinguished the fire with a stream of his urine.

Gulliver now describes some of the customs in Lilliput: The Lilliputians write diagonally from one corner to the other. They bury their dead upside down so that they can stand on their feet for their resurrection, which will take place when the disc-shaped earth has turned over.

Gulliver learns that he has been charged with various offenses in Lilliput, including public urination. Instead of the originally intended death penalty, the Lilliputians are now planning to blind him and let him gradually starve to death. His skeleton is to be preserved as a monument for posterity. To forestall all of this, Gulliver goes to Blefuscu. Three days after his arrival, he discovers a boat in the sea with which he finally begins his return journey. At sea he is picked up by an English merchant's ship, to whom he tells his story and shows the dwarf cattle he was carrying as proof.

Part 2: Trip to Brobdingnag

Gulliver in Brobdingnag

Two months after his return to England, Gulliver is drawn to sea again. He travels on a ship under the command of Captain John Nicholas to the Cape of Good Hope and through the Strait of Madagascar , but then ends up in a violent monsoon and encounters an unknown land. In a boat he goes ashore with some crew members and walks a little alone. Then he notices that the other crew members are rowing back again because they are being followed by a giant. Gulliver runs away and soon finds himself on a path in a field with barley forty feet high. Some giants work in the fields with their large scythes. When one of the giants gets too close, Gulliver screams as loudly as he can to avoid being trampled on. The giant picks it up and gives it to the farmer, who takes it home and shows it to his wife. After dinner, the farmer's wife lets Gulliver sleep in her bed. While Gulliver sleeps, two rats climb on the bed; he wakes up and kills one of the rats with his saber.

Over time, Gulliver befriends Glumdalclitch, the farmer's nine-year-old daughter. She sews him clothes and teaches him the language of the people of Brobdingnag. The farmer takes Gulliver to the market, where he performs tricks and is admired by numerous giants. One day the farmer is instructed to bring Gulliver to the queen. The Queen is so taken with Gulliver that she buys him from the farmer. Gulliver gets Glumdalclitch allowed to stay with him. Gulliver meets the King of Brobdingnag and teaches him about customs and religion, law and government in Europe.

The dwarf, who was the smallest at court so far, is resentful of Gulliver and throws him into a bowl of cream; but Gulliver can swim on the surface until Glumdalclitch finally pulls him out. When Gulliver is eating cake one morning, twenty wasps fly in through the window, attracted by the sweet smell; he draws his saber and can kill four of the insects. When the ladies-in-waiting take off their clothes in Gulliver's presence, Gulliver notices how ugly their skin looks. He realizes that his skin, too, when viewed from a dwarf, must look wrinkled and as if littered with craters. But Gulliver is in the greatest danger of a monkey who seizes him, runs with him on the roof and drops him there; only through the use of a servant to climb the roof can Gulliver ultimately be saved.

In further conversations with the king, Gulliver explains in detail the conditions in England. In the end the king comes to the sobering conclusion: I cannot but conclude the bulk of your natives to be the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature suffered ever to crawl upon the surface of the earth. (I must state that most of your natives are the most pernicious race of loathsome little worms that nature has ever suffered on the surface of the earth.)

Gulliver is taken to the coast and a servant puts him on the beach in his travel box. Suddenly an eagle appears, grabs the box and flies away with it. Gulliver falls into the sea with the box and the crew of a ship discovers the floating object. Gulliver is set free and saved. He tells the sailors about his adventures and finally he comes home.

Part 3: Trip to Laputa, Balnibarbi, Luggnagg, Glubbdubdrib and Japan

The scholarly island of Laputa in the 1839 edition

When Gulliver is back in England, a visitor asks him to travel with him on board his ship. Gulliver agrees. But the ship is attacked by pirates. A Christian Dutch pirate tries to have Gulliver thrown into the sea, but the Japanese captain makes sure that he stays alive. Gulliver says he found more mercy in a heathen, than in a brother Christian, more grace in a pagan than in a fellow Christian. Gulliver is dumped in a boat with provisions. He passes a few islands and eventually goes ashore on one. Then he notices that the sun has been strangely darkened. The reason for this is that there is a floating island in the air that is full of people. Gulliver calls attention to himself and a chain is lowered and he is pulled up by it. Upstairs he finds strange people, all of whom tilt their heads to one side or the other, looking inward with one eye and upward with the other. The minds of these people are so engrossed in speculation that they cannot speak or listen without external contact with the organs of speech or hearing. Therefore, there are servants who encourage conversation by slapping the listener's ear like the speaker's mouth with a clap to keep their minds from wandering. Gulliver is brought to the king, but the two discover that they do not speak a common language. So a teacher is hired to teach Gulliver. Gulliver learns that the floating circular island is called Laputa and is 10,000 acres (around 400 km² ) in size. In the middle it has a magnet that moves the island. If the king wants to punish an area on the underlying island of Balnibarbi, he only needs to lead the floating island over it and thereby take away the sun and rain. As the people of Laputa are primarily interested in math and music, Gulliver soon feels neglected. He therefore made a petition to the king and was set down on a mountain called Balnibarbis.

Gulliver goes to the local capital Lagado, where he visits Lord Munodi. Munodi tells him that forty years ago some people went to Laputa and after their return they wanted to put all the arts, sciences, languages ​​and crafts on a new basis; they had decided to set up an academy in Lagado, in which the professors would come up with new rules and methods. But since no method has been brought to perfection, the country is today in misery. At Munodi's suggestion, Gulliver visits this great academy and first finds a man who tries to extract sunlight from cucumbers; a second researcher wants to convert human feces back into food, an architect wants to build a house from the roof down, a doctor heals patients by blowing air through them. In another part of the academy, a language project is being carried out with the aim of eradicating verbs and participles; Another project even aims to get rid of all words. One professor teaches that women should be taxed on their beauty and their skill in dressing. All of these reports are part of a sharp satirical critique of contemporary science.

On the next island “Glubbdubdrib”, the Island of the Sorcerers or Magicians , Gulliver meets a governor who can make ghosts appear and asks Gulliver to call up whatever persons I would choose ... among all the dead from the beginning of the world to the present time (to call whichever person I chose ... among all the dead from the beginning of the world to the present time). Gulliver wishes to see Alexander the Great who actually appears. This is followed by Hannibal , Gaius Iulius Caesar , Homer , Aristotle , Descartes and others. a.

Now Gulliver visits the island of Luggnagg, where the subjects are expected to lick the ground when they want to approach the king. The king occasionally gets rid of his opponents by adding poison to the ground. The Luggnaggier tell Gulliver of immortals, the Struldbrugs, who are born with a red mark over the left eyebrow. Most Struldbrugs get sad when they are past thirty; at eighty they envy those who can die; at the age of two hundred, as the language is constantly changing, they can no longer have a conversation with mortals and become foreigners in their own country . Gulliver's desire for immortality was greatly diminished by this experience.

Gulliver finally leaves Luggnagg and begins the journey home to England. The first stop is Japan, which he reaches after a long and difficult journey. With the help of a letter from the King of Luggnagg, he is spared the fumie- step picture. By stepping on a crucifix presented, he should have confirmed that he is not a Christian. The Japanese are surprised; he was the first to have problems with the pedal test . - Finally it goes on to the southern tip of Africa and Gulliver reaches his home in April 1710.

Part 4: Journey to the Land of the Houyhnhnms

Gulliver presents two Houyhnhnms with a pocket knife. Illustration from Grandville, 1838.

After being home for five months, Gulliver is drawn to the sea again, this time as captain of a ship. At sea, however, there is a mutiny and Gulliver is abandoned by the mutiners on an unknown beach. In a field he sees animals with long hair on their heads, chests and beards like goats carry them. As Gulliver continues on his way, he meets one of the repulsive creatures; he draws his saber, hits the animal with the flat side so that it roars, whereupon the herd from the field comes up to Gulliver and stains him with feces. But suddenly they run away, evidently chased away by a horse. This horse and another are watching Gulliver carefully and neighing about him. One of the horses leads Gulliver to a house where, to his surprise, he does not find people, but horses. One of them looks at Gulliver and says the word "Yahoo" to him. He is then taken to the courtyard, where some of these ugly creatures are tied up. To his horror, Gulliver recognizes in this abominal animal a perfect human figure ; these horses also compare him to the yahoos. Since Gulliver doesn't like to eat hay and meat, they give him milk to drink. At lunchtime he sees a sleigh-like vehicle that is being pulled by four Yahoos and has a horse in it. - The horses gradually begin to teach Gulliver words from their language. After three months, he has mastered her language so well that he can answer her questions. The Horses, or Houyhnhnms, think of Gulliver as a Yahoo, albeit a special one. Gulliver says that in his country those they call Yahoos are the ruling beings, horses are used by them for running or for pulling carriages.

For two years Gulliver reported to his Houyhnhnm master about the conditions in Europe, u. a. of the long war between England and France, in which a million yahoos might have been killed. Gulliver also explains what a soldier is: a soldier is a Yahoo hired to kill in cold blood as many of his own species, who have never offended him, as possibly he can. (A soldier is a Yahoo who is hired to kill in cold blood as many of his own race who have never harmed him as he can) His Houyhnhnm master says that if he takes it all into consideration, Gulliver's people are not that different from the yahoos. Gulliver therefore goes to the Yahoos himself and finds that, although nimble from childhood, they are the most disobedient of all animals. One day Gulliver undresses to bathe in the river; a Yahoo girl runs eagerly towards him and hugs him fiercely. Since this incident was observed by a horse, Gulliver can no longer deny that he is actually a Yahoo himself.

The Houyhnhnms cultivate reason; Friendship and kindness are their greatest virtues. They do not use script and have no word in their language to express evil . They know neither hardship, disease nor war and generally live for seventy, rarely eighty years. They keep the wild yahoos as pets and pack animals. One day his Houyhnhnm master tells him that other Houyhnhnms were offended by the fact that he kept a Yahoo (Gulliver) in his house like a Houyhnhnm. He gives Gulliver two months before departure. Gulliver builds a boat for himself, says goodbye to the Houyhnhnm family he lived with, and takes off from the beach in a canoe.

But he does not want to return to Europe in the company of Yahoos. So he is looking for a small uninhabited island. Eventually he found land, but was attacked by the natives, wounded by an arrow, whereupon he set sail again. When he sees the sail of a ship, however, he decides that he would rather live with the natives than with the European yahoos. Gulliver goes into hiding, but is discovered by the ship's crew. So he got back to Europe by ship, half against his will. The sight of his family fills him with hatred and disgust; it is a shame for him that he copulated with a Yahoo and thereby became the father of other Yahoo! With his horses, however, Gulliver gets along well and devotes at least four hours a day to them.


Swift describes man not as a rational creature, but as a being capable of reason at most. Especially the Houyhnhnms of the fourth journey, who are actually “just” horses, seem infinitely wiser and more peace-loving than humans. Therefore, this work is a blunt satire on the belief in reason that arose in the age of the Enlightenment - mainly due to the implicit criticism of the forms of government in Europe in the early 18th century ( absolutism ). The Flying Isle is a faintly veiled England that is bleeding Ireland (and Scotland) to death. Urinating on the foreign royal family (King George I was German, i.e. a foreigner) can also be understood in a figurative sense.

The work is pure satire: Much more of a polemic than an early apolitical work of fantasy , full of swipes and spitefulness.

The name of the narrator and main character Lemuel Gulliver is an allusion to the English word gullible, which means something like “gullible”, “gullible” or “simple-minded”, and thus refers to the naive, gullible character of the character of Gulliver.

Effect and reception

As a counter-reaction - this well-known work could not simply be "suppressed" - there were also "defused" editions in which the sometimes crude episodes and socially critical passages were edited ad usum Delphini : it was cut down and simplified until the story became a children's book for “simple minds”, as it is still often presented today with nice and lovely illustrations .

Gulliver's journeys were also developed further in the satirical genre, for example as "Gulliver's fifth journey":

  • Michail Kozyrew "The fifth journey of Lemuel Gullivers", written in 1936 and published in Russian in 1991 after the author's death in the Gulag (1942), in 2005 for the first time in German (Persona Verlag, ISBN 3-924652-33-3 ).
  • Gynter Mödder “Gulliver's fifth journey”, 2005 Landpresse publishing house, ISBN 3-935221-53-3 .
  • Sándor Szathmári "Journey to Casinos".
  • Frigyes Karinthy "The new journeys of Lemuel Gulliver" (based on the Hungarian single editions 1976), Verlag das Neue Berlin, Berlin 1983.

Description of the moons of Mars

Swift wrote 150 years before the discovery of the Martian moons Deimos and Phobos that “Mars has two moons that are very small and orbit the planet at a height of 3 and 5 Martian diameters, respectively, every 10 and 21.5 hours, so that the Squares of their periodic orbit behave almost like the cubes of their distances from the center of Mars ”. Swift thus indirectly cited Kepler's third law , which was formulated by Johannes Kepler before 1630 . The astronomer believed in a mathematical order in the cosmos. From the one earth moon and the four previously discovered Galilean moons of Jupiter , Kepler concluded that because of the sequence of numbers Mars must have two moons and that these had not yet been discovered because of their small size and distance from the planet. The values ​​given by Swift agree quite well with the actual values ​​of the moons Phobos (orbit 7 hours and 39 minutes, orbit corresponds to about 2.75 times the radius of Mars) and Deimos (orbit 30 hours and 18 minutes, orbit corresponds to about 7 times the Mars radius).


English language editions

Title page of the first edition from 1726
  • Swift, Jonathan: Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World in Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships. London 1726, 1735, 1765 (as part of the Works complete edition ), 1915 (as part of the Prose Works ), 1927 (critical edition edited by H. Williams), 1959 (in the Prose Writings edited by H. Davis ).
  • Swift, Jonathan: Travels .... by Lemuel Gulliver. Edited by J. Hayward in: Gulliver's Travels and Selected Writings in Prose and Verse. New York 1990.
  • Asimov, Isaac: The Annotated Gulliver's Travels . New York 1980.

German translations

  • Gulliver's Travels. Translated from English, commented and with an afterword by Hermann J. Real and Heinz J. Vienken. Philipp Reclam jun., Stuttgart 1987, 2011, ISBN 978-3-15-010821-5 .
  • Gulliver's Travels. Travels to many distant peoples of the world in four parts by Lemuel Gulliver - formerly ship's doctor, then captain on several ships. Translated from the English by Christa Schuenke. Epilogue: Dieter Mehl. With 16 illustrations by Anton Christian. Manesse, Zurich 2006, ISBN 978-3-7175-9017-0 .
  • Gulliver's Travels. Travel to various distant countries in the world by Lemuel Gulliver - first ship's doctor, then captain of several ships. Translated from the English by Kurt Heinrich Hansen. With illustrations by Grandville (1838 edition) and with an afterword by Uwe Böker . Winkler, Munich 1958. Current edition: Albatros, Mannheim 2010, ISBN 978-3-538-07614-3 .
  • Gulliver's Travels in Unknown Lands. Translated from English by Franz Kottenkamp. With 450 pictures and vignettes from Grandville . Adolph Krabbe, Stuttgart 1843 ( digitized [PDF file; 32.9 MB]). Current edition: 5th edition. Diogenes, Zurich 1998, ISBN 9783257225907 .
  • Lemuel Güllivers all trips. 2nd Edition. Hamburg / Leipzig 1762 ( digitized ).

German arrangements


Film adaptations

Short video fragment from the film Gulliver's Travels , 1939

The journeys of Dr. Gulliver have been filmed several times. For the most part, however, only the stories from Liliput and Brobdingnag are told. The 1996 television series was relatively complete.


  • Mike d'Abo et al. a .: Gulliver's Travels. CD - Sanctuary / (Rough Trade), 2001


  • Gulliver's journeys as a comic were published in the 'Illustrierte Klassiker' series (No. 41). 1956–1972 at Bildschriftenverlag (BSV). Reprints 1991–2002 Hethke Verlag, Cologne.
  • The Italian Milo Manara created an erotic comic parody of Gulliver's adventures : Gullivera ; in Germany Edition 'Kunst des Comic', 1992

Radio plays

Individual evidence

  1. Part I, Ch. 3.
  2. Part I, Ch. 4.
  3. Part II, Ch. 6 aE
  4. Part III, Ch. 1.
  5. a b Part III, Ch. 7.
  6. Part III, Ch. 10.
  7. Part IV, Ch. 2.
  8. Part IV, Ch. 5.
  9. The improbable adventures of Lemi Gulliver on


  • WA Eddy: Gulliver's Travels. A critical study. Princeton (NY) 1923.
  • S. Dege: Utopia and Satire in Swift's Gulliver's Travels. Frankfurt 1934.
  • William Bragg Ewald: Jonathan Swift's 'Gulliver's Travels'. In: Willi Erzgräber (Ed.): Interpretations. Volume 7: English literature from Thomas More to Laurence Sterne. Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt am Main et al. 1970, pp. 261–285.
  • George Orwell: An Examination of Gulliver's Travels. In: Shooting an Elephant and other essays. London 1950.
  • DF Passmann: Gulliver's Travels and the travel literature before 1726. Frankfurt 1987, ISBN 3-8204-9690-4 .
  • Swift, Jonathan In: Kindler's New Literary Lexicon. Kindler, Munich 1991.

Web links

Commons : Gulliver's Travels  - Collection of images, videos and audio files