Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 16

How Gargantua was sent to Paris, and of the huge great mare that he rode on; how she destroyed the oxflies of the Beauce.

In the same season Fayoles, the fourth King of Numidia, sent out of the country of Africa to Grangousier the most hideously great mare that ever was seen, and of the strangest form, for you know well enough how it is said that Africa always is productive of some new thing. She was as big as six elephants, and had her feet cloven into fingers, like Julius Caesar’s horse, with slouch-hanging ears, like the goats in Languedoc, and a little horn on her buttock. She was of a burnt sorrel hue, with a little mixture of dapple-grey spots, but above all she had horrible tail; for it was little more or less than every whit as great as the steeple-pillar of St. Mark beside Langes: and squared as that is, with tuffs and ennicroches or hair-plaits wrought within one another, no otherwise than as the beards are upon the ears of corn.

If you wonder at this, wonder rather at the tails of the Scythian rams, which weighed above thirty pounds each; and of the Surian sheep, who need, if Tenaud say true, a little cart at their heels to bear up their tail, it is so long and heavy. You female lechers in the plain countries have no such tails. And she was brought by sea in three carricks and a brigantine unto the harbour of Olone in Thalmondois. When Grangousier saw her, Here is, said he, what is fit to carry my son to Paris. So now, in the name of God, all will be well. He will in times coming be a great scholar. If it were not, my masters, for the beasts, we should live like clerks. The next morning — after they had drunk, you must understand — they took their journey; Gargantua, his pedagogue Ponocrates, and his train, and with them Eudemon, the young page. And because the weather was fair and temperate, his father caused to be made for him a pair of dun boots — Babin calls them buskins. Thus did they merrily pass their time in travelling on their high way, always making good cheer, and were very pleasant till they came a little above Orleans, in which place there was a forest of five-and-thirty leagues long, and seventeen in breadth, or thereabouts. This forest was most horribly fertile and copious in dorflies, hornets, and wasps, so that it was a very purgatory for the poor mares, asses, and horses. But Gargantua’s mare did avenge herself handsomely of all the outrages therein committed upon beasts of her kind, and that by a trick whereof they had no suspicion. For as soon as ever they were entered into the said forest, and that the wasps had given the assault, she drew out and unsheathed her tail, and therewith skirmishing, did so sweep them that she overthrew all the wood alongst and athwart, here and there, this way and that way, longwise and sidewise, over and under, and felled everywhere the wood with as much ease as a mower doth the grass, in such sort that never since hath there been there neither wood nor dorflies: for all the country was thereby reduced to a plain champaign field. Which Gargantua took great pleasure to behold, and said to his company no more but this: Je trouve beau ce (I find this pretty); whereupon that country hath been ever since that time called Beauce. But all the breakfast the mare got that day was but a little yawning and gaping, in memory whereof the gentlemen of Beauce do as yet to this day break their fast with gaping, which they find to be very good, and do spit the better for it. At last they came to Paris, where Gargantua refreshed himself two or three days, making very merry with his folks, and inquiring what men of learning there were then in the city, and what wine they drunk there.

Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 15:33