(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Grangosier and Gargamelle are expecting a child. During the eleventh month of her pregnancy, Gargamelle eats too many tripes and then plays tag on the green. That afternoon, in a green meadow, Gargantua is born from his mother’s left ear. Gargantua is a prodigy and, with his first breath, he begins to clamor for drink. To supply him with milk, 17,913 cows are needed. Tailors use nine hundred ells of linen to make his shirt and 1,105 ells of white broadcloth to make his breeches. Eleven hundred cowhides are used for the soles of his shoes.

At first, Gargantua’s education is in the hands of two masters of the old school, Holofernes and Joberlin Bride. When Grangosier observes that his son is making no progress, however, he sends him to Paris to study with Ponocrates. Aside from some mishaps, as when he takes the bells from the tower of Notre Dame to tie around his horse’s neck, Gargantua does much better with his studies in Paris.

Back home, a dispute arises. The bakers of Lerne refuse to sell cakes to the shepherds of Grangosier. In the quarrel, a shepherd fells a baker, and King Picrochole of Lerne invades the country. Grangosier bakes cartloads of cakes to appease Picrochole, but to no avail, for no one dares oppose Picrochole except doughty Friar John of the Funnels. Finally, Grangosier asks Gargantua to come to his aid. Gargantua fights valiantly. Cannonballs seem to him as grape seeds, and when he combs his hair, cannonballs drop out. After he conquers the army of Lerne, he generously sets all the prisoners free.

All of his helpers are rewarded well, and for Friar John Gargantua builds the famous Abbey of Theleme, where men and women are together, all can leave when they wish, and marriage and the accumulation of wealth are encouraged. When he is more than four hundred years old, Gargantua has a son, Pantagruel. A remarkable baby, Pantagruel is hairy as a bear at birth and of such great size that he costs the life of his mother. Gargantua is sorely vexed, between weeping for his wife and rejoicing for his son.

Pantagruel requires the services of 4,600 cows to nurse him. Once he gets an arm out of his swaddling clothes and, grasping the cow nursing him, eats the cow. Afterward, Pantagruel’s arms are bound with anchor ropes. One day, the women forget to clean his face after nursing, and a bear comes and licks the drops of milk from the baby’s face. By a great effort, Pantagruel breaks the ropes and eats the bear. In despair, Gargantua binds his son with four great chains, one of which is later used to bind Lucifer when he has the colic. Pantagruel, however, breaks the five-foot beam that constituted the footboard of his cradle and runs around with...

(The entire section is 1106 words.)