*Paris. French city to which the affable giant prince Gargantua is sent to be educated. In the City of Light, he is exposed to the light of humanist learning. The Paris portrayed in this book is that of Rabelais’s own day. Gargantua travels there on a brood mare the size of six elephants. After his arrival, he undergoes a rigorous regimen of classical studies and physical exercise, directed by his tutor, Powerbrain, and some of Paris’s truly learned scholars. This learning is contrasted with that of Paris’s Sorbonne, the college of powerful and conservative theologians at the University of Paris. Combining mental and physical exertion, Gargantua swims across the Seine River while reading a book which he holds high above the water with one hand.
Later, Gargantua’s own son, Pantagruel, also goes to Paris to study. He falls into company with Panurge, a brilliant but almost criminal trickster, who explores the seamier side of Parisian life. Although the people of Paris, who are represented realistically in the text, marvel at the giants, they easily accept their presence in their midst.
*Touraine. Region containing the Loire valley in west-central France, the so-called “garden of France,” where Panurge was born and reared. Touraine was also the birthplace of Rabelais himself.
Thélème Abbey. Church along the Loire River, two leagues from the forest of Port-Huault, that Gargantua builds to reward Friar John for his help in winning the mock-heroic war against Picrochole. The abbey is the thematic center of the work, with its credo that instinct forms the only valid basis for morality and social structure. Befitting his gigantic nature,...
(The entire section is 724 words.)