So, I’m reading along in Chapter 4 of Gulliver’s Travels, when I start thinking that this is all sounding very familiar. Where have I heard this nonsense before? Oh, I remember! It’s the Dr. Seuss “classic”, The Butter Battle! For those of you not so familiar with children’s literature, in The Butter Battle, two factions (I forget the names – perhaps “Zooks” was one) have an escalating fight stemming from the all-important question: On which side should we butter our bread? Butter side up or butter side down? I always suspected this book was an allegory of sorts, and perhaps a comment on society in general, but I had no idea he STOLE the whole idea from Jonathan Swift!
In chapter 4 Gulliver tells us that not only is there one kingdom of tiny people out there, but two. The neighboring kingdom of Blefuscu (pronunciation anyone? I have no idea…) is made up of former Lilliputians who fled and formed a new society. You will never believe what very important issue caused the separation. Maybe their nickname will give you a clue – they were also called the “Big-endians.” No? This doesn’t help? OK, I’ll tell you. They have been arguing for years over which end of an egg should be broken before eating – the big end or the little one! Apparently, the Lilliputians used to break their eggs big end first, but someone suffered an unfortunate accident involving fingers, so a law was passed forbidding eggs to be cracked big end first. Many rebellions followed, and the law breakers fled for refuge to Blefuscu. Here’s a quote: “It is computed that eleven thousand persons have at several times suffered death rather than submit to break their eggs at the smaller end.” This act even took on religious implications: “…all true believers shall break their eggs at the convenient end.” Wait! “Convenient” might mean different things to different people.
Well, all the silliness made me chuckle a bit, but I figured Swift was probably poking fun at something literal – perhaps the perpetual squabbling between England and France at the time? However, since my 1939 edition (thanks, Christina!), has not a single note, I was wondering what other critical thinkers make of this? Anyone? Oh, and if I knew how to find the saved picture I’d like to import here, I’d have inserted a nice photo of The Butter Battle Book at the beginning. I’m so hopeless – I really need a blogging tutorial. (Update: My wonderful husband showed me how! Now maybe my posts can be more colorful. Thanks, David!)