Monday, October 31, 2011

The Brazen Tomb of Gargantua: Some Background


Most noble and illustrious drinkers, and you thrice precious pockified blades (for to you, and none else, do I dedicate my writings)...
We recently completed a very brief and cursory look at Gargantua by Rabelais over at Old School Heretic. In the course of describing Gargantua we noted the following bit:
To return to our wethers, I say that by the sovereign gift of heaven, the antiquity and genealogy of Gargantua hath been reserved for our use more full and perfect than any other except that of the Messias, whereof I mean not to speak; for it belongs not unto my purpose, and the devils, that is to say, the false accusers and dissembled gospellers, will therein oppose me. This genealogy was found by John Andrew in a meadow, which he had near the pole-arch, under the olive-tree, as you go to Narsay: where, as he was making cast up some ditches, the diggers with their mattocks struck against a great brazen tomb, and unmeasurably long, for they could never find the end thereof, by reason that it entered too far within the sluices of Vienne. Opening this tomb in a certain place thereof, sealed on the top with the mark of a goblet, about which was written in Etrurian letters Hic Bibitur, they found nine flagons set in such order as they use to rank their kyles in Gascony, of which that which was placed in the middle had under it a big, fat, great, grey, pretty, small, mouldy, little pamphlet, smelling stronger, but no better than roses. In that book the said genealogy was found written all at length, in a chancery hand, not in paper, not in parchment, nor in wax, but in the bark of an elm-tree, yet so worn with the long tract of time, that hardly could three letters together be there perfectly discerned.

I (though unworthy) was sent for thither, and with much help of those spectacles, whereby the art of reading dim writings, and letters that do not clearly appear to the sight, is practised, as Aristotle teacheth it, did translate the book as you may see in your Pantagruelizing, that is to say, in drinking stiffly to your own heart’s desire, and reading the dreadful and horrific acts of Pantagruel. At the end of the book there was a little treatise entitled the Antidoted Fanfreluches, or a Galimatia of extravagant conceits. The rats and moths, or (that I may not lie) other wicked beasts, had nibbled off the beginning: the rest I have hereto subjoined, for the reverence I bear to antiquity.
This is clipped from a wonderful Online English translation of Gargantua that you can find here.

Some workers out digging ditches uncover an ancient brazen tomb that is unmeasurably long (they never did find the end of the thing) that was sealed with the mark of a Goblet. A set of Etrurian letters around the Goblet spell out the phrase 'Hic Bibitur,' which in Latin means "Here They Drink." It's also the name of a cool Russian restaurant that we'd love to visit sometime. We'll pass over the oh-so-tempting Goblet=Grail connection as being too obvious, at least for now. Etrurian Letters are Etruscan letters. Etruscan is the ancient language of a people who were not the Romans, but who contributed a good bit to Roman culture the same way everyone else did--they were annexed, absorbed, and assimilated, then Romanified, like the Greeks, only less conspicuously as the Etruscans were a bit too rustic and were more suited to the role of providing cool bits of folklore, the Lars, and some odd-gods.

Once the Brazen Tomb was opened-up they found nine flagons underneath which was a "...big, fat, great, grey, pretty, small, mouldy, little pamphlet, smelling stronger, but no better than roses." Wow. What a great description of a potentially magical tome. Mighellito over at The Grumpy Old Troll does a very good job of describing a similar set of strange, weird old books for your dungeon-delving pleasure. You can find his excellent table of magical and mundane books here.

Inside the rose-smelling pamphlet, which is filled with pages made out of elm bark, is the entire recorded lineage of this giant-dude Gargantua. You can read more about Gargantua himself at Old School Heretic at this post.

We'll add this pamphlet to the Inside the Tome Table while we're at it.

So this Brazen Tomb that the ditch-diggers have uncovered is unmeasurable. They never can find the end to it. Doesn't that sound like a fun entrance to another Megadungeon? We thought so.

This might be a great opportunity to try out Al's Megadungeon Random Area Name Generator Tables, and maybe expand upon them a bit by adding a Rabelais-Inspired Sub Table to the mix.

This also looks like a fun way to make the Planes of the Paraverse project a bit more accessible and useful. What a cool means of entry into a vast and uncanny set of interconnected planes that have been lurking behind the thin veil of reality, just waiting to be discovered. And to think it was lying there in mud of a simple ditch in a meadow beneath an olive tree in 16th Century France.

Sounds like an excellent place to begin.

Maybe we should do some Micro-Fiction surrounding or concerning or inspired by this Brazen Tomb, like the Expanders!/Expansion Joints project that Porky started and is now going strong over at Nine Worlds, Ten Thousand Things...the notion of crafting 15 word installments of Weird Rabelaisian Fantasy Fiction has a certain lurid allure, at least to us...or maybe this could be the springboard for doing a set of entries for Porky's Fantasy Blogwalk?

Something to consider. We'll be coming back to this...eventually.

1 comment:

  1. I think that a Rabelais-themed Expanders!-style microfiction writing project would be Gargantuan fun.

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