According to legend, when the author and Historical Long Rider Jonathan Swift made an equestrian journey across Ireland, he arrived at a remarkable conclusion. The beloved mare who carried him faithfully was a paragon of reason, understanding and sympathy, unlike his fellow human beings.
At the conclusion of the ride, Swift penned his famous book, Gulliver's Travels. It told the tale of Lemuel Gulliver, a ship's captain who sailed to four remarkable kingdoms. While the simple children's version focuses on the little people of Lilliput, it was the talking horses found in the fourth adventure which outraged civilised English society.
A Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnms recounts how Captain Gulliver's crew mutinied and set him ashore on an unknown island. There he encountered a race of savage humanoids who threatened to kill him. The bewildered traveller was rescued by horses, who it turns out could speak and in fact ruled the island.
What follows is an astonishing tale that turns man's definition of himself on its head. The naked, warlike and murderous humans are known as Yahoos, a term still used today as a synonym for "ruffian." In order to draw attention to the evils of materialism and elitism, Swift described the Yahoos as savage creatures with selfish habits, who are obsessed with digging pretty stones from the mud.
In stark contrast the Houyhnhnms, which in their language means "the perfection of nature," are a race of intelligent horses that enjoy a peaceful society based upon reason. Though he is biologically akin to the Yahoos, Gulliver prefers the company of his benevolent equine hosts. When he learns to converse with the horses, Gulliver attempts to explain human society. His equine hosts are perplexed with the alien concepts of greed, war and injustice. Nor do they have a word for 'lie,' and must substitute the phrase "to say a thing which is not."
When Gulliver reluctantly returns to England, he finds the company of his countrymen, whom he now views as Yahoos, so intolerable that he spends most of his time in the stable near his home. Thus, this equine episode is the keystone of Gulliver's Travels and reflects Swift's disenchantment with popular society.
Originally it was believed that A Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnms was a metaphor used by Swift to highlight England's treatment of slaves as lesser human beings. More recently, it has been described as an early example of animal rights, in that Gulliver's role reversal highlighted how cruelly English horses were treated. First released anonymously in 1726, it sold out in less than a week. Since then, the challenging tale has never been out of print.
Nor has there arrived a human who has answered the challenge Swift wrote for his own epitaph. "Go forth, Voyager, and copy, if you can, this vigorous champion of Liberty."
|Publisher:||The Long Riders' Guild|
|Edition description:||New Edition|
|Product dimensions:||0.24(w) x 5.50(h) x 8.50(d)|