Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Doctor Rabelais Part II: The adventures of Pantagruel and Panurge

Gustave Doré

At 524 years old, Gargantua begot his son Pantagruel, also a giant, also educated in the same manner as his father. But Pantagruel was more careful than his father about racking his brain with too much study, for fear of damaging his eyesight. Wavering between medicine and law, he eventually decided against medicine as being too tiresome and melancholy a profession. Besides, he thought, physicians always smelled of enemas, “like old devils.”

After acquiring a general education of sorts, Pantagruel decided to visit Paris. There he met Panurge, a tall, handsome chap, but so grievously wounded that he looked as though he had been attacked by dogs. Panurge addressed him in eleven different languages: German, Italian, Scotch, Basque, Spanish, archaic Danish, Hebrew, classical Greek, Latin, and two imaginary or forged languages. They traveled together, undergoing several adventures, then reached Utopia, where they set out on an expedition against the Giants who had been laying waste to the land.

Panurge, 1913
Charles Leandre

While encamped against the enemy, they sent back a captured prisoner to deliver a gift for their king:

No sooner had the king swallowed a spoonful then he at once felt such an overheating of the throat, along with an ulceration of the uvula, that his very tongue began to peel. All of the remedies that they offered him were of no avail, the only relief he could find was to drink incessantly, for no sooner did he take a goblets from his mouth that his tongue would begin to burn up. All they could do for him, therefore was to keep pouring wine into his throat with a funnel.

Later Panurge “gave Pantagruel some devilish combination of drugs to eat, composed of lithontriptic, nephrocatharticon, and quince marmalade with cantharides, along with diuretics spices.” This gave rise to such a flood that everybody in the enemy camp and within 10 leagues of it was drowned. After the battle with the Giants, they found one of their companions lying on the battlefield “stiff and dead, with his head, all bloody, between his arms.” Panurge set about to cure him in the following manner: “He thoroughly cleansed the body, neck, and head, with the good grade of white wine, after which he anointed all these parts with powdered extract of dung, which he always carried with him in one of his pockets . . . then adjusted them very carefully, vein to vein, nerve to nerve, vertebra to vertebra” so that he would not end up with a stiff neck, then inserted 15 of 16 stitches so the head would not fall off again, and wrapped around it a certain resuscitative. At once their companion began, opened his eyes and sneezed, getting stronger by the minute as he was given strong white wine, but left for several weeks with hoarseness and a hacking cough that only drinking a lot of wine would subdue.


  1. Putman, Samuel ed. The Portable Rabelais. The Viking Press; 268–274, 338–344.

Spring 2012



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