steepholm (steepholm) wrote,

A Voyage to Lilliput

Oh say, have you seen the model village at Bourton-on-the-Water? It was built in the mid-1930s by a local publican and recreates the village as it was at the time in Cotswold stone, at a scale of 1:9.

model village

At the entrance to the village, there's a large picture of Gulliver, striding through Bourton:


Being, as you know, interested in the Cotswolds' children's literature connections, I wanted to know about the origins of this picture. It clearly wasn't recent, but did it go all the way back to the village's construction, over 80 years ago?

I asked the owners, but they had only recently taken over and didn't know. So, I searched online, and found that the Gulliver analogy at least went back to the early days, as in this British Pathé film about the project from 1938, titled "Lilliput Village":

Not only that, it turns out that through the '50s and '60s the pub that owned the village printed and sold this pamphlet:

Scan_20190312 (2)

The pamphlet is the story of the village, as told by Gulliver himself, who has travelled into the future and encountered Mr Morris, "the genial host of the Old New Inn," whose brainchild the project was. Unlike the original Gulliver (who took a dim view of "projectors"), this one is most impressed, and describes the village's various charms in detail, concluding with the following thought experiment:

I tried to project myself into the mind of such a model maker and thought how he must be always living in two worlds at once — the actual and the miniature. How he must subconsciously be changing from the powerful Brobdingnagian when in his own workshop to the apprehensive Lilliputian when he battles in the vast world of reality.

This kind of thing is very apropos for my own project of course, and a voyage to Japanese Tripadvisor convinced me that many Japanese do indeed enjoy the experience of being a giant in the model village and juxtaposing it with that of the larger original. (Mise en abyme fans will be pleased to know that the model village contains a model of the model village, which in turns contains a model...) They write of feeling "feeling just like Gulliver" (すっかりガリバーになった気分だ).

For yes, in case you were wondering, Gulliver is well known in Japan - the only real country that Swift's Gulliver ever visited, after all. So well known is it, in fact, that in the 1990s they made a (short-lived) theme park near Mount Fuji, Gulliver's Kingdom. (If this link gives you an error message, reload it.)

Recent conversations revealed that the image of Gulliver tied down by the Lilliputians had misled not one but two of my Japanese friends into believing that the story of Gulliver was that of a giant - a figure more like John Bunyan.

But of course, to the Lilliputians, that was indeed the case.
Tags: cotswolds project, nippon notes
  • Post a new comment


    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded