Pantagruel and his companions arrive at the Ringing Island where they meet an old hermit by the name of Braguibus. According to the hermit, it is written that anyone who wishes to enter the island must first fast for four days; otherwise, they will be burned as a heretic. Although all of Pantagruel’s companions complain about fasting, they do so in order to gain access to the island. After completing their four-day fast, the hermit gives them a letter that recommends them to Albian Camar, Master Aedituus of the Ringing Island. After meeting Master Aedituus, Pantagruel and his entourage feast before they find out the history of the island. According to Master Aedituus, the past inhabitants of the island, the Siticines, became birds long ago. Now the island is covered in all manner of birds, and the caretakers, including Master Aedituus, have built giant cages to house the birds.
The tops of the cages have bells, and ringing the bells makes different birds sing or cry out. There are many different species of birds, and some species have been named after the different orders within the church, including a pope-hawk. Apparently, just as the Pope rules over the Catholic religion by himself, there’s only ever one pope-hawk at any one time. Master Aedituus explains that the only reported instance where there was more than one pope-hawk was a time of much chaos, for the birds did not know whom to follow. Master Aedituus points out that many birds have come to the island from other places, including birds from Africa. Master Aedituus suspects that a lot of the birds come to the island, because their families are too large, their families were poor, or because they felt it was their duty to visit the island. All of these reasons are identical to the reasons that people go into the church as a profession.
Master Aedituus tells Pantagruel and his friends about the knight-hawks, making an allegory of how they act noble and try to fight larger birds, but more often than not, the nobility is an act, since they look and act like mongrel birds. Master Aedituus then explains how he will reward Pantagruel and his friends with a four-day feast, since they all fasted for four days to gain entrance into this place. During which time, everyone ate excessively well and wandered around the bird paradise. Panurge then told the fable of the horse and the ass to Master Aedituus. In short, a horse sees an ass in the field and starts to talk to him, expressing how sorry he is that the ass must work so hard and yet never receive the rewards of being kept in a stable and fed well. The horse then offers the ass a chance to come with him in his stables so that he may be fed well and groomed. The ass takes the horse’s offer, and experiences the horse’s luxurious way life. After being groomed and well fed, the ass asks the horse how often they are allowed to have sexual relations with the female horses. The horse explains that they never do such actions in the sanctity of the stables, to which the ass replies that he would rather live in squalor and be able to have sex as often as he pleases than to live in such luxury for the rest of his life.
During the four days, Pantagruel requests to see the pope-hawk. Master Aedituus explains, however, that it would prove difficult to find him. Nevertheless, Master Aedituus promises to try and locate the pope-hawk. Upon doing so, Master Aedituus arranges a viewing of the bird. Upon seeing the bird, Panurge comments that the bird looks grizzly, which results in Master Aedituus chastising Panurge for his comment. While Pantagruel and the others continue to look at the pope-hawk, Panurge notices that there is an egg underneath the bird in his cage, implying that the supposed only pope-hawk was female, which Master Aedituus claims could not be so.
Pantagruel and his companions leave the pope-hawk and go to listen to the other birds, which they find amusing. At one point they try to gain the attention of a particular bird, so Panurge picks up a stone as if he was going to throw it at the bird. Master Aedituus begs Panurge never to do such an action, for the birds in this location were holy and must be treated as such. Pantagruel and his friends then decide that it was time to leave, and so they bid farewell to their host. Master Aedituus gives them many gifts and makes them promise that they will come back and visit.
As Pantagruel and his companions sail on, they find themselves at the island of Tools. Supposedly, this was an island where no people lived. Instead, all manner of tools for daily laboring and for war were just scattered all over the place, and some of the tools even grew out of the earth or fell from trees. The narrator implies that the tools were alive, similar to plants, and that these tool-plant hybrids would breed with one another to create strange looking tools.
Sailing onward, Pantagruel and his companions arrive at the island of Sharping. On this island, the rocks break through the surface of the land and poke upward. There were even two large cube-shaped rocks that looked like giant dice. The surfaces of these cubes looked white, as if they were covered in snow, but the pilot of Pantagruel’s ship assures everyone that they are covered in bones. He then explains how devils live on these rocks and are summoned whenever anyone plays gambling games. Supposedly, the island also houses a holy relic. The narrator explains how Pantagruel and his friends decide to brave the island and see the relic. Unfortunately, the relic itself isn’t very impressive, although the keepers of the relic have done a marvelous job at decorating the holding place of the relic to make it appear grander. Pantagruel and the others claim to be thankful for seeing the relic, and they even purchase items from the keepers of the relic, including hats.
On a barren island near the Sharpening Island, Pantagruel and his companions go through a wicket and are captured by the workers of Gripe-men-all, Archduke of the Furred Law-cats. They have captured Pantagruel and his companions, because one of Pantagruel’s servants was wearing a hat purchased from the people of the Sharpening Island. Pantagruel and his companions are put on trial, and Gripe-men-all offers them a riddle that they must solve to prove their innocence. They do not know the answer to the actual riddle, and Friar John curses them for putting good men on trial for no reason and making a mockery out of the legal system. Panurge then realizes that the answer to the riddle is no answer at all, but a bride. He throws gold to Gripe-men-all and all the Furred Law-cats, and surely enough they decide that all of the prisoners not guilty, and thus they are allowed to leave the island.
Prior to getting onto their boats, Pantagruel and his companions are warned by dockworkers that they had best leave gifts for not only the Furred Law-cats and Gripe-men-all, but also for the wives of all of these individuals. It becomes clear that the entire population of the island is corrupt, and that the legal system does not function on equality. These Furred Law-cats use the guise of justice to extort money out of their victims. Friar John and Panurge get into an argument about what to do with these Furred Law-cats. Friar John believes they are devils and sinners, and that all of the Pantagruelists, as they have come to call themselves, should cleanse the earth of such filth – that is, they should kill the Furred Law-cats. Panurge has no desire to fight these monsters. He is satisfied that he has paid them off with gold, and he wishes to have nothing else to do with them. Friar John pulls out his cutlass and walks off in a huff, angry that the others will not stand by his side and fight these sinful beasts.
As he walks, he comes across a landlady complaining to a police officer about some of Pantagruel’s crewmembers who did not pay for services rendered. Friar John starts waving his cutlass and throwing around angry words, which makes the police officer flee; but the landlady stands her ground. She explains that all she wants is payment for services rendered, and Friar John agrees to do so, but only after he sees the state of the rooms where the crewmen stayed. The landlady shows Friar John the rooms, and he agrees that the cost is fair, so he pays the woman her money. After he pays her, though, he starts ripping open the pillows and creating a storm of feathers. The landlady runs off screaming, and Friar John steals the remaining pillows and blankets and gives them to some of the men on the ship.
Pantagruel and his companions quickly leave the island and immediately set sail for some other place. Unfortunately, a storm turns their ship around and makes them almost land back on the island of the Furred Law-cats. Panurge begs the pilot to turn the ship around, for he never wishes to see that island again. Somehow they manage to once again sail away from the island and make their way toward another place.
The new place they find is the island of the Apedefers. On this strange island, Pantagruel and his companions find all manner of small and gigantic wine presses. The rulers of the wine presses judge everything through the act of pressing grapes, but they will also press any object that fits within their presses. Through this metaphor made real, they have transformed the wine press processes into a legal system. The people of the island find their methodology quite suitable, since the masters of the presses are all ignorant people, and therefore cannot be corrupted. Great monsters also live on the island, but they are chained up. The masters of the wine presses feed the juices of this strange vineyard-legal system to these monsters. Whereas Friar John was bent on destroying the Furred Law-cats, he and Panurge are far more supportive of this legal system, for not only does it create wine, but they claim that the ignorant people in charge are by far more intelligent for their use of such a fair and unbiased system.
Next, they came to an island where the people would slit their skin to let the fat out, much like people slit their clothes to let the under layers of fabric show through. Pantagruel and his companions arrive in time for what they initially believe is a happy ceremony, the bursting of an older man, but they find out that the bursting is actually akin to death, and that everyone has gathered for a funeral-like scene. Panurge mourns the situation and begs that they find some other way to heal the man, but alas the man dies as Panurge laments.
A storm hits, and they are caught aground. As they wait for the tides to swell and help them get off of the sandbanks, a passing ship spots them and calls out to them. The man calling out to them is a friend of the narrator. This friend goes by the name of Harry Cotiral, and he is described as a man who wears a greasy hat, who holds the stump of a cabbage in one hand, and who has attached a horse’s penis to his belt. As Harry’s ship gets closer, Harry and the narrator have a brief conversation, and the narrator learns that Harry’s ship is sailing from the Queen of Whims’ land and that it is making its way home to Pantagruel’s country. The cargo on Harry’s ship includes alchemy products, and the passengers traveling on the ship are all manner of people: “Astrologers, fortune-tellers, alchemists, rhymers, poets, painters, projectors, mathematicians, watchmakers, sing-songs, [and] musicians,” (Chapter 18, par 6). Panurge insists that the narrator and Harry quit chatting long enough so that they can negotiate a way for Harry’s ship to help their ship get off the sandbank. Harry explains that he was steering his ship closer to them just for that purpose, and he orders his crewmen to start throwing over cables to assist in pulling the ship free. Pantagruel and all his companions give thanks to Harry and his ship for their assistance. Pantagruel also make certain that they are paid well for their aid. Although Pantagruel’s ships are no longer stuck on the sandbanks, the storm still damaged the ships pretty significantly, so Pantagruel and his companions decide that the only way to find their way to the Queen of Whims’ kingdom is to let the winds and currents push them toward their destination.
Pantagruel and his companions finally arrive at the Queen of Whims’ domain and are greeted by soldiers who make sure that Pantagruel and his friends are good and noble people. Upon proving so, they are admitted to see the Queen. Although she is nearly 2,000 years old, she looks young, beautiful, and regal. Within her castle are many sick people, but as soon as she plays a song on the organ, all those within the vicinity are healed completely. She then meets with Pantagruel and his friends and delivers the most beautiful and eloquent speech they have ever heard. All of them stand speechless as a result, for they are too afraid to answer her ladyship. She interprets their inability to speak to imply that they are grateful for her services. She then gives them full leisure to explore her kingdom.
Upon their exploration, Pantagruel and his friends learn that the Queen’s servants also have the ability to heal people, but each servant has only been trained to cure one type of ailment. Of the servants, Pantagruel and his friends find someone who can turn old women into young women, so that they can be married to young suitors. Pantagruel asks if there is a person who turns old men into young men. One of the Queen’s servants replies that it is not necessary for anyone to perform that feat. The servant elaborates that the only thing to do to turn an old man young again is to place him with a young woman as his lover.
As Pantagruel and his companions continue to explore, they soon discover that the people who serve the Queen perform miracles and impossible acts on a regular basis. These people also dedicate themselves to improving their skills through continuous studies. The Queen once again speaks to Pantagruel and his companions, and once again they find themselves speechless after hearing her words. She honors them by making them abstractors and tells them that her principal Tabachin, Geber, will provide them with guidance on their new callings.
Next, the Queen, all of her court, Pantagruel, and his companions go to the main hall for a large feast. As they eat, they notice that the Queen never chews any food herself, and instead she has servants who chew her food for her, and those servants feed her through a golden funnel. The narrator also states that since the Queen does not chew her own food, she also does not use the bathroom on her own, and he comments that the Queen has someone else use the bathroom for her by proxy.
After dinner, they are entertained by a tilting tournament, which in actuality is a live-action game of chess with dancers dressed up as the gold and silver chess pieces. Around the chessboard is an orchestra, and as the music plays, different chess pieces move in accordance with the music. By the end of the first bout, the silver king claims victory over the gold king. The silver king also wins the second bout, but the gold king claims the third bout’s victory. Sometime during the chess matches, the Queen of Whims disappears. Pantagruel and his companions never see her again, for they too left shortly after the chess matches had completed.
Sailing away from the Queen of Whims’ country, the group arrives next at the island of Odes, which is where ways are created. Some ways are beautiful, some ways are treacherous, some ways are well traveled, and so forth. Pantagruel and the others discuss the different ways they get from place to place, but it is unclear if they are speaking metaphorically. They meet a local man who tells them that no matter which one of the ways they examine, all the ways start and end in the water.
At the island of Sandals, the third king of the island, Benius, entertains Pantagruel and his companions. He brings them to see the order of Semiquaver Friars. Unlike other orders of friars, these monks wear cowls that cover their faces and expose the back of their heads, which are completely shaven. They also wear codpieces on both their fronts and their backs, and they walk backwards as normally as they walk forwards. They dress and act so strangely, because they wish to avoid fortune, for they believe fortune to be a horrible thing.
Panurge, Friar John, and Epistemon get into a strange conversation with one of the friars. Panurge does most of the talking, and the friar answers his question with monosyllable answers. From the conversation, they learn that the friar and all the monks in the order regularly engage in sex. They also masturbate profusely and fornicate on a regular basis. This monk claims to be the most virile of the bunch, and states that he prefers to copulate in March. Epistemon comments that March is the same month as Lent. Epistemon discusses how Catholics are hypocritical with Lent, since it is the time when they are supposed to give up certain luxuries, yet it ends up being the time when Catholics give in to sin far more easily. After Epistemon criticizes Lent, Panurge questions the friar, who continues to give monosyllabic answers. Panurge asks the friar if he believes that Epistemon is a heretic and if he should be burned at the stake, to which the friar answers yes to both questions. Panurge then comments how he would like to take this friar home, after Panurge has found a wife, that is, so that the friar could be his wife’s fool.
Moving on, Pantagruel and his companions find themselves in the land of Satin. Within this land is the country of Tapestry. In this place, there are no living animals or plants, and instead tapestries hang everywhere. Pantagruel and his friends walk through and examine the images on the tapestries. The narrator makes a list of all the animals, creatures, beings, and scenes that he sees portrayed on these tapestries. The narrator also relays poignant information about some of the images. For instance, according to the tapestries, the horn of a unicorn is only erect when the unicorn was in battle or purifying toxic waters. Panurge makes the comparison between the unicorn’s horn and his own penis, explaining that his penis has purified all the women he has slept with. Friar John jokes that Panurge’s ability will prove quite useful to keep his wife clean, implying that she will no doubt cuckold him and bring home diseases. Panurge does not like the joke, but he does not start an argument over it, as he has done before.
As they travel further into the country of tapestries, the narrator notes seeing all manner of different people walking amidst the tapestries. All these people are surrounding one particular figure, which is a monstrous-looking small man by the name of Hearsay. This small man smiles from ear to ear, and within his mouth he has seven tongues that each speak multiple languages all at once. His whole head is covered in ears, so he can hear everything, but his eyes are blind. Thus, all the great philosophers, artists, and professionals come to Hearsay and learn through him instead of learning the truth.
After much travel, Pantagruel and his companions finally arrive in Lantern-land. They make port, explain their purpose for being there to the local authorities, and then they request to see the Queen of the land to ask permission to travel to the Oracle of the Holy Bottle. They visit with the Queen, and she gives them permission to travel. She also offers a Lantern to guide the way. By Lantern, the Queen implies a person with the designation of “Lantern,” and this person will guide travelers to any chosen destination within Lantern-land. Before they go, they have dinner with the Queen, and as they go to dinner they see all of the great lanterns of legends, myths, and antiquity.The following day, they have their Lantern guide them to the destination of the oracle. Before they reach the entrance to the oracle, though, they must pass through a vineyard, and the Lantern explains that the vineyard was planted by Bacchus himself. While passing through the vineyard, they are each instructed to eat three grapes, place grape leaves inside of their shoes, and each person must hold a vine branch in their left hand. Everyone does as the Lantern instructs, and so they make their way to the entrance of the oracle.
The Lantern leads Pantagruel and his companions into the entrance of the temple, which is underground. There is some discussion between the narrator and Pantagruel about the paintings on the underground cellar walls, which remind them about the cellars in Chinon, or Cainon, which is supposedly the oldest city in the world, as Cain built it. As they move further underground, they take a spiral staircase down over 100 steps toward the place where Priestess Bacbuc resides. As they go down, Panurge begins to panic and fears that he is walking down into hell. He thinks that they should turn around and go back, but Pantagruel and Friar John do not let him run away. Instead, they urge him downward. At the bottom of the steps, the Lantern explains that she can go no further than the temple gates. She will be there to lead them back out, but she must leave them at the gates. Everyone seems to understand, so she unlocks the temple gates, and leaves them there. On the right temple gate is carved the following words: “Fate leads the willing, and th' unwilling draws” (Chapter 37, par 7). On the left temple gate is carved these words: “All things tend to their end” (Chapter 37, par 9).
Inside the temple, Pantagruel and his companions find that it is adored and decorated in the most elegant fashion imaginable. Beautiful mosaics portray the tale of how Bacchus, followed by women warriors, drunken men, satyrs, centaurs, and all other manner of creatures, went to battle against the Indians and won the day. Although the temple is deep underground, in the center of the temple is an enormous golden lantern that provides ample light. Chains suspend this golden lantern, and it is adorned with four smaller lanterns made of precious stones. The light created from these lanterns illuminates the space to make it appear as bright as day. After they pass the golden lantern, Pantagruel and his companions meet the priestess Bacbuc and her handmaidens. The priestess leads Pantagruel and his followers into the central area of the temple to see the great fountain. The narrator describes the fountain as heptagonal with seven pillars that reach up to the ceiling and join in archways to form a cupola above the fountain. Each of the seven pillars is made of the most precious stones, and each pillar is assigned to one of the seven celestial bodies. In accordance with the seven celestial bodies, each pillar also has a corresponding metal attached to it. On the inside of the cupola is engraved astronomical symbols, including symbols from the zodiac.
The priestess encourages Pantagruel and his followers to drink from the fountain, which they do. After their first taste of the fountain’s waters, they claim they cannot taste anything special, so the priestess orders her handmaidens to bring in palate cleansers for the guests. After sufficiently eating enough foods to cleanse their pallets, the priestess invites them to drink again. This time each man swears that the water tastes like a different flavor of wine. With each taste of the fountain, they can let their imaginations change the flavors, which proves the power of these waters.
Bacbuc prepares Panurge to hear the words of the Holy Bottle, known as the Goddess-Bottle. Before he can hear the words, though, she warns him that he can only hear the truth in one ear. She then dresses him in a strange manner of clothing, and then has him dance about the temple, twirling, jumping up and down, singing strange words, and then she finally leads him into an adjacent chamber known as the chapel.
In this chapel there is a second heptagonal fountain, although all the pillars are made of the same alabaster material. The side of the fountain is where the Goddess-Bottle sits. Bacbuc places Panurge to where he would be able to place one ear to the bottle. Bacbuc then throws something into the fountain water to make it instantly boil. As it does so, a buzzing noise can be heard from the bottle, and then a voice comes out of it saying, “Trinc.”
At first, Panurge worries that the oracle is fraudulent, but then Bacbuc explains that the meaning of the word can be found in the book of the oracle. She brings Panurge to where the book is kept, but unlike traditional books that are read, this book must be drunk in order for individuals to understand the true meaning behind the words spoken by the Goddess-Bottle. Panurge drinks the book, and he claims instantly to know the true meaning behind the message. He then begins to chant uncontrollably in rhyming verse. As he chants, he reveals that he will get married, he will drink and be happy, and he will keep his wife happy and satisfied. Pantagruel and Friar John also begin to chant in rhyme. Friar John reveals that nothing will ever make him get married, for he does not want to feel restricted. Panurge chastises Friar John, implying that he will go to hell for not getting married, whereas he, Panurge, will go to paradise. After a while, Pantagruel, Panurge, and Friar John stop talking in rhyme, and they are ready to leave.
The priestess requests that they give her servants their names, so that they can be written on a roster. She then bids them farewell and hopes that they have been given the answers they sought. The priestess insists that many great answers can be found underground, for that is where the truth is often concealed.
One of the main points of contention for this fifth and final book is whether Rabelais wrote it. Arthur Augustus Tilley has thoroughly researched the publication of the multiple versions of the fifth book. He points out that the first version only contained the first 15 chapters of the book, but this version had no printer name on the publication, which is peculiar. Stranger still is the fact that the book came out nearly nine years after Rabelais had passed away. After this first publication appeared in 1562, the second publication appeared in 1564, and this version included 47 chapters, but Tilley notes that this version omitted the chapter about the island of the Apedefts. Additional versions and manuscripts surfaced thereafter, some with omitted portions, others with extended scenes that are not considered part of the original text. Tilley points out that the written manuscripts are “written in the same hand throughout, which is certainly not Rabelais’s,” as he contests that the handwriting does not match previous known samples of Rabelais’s writing (243). Other than handwriting samples, Tilley explains that several of Rabelais’s contemporaries also argued that Rabelais could not have written the fifth book, at least not completely. According to Tilley’s research, Rabelais’s contemporaries posit that the excessive anti-Catholic sentiments presented in the fifth book is proof that Rabelais could not have been the author.
With that point made, the anti-Catholic propaganda throughout the fifth book creates a much different tone compared to the previous four books. One of the most blatant anti-Catholic acts includes the dark satirical mockery of reliquary and idol worship. During the Renaissance, Reformists argued that the glorified worship of reliquaries, statues of saints, statues of Christ, and other idol-like images predominant in the Catholic religion were in clear violation of one of the 10 Commandments. Within this fifth book, Pantagruel and his companion’s visit several sites that contain reliquaries or other holy items. More often than not, the narrator presents the items as being unimpressive or the narrator displays the caretakers as hypocrites and liars. For instance, on the Ringing Island, Master Aedituus claims that there is only ever one pope-hawk at any one time. When he arranges a viewing of the bird for Pantagruel and his companions, though, Panurge notices that the one and only pope-hawk has laid an egg, implying that it is female and not male, and that another pope-hawk impregnated it. Master Aedituus denies such allegations and refuses to see the factual evidence. Likewise, on the island of Sandals, Panurge, Epistemon, and Friar John interview one of the Semiquaver Friars. Through this discussion, they discover that all the friars in this order engage in sex, masturbation, and other acts unbecoming a member of the clergy.
As the structure of the fifth book includes blatant anti-Catholic statements, it also includes a high amount of metaphors made real through allegory or personification. The fifth book starts off with an allegory designed primarily to set up the anti-Catholic structure. On the Ringing Island, Master Aedituus tells Pantagruel and his companions that many of the birds currently on the island were once humans who transformed. A large portion of the transformed birds has been named after different parts of the clergy. Thus, the allegory of the previous island dwellers’ transformation implies both transmogrification and transcendence from human to bird, which could stand for transcendence from human to angel. In an allegorical presentation, it may represent the transformation a regular person undergoes when they take on the vows of the clergy. Beyond just members of the clergy, though, some of the birds have been named after social classes, which expands the allegory outside of just the ecclesiastical transmogrification. However, by including the other classes, such as the mongrel knight-hawk pointed out by Master Aedituus, the narrator makes his allegory less about the idea of transcendence. Instead, the allegory becomes more of a simple comparison between humans and birds.
One of the most visual sustained allegories happens on the island of Satin in the country of Tapestry where all manner of people have come to learn from Hearsay. Much like the practice in medieval storytelling, the abstract concept of hearsay has been personified into the form of “a diminutive, monstrous, misshapen old fellow” whose “mouth was slit up to his ears, and in it were seven tongues, each of them cleft into seven parts. However, he chattered, tattled, and prated with all the seven at once, of different matters, and in divers languages . . . He had as many ears all over his head and the rest of his body as Argus formerly had eyes, and was as blind as a beetle” (Chapter 31, par. 10-11). The narrator explains how all manner of great people, including some of the greatest thinkers throughout history, were gathered around Hearsay for his infinite knowledge. Of course, through the sustained allegory, the narrator implies that people who only learn from Hearsay are blinded from the truth. At an attempt to maintain the satire, the narrator explains how Pantagruel and his companions mingled with the students of Hearsay, joked with them, ate their rich foods, and were “scurvily entertained” (Chapter 32, par 1). By showing that Pantagruel and his companions found the entire episode amusing and nothing more, the narrator, therefore, expects the reader to believe that Pantagruel and his friends did not take the students of Hearsay seriously, which further underscores the concept of hearsay as something to be ignored.
Moving away from subjects of authenticity, anti-Catholic sentiments, and allegorical representations, one cannot discuss this final book without examining the full cycle of development, or lack thereof, of the main characters. On their journey portrayed in the fifth book, Pantagruel almost disappears as a character for most of the story, allowing Panurge and Friar John to take center stage with Epistemon as their supporting character. The entire voyage from the start of the fourth book to the end of the fifth book shows Panurge going back and forth between absolute cowardice and absolute arrogance; the sea and the elements bring out his cowardice, but standing on dry land allows his arrogance to shine. Curious enough, when Panurge finally reaches the oracle and goes underground, getting ever closer to his answer, his cowardice returns temporarily. Friar John serves as little more than a pseudo-parental figure in these last two books. He chastises Panurge for his cowardice, and threatens to hurt him, but he never does more than verbally shame him. Epistemon lightens the mood between Panurge and Friar John, but his character serves as a mask for mocking the Catholic Church through a vaguely scholarly discourse. At the end of the fifth book, Pantagruel once again becomes more involved in the story, if only just. Of course, he only seems to get involved to push Panurge into following through with his search for answers. Thus, though the story is named after Pantagruel, his character neither grows nor changes much within the last three books. He serves as more of a presence or regal figurehead that provides the other characters, mainly Panurge, with the money and means to live out their adventures.
In the end of this final book, it truly is all about Panurge’s quest for answers. Unhappy with the answers he acquired in the third book, namely that he would be cuckolded, Panurge convinces Pantagruel, Epistemon, Friar John, and the other companions to go on an epic voyage to find the ultimate answer. Throughout this voyage that takes two books to complete, the whole purpose behind the quest seems an afterthought at best. Although Panurge occasionally gets mocked or mocks himself about the idea of becoming a cuckold, the characters involved in the last two books seem fairly unconcerned with Panurge’s fate. Nevertheless, they do all keep moving toward Lantern Land in support of Panurge, so perhaps they are all merely enjoying the ride, since they know the end of their journey will be met with all seriousness as they encounter the oracle. However, the level of seriousness in the final chapters of the fifth book is questionable. While the characters go through various ceremonies and act solemnly, the non-Christian elements serve to make a mockery of the entire ordeal. For Panurge to get his answer, the priestess must dress him up in a fool’s garb, and then she orders him to dance about the temple like a madman. After he finally hears the one word answer from the Goddess-Bottle, the word makes no sense to him until he drinks a magical elixir referred to as the book. Only then does he understand the meaning of the word, but he can only verbalize or translate the meaning by speaking through rhyme. With his newfound knowledge, Panurge’s character transforms into a man confident that his marriage will end well, provided that he treats his wife well. Panurge then turns the tables and chastises Friar John, explaining to Friar John that he will never make it to Paradise, for as a member of the clergy he cannot get married, which serves as the final anti-Catholic remark. During these final scenes, Pantagruel uses rhymed verse to tell Friar John to let Panurge make a fool out of himself. Pantagruel’s remarks on the matter make the ending of the story seem false and pointless, as if the entire voyage was nothing more than just a way to humor Panurge. While Pantagruel’s statements may have been chosen to emphasize the satirical nature of the entire Gargantua and Pantagruel series, his comments feel out of place, given that the fifth book itself does not contain the clever type of satire that made Rabelais famous, but rather it contains a malicious type of satire used predominately as a propaganda machine against the Catholic Church.