The satirical novels describe the adventures of two giants,
Gargantua and his son Pantagruel.
The first book he wrote and published is a biography of the son, Pantagruel.
The second book is the biography of his father, Gargantua.
So, yes, it's a prequel, they've been around since the 1530s.
Then there were three more books focused on Pantagruel.
The fifth volume was published nine years after Rabelais' death,
includes a lot of material lifted from other books,
and is widely interpreted as being of lower quality.
So, there's debate as to whether Rabelais wrote the fifth book or not.
What we're interested in is the second book he published, telling the
earliest story, that of Gargantua.
Let's read chapter 13 of that book, in which Gargantua is explaining
his bum-wiping theories to his father, Grangousier.
This is the translation by Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty
and Peter Antony Motteux as found
at Project Gutenberg
complete with illustrations by Gustave Doré.
How Gargantua’s wonderful understanding became known to his
father Grangousier, by the invention of a torchecul or wipebreech
About the end of the fifth year, Grangousier returning from the conquest
of the Canarians, went by the way to see his son Gargantua.
There was he filled with joy, as such a father might be at the sight of
such a child of his: and whilst he kissed and embraced him,
he asked many childish questions of him about divers matters,
and drank very freely with him and with his governesses,
of whom in great earnest he asked, amongst other things,
whether they had been careful to keep him clean and sweet.
To this Gargantua answered, that he had taken such a course for that himself,
that in all the country there was not to be found a cleanlier boy than he.
How is that? said Grangousier.
I have, answered Gargantua, by a long and curious experience,
found out a means to wipe my bum, the most lordly, the most excellent,
and the most convenient that ever was seen.
What is that? said Grangousier, how is it?
I will tell you by-and-by, said Gargantua.
Once I did wipe me with a gentle-woman’s velvet mask, and found it to be good;
for the softness of the silk was very voluptuous and pleasant to my fundament.
Another time with one of their hoods, and in like manner that was comfortable.
At another time with a lady’s neckerchief, and after that I wiped me
with some ear-pieces of hers made of crimson satin,
but there was such a number of golden spangles in them (turdy round things,
a pox take them) that they fetched away all the skin of my tail
with a vengeance.
Now I wish Saint Antony’s fire burn the bum-gut of the goldsmith that made them,
and of her that wore them!
This hurt I cured by wiping myself with a page’s cap, garnished with a feather
after the Switzers’ fashion.
Afterwards, in dunging behind a bush, I found a March-cat, and with it
I wiped my breech, but her claws were so sharp that they scratched and
exulcerated all my perinee.
Of this I recovered the next morning thereafter, by wiping myself with my
mother’s gloves, of a most excellent perfume and scent of the Arabian Benin.
After that I wiped me with sage, with fennel, with anet, with marjoram,
with roses, with gourd-leaves, with beets, with colewort,
with leaves of the vine-tree, with mallows, wool-blade,
which is a tail-scarlet, with lettuce, and with spinach leaves.
All this did very great good to my leg.
Then with mercury, with parsley, with nettles, with comfrey,
but that gave me the bloody flux of Lombardy, which I healed by wiping me
with my braguette.
Then I wiped my tail in the sheets, in the coverlet, in the curtains,
with a cushion, with arras hangings, with a green carpet, with a table-cloth,
with a napkin, with a handkerchief, with a combing-cloth;
in all which I found more pleasure than do the mangy dogs when you rub them.
Yea, but, said Grangousier, which torchecul did you find to be the best?
I was coming to it, said Gargantua, and by-and-by shall you hear the
tu autem, and know the whole mystery and knot of the matter.
I wiped myself with hay, with straw, with thatch-rushes, with flax, with wool,
with paper, but,
Who his foul tail with paper wipes,
Shall at his ballocks leave some chips.
What, said Grangousier, my little rogue, hast thou been at the pot,
that thou dost rhyme already?
Yes, yes, my lord the king, answered Gargantua, I can rhyme gallantly,
and rhyme till I become hoarse with rheum.
Hark, what our privy says to the skiters:
Saint Antony’s fire seize on thy toane (bone?),
Thou do not wipe, ere thou be gone.
Will you have any more of it?
Yes, yes, answered Grangousier.
Then, said Gargantua,
In shitting yes’day I did know
The sess I to my arse did owe:
The smell was such came from that slunk,
That I was with it all bestunk:
O had but then some brave Signor
Brought her to me I waited for,
I would have cleft her watergap,
And join’d it close to my flipflap,
Whilst she had with her fingers guarded
My foul nockandrow, all bemerded
Now say that I can do nothing!
By the Merdi, they are not of my making, but I heard them of this
good old grandam, that you see here, and ever since have retained them
in the budget of my memory.
Let us return to our purpose, said Grangousier.
What, said Gargantua, to skite?
No, said Grangousier, but to wipe our tail.
But, said Gargantua, will not you be content to pay a puncheon of Breton wine,
if I do not blank and gravel you in this matter, and put you to a non-plus?
Yes, truly, said Grangousier.
There is no need of wiping one’s tail, said Gargantua, but when it is foul;
foul it cannot be, unless one have been a-skiting;
skite then we must before we wipe our tails.
O my pretty little waggish boy, said Grangousier,
what an excellent wit thou hast?
I will make thee very shortly proceed doctor in the jovial quirks of
gay learning, and that, by G—, for thou hast more wit than age.
Now, I prithee, go on in this torcheculative, or wipe-bummatory discourse,
and by my beard I swear, for one puncheon, thou shalt have threescore pipes,
I mean of the good Breton wine, not that which grows in Britain,
but in the good country of Verron.
Afterwards I wiped my bum, said Gargantua, with a kerchief, with a pillow,
with a pantoufle, with a pouch, with a pannier, but that was a wicked and
unpleasant torchecul; then with a hat.
Of hats, note that some are shorn, and others shaggy, some velveted,
others covered with taffeties, and others with satin.
The best of all these is the shaggy hat, for it makes a very neat
abstersion of the fecal matter.
Afterwards I wiped my tail with a hen, with a cock, with a pullet,
with a calf’s skin, with a hare, with a pigeon, with a cormorant,
with an attorney’s bag, with a montero, with a coif, with a falconer’s lure.
But, to conclude, I say and maintain, that of all torcheculs, arsewisps,
bumfodders, tail-napkins, bunghole cleansers, and wipe-breeches,
there is none in the world comparable to the neck of a goose,
that is well downed, if you hold her head betwixt your legs.
And believe me therein upon mine honour, for you will thereby feel
in your nockhole a most wonderful pleasure, both in regard of the softness
of the said down and of the temporate heat of the goose, which is easily
communicated to the bum-gut and the rest of the inwards, in so far as to
come even to the regions of the heart and brains.
And think not that the felicity of the heroes and demigods in the
Elysian fields consisteth either in their asphodel, ambrosia, or nectar,
as our old women here used to say; but in this, according to my judgment,
that they wipe their tails with the neck of a goose, holding her head
betwixt their legs, and such is the opinion of Master John of Scotland,