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Laputa map.gif
Map of Laputa and Balnibarbi (original map, Pt III, Gulliver's Travels)
Gulliver's Travels location
Created by Jonathan Swift
Type Flying island
Notable charactersKing
Gulliver discovers Laputa, the flying island (illustration by J. J. Grandville) Laputa - Grandville.jpg
Gulliver discovers Laputa, the flying island (illustration by J. J. Grandville)

Laputa is a flying island described in the 1726 book Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift. It is about 4.5 miles in diameter, with an adamantine base, which its inhabitants can maneuver in any direction using magnetic levitation. It has a cave in the very centre which is precisely there to gather all the rainwater. It is also used by the king to enforce his supremacy.

<i>Gullivers Travels</i> novel by Jonathan Swift

Gulliver's Travels, or Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships, is a prose satire by Irish writer and clergyman Jonathan Swift, that is both a satire on human nature and the "travellers' tales" literary subgenre. It is Swift's best known full-length work, and a classic of English literature. He himself claimed that he wrote Gulliver's Travels "to vex the world rather than divert it".

Jonathan Swift 17th/18th-century Anglo-Irish satirist, essayist, and poet

Jonathan Swift was an Anglo-Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer, poet and cleric who became Dean of St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin.

Adamant and similar words are used to refer to any especially hard substance, whether composed of diamond, some other gemstone, or some type of metal. Both adamant and diamond derive from the Greek word ἀδάμας, ἀδάμαντος, meaning "untameable". Adamantite and adamantium are also common variants.



Laputa was located above the realm of Balnibarbi, which was ruled by its king from the flying island. Gulliver states the island flew by the “magnetic virtue” of certain minerals in the grounds of Balnibarbi which did not extended to more than four miles above, and six leagues beyond the extent of the kingdom [1] , showing the limit of its range. The position of the island, and the realm below, is some five days' journey south-south-east of Gulliver's last known position, 46N, 183E [lower-alpha 1] [2] (i.e. east of Japan, south of the Aleutian Islands) [3] down a chain of small rocky islands. [2]


Balnibarbi is a fictional land in Jonathan Swift's satirical novel Gulliver's Travels. it was visited by Lemuel Gulliver after he was rescued by the people of the flying island of Laputa.

Japan Country in East Asia

Japan is an island country in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies off the eastern coast of the Asian continent and stretches from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and the Philippine Sea in the south.

Aleutian Islands chain of islands in the Northern Pacific

The Aleutian Islands, also called the Aleut Islands or Aleutic Islands and known before 1867 as the Catherine Archipelago, are a chain of 14 large volcanic islands and 55 smaller ones belonging to both the U.S. state of Alaska and the Russian federal subject of Kamchatka Krai. They form part of the Aleutian Arc in the Northern Pacific Ocean, occupying an area of 6,821 sq mi (17,666 km2) and extending about 1,200 mi (1,900 km) westward from the Alaska Peninsula toward the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia, and mark a dividing line between the Bering Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. Crossing longitude 180°, at which point east and west longitude end, the archipelago contains both the westernmost part of the United States by longitude and the easternmost by longitude. The westernmost U.S. island in real terms, however, is Attu Island, west of which runs the International Date Line. While nearly all the archipelago is part of Alaska and is usually considered as being in the "Alaskan Bush", at the extreme western end, the small, geologically related Commander Islands belong to Russia.


The island of Laputa is described as being exactly circular and 4.5 miles (7.2 km) in diameter, giving an area of 10,000 acres (4,000 ha). The island was 300 yards (270 m) thick, and comprised a bottom plate of adamant 200 yards thick, above which lay "the several minerals in their usual order", topped with "a coat of rich mould 10 or 12 ft deep". [4]

In shape the upper surface sloped down from circumference to centre, causing all rain to form rivulets into the centre where four large basins half a mile in circuit lie 200 yards from the absolute centre. [4] In the centre of the island itself was a chasm 50 yards in diameter continuing down into a dome extending 100 yards into the adamantine surface. This dome served as an astronomical observatory, and also contained the lodestone which enabled the island to fly and move above the realm. . [5]

Astronomy natural science that deals with the study of celestial objects

Astronomy is a natural science that studies celestial objects and phenomena. It applies mathematics, physics, and chemistry in an effort to explain the origin of those objects and phenomena and their evolution. Objects of interest include planets, moons, stars, nebulae, galaxies, and comets; the phenomena also includes supernova explosions, gamma ray bursts, quasars, blazars, pulsars, and cosmic microwave background radiation. More generally, all phenomena that originate outside Earth's atmosphere are within the purview of astronomy. A branch of astronomy called cosmology is the study of the Universe as a whole.

Observatory location used for observing terrestrial or celestial events

An observatory is a location used for observing terrestrial or celestial events. Astronomy, climatology/meteorology, geophysical, oceanography and volcanology are examples of disciplines for which observatories have been constructed. Historically, observatories were as simple as containing an astronomical sextant or Stonehenge.

Lodestone naturally magnetized piece of magnetite, mineral variety

A lodestone is a naturally magnetized piece of the mineral magnetite. They are naturally occurring magnets, which can attract iron. The property of magnetism was first discovered in antiquity through lodestones. Pieces of lodestone, suspended so they could turn, were the first magnetic compasses, and their importance to early navigation is indicated by the name lodestone, which in Middle English means "course stone" or "leading stone", from the now-obsolete meaning of lode as "journey, way".


The Queen of Laputa, from a French edition of Gulliver's Travels (1850s) Willmann, Colin, & Outhwaite, the Queen of Laputa, cph.3b18906.jpg
The Queen of Laputa, from a French edition of Gulliver's Travels (1850s)

Laputa's population consists mainly of educated people, who are fond of mathematics, astronomy, music and technology, but fail to make practical use of their knowledge. Servants make up the rest of the population.

The Laputans have mastered magnetic levitation. They also are very fond of astronomy, and discovered two moons of Mars. (This is 151 years earlier than the recognized discovery of the two moons of Mars by Asaph Hall in 1877.) However, they are unable to construct well-designed clothing or buildings, because they take measurements with instruments such as quadrants and a compass rather than with tape measures.

Moons of Mars natural satellites orbiting Mars

The two moons of Mars are Phobos and Deimos. Both were discovered by Asaph Hall in August 1877 and are named after the Greek mythological twin characters Phobos (panic/fear) and Deimos (terror/dread) who accompanied their father Ares into battle. Ares, god of war, was known to the Romans as Mars.

Asaph Hall American astronomer

Asaph Hall III was an American astronomer who is most famous for having discovered the moons of Mars, Deimos and Phobos, in 1877. He determined the orbits of satellites of other planets and of double stars, the rotation of Saturn, and the mass of Mars.

Quadrant (instrument) navigation instrument

A quadrant is an instrument that is used to measure angles up to 90°. Different versions of this instrument could be used to calculate various readings, such as longitude, latitude, and time of day. It was originally proposed by Ptolemy as a better kind of astrolabe. Several different variations of the instrument were later produced by medieval Muslim astronomers.

Laputa is a male-dominated society. Wives often request to leave the island to visit the land below; however, these requests are almost never granted because the women who leave Laputa never want to return.

The clothes of Laputans, which do not fit, are decorated with astrological symbols and musical figures. They spend their time listening to the music of the spheres. They believe in astrology and worry constantly that the sun will go out. The Laputan houses, he notices, are badly built, without accurate right angles.

Due to their fervent intellectual pursuits, Laputans are also depicted as becoming so lost in thought that they cannot function in everyday life unless constantly struck by a bladder full of pebbles or dry peas, for which every one of them is escorted by one or two servants, so called "clappers". Many of their heads have become stuck reclined to one side, and they often suffer from strabismus: one eye turns inward and the other looks up "to the zenith." The Laputans' oddly-focused eyes are Swift's parodies of the microscope and telescope. So intent are the Laputans in their scientific studies that they cannot function in the everyday world, or even perceive it, and without their clappers, are in constant danger of running into a tree or a ditch when walking.

The Laputan women are highly sexed and adulterous, and, whenever possible, take on lovers out of visitors from the lands below. The Laputan husbands, who are so abstracted in mathematical and musical calculations, might assume their wives are adulterous, but so long as they have no clapper around, they won't notice the adultery even should it occur right before their eyes.

Nearby lands

The land beneath the floating island, within the region the Laputa can travel, is known as Balnibarbi. Balnibarbi is controlled by the king of Laputa; its ground capital is the city of Lagado.

Laputa's tyrannical king controls the mainland mostly by threatening to cover rebel regions with the island's shadow, thus blocking sunlight and rain, or by throwing rocks at rebellious surface cities. In extreme cases, the island is lowered onto the cities below to crush them, although this is not successful every time, notably in the case of Lindalino.

The Balnibarbian language, spoken on both Laputa and Balnibarbi, is described by Gulliver as sounding similar to Italian.


Lindalino's rebellion against Laputa is an allegory of Ireland's revolt against Great Britain, and Great Britain's (meaning the Whig government's) violent foreign and internal politics (see Jonathan Swift for his political career). The Laputans' absurd inventions mock the Royal Society.

As "la puta" means "the whore" in Spanish, some Spanish editions of "Gulliver's Travels" use "Lapuntu", "Laput", "Lapuda" and "Lupata" as bowdlerisations. It is likely, given Swift's education and satirical style, that he was aware of the Spanish meaning. (Gulliver claimed Spanish among the many languages in which he was fluent [6] .)


On Mars's largest moon, Phobos, there is one named regio, Laputa Regio, which is named after Swift's Laputa because of his 'prediction' of the two then undiscovered Martian moons, which his Laputan astronomers had discovered. [7]

See also


  1. That is, 177 West.

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Lilliput and Blefuscu fictional island

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Lindalino is a fictional city from the book Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift. Lindalino successfully revolted against the flying island of Laputa. The name Lindalino is a play on words of Dublin.

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Lagado is a fictional city from the satirical book of Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift.

Luggnagg one of the imaginary islands visited in Jonathan Swifts Gullivers Travels

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Laputa Nunataks

The Laputa Nunataks are a range of nunataks and snow-covered hills with minor rock outcrops, rising from about 500 metres (1,600 ft) to over 1,000 metres (3,300 ft), and located 6 nautical miles (11 km) northwest of Adie Inlet on the east side of Graham Land, Antarctica. They were first charted by the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey and photographed from the air by the Ronne Antarctic Research Expedition in 1947. They were named by the UK Antarctic Place-Names Committee after Laputa, the flying island in Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels.

Maldonada (<i>Gullivers Travels</i>)

Maldonada is a fictional city from the book of Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift. It was the main port of the kingdom of Balnibarbi.


  1. Swift 2008, p. 157.
  2. 1 2 Swift 2008, p. 143.
  3. Swift 2008, p. 319.
  4. 1 2 Swift 2008, p. 154.
  5. Swift 2008, p. 155.
  6. Swift, Jonathan (1900). Gulliver's Travels Into Several Remote Regions Of the World. BOSTON NEW YORK CHICAGO: D.C. HEATH & CO., PUBLISHERS. pp. Part I, Chapter II.
  7. Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature USGS Astrogeology Research Program, Phobos