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Map of Laputa and Balnibarbi (Hermann Moll, before 1726)
|Gulliver's Travels location|
Laputa is a flying island mentioned from the book Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift. It is a flying island about 4.5 miles in diameter, with an adamantine base, which its inhabitants can manoeuvre in any direction using magnetic levitation.
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 and discovered the two moons of Mars (which in reality would not be discovered for another 150 years). 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.
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. The Laputan women are highly sexed and adulterous, preferring men from the island of Balnibarbi. The Laputan husbands, who are so abstracted in mathematical and musical calculations, don't know that their wives are adulterous.
Due to their fervent intellectual pursuits, Laputans are also depicted as becoming so lost in thought that they do not move unless struck by a "bladder", many of their heads have become stuck reclined to one side, and they often suffer from strabismus.
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" (see Spanish profanity), some Spanish editions of "Gulliver's Travels" use "Lapuntu", "Laput", "Lapuda" and "Lupata" as bowdlerisations. It is likely, given Swift's brand of satire, that he was aware of the Spanish meaning. (Gulliver, himself, claimed Spanish among the many languages in which he was fluent.)
Laputa, as with some of Swift's other inventions, was the inspiration and basis for many later works. Examples include:
- Laputa: Castle in the Sky, an anime by Hayao Miyazaki, which centres on a floating city. It also gave its name to a race course of the Game Boy Advance video game F-Zero: Maximum Velocity, as "Laputan Colony". In both titles, the North American release changed these titles, to simply "Castle in the Sky" and "Empyrean Colony" respectively, to avoid similarities to the vulgar Spanish term la puta.
- William Barrett used the story in his 1958 book Irrational Man to illustrate the alienation which existentialsm tries to counter.
- The Mazda Laputa, whose name derives from Gulliver's Travels.
- In the Oscar-winning movie Dr. Strangelove a loose B-52 bomber is targeting the Laputa ICBM complex in Siberia. This is both a referral to Swift's novel and a sexual innuendo, among many others in the movie.
- In video game, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, the floating prison "Ministry of Truth" was often thought to be based on Laputa and George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.
- In Stranger in a Strange Land (1961), Robert Heinlein describes Laputa's system for managing communication through the use of the climenole, or flapper.
- Case for a Rookie Hangman, Czech film by Pavel Juráček (1969)
- The video game Deus Ex features a biomechanically augmented character, Gunther Hermann, whose 'killphrase' is "Laputan Machine". Uttering the phrase to the character causes his death.
- The Star_Trek: The Original Series episode The Cloud Minders features a floating city.
- The post-apocalyptic Science Fiction novel Engine Summer by John Crowley features a flying city called Laputa.
- The Stargate SG1 episode The Nox features a floating city.
- Page, Michael; Ingpen, Robert (1998). Encyclopedia of Things That Never Were. New York: Penguin Studio. pp. 94, 150–1. ISBN 0-14-010008-3.