a) Before you read the story:
Look at the picture. Read the description of the characters from the text. Match the descriptions and the characters.
Yahoos — creatures who lived on the island. Their heads and chests were covered in hair, and legs and arms as well. They walked sometimes on two, and sometimes on four legs, and could climb trees. They had human faces. They were unfriendly, envious and greedy. Houys — also lived on the island. Houys means a horse. They looked like horses. These creatures were kind and friendly, didn't tell lies, and they liked to get along with their neighbours. They were the masters of the Yahoos.
b) Read the text and name three things Gulliver's master didn't know.
My master looked quite worried. "What is lying?" he asked.
In their language there was no word which meant telling lies, and my master had great difficulty in understanding me. I tried to explain.
"Oh," he answered, still unsure. "But why does anyone tell a lie? There's no reason for doing it.
We use language in this country in order to understand each other, and to give and receive information. If you don't tell the truth, how can people understand each other?"
I began to see how different Houys' life was from what I was used to.
"But tell me," he continued, "about your country."
I was delighted to describe recent English history to him, especially some of our most successful wars.
"But why does one country attack another?" he asked.
"There are many reasons," I replied. "A king or his lords may want more land. Or there may be a difference of opinion between two countries for example, whether uniforms should be black, white, red, or grey. Sometimes we fight because the enemy's too strong, sometimes because he isn't strong enough. Sometimes our neighbours want the things we have, or have the things we want. We often attack our best friend, if we want some of his land. There's always a war somewhere. For this reason, being a soldier is one of the best jobs you can have."
"A soldier," repeated my master. "I'm not quite sure what that is."
"A soldier is a Yahoo who works for his king and country. His orders are to kill as many people as he can," I answered.
"People who've never hurt him?" asked the master.
"That's right," I said, pleased that he seemed to understand at last. "Soldiers have killed thousands of people in recent history."
He shook his head and looked sad. "I think you must be — what was your word? Ah, yes — lying to me. How could you and your countrymen kill so many other Yahoos? And why would you want to?"
I smiled as I replied proudly, "Sir, you don't know much about European war. With our guns and bullets and gunpowder we can destroy a thousand ships, a hundred cities, and twenty thousand men. You see,—"
"Be quiet!" he ordered. "I've heard enough. I know Yahoos are bad, but I didn't realize they could possibly do such terrible things."
After these conversations I began to wonder whether the Houys were right. Why do we humans so often fight wars and tell lies? Peace and truth began to seem more important than making war or making money.