One of the more confusing and disturbing of Gilbert's nonsensical poems is this, King Borria Bungalee Boo, which rhymes about an African king who was insatiably hungry and wanted to eat his friends because they could find him nothing to eat. His friends convince him to instead try to kill and eat the queen and her Amazons (female warriors) of the neighboring state. The Amazons prepare for battle by dressing themselves as European women, trying to entice the army into not killing them. It doesn't work, and Gilbert tells us who eats whom once the women are dead. Quite a disturbing piece. To read a short, and basic, analysis of this poem and its accompanying artwork, click on the illustration.
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Wood-pulp paper, which was cheaper at this time and easier to produce than rag paper of the past, would have been cut into large sheets that were then folded down by the printer after the printing was done and compiled into the corrected collation for the book.
The unfortunate part about wood pulp paper, and paper like this that we still use to this day, is that the acid content within it is so heavy that it will eventually disintegrate even if it is barely used. It also contributes to the frailty of the paper which will break as you turn pages and start to flake with time. These pages already show plenty of wear and many are torn from their quires.
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While the text of this poem is problematic, the illustration is just as such, if not more. This illustration was a woodcut done by W.S. Gilbert, like all the rest in the book. All of the illustrations are meant to be satiric and illustrative of both the poem and the meaning of it, but Gilbert also said that he often wrote nonsense in order to fulfill deadlines. Which one of these intentions that he had in mind for this poem can't be known, but the illustration can tell us a lot of what he thought about while writing and drawing.
The king is dressed in what seems to be French military regalia, complete with a huge feathered hat. The army wears only loincloths and though the women have grass skirts, they wear no tops. The understanding from this then, even without the context, may be a commentary on the colonization of Africa, the "eating up" of the African people.
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