thomas m wilson

Gulliver the Boab and His Western Australian Travels

July 20th, 2008

I was passing through King’s Park, a park in the centre of the city of Perth, this afternoon. What should I see, but the fabled Gulliver lying prone. Brightly clothed Lilliputians crawled around and over him.

Gulliver was tied down firmly, and the people of Lilliput swarmed about. Gulliver was an old man from the north of Western Australia. The people of Perth saw Gulliver as part of their state, part of their identity. But these southern Lilliputians forgot that Western Australia is twice the size of Western Europe, and that Gulliver’s outlook for the past 750 years resembled nothing most of them had ever seen. Before the Enlightenment period of the eighteenth century that rocked Europe’s intellectual foundations, Gulliver was a seasoned elder. Before the Industrial Revolution of the late eighteenth century, Gulliver was a dignified pillar of the community of vertical beings. Before the great, great grandfathers and mothers of these present Lilliputians were born, this old boab had seen many generations of tribes of darker skinned Lilliputians wandering across the horizon, or maybe stopping to harvest some seeds beneath his boughs.

Adansonia gregorii, is Gulliver’s scientific name. He has six cousins in Madagascar, and one in Africa (yes we were one land far back in the mists of prehistory). Gulliver is cold from the drop in temperature in his new home in Perth, 3200 kms south of where he’d lived for the previous few centuries. He’s been translocated to King’s Park as they were going to build a road through his spot on the planet.  Hopefully he’ll be ok.