Gil Braltar: A Short Story

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“Gil Braltar” is an English-language translation of a short story written by French novelist, poet, and playwright Jules Verne (1828-1905). Verne, born in Nantes, France, was known for writing a series of science fiction novels. Several of his novels were translated into English, and are considered classics. The best known are “Journey to the Center of the Earth” (1864), “Twenty-Thousand League...

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Publication Date: March 28, 2015
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Sea” (1870), and “Around the World in Eighty Days” (1873).The short story “Gil Braltar” is the satirical, comedic tale of a Spanish madman who leads a troop of Barbary macaque monkeys in an effort to capture British-held Gibraltar. The rock of Gibraltar, at the extreme southern end of Spain, was captured from Spain by an Anglo-Dutch force in 1704 during the War of Spanish Succession. Britain later permanently annexed the small territory, turning it into a major naval based. Spanish attempts to recapture the territory in 1727 and 1779-1783 failed.Gibraltar occupies a strategic location, overlooking the narrow Strait of Gibraltar that separate Europe and Africa, and which control the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea. The name Gibraltar comes from the Arabic “Jebel Tariq”, meaning “the mountain of Tariq”. The man who the mountain is named for was Tariq ibn Ziyad, the Berber general who supervised the Umayyad Islamic (Moorish) conquest of Visigothic Spain from 711-718 A.D. The Visigoths had taken control of the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The Christian Visigothic kingdom of Spain, in turn, had been conquered by the North African Muslim invaders in the 8th century A.D.Spain and Portugal, including Gibraltar, were re-conquered from the Moors by Christian kings in the centuries-long “Reconquista”, which ended with the conquest of the last Muslim Spanish kingdom, Granada in 1492, by King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile.Gibraltar is home to Europe’s only population of wild monkeys, who are Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus). The macaques of Gibraltar are numerous, and are a major tourist attraction today in the British-run enclave. These monkeys were most likely introduced from North Africa by the Moorish invaders after 711 A.D. They are sometimes known for occasionally raiding the town of Gibraltar and causing property-damage.