Big-Endians vs Little-Endians

Posted by Dev Baul - 16/05/21 at 06:05 am

Big-Endians vs Little-Endians

Bulletin Board in a Cairo museum

In the course of his travels, Lemuel Gulliver met two warring factions in  Lilliput—Big-Endians and Little-Endians. Big-Endians broke their boiled eggs from the bigger end while the Little-Endians did the same from the smaller end. A crown prince had cut a finger while breaking the egg from the bigger end in earlier times. Whereupon the emperor decreed that his subjects were ordained to break their eggs from the smaller end only and default would result in stiff penalties. People resented this law and rose in revolt multiple times. These rebellions, often aided and fomented by the monarchy of neighboring Blefuscu, resulted in a loss of life of one emperor and thousands of Big/Little-Endians. At the time of Gulliver’s visit, Lilliput and Blefuscu had been engaged in a war for “six and thirty moons(three years).”

I came across this bulletin board while walking around in a modern Egyptian museum in Cairo and it reminded me of the Big-Endians vs Little-Endians story. Here were two peoples with identical prophets but for the names, engaged in an eternal war. Their salutations (shalom vs Salaam), headgears (kippah vs taqiyah), rituals (brit millah vs khatna), and concepts of purity (kosher vs halal) are similar too. They agree even in their taboos (pork) but keep firing rockets at each other and have kept at it for decades! Unlike the Big-Endians vs Little-Endians story, there is no egg in play here let alone the big or small ends of the egg.

Jonathan Swift had used Big-/Little- Endians as metaphors for Protestants/Catholics and Lilliput/Blefuscu for England/France. I have examples from closer home in mind but desist from citing them lest I hurt someone’s sentiments and go behind bars under UAPA/NSA.

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6 Responses to “Big-Endians vs Little-Endians”

  1. Sunil Sehgal says:
    May 17th, 2021 at 4:30 am

    Very well written Dev. Impressed. It explains such tragedy so effortlessly.

  2. Dev Baul says:
    May 17th, 2021 at 11:12 am

    Hi Sunil,

    “Gulliver’s travels” was written in the 18th century—things have not changed much since.

    Great to reconnect after a long time. Parimal Das keeps talking about you. Mailing you shortly.

    Dev Baul

  3. Udupa says:
    May 17th, 2021 at 4:51 am

    Baul da, Nice one and thanks for sharing. I was familiar with terms big/little-endians in a different context. In computing the way two bytes of a single word are arranged is referred as its endianess.

    Endianness is primarily expressed as big-endian (BE) or little-endian (LE). A big-endian system stores the most significant byte of a word at the smallest memory address and the least significant byte at the largest. A little-endian system, in contrast, stores the least-significant byte at the smallest address.

  4. Dev Baul says:
    May 17th, 2021 at 11:04 am


    Glad you liked it. Thanks a lot. I also came across Big-/Little- Endians in the course of my work. I was intrigued by the term and traced the origins to Gulliver’s travels.
    Good to reconnect. Following your runs in
    Dev Baul

  5. Devaraj Baul says:
    May 18th, 2021 at 2:38 pm

    Growing up in the 80s was so wonderful. People really believed in “Unity in Diversity”. We believed in the govt. we believed in TV (Doordarshan). We believed in courts, parliaments.
    We didn’t believe so much in God.

    Now its the other way round

  6. Debabratha Banerjee says:
    May 27th, 2021 at 2:33 pm

    Religion divides us. Religiosity binds us. In the war between these two, we must frame the narrative in favour of the latter.

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