Inevitably, François Rabelais satirised the
belief that a failure to fart could result in death. In one story, Pantagruel finds himself on the Island of Ruach where the
inhabitants eat nothing but wind and suffer terribly from colic: “they
all fart as they die, the men loudly, the women soundlessly…”
Here, Rabelais describes a man who literally explodes.
The host had been a sportive fellow in his time, a great lover of good foods, a mighty man for onion soups, a great watcher of the refectory clock, and an eternal diner, like the landlord at Rouillac. Having for the last ten years blown out an abundance of fat, we were told, he had now come to his bursting-time. So, according to the custom of the country, he was ending his days with a burst, since his peritoneum and his skin had been slashed for so many years that they could no longer contain his guts. In fact they could not prevent their pouring out like wine from a burst barrel.
“But tell me, my good people,” said Panurge, “couldn’t you neatly bind up his belly with good stout girths, or strong hoops of sorb-apple wood, or of iron, if need be? If he were bound up like that he wouldn’t throw out his cargo so easily, or burst so soon.”
Panurge had no sooner finished speaking than we heard a loud, piercing report in the air, as if some mighty oak were splitting in two. Thereupon the neighbours said that the bursting was over, and that this report had been his death-fart.
(François Rabelais – Gargantua and Pantaguel: Fifth Book 1564)