Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Chapter 130 [part 3 of 5]

[Of Gandalin’s quest, and how Amadis resolved it to everyone’s contentment.] 


[The ruins of the thermal baths of Cluny, at the National Museum of the Middle Ages, in Paris, France. Photo by Eviatar Bach.]
 



Then Amadis and Grasandor went out into the part of that plain that seemed to them to have been the most densely populated, and they found some very large wells next to fountains, some baths in ruins, some small and very well made shrines with images of metal or stone, along with many other ancient things.

And as they were doing that, as ye hear, they saw a knight approaching in all-white armor, with his sword in hand, who must have come up the same way as they had, since there was only one way. As he approached them, he greeted them and they greeted him, and the knight told them:

“Knights, are ye from Firm Island?”

“Yes,” they said. “Why do ye ask?”

“Because down at the foot of this peak I found some men in a ship who told me that up here were two knights from Firm Island, but I could not learn their names. And because I am also from Firm Island, I do not wish to have an encounter with anyone from there except in peace. I come in search of a vile knight and have been told that he is taking shelter here with a damsel he has abducted.”

Amadis, when he heard this, said:

“Knight, as a courtesy, I ask you to say your name or to take off your helmet.”

“If ye,” he said, “give me assurance by your faith that ye are from Firm Island, I shall tell you, but otherwise there is no need to ask me.”

“I tell you,” Grasandor said, “on our faith that we are from where they say we are.”

Then the knight took the helmet from his head and said:

“Now ye can see if what I have said is true.”

Seeing him thus, they recognized him as Gandalin. Amadis came to him with his arms open and said:

“Oh, my good friend and brother! What great good fate it is for me to find you!”

Gandalin was very surprised because he still had not recognized him, and Grasandor said:

“Gandalin, Amadis is embracing you.”

When he heard that, he knelt and took his hands and kissed them again and again, but Amadis raised him up and embraced him again as someone he loved with all his heart. Then Amadis and Grasandor took off their helmets and asked him what adventure had brought him there. He told them:

“My good lords, I could ask you the same thing, given where I saw you last and the distant and disagreeable place where I find you now, but I wish to answer what you asked. Know that when I was with Agrajes and the other knights with him in the conquests ye know of, after winning a great battle in which many men perished that we had with a nephew of King Arabigo, when we drove them into a the great city of Arabia, one day a lady dressed all in black from the Kingdom of Norway entered Agrajes’ tent. She threw herself at his feet imploring him to try to help her in her great tribulation.

“Agrajes had her rise and sit next to him, and asked her to tell him about her plight, and if he could justly remedy it, he would do so. The lady said:

“ ‘My lord Agrajes, I am from the Kingdom of Norway, where your wife Olinda is from. Being born there and a vassal of her father the King, I come to you for the familial love ye have for those lords to ask you for the help of a good knight who can return to me a damsel, my daughter, who by force was taken from me by an evil knight, the lord of the great Seaside Tower, because she would not become his wife. He is not of the same level of lineage or blood as my daughter, and instead is of little rank and has only managed to become lord of that tower, with which he subjugates many of the people who live there. My husband was first cousin of Sir Grumedan, Queen Brisena’s foster father. Not for anything I have done has that knight been willing to return my daughter to me. And he says that except by force of arms, in no other way can I expect to see her in my company.’

“Agrajes told her:

“ ‘My lady, why does your lord the King not do you justice?’

“ ‘My lord,’ she said, ‘the King is now very old and ill, so he cannot govern himself nor anyone else.’

“ ‘Then,’ Agrajes said, ‘is that knight very far from here?’

“ ‘No,’ she said, ‘for he can be reached in a day and night with good weather by sea.’

“When I heard this, I urged Agrajes to give me permission to go with the lady, and if God gave me victory, I would return immediately with that knight. Agrajes gave me permission and ordered me not to become involved in any other adventure but this one. I promised to do so. Then I took my arms and horse and with the lady boarded the ship that had brought her there, and we traveled for all that remained of that day, and the night. The next day at noon we went ashore and the lady came with me to guide me to the place of the knight’s tower.

“When we arrived, I called at the gate, and a man responded from a window, asking what I wanted. I told him to tell the knight of that tower to immediately return a damsel he had taken from the lady I brought with me, or to say why he could and should keep her. If he did not do so, it would be certain that no one could leave the tower who would not be killed or captured. The man answered me:

“ ‘We here would give little regard for what thou couldst do, but wait and thou shalt soon have what thou askest for.’

“Then I backed up a ways from the tower and an enormous knight came out in bright yellow arms on a large horse, and he said:

“ ‘Threatening knight, with what few brains thou hast, what is it that thou seekest?’

“I told him:

“ ‘I shall not threaten nor challenge thee until I know thy reason for taking by force a damsel, daughter of this lady, who tells me that thou hast abducted her.’

“ ‘Even if the lady is telling the truth,’ he said, ‘what can thou doest about it?’

“ ‘Take satisfaction for it from thee,’ I said, ‘if it is the will of God.’

“The knight said:

“ ‘Then I wish to give thee her by the point of this lance.’

“And he immediately came at me without hesitation, and I at him. Our battle lasted for a large part of the day, but in the end, since I sought truth and he defended the opposite, God wished to give me victory, so I had him lying at my feet so I could cut off his head. And he asked for the mercy of not killing him, and he would do everything I wished. I ordered him to give the damsel to her mother and to swear he would never again take any woman against her will, and he agreed.

“That being done, I let him go, and he asked permission to enter the tower, for he himself would bring out the damsel. I trusted him and let him go, and shortly after he entered the tower he left by another door that faced the sea, and, still armed, he got into a boat with the damsel and told me:

“ ‘Knight, do not be surprised that I did not keep my word. The great power of love makes me do so, for without this damsel I could not live another hour. And since I cannot subjugate nor control myself, I beg thee not to blame me for what thou seest in me. And so that thou shalt lose hope of ever seeing her again, as shall her mother, ye can see that I am going out to sea to someplace where for a long time no one shall hear about me or her.’

“And as he said this, with an oar he held in his hands, he pushed off from the shore as fast as he could and went out into the sea, with the damsel weeping painfully. When I saw this, I felt great pain and sorrow and wished more for death than life, because before me the lady was tearing her veils and dress in the greatest mourning in the world, which was very painful to see. She said she had received more harm from me than from any other knight because when her daughter was in that tower, she always had hope of recovering her, but now she had none because she had watched her go off to someplace where her eyes would never see her, which was my fault.

Although I knew how to defeat that knight, I did not have sufficient discretion to give her the justice she had hoped for. Not only would she not thank me for what I had done, she would denounce me to everyone. I consoled her as best I could and I told her:

“ ‘Lady, I feel very guilty since I did not know how to carry out the purpose ye brought me here for. I should have realized that a knight so treacherous as to take your daughter by force would have little virtue in all other things. But since that is what happened, I promise you that I will never rest nor take repose until by sea or by land I find him and bring ye the damsel or die in the quest. I only ask, since ye shall stay in your land, to help me by giving me the ship in which we came and one of your men to come with me.’

“The lady, somewhat consoled by this, said I should take the ship and ordered one of her men to come with me and to note carefully what I had promised and what I would be doing about it. With that I bid her farewell and returned down the road on which I had come. When I reached the ship, night had fallen, so I had to wait until morning, and when it came, I went in the direction I had seen the knight take the damsel.

“I traveled all day without learning any news about him, and so I have traveled another five days to everywhere that fate took me. This morning I found some men who were fishing, and they told me they had seen an armed knight come in a boat, and they were headed toward the island that was called the Peak of the Enchanting Damsel. When I learned that news, I ordered the man who guided me to take me here, and when I came to the foot of the peak, I found your company and an empty ship a distance away, and I asked for news about the knight and the damsel. They told me they had not seen them, only that empty boat that was there.

“For that reason I climbed up here, and I am sure that the treacherous knight has taken shelter here. And I also want to test an adventure that the fishermen told me about concerning an enchanted chamber on this peak, to see if I can pass it. And if not, I could tell about it to those who do not know about it.”

Grasandor told him, laughing:

“My good friend Gandalin, try to make right the matter involving the knight and the damsel, and let what ye say about the adventure be for another time, for it is not so easy to accomplish.”

Then they told him everything that had happened to them, with which Gandalin was very amazed. Amadis told him:

“We have walked through a great portion of this plain and these buildings, but we have not seen anyone. But he may be here, and we shall search through everything to satisfy thy will.”

Then the three began to search through all the ruined buildings, and in a short while in a bath they found the knight with the damsel, and when he saw them, he immediately came out holding her by the hand, and said:

“My lord knights, whom are ye seeking?”

“My deceitful lord,” Gandalin said, “thy treachery and lies can no longer offer thee a means to avoid paying for the trick thou didst to me and the labor I undertook to find you.”

The knight immediately recognized by his white armor that he was the knight who had defeated him, and he said:

“Knight, I have already told thee that the great love I feel for this damsel does not let me control what I do. And if thou or any of these knights know what true love is, ye shall not blame me for what I do. Thou mayst do what thou wilt, but except by death I shall not be separated from this damsel.”

When Amadis heard him say this, he understood in his heart due to the great love he always had for his lady that this knight was without guilt for he did not have the power to control himself no matter how he tried, and he said:

“Knight, although what ye say excuses somewhat your weighty blame, it does not mean this other knight can cease to seek what rightly is due to this damsel’s mother, and if he does not act, he would be justly blamed by honorable men.”

The knight told him:

“My good lord, I understand that, and if it pleases him, I will place myself in his power so that he may take me to the lady ye speak of at whose challenge he fought with me, so that she may do her will. And he should help me because the daughter is content with me, so her mother ought to also be content to give me her as my wife.”

Amadis asked the damsel if the knight spoke the truth. She answered that he did, that although until then she had been taken from him against all her will, when she saw the great love he had for her and what he had done to have her, she had given her heart to him to love and hold, and to take him for her husband.

Amadis said to Gandalin:

“Take them both and put them in the hands of the lady, and as much as ye are able, make her agree to let him marry her, since it pleases the damsel.”

With that, they all descended the peak, sleeping that night in the hermitage with the metal statue, and there they dined on what the knight and damsel had brought for themselves. The next day they climbed down to where the ships were, and Gandalin said farewell and left with the knight and the damsel. But first Amadis and Grasandor spoke with him and told him to bring his greetings to Agrajes and his friends, and if they needed men, to make it known at Firm Island and they would go themselves or send them immediately.

So they parted, and when Gandalin arrived at the lady’s home, he put the knight and her daughter in her hands, and since the damsel had, with the knight’s love, changed her intentions as women are accustomed to do, the mother, fortunately being of the same nature as her daughter, changed her own intentions given what Gandalin and some others said who wished to persuade her, so that to the pleasure and contentment of all, they were wed.

This done, Gandalin returned to Agrajes, who was very pleased by the news of what Amadis had said. Gandalin found that they were all very happy with the good fortune that had come to them with the siege. After their enemies had been surrounded in that city, as ye have heard, there were some great battles in which most of the best knights among those inside were wounded or killed. They were also happy with the arrival of Sir Galaor and Sir Galvanes, who after they left Dragonis as King of Deep Island, without delay they promptly boarded their fleet and came to help them.

So it happens that those who have been ill, when they arise after great ailments and begin to recover their health, only think about the things they most wish and are eager to do, with it hoping to leave behind all that remains of their ailments, thus Sir Galaor, King of Sobradisa, finding himself free of that great illness in which he often came close to death, thought not in contenting his will nor in mending his health but doing those things that his brave and mighty heart sought. In it was all his delight and great pleasure, as a man who from the day his brother Amadis made him a knight before the Castle of the Causeway in the presence of Urganda the Unrecognized could never remember not wishing to learn everything about the order of knighthood and put it to work, as this story recounts in every part that mentions him.

He put no consideration into now being a powerful King with the very beautiful Queen Briolanja, and given the feats he had achieved in the past, with good and just cause he could have spent a great deal of time giving rest and repose to his spirit. Instead considering that honor has no end and is so delicate that with very little neglect it can begin to lose its luster, especially for those who fortune has placed at their height, setting all aside, this courageous King wished to take up the labor of helping his cousin Dragonis, as ye have heard, and not being content with carrying out those difficulties and labors, he immediately went as fast as he could to help those other knights, his great friends.

Oh, how those who were born into this world to follow the deeds of chivalry ought to ponder this, and how they should consider that although they have given good account of their honor for some time, if they were to forget the great obligation they have, not only would their armor become tarnished, so would their fame, and it could not be burnished again for a great deal of time! Just as those who work in any sort of craft with diligence are according to their status placed in honor and are without want, but when they forsake their work with negligence and carelessness, they lose what they had gained and come to misery and poverty, so knights can suffer the same, and by failing to do what they ought, their honor, fame, and virtues are battered and brought down to discredit and misery.

And this noble King, Sir Galaor, to avoid falling into this error, always following the examples of his father King Perion and his brother, as soon as the matter of Deep Island was finished, as ye have been told, with Sir Galvanes to help him, left to bring about victory elsewhere. And their arrival gave such courage to those on his side and such fear in his opponents that from the day that they came the enemy never again dared to venture outside of the walls, so that in a short space of time Agrajes and his friends hoped to win the entire kingdom.

But now we shall leave them in their encampments deciding how to attack their enemies, who did not dare to come forth, because we ought to tell you the story of Amadis and Grasandor, who after they left the Peak of the Enchanting Damsel, headed to Firm Island.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Chapter 130 [part 2 of 5]

[How Amadis and Grasandor reached the Peak of the Enchanting Damsel, and what happened to them there.] 

 
[The ruins of Larisa Castle in Argos, Greece. Photo by Ronny Siegel.]
 


Now the story says that Amadis and Grasandor left on a Monday morning from the great Island of the Vermilion Tower, where the mighty giant named Balan was lord. And Amadis asked Nalfon, Madasima’s majordomo, to give him one of his men to guide him to the Peak of the Enchanting Damsel. Nalfon said he would be pleased to do so, and if he wished to climb the peak, it was a good time to do so because it was the coldest part of winter. And he said if Amadis were to order Nalfon to come with him, he would gladly do so.

Amadis thanked him and told him it would not be necessary, and he would let him do as he had already been ordered, for a single guide would suffice.

“In the name of God,” the majordomo said, “and may He guide you and help you in this and everything else ye undertake, just as He has done until now.”

Then they bid each other goodbye, and the majordomo went on his way to Anteina, and Amadis and Grasandor sailed out to sea with their guide. They traveled fully five days at sea and did not spot the peak, although the weather was very favorable. On the sixth day in the morning they saw it rising so high that it seemed to touch the clouds. They sailed until they were at its foot, and they found there a ship at the shore with no one in it, which surprised them, but they believed that someone who had climbed the peak had left it there.

Amadis said to Grasandor:

“My good lord, I wish to climb up that peak and see what the majordomo told us about, if it is as he said, and I ask you, although ye may be anxious, to wait for me here until tomorrow night when I should be able to come here or make some signal from up there about how I am doing. And if at this time or on the third day I do not return, ye may believe that my situation is not going well, and ye may decide to do what ye most please.”

Grasandor told him:

“I am very sorry, my lord, that ye do not consider me someone whose courage is sufficient to withstand whatever confrontation it may face, even death, especially finding myself in your company, for your excess courage could very well supply whatever I lack. Whether this expedition may go well or badly, I wish to be a part of it.”

Amadis embraced him, laughing, and said:

“My lord, do not take what I said that way, for ye know very well that I am a witness to the fact that your courage is sufficient. If ye please, then, it shall be done as ye say.”

Then they ordered that they be given something to eat, and it was done. And when they had eaten enough for such a great climb on foot, for it was impossible by horse, they took all their arms except their lances and they began hiking up the path, which was carved into the rock all the way to the top, but which was very difficult to climb. And so they went for a great portion of the day, at times walking and often resting, for it was very laborious due to the weight of their weapons and armor.

Halfway up the peak they found a house like a hermitage made of stone, and in it an image like an metal idol with a great crown on its head of the same metal, and it held a great gilt square of that metal at its chest, which it grasped in both hands as if it was embracing it. On it were inscribed some very large and well-made letters in Greek that could easily be read, although they were from the time when the Enchanting Damsel was there, which was more than two hundred years earlier.

The damsel was from the city of Argos in Greece and the daughter of a man named Finetor, who was wise in all the arts, especially in the ones regarding good and black magic. She turned out to be of such a subtle ingenuity that she embarked on learning those arts and succeeded in such a way that she mastered them much better than her father or anyone else had in those days. And she came to dwell on that peak as has been told. The way she did that, this story shall not recount because it would be too prolix and would stray too far from our purpose.

When Amadis and Grasandor entered the hermitage, they sat to rest on a stone bench in it, and after a while they stood to look at the image, which seemed very beautiful. They studied it for a long time and saw the words, and Amadis began to read them, for while he was traveling in Greece he learned how both to speak and read Greek, and he was mostly taught by the doctor Elisabad when they were traveling by sea, who also taught him the language of Germany and other lands, which he knew well, for he was wise in all the arts and had traveled to many provinces.

And the letters said:

“In the time when the great island shall flourish and shall be ruled by a powerful King, and the island shall rule over many other kings and famous  knights throughout the world, there shall be united as one the height of arms and the flower of beauty who in their time shall have no peer. And from them shall come he who will pull the sword with which his order of knighthood shall be fulfilled, and the mighty stone doors shall be opened that enclose within them the great treasure.”

When Amadis had read them, he said to Grasandor:

“My lord, did you read those words?”

“No,” he said, “because I do not know the language in which they are written.”

Amadis told him everything they said, and they seemed to be an ancient prophesy, and he did not think it would be fulfilled by either of them in that adventure, although he believed that he and his lady Oriana might be the two who would engender the knight who would accomplish it, but he said nothing about that.

And Grasandor told him:

“If ye cannot do it, for ye are the son of the best knight in the world who in all his time has held and maintained the greatest height of arms, and of the Queen who from what I have heard was one of the most beautiful in her time, a long while will pass before it is fulfilled. So let us climb the peak and see and test everything there. If it is a strange thing for others to accomplish such a great adventure, it would be much stranger if ye were not to do so. And if that were to happen, I would see what no one has been able to see in your time.”

Amadis laughed deeply and did not respond, but he realized that what he had said meant little, because neither the skill of his father at arms nor the beauty of his mother came close to equaling that of himself and Oriana. And he said:

“Let us climb, and if it is possible, we may reach the top before nightfall.”

Then they left the hermitage and began the laborious climb, for the peak was very tall and steep. It took them so long that before they reached the top, night overtook them, so they had to remain beneath an overhang, where they spent the entire night speaking about past events and mostly about their beloved wives, whom they held in their hearts, and the other ladies who were with them. And Amadis said that if he were not afraid of the anger and rage of his lady, when they climbed down the peak they should go to help Sir Cuadragante, Sir Bruneo, Agrajes, and their other friends.

Grasandor told him:

“I would also wish to do so, but not at this time because since ye left Firm Island so precipitously and I in such a hurry came to find you, if we were to spend time there, we would cause great sadness and suffering to your lady, especially since she would not know that I found you. So I would prefer to go to see her before going anywhere that was not necessary. And meanwhile we will hear more news about the knights ye speak of, and we will be able to make a better decision. If they need our help, we can do so going with a greater company of men.”

“So it shall be done,” Amadis said, “and we should go by Prince Island, and there we should get a ship for one of your squires to take my letter to the giant Balan in which I shall ask him to send a message from his island to where Sir Cuadragante and the others are, so that at Firm Island, where we will be waiting, we will promptly be advised of what they are doing.”

“That would be very good,” Grasandor said.

So they remained below the overhang, at times talking and at times sleeping, until day came, when they began to climb up what little remained. When they reached the top, they looked all around and saw a very wide plain with many ruined houses, and in the middle of the plain some very large palaces, most of them collapsed. They immediately went to look at them and came to a very beautiful stone arch with a perfectly made stone statue over it of a damsel. In her right hand she held a quill made of the same stone as if she were about to write, and in her left hand, a placard with Greek letters that said:

“True wisdom is that which is of more use with the gods than with men, and other wisdom is vanity.”

Amadis read those letters and told Grasandor what they said, and he added:

“If wise men knew about the gift they receive from God in granting them so much of His grace that many other men might be ruled, advised, and governed by them, and if they wished to use their wisdom to take care to keep their souls away from that which could hinder their clarity and purity, as the Lord most high shall do in the world to come, how blessed would they be and how fruitful and useful would be their wisdom! But as our wicked inclination and condition generally makes us be to the contrary, we use the wisdom that was given to us for our salvation on things that promise us perishable honors, delights, and worldly advantage, which causes us to lose the other, endless, eternal world, just as this unfortunate damsel did who exhibited in these few words such great adages and doctrines. Although her judgement was gifted and endowed with all the most subtle arts, she knew how to benefit from and understand little of her great wisdom. But let us cease to speak more of this now, for wandering as they did in the past, we would go where they went. Let us instead continue on to see what happens to us.”

So they passed beneath that arch and entered a great courtyard where there were some fountains for water, and next to them there seemed to be what were once great buildings that were now in ruins, and the houses that were once around them no longer seemed to be homes, instead merely stone walls that storms had not been able to wear away. And between those buildings they found many caves sheltering dragons, and they thought they would not be able to find what they were seeking without some great confrontation. But it was not so, for none of the dragons nor any other thing stopped them.

So they entered the houses in front of them, holding up their shields with their helmets on their heads and their bare swords in their hands. Having passed through the courtyard, they entered a great hall with an arched roof, and the strength of the mortar and stone had protected it for so many years that they were able to observe much of its fine workmanship. At the end of that hall they saw some stone doors closed so tightly that nothing within could be seen, and where they were joined, a sword was thrust up to its hilt.

They immediately realized it was the enchanted chamber where the treasure was. They studied the hilt’s decorations carefully, but they could not determine what it was made of, so oddly was it fashioned, especially the pommel and the cross-guard, for what was the hand grip seemed to be of bone as transparent as crystal, and as bright and red as a fine ruby. They also saw on the right hand door seven letters deeply carved as red as fresh blood, and on the other side were other letters much whiter than the stone, and were in Latin, and which said:

“In vain will labor the knight who tries to draw the sword from here by his own courage or strength if he is not the one who on his chest bears the letters shown on the face of the other door, and which matches those seven letters bright as fire. For that man the sword has been protected by she who through her great wisdom came to know that neither in her time nor for a long time afterwards would come anyone equal.”

When Amadis saw this, he gazed at the red letters and immediately remembered the ones his son Esplandian had on the left side of his chest, and thought that because he would become the finest knight of all including himself, that adventure awaited him alone. He said to Grasandor:

“What do you make of those letters?”

“It seems to me,” he said, “that I fully understand what the white ones say, but I cannot read the red ones.”

“I also cannot,” Amadis said, “although I believe that I have already seen others like them, and I think ye have seen them, too.”

Then Grasandor looked at them more closely than before and said:

“Holy Mary help me! These are the same as the ones your son has, so he is granted this adventure. Now I tell you that ye shall leave here without accomplishing it, and blaming yourself for having created someone who is more worthy than ye are.”

Amadis told him:

“My good friend, when we read the letters on the tablet that the image held in the hermitage we visited, I thought about what ye have just said. And because I do not believe myself to be as good as what it says about he who will engender that knight, I did not dare to say that. Now these letters make be believe what you just said.”

Grasandor said, laughing and with good will:

“Let us descend from here and return to our companions, for it seems to me that in a certain way we are taking honor and victory from this voyage. Let that young man begin to ascend to where ye shall descend.”

And so they both left, enjoying each other’s company. When they had left the great palaces, Amadis said:

“Let us see if that enchanted chamber has some other place where by some artifice it could be entered.”

Then they walked around the part of the palace where the chamber was, and they found that it was all of one stone without any joint at all.

“This has been made to protect it very well,” Grasandor said. “We ought to leave it to its owner, so that in place of this sword that ye came to win ye do not leave yours that ye won with so many sighs and so much care and great affliction to your spirit.”

Grasandor said this because Amadis had won his sword as the best and most loyal lover in his time, which he could not have achieved without having placed his spirit in much fierce anguish, as the second book of this story relates.
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Thursday, March 9, 2017

The sorcerer who didn’t trust his student

A medieval tale about keeping your word.

 The San Martín Bridge over the Tajo River at the west end of Toledo, Spain, built in the 1300s. Etching by Vicente Urrabieta y Ortiz, published in the Chronicle of Toledo Province, 1866.
 
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Were sorcerers evil? Maybe, maybe not. Urganda the Unknown certainly wasn’t. In fact she was honored by kings. But Arcalaus dedicated his life to doing harm.

In any case, you shouldn’t try to fool a sorcerer. Here’s a medieval story about someone who tried. It comes from El Conde Lucanor, written in 1335 by don Juan Manuel, who was Prince of Villena and grandson of King Fernando III of Castile. The book contains parables and tales to help the fictional Count Lucanor understand how to confront problems in his life.

This story, “What Happened Between a Deacon from Santiago and Don Yllan, the Grand Master of Toledo,” deals with people who ask for help and promise to reciprocate. I’ve translated it freely.

………

A deacon who lived in the city of Santiago de Compostela yearned to master the magical arts, so when he heard that don Yllan of Toledo knew more about them than any man alive, off he went. As soon as he arrived, he made his way to don Yllan’s house and found him reading.

Don Yllan promptly rose and welcomed him, so apparently pleased to see him that he didn’t even want to hear why he’d come until they’d eaten. In the meantime, he offered the deacon a fine room and everything he might need.

After dinner, they spoke privately, and the deacon explained what he sought, urging don Yllan to share his wisdom, promising to be an eager learner. The master magician answered that the deacon was a man of high estate who’d go far – and men who achieve their goals soon forget what other men have done for them. Once the deacon had learned what he wanted, would he keep his word and help don Yllan in return? The deacon promised he would, no matter what good fortune came to him.

With that, they began the lessons. As the afternoon wore on and night came, don Yllan told the deacon that what he wanted to learn could only be taught in a much more private place, which he was about to show him. He took him by the hand and led him to a chamber. Then don Yllan left to call a young serving woman and told her to prepare some partridges for supper – but not to begin roasting them until he gave the order.

He returned to the deacon, and they climbed down a stone staircase for so long that it seemed as if the Tajo River had to be passing over their heads. At the bottom of the staircase lay a hallway leading to a beautiful room with the books he’d need to study. They sat down and were deciding where to begin when two footmen came through the door with a letter for the deacon from his uncle, the archbishop, that said he was very ill and if his nephew wished to see him alive, he should come right away. The deacon thought hard, weighing his uncle’s illness and his unwillingness to cease studying when he’d just begun. Finally he decided not to quit so soon, wrote a reply, and sent it to the archbishop.

Three or four days later, footmen came with more letters for the deacon telling him that his uncle had passed on, and that the clergy in Santiago were selecting a new archbishop. By the mercy of God they might pick him, but he shouldn’t hurry back. It was better for his chances to be elsewhere during the vote.

After another seven or eight days, two well-dressed squires came, kissed his hand, and showed him letters saying he’d been elected archbishop. When don Yllan heard this, he told his student he should thank God for this good news – and since God had blessed him with so much, would he be so kind as to grant his son the now-empty post of deacon? The new archbishop instead wanted to give it to his brother, promising to repay don Yllan very well later, and asked him to come with him to Santiago and bring his son. Don Yllan agreed.

They were welcomed in Santiago and treated well, and after they’d been living there for a while, one day messengers from the Pope came to the archbishop telling him he’d been named bishop of Tolosa, and he could give the post in Santiago to whomever he wished. When don Yllan heard this, he reminded him bluntly of what he’d promised and asked him to give the post to his son. The archbishop wanted to give it to his paternal uncle. Don Yllan said he was being done a great wrong, but he’d consent with the understanding that it would be made up later on. The archbishop reassured him, asking him to come to Tolosa and bring his son.

The counts and all the other noblemen of Tolosa welcomed them. After they’d been living there for two years, messengers from the Pope came with letters saying the bishop had been made a cardinal, and he could give the bishopric of Tolosa to whomever he pleased. Don Yllan came to him and told him that he’d failed to keep his word so many times that he had no excuse anymore and had to give the post to his son. The cardinal instead wanted to give it to his maternal uncle, an elderly nobleman. But, he said, don Yllan should come with him to the Holy See, and now that he was a cardinal, he’d surely be able to find some way to make it up to him. Don Yllan complained a lot, but he agreed and went with him to Rome.

There, cardinals and everyone else at the Holy See welcomed them, and they lived in Rome for a long time. Every day, Don Yllan asked the cardinal to give his son a post, and he kept getting excuses.

When the Pope passed away, the cardinal from Santiago was elected to replace him. Then Don Yllan went to him to say he could no longer offer any excuse to fail to keep his promise. The new Pope told him not to be in such a hurry, that the time would come when he could do something proper for his son. Don Yllan began to complain, reminding him of all the promises he’d never fulfilled and how he’d worried from the beginning that he’d never keep his word. He should no longer keep him waiting. The Pope shouted back that if he asked for anything ever again he’d throw him in prison because he was a heretic and a wizard, and he should have known he’d never get anything more than what he’d had back in Toledo, where his only livelihood was by means of black magic.

When Don Yllan saw how little thanks he was going to get for what he’d done, he prepared to depart, and the Pope wouldn’t even give him food for the trip home. Then Don Yllan told him that if he wasn’t going to offer him a meal, he’d have to rely on the partridges he’d ordered to be roasted that night, and he called his wife and told her to begin preparing them.

At that, the Pope found himself in Toledo, still the deacon of Santiago, just as he’d been when he’d arrived. He felt too ashamed even to speak. Don Yllan told him to go with good fortune, and since he’d proven himself so thoroughly, it wouldn’t be right to offer him any of the partridges.

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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Chapter 130 [part 1 of 5]

How Amadis, at the Island of the Vermilion Tower, was seated on some rocks overlooking the sea and speaking with Grasandor about his lady Oriana, when he saw a ship coming, from which he learned news about the fleet that had gone to the islands of Sansuena and Landas. 


[Map of Crete made in 1495 by Henricus Martellus Germanus. At the British Library.]
 

 
As ye hear, Amadis and Grasandor were at the Island of the Vermilion Tower resting, and Amadis often asked about his lady Oriana, who was always in his desires and thoughts. Although he had her in his power, he had not lost a single bit of the love he had always felt. Instead, now more than ever his heart was subjected to her, and with greater concern he meant to follow her will, which was caused by the great love between the two.

This was not by accident, unlike many who more quickly than they fell in love come to abhor one another. Rather, Amadis and Oriana were so affectionate and their thoughts, and so honorable and in conformation with good conscience, that their feelings continuously grew, as it does for all those whose love is based on virtue. But we all generally pursue the opposite, and our desires tend more toward the contentment and satisfaction of our base desires and appetites rather than toward what goodness and reason oblige us.

We should always hold that in mind and keep it in our sights, knowing that if all sweet and delicious things were placed in our mouths, when the sweetness had passed, bitterness would remain. As a result, not only would sweetness be forgotten, our desires would be so altered because of the final bitterness that we would feel great distaste toward the beginning, so we can well say that the glory and perfection of anything is in its conclusion.

Then if this is so, why do we fail to recognize that dishonorable actions, whether in love or anything else, at first bring sweetness and in the end bitterness and repentance, while virtuous actions of good conscience that at first are harsh and bitter in the end always yield contentment and joy?

But in regard to this knight and his lady we cannot separate the bad from the good nor the sad from the joyous because since the beginning their thoughts always pursued the honest ending where they now found themselves. And if one or the other suffered worry and anguish in no small amount, as this great story recounts, do not believe that in the end they received sorrow or tragedy from it but instead great ease and joy because they remembered their powerful love so often that it made them see each other as if they were actually before their eyes, which gave great remedy and consolation to their welcome anguish, so by no means they wished to lose that sweet memory.

But let us cease to speak of these faithful lovers both because the tale would never end and because a great deal of time has passed and will pass before other similar lovers will appear of whom such a great recounting can be written.

And so as Amadis was speaking with Grasandor about the things he found most agreeable, it happened that as they were sitting on some high rocky peaks over the sea, they saw a small ship coming directly to the port, and they did not wish to go until they knew who was in it. When it reached the port, they sent one of Grasandor’s squires to find out who had docked. He promptly went to find out, and when he returned, he said:

“My lords, the majordomo of Madasima, the wife of Sir Galvanes, has come on his way to the Island of Mongaza.”

“Then, where is he coming from?”

“My lord,” the squire said, “they say he comes from where Sir Galvanes and Sir Galaor are. And I could not learn more.”

When Amadis heard this, he and Grasandor descended from the peaks and went to the port where the ship was. And when they arrived, Amadis recognized the majordomo, who was named Nalfon, and told him:

“Nalfon, my friend, I am very glad to see you because ye bear news from my brother Sir Galaor and about Sir Galvanes, and I have heard nothing about them since they left Firm Island.”

When the majordomo saw him and recognized him as Amadis, he was amazed to find him in that place, for he was well aware that the island belonged to the giant Balan, the greatest enemy Amadis had because he had killed his father. He immediately disembarked and knelt before him and wished to kiss his hands, but Amadis would not give them and instead embraced him.

The majordomo said:

“My lord, what adventure has brought ye here to these lands so far from where we left you?”

Amadis told him:

“My good friend, God brought me here for a cause that ye shall learn about later, but tell me everything that ye have seen concerning my brother and Sir Galvanes and Dragonis.”

“My lord,” he said, “praise God that I can tell you they are very well, and I can give you news ye will enjoy hearing. Know that Sir Galaor and Dragonis left Sobradisa well supplied and with many men. And my lord Sir Galvanes joined them with all the men he could from the Island of Mongaza in the high seas at a rock they used as a meeting point, which is called the Peak of the Enchanting Damsel. I do not know if ye have heard of it.”

Amadis said:

“By the faith ye owe to God, majordomo, if ye know anything about that peak, tell me, because Sir Gavarte of the Fearful Valley had told me that when he was ill, traveling by sea, he passed the foot of the peak of which ye speak, and his illness kept him from ascending it and seeing the many things there, and those who had seen them told him that among them was a great test, and all the knights who have attempted it have failed.”

The majordomo said:

“Everything about it which I could learn from men’s recollections I shall gladly tell you. Know that the peak received that name because a damsel lived and ruled there who labored to learn magical arts including black magic, and learned them so well that she acquired all the knowledge she had wished. And when she lived there she made a dwelling, the most beautiful and fine ever seen, and often it happened that many ships were anchored around that peak that had been passing through the sea from Ireland, Norway, and Sobradisa to Deep Island and the islands of Landas.

“Those ships could not leave unless the damsel permitted, loosening the bonds of enchantment that had bound them fast. She was accustomed to take from those ships whatever she pleased, and if knights traveled in them, she would hold them as long as she liked, and she would have them fight each other until they were defeated and even killed, for they could do nothing else, and from that she took much pleasure.

“She did many other things that would be long to recount, but as it is a very sure thing that those who deceive are in turn deceived and mistreated in this world and in the next, falling into the same traps they had set for others, at the end of some time in which this evil damsel had passed her days amid such riches and happiness, believing that with her wisdom she had penetrated the great secrets of God, she was by His permission betrayed and tricked by someone who knew nothing of such things.

“It happened that among those knights she brought there was a man born on the island of Crete, handsome and extremely valiant at arms, and twenty-five years old. The damsel fell in love with him with so much affection that he made her lose her senses. Neither her great wisdom nor resistance could rein in her will, which was so disordered and defeated that she could not keep this man from becoming lord of what until then no man had possessed, which was her person. With such pleasures she spent some time with great joy to her heart, and he more for what he hoped to get from it than for her beauty, for nature had embellished her with little.

And so lived that damsel with her beloved knight, but he, believing that it did him little benefit to be lord of a place so strange and distant from the world, began to think about what he could do to escape from that prison. He thought that sweet words and a loving expression, along with the agreeable acts in which love consists, even when they are feigned, would accomplish much to disturb and confuse the judgment of anyone in love. He began to appear much more subjugated and impassioned by love than before, both in public and in private, and he urged her to cease to believe that he did so due to the power of her enchantments, instead only because his wishes and desires made him so inclined.

“At such insistence, she believed that she possessed him completely, and judging by her own subjugated and compelled heart, she believed that he loved her as much as she loved him, without guile, so she left him free to do whatever he wished. When he saw himself freed, wishing more than ever to leave that life behind, one day he was speaking with the damsel as they looked out over the sea. As he had many other times, he embraced her with a show of great love, then he threw her from the peak and with that great fall she was dashed to pieces.

“Having done that, the knight took everything he found and all those who dwelled there, both men and women, and he went to the island of Crete, leaving that peak unpopulated. But in a chamber in the damsel’s largest palace he had to leave behind a great treasure, they say, which neither he nor anyone else could take because it was enchanted then and still is until this very day.

“And some men, who in times of great cold when dragons take shelter, have dared to climb the peak, have said that they reached the doors of that chamber but could not enter, and that on one door are inscribed letters red as blood, and on the other letters that spell out the name of the knight who will be able to enter. To win that treasure he must first pull out a sword that is thrust up to the hilt between the doors, and then they will be opened.

“That, my lord, is everything I know about what ye have asked.”

Amadis, when he heard this, spent a while thinking about how he could accomplish what so many others had failed to do. But he did not speak of it at all, and instead asked Nalfon about his brothers and friends. He replied:

“My lord, when all the fleets met there at the foot of that peak, they headed toward Deep Island. But their arrival could not remain very secret, and soon everyone was warned by some men who had been stationed in the sea, and the entire island was incited by a first cousin of the dead king.

“And so when we arrived at port, all the island’s men came running, and we fought a great and perilous battle against them, they on the land and we in the ships. But finally Sir Galaor, Sir Galvanes, and Dragones jumped onto the land despite their opponents, and with the help of many of our men, they caused such destruction that eventually they pushed the enemy from the beach, so we had a place to disembark from our ships.

“Then all of us together attacked so fiercely that the island’s men could not fight back, and they retreated. But the things that Sir Galaor did no man could recount, and he recovered all the fame he had lost during the long time of his illness. Among those he killed was their captain, the King’s cousin, because of which we were soon able to push all his men into the town, which we surrounded on all sides.

“But they were all men of low rank and they had no leader, for most of the princes of that island had died with their lord the King during the rescue of Lubaina, and the rest were taken prisoner, and they saw that we controlled the countryside and they had no chance of getting aid. They immediately offered an agreement that assured them that if they surrendered, they would be able to keep what they had and possessed, and so it was done.

“Not a week after our arrival we had won the entire island and proclaimed Dragonis as King. And because my lord Sir Galvanes and Sir Galaor were injured, although not badly, they decided to send me to my lady Madasima and to Queen Briolanja to tell them the news. And I, my lord, came here to see Madasima, my lady’s aunt, whom she dearly esteems and loves because she is a very noble lady of great quality, but I did not come with the thought of finding you here.”

Amadis took great pleasure in that news and gave many thanks to God because such a victory had been given to his brother and those knights whom he loved so much. And he asked Nalfon if they knew anything about the deeds of Sir Cuadragante, Sir Bruneo of Bonamar, and the knights who had gone with them.

“My lord,” he said, “after we had won the island, we found on it some people who had come from the Landas Islands and from the city of Arabia, thinking that they would be safer there, since they knew nothing about our arrival. And they said that before they had left, there had been a great battle against a nephew of King Arabigo, the men of the city, and the island, but in the end those from the island were destroyed and defeated, and that they knew nothing about the rest.”

With that news, they all went happily up to the castle, and Amadis spoke with the giant Balan, who had still not arisen from his bed. He told him that he needed to leave there without fail, and asked him to order that Darioleta and her husband be restored everything that had been taken from them including the ship in which they had arrived so that they could go to Firm Island, and that they should also have the pleasure of traveling with Balan’s son Bravo and his wife so they could see Oriana and be with the other damsels of high estate who were there until the time for his son to be made a knight, and that he send them with the honors due a man of such high estate.

The giant told him:

“My lord Amadis, just as my will and wish until now had been to do thee all the harm I could, now my thoughts are the reverse, and I love thee with a true love and I consider myself honored to be thy friend, and what thou orderest shall be done immediately. And I, when I can get up and am disposed to labor, wish to come to see thy court and that island and to be in thy company all the time that thou findest agreeable.”

Amadis said:

“May it be done as thou sayest, and know that I shall consider thee forever as a brother for thy valor and for thyself, and for being of the family of Gandalac, whom my brothers and I consider a father. And give us permission to go, for we wish to leave tomorrow, and do not forget what thou hast promised.”

But I wish you to know that Balan did not make that journey as quickly as he thought. Instead, knowing that Sir Cuadragante and Sir Bruneo were besieging the city of Arabia and needed additional men, he took as many as he could from the island and from his friends’ islands and went well equipped to help. As a result the siege was brought to its conclusion with great honor. And he never left them until the realms of both Sansuena and of King Arabigo were won, as the story shall recount farther on.
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