Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Chapter 74 [part 3 of 3]

[How Amadis spent his final days in Constantinople, and how Emperor Patin's delegation traveled to Great Britain.] 

[Detail of the Hagia Sophia. Photo by Sue Burke.]

So as ye have heard, the Knight of the Green Sword spent six days in the court of the Emperor receiving the highest possible honors from him, the Empress, and the beautiful Leonorina. But he remembered that he had promised Grasinda to be with her within a year, and the date was nearing, so he spoke with the Emperor, saying that he needed to leave. He asked the Emperor by his grace to order him to serve him wherever he might be, for he would never be anywhere in such honor or pleasure or need that he would not leave it all behind to serve him, and if the knight were to learn that the Emperor needed his service, he would not wait for orders but would go where he needed to be.

The Emperor told him:

“My good friend, I am not pleased to have ye leave so soon, but ye may be excused so ye do not fail to fulfill your word.”

“My lord,” he said, “it cannot be avoided without greatly diminishing my honor and word, so as the doctor Elisabad knows, I have to be at a certain place and time as I promised.”

“If that is so,” he said, “I ask ye to rest here for three days.”

He said he would as he was ordered. At that moment, he was in the presence of the beautiful Leonorina, who took the edge of his cloak and said:

“My good friend, if at the request of my father ye shall be here for three days, I wish that by my request ye spend two with me, and these as the guest of myself and my damsels where I and they dwell, because we wish to speak with you without anyone interfering besides two knights whom ye would choose to give you company as ye eat and sleep. And I ask ye to give this boon with pleasure. If not, I shall have these damsels seize you, and I will not need to thank you for anything.”

Then he was surrounded by more than twenty very beautiful and finely attired damsels, and with pleasure and laughter, Leonorina said:

“Leave him be until he answers.”

He was delighted by what that beautiful lady did, holding it as the highest honor that had been done to him there, and he said:

“Blessed and beautiful lady, who would dare to fail to grant your will, since if he were not to, he would be placed in such a miserable prison? I grant what ye order, in this and any other service your father and mother and yourself may need. And, my good lady, I pray to God and His mercy that the time shall come when my lineage may properly thank and return the honors and gifts I receive from you.”

This would be entirely fulfilled not by the Knight of the Green Sword but by his son Esplandian, who would rescue the Emperor at a place and time when he needed help, as Urganda the Unrecognized will prophecy in the fourth book, and as shall be told in due time.

The damsels told him:

“Ye have made the right decision. Otherwise, ye could not escape a danger greater than the Endriago was.”

“I believe, my ladies,” he said, “that greater harm may come to me by angering angels than the devil, which it was.”

All this gave great pleasure to the Emperor and Empress and all the noblemen who were there, and the answers from the Knight of the Green Sword to everything that was said to him seemed very witty. This, even more than his great courage, convinced them he was high born, because courage and bravery are often found in people of low lineage and common judgement, but honest restraint and exquisite comportment are rarely found there, because this is due those who come from clean and noble blood. I do not affirm that all attain this, but I say that they are obliged to try to reach it, as the Knight of the Green Sword did, who surrounded his mighty heart with a border of great patience and loving kindness, protecting it so arrogance and ire would find no means to harm his high virtue.

So he of the Green Sword rested three days with the Emperor, who had his nephew Gastiles and the Marques of Saluder take him through the city to show him the amazing sites it held as the head and center of all Christendom. In the palace he spent the rest of his time in the chamber of the Empress speaking with her and the other great ladies who accompanied and waited on her.

Then he went to the rooms of the beautiful Leonorina, where he found many daughters of kings and dukes and counts and other great men, with whom he passed the most honored and amusing time he had spent in his life anywhere outside the presence of his lady Oriana. They happily asked him to tell them of the marvels of Firm Island where he had been, especially about the arch of the loyal lovers and the forbidden chamber, and who and how many had been able to see the wonderful images of Apolidon and Grimanesa, and to tell them about the ways of the ladies and damsels in the court of King Lisuarte, and the names of the most beautiful. He told them everything he knew with great discretion and humility, as he who had seen it and been there so many times, as this story has told.

And it happened that as he looked at the great and full beauty of the Princess and her damsels, he began to think about his lady Oriana and how if she were there, all the beauty in the world would be brought together in one place. And he thought about how far away she had been for so long and how he had no hope of seeing her, and he became faint and almost senseless. Thus the ladies realized that he was hearing nothing that they said. He spent some time that way until Queen Menoresa, who was lady of a great island named Gabasta, the most beautiful woman of all Greece besides Leonorina, took him by the hand and made him come back from where he had been lost in thought, which he left moaning and sighing as a man who felt great anguish. But when he was more self-aware, he felt great embarrassment, and realized that he ought to be reprehended by all those ladies.

He said:

“My ladies, do not consider it odd or surprising that he who sees the great beauty and grace, which God has placed in you, may think of some good fortune that he has experienced with great honor and pleasure, and remember its loss in such a way that I do not know when I may recover it either through desire or any labor I might do.”

He said this with the sadness that his tormented heart sent to his face, and all the ladies were moved to pity for him. But with great effort he retained the tears that his heart sent to his eyes and tried to return the lost happiness to himself and to them. In this way and others like it the Knight of the Green Sword spent the time he had promised there, and when he needed to say farewell, the ladies gave him very fine jewels. But he did not wish to take any of them besides the six swords that Queen Menoresa gave him, which were the most handsome and finely decorated that could be found in the world, and she said that she only gave them to him so that, when he gave them to his friends, he would think of her and those ladies and how much they loved him.

The beautiful Leonorina told him:

“My lord Knight of the Dwarf, I ask the courtesy of you that, if ye can, ye must come and see us again soon and be with my father, who esteems you highly. And I know that ye give him and all the nobles of his court great pleasure, and even more to us, because we find ourselves under your protection and defense if anyone were to trouble us. And if this cannot be done, I and all these ladies beg you to send us a knight of your lineage to serve us as may be necessary and whom we may speak to, thinking of you and forgetting some of the loneliness that your departure gives us. We fully believe from seeing you that ye must have relatives who would not cause you much shame.”

“My lady,” he said, “it can be said with truth that in my lineage there are such knights whose excellence makes mine look like nothing, and among them there is one whom I trust that if by the mercy of God he were to come to your service, he would return the great honors and gifts that I have received from your father and yourselves undeservedly, so that wherever I may be, I may believe that I am no longer in your debt.”

He said this thinking of having his brother Galaor come there to increase his honor, where his great skills would be appreciated as much as they ought to be. But that did not happen as the Knight of the Green Sword expected. Instead, in place of his brother, Sir Galaor, another knight of his lineage came there at such a time that he made the beautiful lady suffer so much anguish and worry that it would be hard to recount, because at sea and on land he had such amazing and dangerous adventures that not in his time nor for a long time afterwards could an equal be found, as shall be told in a branch of these books called The Exploits of Esplandian, as ye have already been told.

After the lady Leonorina earnestly begged him to return or send or the knight he spoke of, and he had promised to do so, she gave him permission to go. All the ladies went up to the windows, which they did not leave until they had lost sight of his galley in the sea.

Ye have been told earlier how the Emperor Patin sent his cousin Salustanquidio accompanied by a great many knights, and Queen Sardamira with many ladies and damsels, to King Lisuarte to ask for his daughter to marry. Now know that these messengers, wherever they went, sent letters from the Emperor to the princes and grandees they found on the way that asked them to honor and serve the Empress Oriana, daughter of King Lisuarte, whom he already considered his wife.

Although their words expressed their good will to do so, privately they prayed to God that such a fine lady, daughter of such a king, would not be taken by a man as scorned and despised by all those who knew him. They did that for good reason, for his immoderate behavior and arrogance was so overwhelming that, no matter how great anyone was within his realm or who had been conquered, none of them received any honor from him. Instead, he despised and vilified them, as if in that way he thought he could make himself more safe and lofty.

Oh, how mad is it for any prince to think that if he deserves to be despised by those whom he rules, he may be beloved by God! And if he is despised by God, what can he hope for in this world and the next? Truly, he can hope for nothing in one or the other except to be dishonored and destroyed and his soul forever sent to hell.

The ambassadors arrived at a port facing Great Britain called Zamando, and they waited there until they could find ships to carry them across. Meanwhile they sent word to King Lisuarte that they were coming to him with a message from their lord the Emperor that would please him greatly.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Exploits of Esplandian

Montalvo hoped to start an epic series, and he succeeded. 

“The exploits of the virtuous knight Esplandian, son of Amadis of Gaul”


The story of Amadis of Gaul dates back to the 1300s. The oldest version we have was printed in 1508, and is divided into four books, but originally there had been only three. The author, Garcí Rodríguez de Montalvo, explains the reason for the addition in the prologue:

“I corrected these three books of Amadis, such as they could be read, due to poor writers or very corrupt and dissolute scribes, and I translated and emended a fourth book and The Exploits of Esplandian, a sequel, which up until now no one can recall seeing. By great good fortune, it had been discovered in a stone tomb beneath a hermitage near Constantinople and was brought by a Hungarian merchant to eastern Spain in such ancient script and old parchment that it could only be read with much difficulty by those who knew the language.”

Of course, that’s not quite true. The third book ended tragically, which satisfied Medieval tastes, but Montalvo gave it a more optimistic Renaissance outcome, which allowed him to write a fourth book. He also added “doctrinal improvements” to Amadis of Gaul that you may have already noticed, adding a kind of piety more in keeping with Renaissance thought.

The “fifth book,” The Exploits of Esplandian (Las Sergas de Esplandián), opens:

“Here begins the branch from the four books about Amadis, called Las Sergas de Esplandían, which was written in Greek by the hand of the great master Elisabat, who saw and heard of many of his great deeds... and was translated into many languages for the provinces and kingdoms where... having read of the great things of his father, they were eager to see those of his son.”

The book ends inviting other writers to continue the stories, and that came to pass. Las Sergas de Esplandián enjoyed ten edition between 1510 and 1588, and during that century, eight more books were written about Amadis’s family in Spain, and those, too, achieved great success over the decades. (The exception is Book VIII, Lisuarte de Grecia by Juan Díaz, published in 1526, which was overly pious and boring, so it sold badly.) If that were not enough, another 75 novels of chivalry about other knights were published in Spain in the 1500s.

In addition to translations of the Amadis books into several languages, the Amadis family story was extended in Italy, Germany, and France with many additional sequels. In the end, the family tree grew into a sequoia. You can see a pdf of the Amadis clan including the Spanish and Italian branches, published by the Biblioteca Nacional de España, here (scroll down).

Unlike his father, Esplandian fights infidels in war, not individual fellow Christian knights. In much of the book, the son leads a crusade to protect Constantinople from the siege of King Armato of Persia and his Islamic allies. (Constantinople fell in 1453 to the Ottomans, and Sergas was published in 1510, so that was either wishful thinking or alternate history.)

Esplandian also fought for different reasons – not for earthly fame and honor, as he himself explains in Chapter II:

“...if the great things that my father did in this world with so much effort and such a courageous heart and no small danger to his life, so exceedingly well and amid such good men, had been employed in service to the Lord, there could never have been any man equal or comparable to his virtue and valor. But instead he has eagerly sought the things of this mortal world rather than those that shall last forever.... So may it please the Lord on High that, while I resemble my father somewhat, if I exceed his skill, it may be by aiming more to save my soul than to honor my body, and by avoiding everything that may offend Him.”

Montalvo, however, sought worldly fame, “wishing that some shadow of remembrance remain of me,” and shamelessly advertised the sequel to Amadis of Gaul within its “corrected” text. That’s one of the things we can remember him for.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Chapter 74 [part 2 of 3]

[How the Knight of the Green Sword was honored; and his jests with the Emperor and Princess Leonorina.]

[12th century mosaic from the upper gallery of the Hagia Sophia, Constantinople. Emperor John II (1118–1143) is shown on the left, with the Virgin Mary and infant Jesus in the center, and Empress Irene on the right.]

The next morning the Knight of the Green Sword arose and dressed himself in luxurious and handsome clothing, which he tended to wear. The Marquis and Gastiles and the doctor Elisabad were with him, and together they went to hear Mass with the Emperor in his chapel, where he awaited them, and then they went to see the Empress. And as they did, they met many ladies and damsels finely dressed in beautiful clothes who made way as they passed and received them well.

The palace was so richly and well decorated that except for the forbidden room at Firm Island, the Knight of the Green Sword had seen nothing like it. His eyes grew sated by the many beautiful women and the other amazing things he saw. When he approached the Empress, who was sitting on her estrado, he knelt before her with great humility and said:

“My lady, I thank God for bringing me where I may see you in your grand sovereignty and in your worth over all other ladies of the world, and your home accompanied and adorned by many ladies and damsels of high estate. And I thank you, my lady, for wishing to see me. I beg God in His mercy to give me a chance to serve you in some way for these great favors. And if I, my lady, do not express what my will and speech wish to say, since this language is foreign to me, please forgive me, for I learned it very quickly from the doctor Elisabad.”

The Empress took him by the hands, told him not to kneel, and had him sit near her. She spent some time talking with him about those things that such a high lady ought to speak of with a foreign knight whom she did not know, and he responded with such tact and grace that the Empress, who was very wise, looked at him and said to herself that his courage could not be so great as to overshadow his moderation and discretion.

At that time, the Emperor was sitting on a chair, speaking and laughing with the ladies and damsels as he who was very loved by all for having given them many favors and fine marriages. He said in a loud voice so all might hear:

“Honored ladies and damsels, ye see here the Knight of the Green Sword, your loyal servant. Honor him and love him, as he honors and loves all the women in the world and has placed himself in great danger to do justice for you, often coming close to death, according to what I have heard from those who know of his great deeds.”

The Duchess, the mother of Gastiles, said:

“My lord, may God honor and love you and thank you for the protection that ye provide for us.”

The Emperor had two princess rise who were daughters of King Garandel, then King of Hungary, and told them,

“Go get my daughter Leonorina, and let no one but you bring her back.”

They did so, and soon they returned with her, each holding her by the hand. And although she was finely attired, it all seemed like nothing compared to her great natural beauty, so there was no man in the world who saw her who was not amazed and was happy to gaze upon her. She was a girl no older than nine. She came to her mother the Empress, kissed her hands in humble reverence, and sat on the estrado below her. The Knight of the Green Sword was pleased to look at her and was amazed by her beauty, which seemed to be greater than that of any of the women he had seen anywhere he had traveled.

He was reminded then of his lady, the very beautiful Oriana, whom he loved more than he loved himself and of the time when he began to love her, which was at about that age, and how his love for her had always grown and never diminished. He recalled the good times when he had many great delights with her, and the bad times that had caused so much concern and pain in his heart, and he thought for a while about how he had no hope to see her for a long time. He was so lost in memories and unaware of his surroundings that tears came to his eyes, and everyone saw him cry and wondered about that, given his outstanding character.

But he returned the present and felt embarrassed, wiped his eyes, and resumed a pleasant expression. The Emperor, who was closest and saw him weep, wondered what might have caused it but seeing no reason, wished to know how such a brave and discreet knight, before himself and the Empress and other people, could have shown such weakness that even in a woman would have been considered poorly in such a situation, because of how happy the knight had been earlier. But he believed he would never find the cause for such a mystery.

Gastiles, who was next to the Emperor, said:

“What kind of man weeps at a time like this?”

“I would not ask about it,” the Emperor said, “but I think that the power of love made him do it.”

“Well, my lord, if ye wish to find out, there is no one who would know except for the doctor Elisabad, in whom he confides and often speaks to privately.”

Then he sent for Elisabad, had him sit before him, ordered all others to leave, and said:

“Doctor, I want you to tell me the truth if ye know it, and I promise you by who I am that not ye nor anyone else shall come to harm because of it.”

The doctor said:

“My lord, I have confidence in Your Highness’s virtue that it shall be so and that ye shall always show me favor, although I do not deserve it. If I know, I shall tell you willingly.”

“Why did the Knight of the Green Sword cry just now?” the Emperor said. “Tell me, for I am astonished by it, and if he needs my help in something, I shall provide it so thoroughly that he shall be content.”

When the doctor heard this, he said:

“My lord, I do not know what to say about that because there is no man in the world who better hides what he does not wish to be known; he is the most discreet knight ye shall ever see. But I often see him weep and suffer so fiercely that it seems to make no sense, and he sighs with great anxiety as if the heart in his body were breaking. And truly, my lord, as far as I believe, it is the great power of love that torments him, and he is lonely for the woman he loves. If it were some other suffering, I am sure I would find out before anyone else.”

“Certainly,” the Emperor said, “I think the same as you. And if he loves some woman, may God be pleased that she happens to be in my reign, and I would give him such a position and estate that no king or prince would not be pleased to have me give his daughter to him. And I would do this happily to have him with me as a vassal, because there is nothing I could do for him that he would not do more by serving me, such is his valor. And I ask you, doctor, to try to make him stay with me, and anything he asks for I shall grant.”

He thought about that for a while without speaking, then said:

“Doctor, go to the Empress and tell her in private to ask the knight to stay with me, and ye may counsel him to do that for my love, and meanwhile I shall arrange for something that I have just thought of.”

The doctor went to the Empress and the Knight of the Dwarf, and the Emperor called his lovely daughter Leonorina and the two princesses who waited on her, and spoke to them for a while very insistently, but no one else heard what he said. When he had finished, Leonorina kissed his hands and went with the princesses to her chamber, and he remained, speaking with his noblemen.

The Empress spoke with he of the Green Sword about staying with the Emperor, and the doctor advised and urged him to do so. And although there he would be in the best and most honorable situation possible while his father King Perion was alive, that could not conquer his heart, which could take no rest or repose except to think about returning to the land where his very beloved lady Oriana was. Thus no entreaty nor advice could attract him to remain nor detract him from his desire.

The Empress made signs to the Emperor that the knight did not accept her offer. He stood up and came to them and said:

“Knight of the Green Sword, could there be any way that ye would stay with me? There is nothing that ye could ask for that I would not grant if it were in my power.”

“My lord,” he said, “so great is your virtue and grandeur that I would not dare nor know how to ask for such a favor that would be granted, but it is not in my power to do so at the sufferance of my heart. And my lord, do not blame me for not fulfilling your order, for if I were to do so, death would not leave me much time in your service.”

The Emperor truly thought that his passion was caused by nothing other than love, as did everyone else. And at that time the beautiful Leonorina entered the hall with her resplendent visage that annulled all other beauty, and the two princesses with her. She wore a very fine coronet and carried an even finer one in her hand, and she went directly to the Knight of the Green Sword and said:

“My lord Knight of the Green Sword, the time has never come to me before to ask for a boon except from my father, and now I wish to ask it from you. Tell me what ye shall do.”

He knelt before her and said:

“My good lady, who would be of such little wisdom that he would fail to do for you whatever he could? I would be very mad if I did not do your will, my lady. Ask for what would make you delighted, and I shall fulfill it unto death.”

“Ye have made me very happy,” she said, “and I thank you, and I wish to ask for three boons.”

She took the beautiful coronet from her head and said:

“This is the first one. Give this coronet to the most beautiful damsel that ye know, and greet her from me and tell her to send me a message by letter or messenger, and tell her I sent her this coronet which is a gift from this land, although I do not know her.”

Then she took the other crown which had many pearls and stones of great value, especially three that could light an entire room, no matter how dark it was, and gave it to the knight and said:

“Give this to the most beautiful lady that ye know. And tell her that I sent it to her to learn about her, and that I ask her to send me a message. This is the second boon. And before I ask the third, I wish to know what ye shall do with these crowns.”

“What I shall do,” he said, “is to comply immediately with the first boon and fulfill it.”

Then he took the first crown and put it on her head and said:

“I place this crown on the head of the most beautiful damsel that I know of now. And if anyone wishes to disagree, I shall make them know the truth of it by arms.”

Everyone took great pleasure in what he did, and Leonorina no less, although she was embarrassed to be praised so. They said that he had properly fulfilled that gift. And the Empress said:

“Truly, Knight of the Green Sword, I think men would be defeated by your arms easier than my daughter’s beauty would defeat them.”

He felt embarrassed to be praised by such a high lady and did not answer. Instead, he turned to Leonorina and said:

“My lady, do ye wish to ask me the third boon?”

“Yes,” she said. “I ask you to tell me why ye wept, and who she is who has such complete reign over you and your heart.”

The knight blushed and ceased to smile, so everyone knew that her request had troubled him. He said:

“My lady, if ye would be pleased to set aside this question, ask another that would serve you better.”

She said:

“This is what I ask, and I want nothing else.”

He lowered his head and spent some time hesitating, so everyone thought what he had to say was serious. But soon he lifted his head with a happy face, looked at Leonorina, who was before him, and said:

“My lady, since there is no other way to keep my promise, I shall say that when you first entered and I saw you, I recalled the time when I was your age, and a memory came to my heart of that time that was good and delightful, but since it is gone now, it made me weep, as ye saw.”

And she said:

“Well, now tell me who she is who rules your heart.”

“Your great restraint,” he said, “which never fails, works against me. This is my great misfortune, and since I have no choice, I must answer even against my pleasure. Know, my lady, that she whom I most love is the same one to whom ye send this crown. I believe she is the most beautiful lady of all whom I have ever seen, and I even believe among all ladies in the world. And by God, my lady, do not wish to know more from me, for I have fulfilled my promise.”

“Ye have fulfilled it,” the Emperor said, “but in such a way that we know no more than before.”

“It seems to me,” the knight said, “that I have said more than I ever have in the past, and that is the reason I wish to serve this beautiful lady.”

“May God save me,” the Emperor said, “ye truly wish to keep your love secret and hidden, and ye have let this be known. And since my daughter was the cause of this, she must ask your pardon.”

“Many have made this error,” he said, “and they have never learned so much from me. And although I am annoyed by the others, I forgive this beautiful lady because she is so high and outstanding in the world, and she wished so much to know about the affairs of a knight-errant like me. But you, my lord, I shall not pardon so easily. After the long and secret conversation ye had with her earlier, it seems she did this not by her will but by yours.”

The Emperor laughed heartily and said:

“God has made you accomplished in everything. It is as ye say, and because of that, I wish to set things right for her and for me.”

He of the Green Sword knelt to kiss his hands, but he did not wish him to do that, and the knight said:

“My lord, I accept these amends to use them when by chance ye are less concerned about them.”

“That cannot be,” the Emperor said, “for ye shall always be in my memory, and ye may take the amends when ye wish.”

These words passed between the Emperor and he of the Green Sword almost as a jest, but the time would come when out of them would come a great deed, as the fourth book in this story shall recount.

The beautiful Leonorina said:

“My lord Knight of the Green Sword, although ye may have no complaint against me, I am still not free of the guilt of having demanded so much from you against your will, and in amends I wish you to have this ring.”

He said:

“My lady, the hand that wears it I must kiss as your servant, for the ring cannot be on another hand without it troubling me.”

“Yet,” she said, “I wish it to be yours so that ye shall remember the trap I set for you and how subtly you escaped.”

The she took the ring and threw it before the knight on the estrado, saying:

“One like it remains with me in this coronet, which I do not know if ye gave me rightly.”

“Great and good witnesses,” he said, “are those lovely eyes and that beautiful hair, and all that God gave you in special grace.”

He picked up the ring and saw that it was the most beautiful and amazing that he had ever seen, and there was no other stone in the world like it except the one that remained in the coronet. And as the Knight of the Green Sword was looking at it, the Emperor said:

“I want ye to know where the stone came from. Ye can see that half of it is the finest and fieriest ruby ever seen, and the other half is white ruby, which by chance ye have never seen, which is even more beautiful than the scarlet half, and a ring with a gem like that would be hard find anywhere else. Now know that Apolidon, who is spoken of around the world, was my grandfather. I do not know if ye have heard of him.”

“Indeed I have,” said he of the Green Sword, “because as I spent a long time in Great Britain, I saw Firm Island, as it is called, where he left marvels, and, as people recount, he won, much to his honor. He was secretly carrying off the sister of the Emperor of Rome when he made port in that island during a great storm, and as was the custom of the island, he was forced to fight with a giant who at that time reigned over it. With great effort he killed him and became lord of the island, where he lived for a long time with his beloved Grimanesa. And of the things he left there, more than a hundred years passed during which time no knight arrived who surpassed him in skill at arms. I have been there, my lord, and ye well seem to be of his lineage, given your appearance and the statues of him he left beneath the arch of the loyal lovers, which truly seem to be alive.”

“Ye have made me very happy,” the Emperor said, “to make me remember things about him, who in his time had no par. I ask ye to tell me the name of the knight who showed himself to be more valiant and mighty at arms than he was and won Firm Island.”

The knight said:

“He is named Amadis of Gaul, son of King Perion, who has done grand and astounding deeds that are recounted all over the world. When he was born, he was placed in an arc and was found in the sea. And with the name of Childe of the Sea, he killed the mighty King Abies of Ireland in one-on-one battle, then he came to be known to his father and mother.”

“Now I am happier than before because, given the great news I have heard of him, I do not need to feel my grandfather’s skills to be overshadowed since Amadis surpasses all those alive in the world today. And if I were to believe that as the son of such a King and such a great lord, he were to dare to travel so far from his land, I would truly think that he were you, But even as I say this, I doubt it, and in addition, if ye were him, ye would not be so immoderate as to not tell me.”

Although he of the Green Sword felt troubled by this, he still wished to hide his identity, so he did not respond in any way, and said:

“My lord, if your mercy would be pleased, tell me how the stone was cut.”

“I shall tell you with pleasure,” he said. “When Apolidon, my grandfather, as I have said, was lord of this empire, Felipanos, who was King of Judea at that time, send him twelve very handsome and expensive crowns, and although in all of them were large pearls and precious stones, the one that ye gave to my daughter came with this stone, which was then in one piece. Since Apolidon saw that this crown was the most beautiful because of that stone, he gave it to Grimanesa, my grandmother. She ordered a master to cut it in half and put half in this ring, and she gave it to Apolidon and left the other half in the crown as ye see. So it was cut for this ring out of love and given to him. Thus I believe that out of good love my daughter gave it to you, and you will give it to someone even better loved.”

And this came to happen as the Emperor said, for it was placed on the hand of she from whom he left, spending three years without seeing her and suffering great anguish and passion for her love, which another branch of this story shall recount called The Exploits of Esplandian, which tells all about it as well as the deeds of Esplandian.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

The spurious Quixote

Cervantes did the only thing he could: write back.

The cover to this Quixote looks like most novels of chivalry.

Four hundred years ago, Don Quixote was published – but not the one you’re thinking about. This one was the Continuation of the History and Adventures of the Renowned Don Quixote de La Mancha by Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda.

Never heard of it? It’s best known among scholars, and even they’re not entirely enthused about it. Here’s what happened:

The first part of Don Quixote was written by Miguel de Cervantes in 1605, and at the time he didn’t seem to be planning to write any more about the Knight of the Woeful Countenance, even though it was a big success. Unluckily for Cervantes, maybe too big of a success: it was immediately pirated. He probably didn’t make that much money from it anyway, and he always needed money.

Copyright laws weren’t as good then as they are now, so he couldn’t do much about the piracy. He also couldn’t stop someone named Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda from writing his own sequel to Cervantes’ book nine years later. It sold fairly well, even though it fell far short of a masterpiece.

Avellaneda’s version, which insults Cervantes in the prologue, tells how Don Quixote meets two knights on their way to a joust in Zaragoza. Don Quixote has recovered his sanity, but he is persuaded to undertake a life of adventure again. He arrives too late for the joust and is made fun of. He heads back to Madrid to fight a giant, and on his way, he falls in love with Barbara, a prostitute, believing she is a queen. After being the butt of more jokes in Madrid, Don Quixote is committed to an insane asylum in Toledo, Barbara enters a home for “repentant women,” and Sancho Panza goes to work for a nobleman in Madrid.

The book is marked by ridiculous humor and stereotyped characters, as well as weak writing. You can read it here if you want.

Who was this Avellaneda? A pseudonym, and the real author remains to be discovered, although there are plenty of theories.

By that time, Cervantes might have already been working on Part II of Don Quixote. If not, the spurious Quixote inspired him to reclaim his masterpiece and make some of the cash due to him for his creation. Part II takes pains to ridicule Avellaneda’s work while maintaining the profound humanity, irony, and fine humor that marks Cervantes’ genius.

The real Part II of Don Quixote de la Mancha came out in 1615, and the world is a better place because of it.