Thursday, April 23, 2015

Summary of Book II

The love between Amadis and Oriana is tested, and treachery tears apart the court of King Lisuarte.

[Yedra Castle in Cazorla, near Jaen, Spain. Its original construction dates back to the 12th century.


Not far across the sea from Great Britain lies Firm Island, so named because a narrow strip of land connects it to terra firma. Long ago Apolidon, before he became Emperor of Constantinople, lived there and left behind enchantments to test loyalty in love, beauty in women, and skill in arms. The knight who passes the test of skill in arms would become lord of the island.

Amadis, Galaor, Florestan, and Agrajes leave Queen Briolanja and decide to test themselves at Firm Island. Amadis wins and becomes its lord, to the joy of all. But Oriana wrongly believes he loves Briolanja instead of her, so she sends him a letter withdrawing her love and ordering him never to come before her again. When Amadis receives the letter, he loses the will to live and leaves the island as secretly as possible to wander desolate in the mountains.

There he encounters a foolish knight singing of his love for Oriana. Amadis easily defeats him. The knight is Patin, from Rome, and will eventually be its Emperor.

Everyone begins to search for Amadis, who is dying of grief, but he has found a hermit who takes him to spend what little remains of his life at his hermitage on an island named Poor Rock. The hermit renames him Beltenebros, which means "Handsome Gloom."

Oriana learns that her letter made Amadis want to die. Ridden with guilt, she sends the Damsel of Denmark to Scotland to look for him. Her ship is blown off course to Poor Rock, and she finds him, wasted away by grief, and eventually recognizes him by a scar on his face. She gives him a letter from Oriana confessing her guilt. He immediately leaves with the Damsel.

Meanwhile, in London, King Lisuarte has been challenged to a battle by King Cildadan of Ireland, who has several giants and the sorcerer Arcalaus on his side. Lisuarte begins to recruit one hundred knights to fight with him, including Galaor, Florestan, and Agrajes.

Oriana has gone to rest at her castle, Miraflores, near London, and sends word to Beltenebros to come there. On his way he defeats some of King Cildadan’s allies, and his esteem as Beltenebros grows in London. He arrives at Miraflores at night and is welcomed into Oriana's arms. He spends the next week there with her, both overjoyed with pleasure.

Back in London, an elderly squire arrives with a magic sword and wreath of flowers to test the loyalty of lovers. Beltenebros and Oriana go there, disguised, and win the test, so they need never doubt each other’s love again.

Beltenebros joins the hundred knights fighting for King Lisuarte against King Cildadan. The battle is long and cruel, but in the end, Beltenebros rescues Lisuarte and shouts, “Gaul, Gaul, for I am Amadis!” This rallies Lisuarte’s men and they win, led by Amadis.

But Galaor has been almost fatally injured. Twelve damsels arrive to take Galaor and the injured King Cildadan away in a ship. When the men awake, they discover the damsels were sent by Urganda the Unrecognized, a sorceress,who nurses them back to health.

King Arban of North Wales and Angriote de Estravaus are being held and tortured by the widow of one of King Lisuarte’s opponents. She offers to send the valiant knight Ardan Canileo to fight Amadis, and if he wins, she will free them. Amadis accepts. But his magic sword is stolen and delivered to Canileo.

The battle begins, and it is fierce. Oriana watches from a window, and her presence gives Amadis great courage. He makes a bold move to disarm Ardan, kills him, wins the fight, and recovers his sword.

Although King Lisuarte has enjoyed great good fortune for many years, he has two scheming old counselors in his court, and they are jealous of Amadis. They tell the King that Amadis is planning to take the kingdom from him. Foolishly, the King believes them and tells Amadis and his friends to leave.

That night, Amadis secretly meets with Oriana, and in bed, explains that he must go. She is heartbroken but grants permission. The next morning, Amadis calls together many knights and tells them he is departing for Firm Island, explains why, and invites them to accompany him. Five hundred leave with him.

Eventually King Lisuarte discovers the treachery, but it is too late.

And Oriana discovers she is pregnant.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Chapter 78 [part 3 of 3]

[How the Romans challenged the Greek Knight, then all the Knights of Great Britain.] 

[Nobles rendering tribute to Jaime the Conqueror of Aragon (1208-1276) in the city of Teruel, as depicted at Plaza de España in Seville. Photo by Sue Burke.]


And now know that, when Grasinda’s messenger-damsel left King Lisuarte and the Queen with the reply that ye have heard, the cousin of the Emperor of Rome, Salustanquidio, rose up along with fully one hundred Roman knights and called out to the King so that all could hear:

“My lord, I and these noblemen of Rome who are here before you wish to ask for a boon that will be to your advantage and our honor.”

“I would be very pleased to give you any boon ye ask,” the King said, “especially one as ye say.”

“Then,” Salustanquidio said, “allow us to take the challenge for the damsels, and we shall do better for them than the knights from this land, because we know the Greeks well. They fear the name ‘Romans’ more than the deeds and accomplishments of the knights from here.”

Sir Grumedan, who was there, stood and came before the King to say:

“My lord, although it may be a great honor to princes to have bold adventures undertaken at their courts, and it may augment their honors and royal estates, very quickly it can turn into dishonor and loss if it is not received and managed with great discretion. I say this, my lord, for the Greek Knight, who has just come to the court with such a quest. And if his great arrogance would give rise to the defeat of those who are in our court and wish to contradict him, although the danger and harm were theirs, your honor would be diminished. And so, my lord, it seems to me that before anything is decided by you, we should wait for Sir Galaor and Norandel, your son, for from what I have learned they will be here within five days. And during that time Sir Guilan the Pensive will be better and can take up arms. These knights can defend the cause of the damsels’ honor, and yours shall be protected.”

“That cannot be,” the King said, “for I have already granted that boon. Those knights are such that they could succeed at even a greater challenge than this.”

“It may be so,” Sir Grumedan said, “but I shall see to it that the damsels will not agree to this.”

“Do not do so,” the King said, “for everything I would do for the damsels in my court has been decided, and besides, this was requested from me.”

Salustanquidio went to kiss the King’s hands, and he said to Sir Grumedan:

“I shall win this battle to my honor and that of the damsels. And ye, Sir Grumedan, if ye hold so highly these knights ye speak of and yourself and believe that they will do better than we would, if I leave that battle able to take up arms, I shall take two companions and they and I shall fight with you and them, and if I cannot, I shall send another in my place who will easily be able to replace me in the fight.”

“In the name of God,” Sir Grumedan said, “I shall accept this battle on behalf of myself and those who wish to fight with me.”

He took a ring from his finger and held it out to the King, and said:

“My lord, ye see here my pledge for myself and for those who wish to enter the battle with me. Since this was demanded by them, ye cannot refuse it rightly unless they concede defeat.”

Salustanquidio said:

“The seas will dry up before a Roman goes back on his word except to his honor. Your old age has taken your mind, and your body shall pay for that if ye place it in battle.”

“Truly,” Sir Grumedan said, “I am not a young man and have passed quite a few days, but I do not think that is to my harm. I hold it as my greatest advantage, for in them I have seen many things, among them that arrogance never comes to a good end, which I expect shall happen to you, for your boasting shows that ye are a captain and master of arrogance.”

King Arban of North Wales stood to answer the Romans, as did thirty knights who sought their fate with him, along with another hundred. But the King, who knew him, extended his scepter and ordered them not to speak of it, and ordered Sir Grumedan to do the same.

Count Argamon told the King:

“My lord, order them all to go to their quarters, for it diminishes you to have this pass in your presence.”

The King did so, and the Count told him:

“How, my lord, does the madness of these Romans seem to you? They dishonor those in your court and pay no attention to you. Then what will they do in their own lands, and how will your daughter be treated? For they tell me, my lord, that ye have already promised her to them. I do not know what trick this is for a man as wise and as blessed as you are in good judgement to play on the wishes of God, for instead of giving Him thanks, ye wish to tempt and anger Him. Be aware that He may cause the wheel of fortune to turn, and when He is angered by those whom He has done great good, He can punish with not just one but many cruel lashes.

“The things of this world are transitory and perishable, and their glory and fame last only as long as they are before men’s eyes, and no one is judged except for how they seem in the present, so all the blessings and heights which are yours now may be forgotten, buried beneath the ground, if fortune goes against you. And if any remembrance of them remains, it will be only to blame you for their loss.

“Remember, my lord, the great error ye did for no reason to expel such an honorable knight as Amadis of Gaul from your court, along with his brothers and all his lineage and many other knights who left for his cause, and how honored and feared in all the world ye were. Ye have not yet recovered from that error, and yet ye wish to enter into another that would be worse?

“This only comes to you from your own great arrogance, and if it were not so, ye would have feared God and taken counsel from those who have served you loyally. My lord, with this I discharge the faith and vassalage I owe you. I wish to go to my lands, and if God wills it, I shall not see your daughter Oriana’s weeping and anguish when ye deliver her, for they tell me ye have ordered her to come from Miraflores.”

“Uncle,” the King said, “do not speak to me of this, for it is done and cannot be undone. I ask you to remain for three days to see these battles brought to an end, and that ye be a judge of them with whatever other knights ye wish. Do this because ye understand Greek better than any man in my realm, since ye spent time living in Greece.”

Argamon told him:

“If it pleases you, I shall do so, but when the battles are over I shall not stay longer, for I could not stand it.”

When he was done speaking, the Count went to his lodging, and the King remained in his palace.

Lasindo, Sir Bruneo’s squire, who had come there on orders of the Greek Knight, saw everything that had happened before the King after the damsel had left. He immediately went to the ships and told how the Romans asked the King to fight in those battles and how he granted that, and the words Grumedan had with Salustanquidio, and how the time of their battle was set, and everything else that ye have heard of that happened. He also told how the King had sent for his daughter Oriana to deliver her to the Romans when the battles were over.

When the Greek Knight heard that the Romans wanted to fight the battles on behalf of the damsels, he was joyful because he had been worried that his brother Galaor would take up that battle for the damsels, and he considered this the greatest challenge he could have faced because Sir Galaor was the knight who had given him more difficulty than any he had fought with, other than the giants, as the first book of this story has recounted.

He truly believed that if Galaor had been in the court, being the most skilled at arms of all, he would have taken up the challenge, and only two things could have come of it: he would die or he would kill his brother Sir Galaor, who would sooner die than suffer anything that would dishonor him. So he was happy to learn that he was not in the court, and in addition he would not have to fight against any of his friends who were in the court.

He told Grasinda:

“My lady, let us hear Mass tomorrow morning in the tent, and let us dress ourselves well and take whatever damsels ye please, also well attired, and we shall go and bring this to an end, and I trust in God that ye shall achieve the honor that ye desire so much and which ye have come to these lands for.”

Then Grasinda retired to her room, and the Greek Knight and his companions went to their ship.


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Chapter 78 [part 2 of 3]

[How Grasinda’s challenge was delivered to the court of King Lisuarte, and how it was received.] 

[A corner of the Archbishop’s Palace in Alcalá de Henares, Spain. The oldest parts date back to the 13th century. The statue is of Catalina of Aragón, Princess of Castile and Queen of England, who was born in that palace in 1485. Christopher Columbus had his first meeting with Queen Isabel there in 1486. Photo by Sue Burke.]

The Greek Knight and Grasinda and their company hastened to where King Lisuarte was in his town of Tagades. Many grandees and other noblemen of his kingdom were with him, whom he had called to advise him about what to do regarding the marriage of his daughter Oriana, whom the Emperor of Rome had sent an urgent request to wed. They all told him not to do it, for it would be an error against God to take the reign from his daughter and send her to be subject of a foreign man with a changeable and inconstant moods. While he might deeply desire her now, soon he might chase after someone else, for that truly was the way of fickle men.

But the King, annoyed by this advice, remained firm in his resolve. God permitted this because Amadis had secured his kingdom and his life so often with notable services and given the King greater fame and height than any other king of that time, yet from that Amadis received such undeservedly poor thanks. Now the King’s grandeur and honor would be discredited and humbled, as the fourth book shall tell farther on.

Lisuarte would not change his mind, and his stubbornness and rigidity was made clear to everyone. Yet he thought it good to summon his uncle, who was very old and suffering from gout. Although the man did not wish to leave his home because he understood the error of the King’s plans and disagreed with him entirely, when he saw the King’s orders, he immediately left for the court. When he arrived at the palace, the King came out to receive him, took him by the hand to his dias, had him sit next to him, and said:

“Good uncle, I had you called along with these noblemen that ye see here to provide counsel for what I ought to do about the marriage of my daughter to the Emperor of Rome, and I ask you to tell me how it seems to you, and I ask the same of them.”

“My lord,” he said, “it is a very serious thing to provide advice as ye have ordered us because there are two issues here: one, a wish to fulfill your will, and the other, to disagree with it. If we disagree, ye shall become angry as most kings do, who in their great power wish to content and satisfy themselves in their opinions and not be berated and opposed by those whom they command. However, if we agree, ye put us all in a fine condition with God and His Justice and with the world, due to the great disloyalty and treachery that we would commit, since your daughter, being the heir to these reigns after your days, would lose them. She has the same right and even more to them than ye had to be King after your brother.

“Then look well, my lord, at how ye would have felt when your brother died if what ye ought to have possessed had been taken from you and given to someone it did not belong to. And if by chance your intention is that by making Oriana an empress and Leonoreta the lady of these reigns, both would be very grand and honored ladies, if ye look at it with the utmost rationality, it could turn out to be the contrary. Ye do not have the right to change the order of your ancestors who were lords of this realm and take one away or add another.

“If the Emperor were to have your daughter as his wife, he himself would have the right to inherit them through her. If ye do not agree, he is so powerful he could take them without much effort, and so both your daughters would be disinherited, and this land, so honored and outstanding in the world, would be subject to the Empire of Rome without Oriana having a thing to say except for what the Emperor may permit, so ye would leave her without a realm. And for that reason, my lord, if God wills, I wish to be excused from giving advice to someone who much better than I knows what ought to be done.”

“Uncle,” the King said, “I understand well what ye have told me, but I would rather that ye and those here were to praise me for what I have said and promised to the Romans, since by no means may I go back on my word.”

“Do not hesitate because of that,” the Count said, “for everything consists in how it ought to be done and made certain. In that, ye can protect yourself from shame and keep your word, and yet ye may decline or promote what would be best for you.”

“Ye speak well,” the King said, “and for now it shall not be spoken of more.”

Thus he ended that meeting, and everyone went to their lodgings.

In the ships where the beautiful Grasinda traveled with the Greek Knight, Sir Bruneo of Bonamar, and Angriote d’Estravaus, voyaging in the sea as ye have heard, one morning the sailors spied the mountain named Tagades, where the town called by the same name and King Lisuarte were at the foot of the mountain. They went to the lady, who was speaking with the Greek Knight and his companions, and they said:

“Lords, give us a reward for good news, for if the wind does not change, within an hour ye shall be docked in the port of Tagades, where ye wished to go.”

Grasinda was very joyful, as was the Greek Knight, and they all went to the railing of the ship and happily saw the land they had so much wished to see. Grasinda gave thanks to God for having guided her there, and with great humility she asked Him to direct her affairs so she could leave there with the honors she wished.

But I tell you that the eyes of the Greek Knight took great comfort in seeing that land where his lady was, from whom for such a long time he had been away. He could not hold back his tears, and he turned his face away from Grasinda so she would not see them and wiped them away as secretly as he could.

Putting on a happy face, he turned back to her and said:

“My lady, have hope that ye shall leave this land with the honor ye desire. Your beauty gives me great courage, and I feel certain that right and reason are on my side, and as God is the judge, He shall wish to have the honor be yours.”

Grasinda, who had felt afraid, as one whose moment was arriving, took courage and said:

“Greek Knight, my lord, I have much more faith in your good fortune and blessings than in the beauty of which you speak. Having that in your mind, ye shall cause your praise to be increased in this as in all other great deeds ye have brought to completion, and ye shall make me the happiest of all women alive.”

“Let us leave that to God,” he said, “and let us speak about how it may best be done.”

Then they called Grinfesta, a damsel who was the daughter of the majordomo and was good and wise and knew a good deal of French, which King Lisuarte spoke. They gave her a letter in Latin that had been written earlier to give to King Lisuarte and Queen Brisena. They ordered her not to speak or answer except in French while she was with them, and when she had the answer, to return to the ships.

The damsel took the letter and went to her lady’s chamber and dressed in fine and beautiful clothing, and as she was in the flower of youth and extremely beautiful, she seemed quite lovely to all who saw her. Her father, the majordomo, ordered palfreys and horses to be taken out of the ship and given fine saddles and reins, and the sailors put a boat into the water and took the damsel and her brothers, both knights, and two squires who carried their arms, and quickly brought them to land outside the town.

The Greek Knight ordered another boat put in the water to carry Lasindo, Sir Bruneo’s squire, and told him to go by another route to the town and ask there for news about his lord, saying that he had been ill when Sir Bruneo went to seek Amadis. With this excuse, he should try hard to find out what answer they gave to the damsel, and in any case, to return in the morning in a boat that would be waiting for him. Lasindo left to fulfill his orders.

And I tell you that when the damsel entered the town, everyone found pleasure in looking at her and said that she came marvelously attired and well-accompanied by those two knights. She asked where the King’s palaces were.

It happened that the handsome young childe Esplandian and Ambor of Gadel, son of Angriote, who by orders of the Queen were to serve her as long as the people from foreign lands were there, were both on their way to hunt with goshawks, and they met the damsel. When they learned that she was asking about the King’s palace, Esplandian gave the goshawk to Sargil and went to her, seeing that she wore foreign clothing, and spoke to her in French:

“My good lady, I shall guide you, if ye please, and I shall identify the King to you, if ye do not recognize him.”

The damsel looked at him carefully and was impressed by how handsome and charming he was, so much so that it seemed to her she had never in her life seen a man or woman so attractive, and she said:

“Gentle childe, may God make you as blessed as handsome. I thank you very much for what ye say to me, and I thank God for meeting such a good guide.”

Then her brother gave the reins of her horse to the childe, who took them and led them to the palace. At that moment, the King was in the courtyard under some finely worked porticos, and with him were many noblemen and all the men from Rome. He had just promised them they could take his daughter Oriana to the Emperor, and they had promised to accept her as their lady.

The damsel, who had dismounted, entered the gate with Esplandian leading her by the hand, followed by her brothers, and when they arrived at the King, she knelt and wished to kiss his hands, but he would not give them to her because he only did that as a sign of granting a great favor to a damsel.

She gave him the letter and told him:

“My lord, it is necessary for the Queen and all her damsels to hear it, and if by chance the damsels become angered when they hear what it says, they may wish to have a fine knight represent them, as my lady does, and by whose orders I come here.”

The King ordered King Arban of North Wales and his uncle, Count Argamon, to go to the Queen and bring with her all the princesses and damsels that were in her palace. This was done, and the Queen came with such a company of ladies, all of such beauty and fine apparel as would be hard do find in all the world, and she sat near the King, with the princesses and all the other women around her.

The damsel bearing the message kissed the Queen’s hands and told her:

“My lady, if what I seek seems strange, to not be surprised, since for such things God made your court excel over all others in the world, and the excellence of yourself and the King are the cause of this. Since only here can be found the remedy that in all other places is lacking, hear this letter and grant what is asked in it, and a beautiful lady shall come to this court with the valiant Greek Knight who protects her.”

The King ordered her to read it, and it said:

“To the noble and honorable Lisuarte, King of Great Britain: I, Grasinda, the most beautiful lady of all the damsels of Romania, send my greetings and would have ye know, my lord, why I have come to your land under the protection of the Greek Knight. The reason for it is that I was judged to be the most beautiful lady of all Romania, and to follow that glory which made my heart so delighted, I wish to be judged more beautiful than any of the many damsels in your court, because having defeated them first in one place and then in another, I shall have achieved the joy that I desire so much.

“And if there be a knight who wishes to contradict that on behalf of one of your damsels, he shall have to do two things: first, fight with the Greek Knight, and second, to place in the field of battle a fine crown, such as I bring, for the winner to take as a sign of having won that victory and give to she for whom he fought.

“And, most high King, if what I propose pleases you, order safe passage for all my company and the Greek Knight, who shall only fight those who wish to fight him. And if a knight fighting for the damsels is defeated, let there be a second fight, and a third, and he in his great skills shall hold the field against all.”

After the letter was read, the King said:

“May God save me, I believe that the lady is very beautiful and the knight esteems himself quite a bit at arms, but however that may be, they have embarked on a great fantasy that could have been avoided without harm to them. But people’s will comes in many ways, and people put their hearts in them and do not consider the fate that may result. And ye, damsel, may go, and I shall order the safe passage proclaimed as your lady asks, so she may come when she pleases. And if no one is found who contradicts her quest, her will shall be satisfied.”

“My lord,” she said, “your reply is as we had hoped, and she can come to your court without complaint. And since the Greek Knight is coming with two companions in search of jousts, they require the same safe conduct.”

“So be it,” the King said.

“In the name of God,” the damsel said, “then tomorrow ye shall see them in your court. And ye, my lady,” she said to the Queen, “order your damsels to be where they can see how their honor is increased or decreased by their protectors, as my lady shall do. And may ye be commended to God.”

Then she bid them farewell and they went to the ships, where they were received with great pleasure. She told them how her message had been delivered, and they immediately ordered their arms and horses be taken ashore, where they put up a fine tent and two smaller tents on the seashore, but that night only the majordomo and some servants came to the shore to protect them.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Loyal Peak castle: Peñafiel

It’s open for visitors, and 100,000 come every year – for the wine. 

In 1917, it became a national monument.


Few castles in Spain – and Spain has thousands of castles – are as striking and well-preserved as Peñafiel. It rises along the length of the tallest butte-like peak in Valladolid Province beside the River Duero. From there it can control movements in three river valleys, protecting an enclave at its feet.

Construction began in the 10th century at the site of an earlier fort known as Peña Falcón, “Falcon Peak.” The castle was taken and held by the Muslim ruler Almaznor for twenty years, and finally reconquered by Count Sancho García in 1013, who said, “Desde hoy en adelante esta será la peña más fiel de Castilla.” (“From now on this will be the most loyal peak in Castile.”) And so it became Peñafiel, Loyal Peak.

Over the next few centuries, the castle was expanded and often put to use. In 1112, King Alfonso I “The Battler” was besieged there by his wife, Queen Urraca, and in 1451 its owner, Juan of Aragón, led a revolt against Juan II of Castile. Although at times it served as a royal residence, it never lost its character as a military fortification.

Built directly on living rock, the castle takes the elongated shape of a ship: 150 meters/490 feet long and about 20 meters/66 feet wide. A three-storey high keep rises in the center.

These days it attracts visitors not just to admire its mighty stone walls. The north end of the castle houses the Provincial Wine Museum, which offers information about the history and culture of Ribera del Duero wines, along with guided tastings.


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