A true tale involving a boy, a knife, a castle tower, and a subway station in Madrid.
Statue of Guzmán el Bueno in Tarifa. Photo by Falconaumanni.
In 1294, the nobleman Alonso Pérez de Guzmán ruled the city of Tarifa, near Cadiz at the southernmost tip of Spain. He received dire news from King Sancho IV that Prince Juan of Castilla, his rebellious brother, was approaching to take the city. The King asked Guzmán to remain loyal.
Juan arrived with Beber and Nasrid troops – and with a page, Guzmán’s oldest son, 10-year-old Pedro.
A siege began, but the mighty walls of Tarifa’s castle held strong – and the King’s reinforcements were on their way. In a desperate move, Juan brought Pedro before his father, who stood at the top of the tower of the castle. If Guzmán did not surrender, Juan said, he would slit his son’s throat.
Legend says that Guzmán replied:
“I did not beget a son to be made use of against my country, but that he should serve her against her foes. Should Don Juan put him to death, he will but confer honor on me, true life on my son, and on himself eternal shame in this world and everlasting wrath after death.”
And, he added, if Juan needed a knife, he could have his. Guzmán threw his knife down from the castle tower.
That reply may be legend, but contemporary reports confirm that Pedro was not only killed, Juan had the boy’s head catapulted into the castle. He and his troops soon retreated.
Among other rewards for his loyalty, King Sancho granted Guzmán the use of “el Bueno” as part of his name, meaning “the Good” or “the Noble.”
This is why, in the subway of Madrid, the stop named “Guzman el Bueno” has knives and castle towers outlined in the tiles paving its platform.