Friday, December 7, 2018

The complete text is now available in paperback and Kindle

Amadis of Gaul is now available as a four-volume set at Amazon:

Book I paperback and Kindle
Book II paperback and Kindle
Book III paperback and Kindle
Book IV paperback and Kindle

The novel was originally written as four “books,” each the size of a modern novel. The volumes include notes to chapters, introductory material, information about the Middle Ages, lists of characters, and references.

This blog will remain available if you wish to read the novel for free, and you’re welcome to do so. Amadis of Gaul is one of the pillars of European fiction. It opens a window not only to a wondrous imaginary world but to the real medieval world that produced it.

Invite your friends to journey back in time with you and enjoy this transcendent, delightful adventure.

– Sue Burke, translator

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Chapter 133 [part 3 of 3]

[What Urganda told them about the future; and thus this great story comes to an end.] 

[Acabanse los quatro libros del esforzado y muy virtuoso cavallero Amadis de Gaula hijo del rey Perion y de la reyna Elisea: en los quales se hallan muy por estenso las grandes aventuras y terribles batallas en que sus tiempos por el se acabaron y vencieron: y por otros muchos cavalleros assi en su linaje como amigos suyos. El qual se emprimido en la muy noble y muy leal ciudad de Sevilla: por Jacobo Cromberger Alleman y Juan Cromberger. Acabose en el año del nacimiento de nuestro salvador Jesuchristo de Mil y quinientos y veynte y seys años. A veynte dias del mes de Abril. ✠ ]

Then Urganda left Oriana and returned to the knights, who were gathered together to plan the voyage each one would have to make, and she told them:

“My good lords, ye shall well remember how I departed from this island, when ye were together, and I told you the time would come when the young noble Esplandian would receive knighthood for a reason that was hidden to you, and then all of you would be called here again. This has been fulfilled, and your presence is testimony to that. Now I have come as I promised not only for that ceremony but to save you from the adversities and great labors that this search which ye are all prepared to make would place you in without achieving any results of the kind that ye desire.

“If all those who have been born into this world and all those yet to be born, were they alive and all attempted with complete diligence to find King Lisuarte, they could not possibly succeed due to the place where he has been taken. For that reason, my lords, do not let such folly and little discretion enter your hearts, since ye have been forewarned by me, and do not wish to know what the will of the most powerful Lord keeps all from learning, and to leave it to he to whom by His special grace it is permitted.

“And because delay can cause great harm, to accomplish what is necessary, come as ye are with the handsome young Esplandian, Talanque, Maneli the Moderate, the King of Dacia, and Ambor, son of Angriote d’Estravaus, to be my guests tonight and part of tomorrow inside that great ship which seems to be a dragon.”

When those lords heard what Urganda told them, they all fell silent and no one knew how to respond. Things she had said in the past had come true, so they well believed that this would, too. For that reason, without debate, they agreed to comply with what she had ordered, considering it to be best. They immediately mounted their horses and she her palfrey, taking with them Esplandian and the other young noblemen, and they went to the port, where Urganda said that they could go with her in the skiffs to enter the Great Dragon, and so it was done.

When they had arrived and entered that great ship, Urganda went with them into a grand and fine hall where tables had been set for them to eat. She entered a chapel at the end of the hall with the young men, which was adorned with gold and valuable stones, and there she ate with them while damsels played sweet tunes on musical instruments. After they had dined, Urganda left the young men in the chapel and came out into the great hall where the lords were, and asked them to go to the chapel and provide company to the novice knights.

After a while, Urganda returned with a coat of mail in her hands, and behind her came her niece Solisa with a helmet, and Solisa’s sister Julianda with a shield. And this armor was not like those of other novice knights, who usually began their knighthood wearing white. This was blacker and darker than anything else could be. Urganda went to Esplandian and told him:

“Young nobleman, more fortunate than any other of thy time, wear this armor in accordance with the sorrow and sadness in thy mighty and brave heart thou hast for thy grandfather the King. For just as in the past those who took the order of chivalry established and considered good that new joy be marked by new white armor, I hold it proper to give sad black armor in grief, because at their sight thou shalt recall and give remedy to their forlorn color.”

Then she put the chain mail on him, which was strong and well made. Solisa put the helmet on his head, and Julianda put the shield on its strap around his neck. Then Urganda looked at Amadis and said:

“For good reason these knights could ask why this armor lacks a sword. But ye will not, my good lord, for ye know where ye found it and how long it has been waiting, placed there by she who in her time had no equal in the magical arts, but who met a disastrous and sorrowful end none other than by the treacherous love she had for the man whom she loved more than she loved herself. With that enchanted sword he will have the power to undo and dissolve all other enchantments when the hilt is held by his mighty hand, and he shall do such things so that those deeds that until now have shone bright shall be diminished and placed into obscurity.”

When Esplandian was dressed in his armor, as ye hear, four damsels entered the chapel, each bearing suits of armor as bright and shining as the moon, worked and decorated with many precious stones and with black crosses. Each one of them armed one of those young noblemen, and with Esplandian in the middle of them, they knelt before the altar of the Virgin Mary and kept vigil over their weapons. As was the custom at the time, they all had their head and hands bare.

Esplandian among them was so handsome that his face shone like the rays of the sun, and those who were with him were astonished to see him. He knelt and with great devotion and humility asked Mary to intervene with Her glorious Son to help him and direct him in such a way that in His service he could fulfill everything required by the great honor he was undertaking, and that by the grace of His infinite goodness, he rather than anyone else would restore King Lisuarte to his honor and realm, if he were alive.

So he spent all the night saying only those prayers and many other orisons, believing that neither strength nor courage, no matter how great they were, would be more useful than what might be granted there.

Thus the night passed, as ye have heard, with all men and women there holding vigil with those novice knights. When morning came, on top of the Great Dragon appeared a very ugly and feeble dwarf with a large trumpet in his hand, and he played it so loudly that its sound was heard in most of the island, thus everyone was alerted and came out on the walls and in the towers of the castle, and many other people came to the rocks and heights from which they could watch. And the ladies and damsels who were in the great tower in the garden quickly climbed up to the top where they could see what could have made such a mighty sound.

When Urganda saw them ready, she had the lords there climb up to where the dwarf was, and then she took the four novice knights and Esplandian with her and came up behind them, and after her came six damsels dressed in black with six golden trumpets. When they had all climbed up, Urganda said to the giant Balan:

“My friend Balan, as nature wished to distance thee from all those of thy lineage by making thee so different from their customs, bringing thee to know reason and virtue, which until now none of thy ancestors could find, it can be said that this came to thee as a gift or grace. So, for the affection and love that I recognize in thee for Amadis, I wish thee to be granted another distinction among these outstanding knights, a distinction that no one else shall achieve now or in the future, which is that by thy hand this young man shall be made a knight. His great feats shall be testimony to the truth of my words and shall make permanent the glory that thou shalt attain in conferring knighthood to he who shall be so prestigious and superior over all other fine knights.”

The giant, when he heard this, looked at Amadis without responding, as if he felt hesitant to comply with what that lady had said. Amadis, when he saw this, immediately realized that his consent was needed, and he said with great humility:

“My good lord, do as Urganda says, for we must all obey her orders without contradiction.”

Then the giant took Esplandian’s hand and said:

“Handsome youth, dost thou wish to be a knight?”

“I do,” he said.

Then he kissed him and put on his right spur and said:

“May the powerful Lord who put so much of His form and grace in thee, more than has ever been seen in anyone else, make thee such a good knight that very rightly I may from now on keep a fourth vow, which I make now: that I shall never perform this ceremony for anyone else.”

When that was done, Urganda said:

“Amadis, my lord, if by chance ye think of instructions that ye wish to give this novice knight, speak now, for soon he shall depart from your presence.”

Amadis, who knew the ways of Urganda and that she would not make that admonishment without good reason, said:

“Esplandian, my son, when I was passing through the islands of Romania and arrived in Greece, I received from that great Emperor many honors and gifts, and after I left his presence I received many more, as these lords have seen, to meet my and their needs. For that reason I am obliged to serve him all my life, and among the great honors that I achieved there was one that I must consider more highly than the rest.

“It is that the very beautiful Leonorina, the Emperor’s daughter, the most gracious and beautiful damsel that could be found in the entire world, and Queen Menoresa and other ladies and damsels of great estate all took me with them in their chambers with such delight and joy and care for me as if I were the son of the emperor of the world, knowing nothing more about me than that I was a poor knight. When I departed, they asked from me a boon: that if I could, I would see them again, and if I could not, I would send a knight from my lineage who could serve them.

“I promised to do so, and because I am not in a position to fulfill my word, I commend thee to do so. If God in His mercy allows thee to accomplish what we all wish, bear this in mind and release my promise from where it is being held prisoner by such a high lady. And so that they may believe that thou art he who comes in my place, take this beautiful ring, which she took from her hand to put on mine.”

Then he gave the ring that the Princess had given him with a precious stone that matched the one in a fine crown, as the third part of this story recounts. Esplandian knelt before him and kissed his hands, saying that what he had been ordered to do, he would carry out if God considered it good. But this he would not fulfill as quickly as they both thought. Instead, the knight passed through many perils out of his love for this beautiful Princess, only knowing what he had heard tell of her, as shall be recounted to you further on.

When this was done, Urganda said to Esplandian:

“Handsome son, make these young men your knights, for very soon they shall repay you for the honor that they receive from your hand.”

Esplandian did as she commanded in such a way that on that morning all five received the order of knighthood. Then the six damsels ye have heard about played such a sweet song on their trumpets, so delightful to hear, that all those lords, including the five novice knights, fell asleep, senseless to everything. And the Great Dragon blew such thick black smoke from its nostrils that no one who was watching could see anything other than darkness.

But a short time later, not knowing by what way or means, all those lords found themselves in the garden beneath the trees where Urganda had encountered them when she arrived. When the smoke had dispersed, the Great Dragon was no longer to be seen, nor did they know what had happened to Esplandian and the other novice knights, which frightened them all.

When those lords understood what had happened, they looked at each other, and it seemed everything had happened in a dream. But Amadis found beside his right hand a manuscript which said:

“Ye Kings and knights who are here, return to your lands, bring joy to your souls and rest to your spirits. Leave esteem at arms, fame, and honor to those who have begun to climb high on the wheel of inconstant fate. Be content with what ye have achieved so far, for fate, more with you than with any others of your time, has been pleased to hold still and firm its perilous wheel.

“Thou, Amadis of Gaul, who from the day that thy father King Perion made thee a knight at the request of thy lady Oriana, defeated many knights and strong and brave giants, placing thy person in great danger at every moment until today, filling with fear the brute and fearsome vermin terrified at the courage of thy mighty heart, from here on give repose to thy fatigued limbs, for thy favorable fortune has turned the wheel from thee to Esplandian, leaving all others beneath him, granting him a place at the top.

“Begin now to taste the bitter elixir that kingdoms and realms attract and that shall soon arrive, for just as with only thy person and arms and horse, living the life of a poor knight who gave aid to many who greatly needed thy help, now with great estates, which promise false rest, thou shalt become he who shall need great help, aid, and protection. And thou, who until now only concerned thyself with gaining fame, believing with that to repay the debt to which thou wert obligated, shalt find thy thoughts and concerns now spread among so many and so varied matters that many times thou shalt wish to be returned to that earlier life with only your dwarf to command.

“Take thy new life now with more concern for governance than for battle. Leave arms to he whom victories are granted by the high Judge, who has no one above Him to revoke His sentence, for thy great feats at arms so famous throughout the world shall become dead before thine eyes, and many who know no better shall say that the son killed the father. But I do not speak of that natural death to which we are all obliged, rather of that which erases the glory won by passing through many great dangers and greater anguish. If anything remains, it cannot be called glory or fame but their shadow.”

When that manuscript had been read, they spoke at length among themselves about what they should or could do, and their opinions were varied, although in effect they were limited. But Amadis told them:

“My good lords, although it is forbidden to give credence to enchanters and those wise in such arts, the things that we have witnessed and experienced in the past from this lady should give us true hope in what is to come, for while above all else the Lord has the power to know and make possible all things, some of what with difficulty we could not otherwise see may be permitted to be made manifest to Urganda and shared before it happens, as has so far been proven in many ways.

“And for that reason, my good lords, I consider it proper for us to carry out what she has advised and ordered. Return to the realms ye have recently won. My brother, King Sir Galaor, and my uncle, Sir Galvanes, should take Brandoivas with them and go to see Queen Brisena so she may learn from them with what will we meant to carry out her orders and why we have chosen not to act. And from her they may learn what more she would be pleased to have us do.

“I shall remain here with my cousin Agrajes until we hear news, and if our help and aid is needed, we shall learn of it faster if we are together, and wherever duties take anyone, let others know if they should come.”

To all those lords and knights, what Amadis said seemed like a good plan, so they put it to work. King Bruneo and Sir Cuadragante, Lord of Sansuena, returned to their realms, taking their very beautiful wives Melicia and Grasinda with them. King Galaor and Sir Galvanes, with Brandoivas, went to London, where Queen Brisena was. Amadis, Agrajes, and Grasandor remained at Firm Island, and with them was the mighty giant Balan, lord of the Isle of the Vermilion Tower, whose will was not to leave Amadis until they learned some news about King Lisuarte, and to undertake whatever venture and labor that they might wish to give him.

With thanks to God.

Thus ends the four books of the courageous and very virtuous knight Amadis of Gaul,
son of King Perion and Queen Elisena, in which are found detailed the great adventures and terrible battles which in his time he carried out and won: and those of many other knights both of his lineage and of his friends. Which was printed in the very noble and loyal city of Seville: by Jacobo Cromberger of Germany and Juan Cromberger. Concluded in the year of the birth of our savior Jesus Christ at one thousand and five hundred and twenty and six years. At twenty days in the month of April.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Thus ends this great story

What a long, wonderful trip it’s been. Thank you for taking it with me. 

Your translator, Sue Burke, at the Convento de San Marcos in León, Spain, originally the headquarters of the knights of the Order of Santiago. Photo by Jerry Finn.

Back in January 2009, I began posting this translation of a book that left a deep mark on European literature. Next week, I’ll post the end of the final chapter.

It’s a cliffhanger, I’m afraid. The sequel to Amadis of Gaul is The Exploits of Esplandian, the story of Amadis’ son, and it’s often called the fifth book of the series because Amadis of Gaul is actually made up of four books. Alas, I won’t be translating the book about Esplandian, which would take almost four more years. Other projects await me.

However, I have published the first book of Amadis in paper and ebook formats through Amazon, and I’ll do the same for the remaining three. This blog will still be available for everyone to enjoy, and I’m happy that so many people are reading it. If I can help you, the reader, in any other way, please ask.

Regarding the Chapter 133 cliffhanger, I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but Esplandian promptly collects his magic sword from the island of the Peak of the Enchanting Damsel, then travels to the Forbidden Mountain to rescue his grandfather, King Lisuarte, who was kidnapped by the sister of Arcalaus the Sorcerer. After that, Esplandian goes on a series of adventures, especially to protect the city of Constantinople from the Persians. And he eventually marries Princess Leonorina. Their sons, grandsons, great-grandsons etc. also become great knights.

In all, 13 books were published in Spain between 1508 and 1551 to carry on the tales of the family of Amadis. Others were written in Italy, Germany, France, and Portugal over the coming century. In addition, in Spain alone, 65 more novels of chivalry about other knights were published, including Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes in 1605. And we must not forget the many earlier tales of chivalry, such as the King Arthur cycle, that came to us from the Middle Ages.

This book, Amadis of Gaul, serves as a foundation and nexus for a genre of literature that remains alive and well in our own time as “sword and sorcery.” I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have. Courage, adventure, love, and knights in shining armor: our world has changed, but we have not. We all still love a good story.

Thank you again for being an essential part of this adventure.


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Chapter 133 [part 2 of 3]

[How lords and kings came to Firm Island to help search for King Lisuarte.] 

[The coat of arms of Henry VII in 1504, including the red dragon of Cadwaladr, who was the last King of the Britons. From the National Archives.]

When the letter had been sent, Queen Brisena promptly took to the road with those knights for London because that city was the capital of the entire kingdom, and if some uprising were to happen, it would more likely be there than anywhere else. But that was not so. Instead, as the news spread everywhere, people were so upset that both the great and lowly, men and women, left their towns and, as if they were bereft of their senses, wandered shouting through the countryside, weeping and calling for their lord the King in such numbers that all the forests and mountains were filled, and many ladies and damsels with their hair in tangles wailed for he in whom they had always found protection and help.

Oh, how fortunate should kings consider themselves if their vassals with such love and great suffering felt their loss and hardship, and even more fortunate if their subjects would and should to do this because their kings meant as much to them as did this noble King! But sadly, times today are much unlike those of the past, given the little love and less true feelings that people hold for their kings. And this shall cause the world’s climate to be more frail, for if the greatest part of virtue is lost, it cannot bear the fruit it should, as if it were exhausted soil, and neither deep plowing nor the best seeds can prevent thistles and thorns and other useless weeds from growing in it.

Then let us pray to the powerful Lord to remedy it, and if He is not pleased to listen to us and finds us unworthy, may He hear those who are still to be forged and have not yet appeared in this existence, and let them be born with such charity and love as had been kindled in better times in the past, and let kings be without ire and passions, and treat and sustain them with a just and merciful hand.

Returning then to our purpose, the story tells that this news flew quickly to all places that had business with Great Britain by those who spent most of their time sailing the sea, so soon it was known in the lands where were found Sir Cuadragante, Lord of Sansuena; and Sir Bruneo, King of Arabia; and the other lords who were their friends. They considered how much it would weigh on Amadis to rectify any losses to the King or the kingdom if uprisings were to occur, and they agreed that since the conquests had been completed and everything was under control, to go together to Firm Island to meet with Amadis and do whatever he might order.

With that agreement, Sir Bruneo left his kingdom to his brother Branfil and Sir Cuadragante his to his nephew Landin, and taking all the soldiers they could and leaving behind what was necessary to protect those lands, they boarded ships and set out to sea, among them the giant Balan, who was well loved and esteemed by all.

They traveled so fast with such a favorable wind that twelve days after they had left, they arrived at the port of Firm Island. When Balan saw the great dragon that Urganda had left there, as this story has recounted, he was very amazed by such a extraordinary thing and would have been much more astonished if those with him had not told him the reason for it. At the time that those lords docked, Amadis was with his lady Oriana, and he did not wish to leave her side. When Brandoivas had arrived on behalf of Queen Brisena with the letter, as ye have heard, and Oriana learned what had happened to her father, her pain and sadness were so overwhelming that soon she was in danger of losing her life.

When he was told about the arrival of the fleet in which those lords came, he asked Grasandor to receive them and tell them why he could not come. Grasandor did so, and he arrived on horseback at the port to find that the lords had disembarked: Sir Galaor, King of Sobradisa; Sir Bruneo, King of Arabia; Sir Cuadragante, Lord of Sansuena; and the giant Balan, Sir Galvanes, Angriote d’Estrauvaus, Gavarte of the Fearful Valley, Agrajes, Palomir, and so many other knights of great skill at arms that it would be vexing to recount.

Grasandor told them of Amadis’ situation, and asked them to take lodging and rest that night, and the next day he would come out to take charge of the situation, since everyone knew what had happened. They all agreed and did so, and immediately they went to the castle to take lodging in its rooms. And Agrajes and his uncle Sir Galvanes brought Balan with them to do him all the honors they could.

When the night was over and they had heard Mass, they all went to the garden where Amadis was. When he learned they were there, he left his lady a bit more calmed with his cousin Mabilia and sister Melicia and Grasinda, and came out of the tower to meet them. When he saw them all together, now kings and great lords who had survived so many confrontations and dangers as they had with such good health, although his face was sad for what had happened with King Lisuarte, his heart felt great joy, more than if all of that had been won for him alone, and he went to embrace them and all of them to embrace him. But he to whom he showed the greatest love was the giant Balan, whom he embraced many times, honoring him with great courtesy.

Since they were all together, King Galaor, who felt the loss of King Lisuarte as if it were his father King Perion, said that without any delay they ought to agree about what to do regarding King Lisuarte, because he, if Amadis permitted him, wished to begin to search immediately without rest or repose day and night until he lost his life or saved the King if he were still alive.

Amadis told him:

“My good lord brother, it would be a great injustice if that King who was so good, so honorable, and so helpful to good men, were those good men not to rescue him in his extreme need. In addition to the great kinship I have with him and which obliges us all to do as ye say, merely his virtue and great nobility deserve to be served and aided in his adversity by all those who have virtue and good understanding.”

Then they called Brandoivas to come before them and tell them what had been done in the search for the King, and to instruct them in how the Queen would be best served and made most content. He told them everything he had witnessed and how such a great number of people who at the time when the King was lost came out to search for him, that they ought to believe that if in that forest or even in all his kingdom he were being held prisoner, there was nowhere he could have been hidden. Instead the Queen and everyone else could only believe that he had been taken across the sea or had been drowned in the sea, for the search had been so rapid that there would not have been time to bury him.

It seemed to him that since the entire kingdom had felt such sentiments and remained at the Queen’s service with true love and good will, expecting nothing to the contrary, that they with the great fleet they had there ought to depart to many places where, given that fortune had always been favorable with other things they had undertaken, it would not wish to change its ways in this  one in which they were putting so much urgency and affection.

To all those lords, the counsel that Brandoivas gave them seemed good, and they agreed to do so. They asked Amadis to take care to direct them to the parts of the sea and lands they should search so that nothing would be overlooked, and to quickly take them before Oriana, for by her hands they wished to swear and promise to never cease the search until they could bring news about her father the King, alive or dead, and with that they hoped to bring consolation to her sadness.

As they were all about to enter the tower, a man came who told them:

“My lords, a lady has left the Great Dragon, and she must be Urganda the Unrecognized, for no one else could be so powerful to come in and out of it.”

When Amadis heard this, he said:

“If it is her, she is very welcome, and we should be more pleased to see her than anyone else at such a time as this.”

Then they sent for their horses to receive her, but they did not do that fast enough. Urganda had already disembarked on her palfrey, led by two dwarves holding the reins, and arrived at the gate to the garden. When those lords saw her, they came to her, with King Galaor leading them, and he took her from the palfrey in his arms and placed her on the ground. They all greeted her and honored her with great courtesy, and she told them:

“Ye may well believe, my good lords, that to find you here together does not seem surprising to me, since when I departed from you I told you that for a matter unknown to you this would happen. But let us not speak of that now, and before I say anything more to you, I wish to see and console Oriana, because I feel her anguish and pain more than I feel my own.”

Then they all went with her to Oriana’s chamber. When Oriana saw them come through the door, she began to weep bitterly, and she said:

“Oh my lady and good friend! Knowing all the things that are to come, how ye could not prevent such a great misfortune from overcoming that King who loves you so? Now I know that because ye have failed him, everyone else shall also fail.”

And covering her face with her hands, she fell onto the estrado. Urganda came to her and, kneeling, took her by the hands and said:

“My beloved lady and child, do not complain nor be so afflicted, for the empires and great estates with which ye are adorned and provided always bring with them such tribulations, otherwise no one could possess them. If it were otherwise, we to whom the powerful Lord has given little could rightly complain. He has made us all of the same stuff and with such a nature that we are obliged to the same vices and passions and in the end are equal at death; but he has made us so different regarding worldly goods, some asa lords and others as vassals under such subjection and humility that rightly or wrongly we suffer imprisonment, death, banishment, and other innumerable punishments according to the will and wishes of those who have the power over others.

“And if those who are thus subjugated and oppressed feel any consolation for their despair, it is nothing other than to see the whims of fortune that bring such perilous falls. As all this is ordained and permitted by his Royal Majesty, so are all other things in the world that surrounds us, and no power given discretion nor wisdom can of itself move a single point of it. And so my very beloved lady, by compensating the bad with the good and the sad with the happy ye shall give great rest to your fatigue.

“And regarding what ye say to me about your father the King, it is true that it was made manifest to me earlier, as with veiled words I said before I departed from here. But it was not in my power to prevent what had been ordained, but what is granted to me in this visit shall be put to work: which is, with the help of the great Lord, to bring the remedy to this great sadness that has come over you.”