Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Chapter 40 [middle part]

[How a mysterious knight defeated Agrajes, Galaor, and Amadis in jousts.]

[Jousting shield from Germany from about 1450 on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.] 


Amadis, Agrajes, and Galaor were traveling, as ye hear, and soon they met a damsel. After greeting them, she said:

"Knights, where do ye go?"

"Down this road," they said.

"Then I advise you to leave this road," she said.

"Why?" Amadis said.

"Because for the past two weeks," she said, "no knight-errant has passed down it without being killed or injured."

"And from whom did they receive this harm?" Amadis said.

"From a knight who is the best in arms of any that I know," she said.

"Damsel," Agrajes said, "could ye show us this knight?"

"He will show himself to you," she said, "as soon as ye enter the forest."

So they continued on their way, with the damsel following them, looking everywhere, and when they saw nothing, they doubted her words. But when they left the forest, they saw a large and fully armed knight on a beautiful roan horse, and alongside him a squire with four lances and another in his hand. When the knight saw them, he gave an order to his squire that they could not hear. The squire put the lances in a tree, approached them and said:

"My lords, that knight sends me to tell you that he had to guard this forest from all knights-errant for two weeks, which has gone so well that he has always been the victor. And he has enjoyed jousting so well that he has stayed a day and a half extra. Now, when he wished to go, he saw you come, and he ordered me to tell you that if ye please, he will joust with you, except that the fight will end when swords become necessary, because he does poorly in that and does not enjoy it, and he does not wish to do it anymore."

As soon as the squire had said this, Agrajes put his helmet on his head and his shield on his neck and said:

"Tell him to be on guard, for he shall not lack a joust from me."

When the knight saw him charging, he charged at Agrajes, and as fast as their horses could gallop they struck their lances on each others' shields, and they broke immediately. Agrajes was knocked to the earth so easily that he was amazed and very ashamed, and his horse got loose.

Galaor, when he saw this, took up his arms to avenge him, and the knight of the forest took another lance and came at him. Neither missed in their attack, and they broke their lances. Their horses and their shields collided so hard that Galaor's horse, which was weaker and less rested, was knocked to the earth with its master on it, leaving Galaor on the ground, and the horse escaped across the field.

Amadis, who was watching, began to cross himself, then took up his arms and said:

"Now one may praise that knight against the two best knights in the world."

We went to Galaor and found him on foot with his sword in his hand, calling the knight to fight with him on his horse and Galaor on foot, but the knight laughed at him. Amadis said:

"Brother, do not complain, for he has already told us he would not fight with a sword."

Then he told the knight to be on guard. They charged each other and their lances flew through the air in pieces, and their shields and helmets struck each other such that it was amazing. Amadis and his horse were thrown to the earth, and his horse broke its back. The knight of the forest fell, but he kept the reins in his hand and remounted quickly. Amadis told him:

"Knight, we must joust again, for the fight was not finished, since we both wound up on foot."

"It does not please me to joust any more now," the knight said.

"Ye are not being reasonable," Amadis said.

"Make that joust happen when ye can," he said, "for I, as I have you told, have no further obligation."

Then he left and entered the forest as fast as his horse could gallop. Amadis and his companions watched him go, leaving them on the ground very disgraced, and they could not imagine who the knight was who had departed in full glory. Amadis mounted Gandalin's horse and said to the others:

"Mount up and ride behind me, for it shall deeply trouble me if I do find out who that knight is."

"Truly," the damsel said, "to think that ye can find him, for all that ye may try, is the greatest madness in the world, and if all the knights of the house of King Lisuarte were to look for him, they could search for a year and not find him unless someone were to guide them to him."

When they heard this, they felt angry, and Galaor, who was more irate than the others, told her:

"My dear lady, by chance do ye know who this knight is and where he can be found?"

"If I knew anything," she said, "I would not tell you, for I do not wish to anger such a good man."

"Oh, damsel," Galaor said, "by the faith that ye owe to God and by the thing that ye love most in the world, tell us what ye know of him."

"It does no good to invoke God," she said, "for ye shall not discover the anything about that good knight without something in it for me."

"Then ask what ye please of us that we can do," Amadis said, "and we shall agree to do what ye say."

"I shall tell you," she said, "if ye tell me who ye are and where I can find you when I ask for it."

They wished to find out so much that they agreed.

"In the name of God," she said, "now tell me your names."

They told her. When she heard that one was Amadis, she became very happy, and she told him:

"Thanks be to God, for I have been looking for you."

"Why?" he said.

"My lord," she said, "ye shall know when it is time, but tell me if ye remember the battle that ye promised to fight for the daughter of the King of Sobradisa when she rescued you with the lions and saved you from death."

"I remember it," he said, "and I am going there now."

"Then how do ye wish to pursue this knight," she said, "who is not as easy to find as ye think, when the time for the battle is approaching?"

"My lord brother, she is right," Galaor said. "Ye and Agrajes should go there, and I shall look for the knight with this damsel, for I shall never be happy until I find him and, if I can, I shall join you in time for the battle."

"In the name of God," Amadis said, "if that pleases you, so shall it be."

And they said to the damsel:

"Now tell us the name of the knight and where Sir Galaor shall find him."

"His name I cannot tell you," she said, "for I do not know it, although there was a time when I watched him for a month, and I saw him perform such deeds at arms that one who had not seen it could hardly believe it, but I shall guide whoever wishes to go with me to where he is headed."

"I am satisfied with that," Sir Galaor said.

"Then follow me," she said.

They commended each other to God.

Amadis and Agrajes continued on the road as they had been before, and Galaor left guided by the damsel.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

What's a masterpiece worth?

Amadis of Gaul inspired many other novels, including Don Quixote.

A two-euro coin commemorating the 400th anniversary of the publication of Don Quixote de la Mancha.

When Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo wrote his version of Amadis of Gaul, he probably wasn't thinking of payment. In medieval times, writing was either a gentlemanly avocation or a vocation sponsored by a gentlemanly patron. Books were hand-copied, so literature couldn't be commercialized. Montalvo was a gentleman whose occupation was managing the city of Medina del Campo near Valladolid.

But only a century later, the printing press had come into being and had turned books into an affordable mass commodity. Miguel de Cervantes wrote Don Quixote de la Mancha, a parody of books like Amadis of Gaul, for money. Writing had become a profession, and professionals got paid.

What did Cervantes earn for Quixote? We don't know, but we have enough clues to try to guess. Cervantes was poor before it was published and poor after it was published, so it wasn't a huge amount of money. Everyone agrees on that.

A little background

Don Quixote de la Mancha
was published in two parts, the first in 1605 and the second in 1615. Cervantes didn't plan on a second part, but after another author wrote a continuation, he decided to write his own.

In 1604, Cervantes was 50 years old and living in Valladolid. He had written a short story about Don Quixote, and he presented the idea of a novelization to publisher Francisco de Robles, who agreed and urged Cervantes to get it ready fast. Then the book was hastily edited (which explains the many errors in the text), printed on cheap paper with worn type, and rushed to the market.

Probably no one considered it a universal masterpiece at first, but the first edition of 1,000 copies sold well — in fact, it was immediately pirated in Lisbon. Cervantes had already won notice as a playwright, and this book cemented his reputation as a major writer.

He had received a 10-year royal privilege to print Don Quixote, which he sold to Robles for an unknown amount; the paperwork was lost. But he had sold an earlier novel, La Galatea, to Robles' grandfather for 1,336 reales, of which he eventually only received 1,086.

Nieves Concostrina, a journalist with Radio Nacional de España, reported in the series Acércate al Quijote that he received no more than 100 ducados (which equals 1,100 reales or 37,500 maravedíes) for the copyright, which she estimates is worth only about €200 today.

Daniel Eisenberg, the former editor of Cervantes, the scholarly journal of the Cervantes Society of America, wrote that he probably received 1,500 reales (51,000 maravedíes), which he says would have been worth 500,000 pesetas in 1992, or €5,503.72 today. That's better, but no J.K. Rowling.

Maravedíes today

Their estimates in reales are reasonably close, so that's a start. I don't know how they arrived at modern currency, though. Converting antique currencies into present-day currencies can never be done well because, among other problems, the things that money can buy have changed. Cervantes never bought gasoline, for example. I don't buy firewood.

But both Cervantes and I live in Madrid, and we both buy food. The Instituto de Cervantes, in its on-line footnotes to Quixote, has published the prices of several food items in New Castille in 1605. So let's go shopping and do some math.

• A half-kilo of mutton sold for 28 maravedíes, according to the footnote. Mutton is no longer sold here, but a half-kilo of hamburger goes for €2.50 at my local grocery story. On that basis, 1 maravedí equals €0.089

• A chicken, 55m. The average price according to government's Food Price Observatory's latest statistics is €3.52. 1m = €0.064

• A dozen oranges, 54m. Food Price Observatory average is €4.26. 1m = €0.079

• Laying hen, 127m. Common price in local ads is €12. 1m = €0.094

• A ream of writing paper, 28m. A packet of A4 110 gr. Pioneer brand paper at Carlin, a major chain, €2.93. 1m = €0.104

• A dozen eggs, 63m. Food Price Observatory average is €1.33. 1m = €0.021 (This figure is an outlier, as you can see. The price of eggs has gone down a lot over the centuries. These days agribusinesses produce eggs in giant factory farms. Things change. For the better?)

The average of all these prices gives us 1m = €0.075. A weighted average would be better, I know, but how many laying hens do most of us buy now, so how much should they "weigh"? Not to mention the disparity in egg prices.

If we go with 7.5 euro cents, the price of a copy of Quixote, set by law at 290.5 maravedíes, would have been €21.78. That sounds a bit low. We know that books were expensive items in those days. But that price was "en papel," in paper — that is, as loose pages. The purchaser had to have them bound and covered at additional expense.

On the other hand, most people earned rather little. They would have spent a big part of their income, perhaps most of it, merely on food. According to the novel, Don Quixote spent three-fourths of his income on food for his household, and they ate frugally. A book would have taken a big bite out of tight budgets.

Not a get-rich quick scheme

If we accept that exchange rate — 1 maravedí = 7.5 euro cents — then Concostrina's estimate of 37,400 maravedíes yields €2,805. Eisenberg's 51,000 maravedíes yields €3,825.

It's not a lot. Cervantes seems to have had income from other sources at the time. I hope so.

Those of you in the 'States may be wondering what this is in US dollars. Yeesh. The dollar-euro exchange rate fluctuates daily, and there's a worldwide currency war going on now. On December 16, 2010, the value was USD$3,679.01 for Concostrina's estimate and USD$5,016.83 for Eisenberg's, but that will change. Go to Oanda for the latest numbers:

What Cervantes thought

In Book II, Chapter LXII of Don Quixote, our knight-errant meets an author in a printing shop in Barcelona and has this conversation:

"I would venture to swear," said Don Quixote, "that you, sir, are not known in the world, which always begrudges its reward to rare wits and praiseworthy labors. What talents lie wasted there! What genius thrust away into corners! What worth left neglected! ... But tell me, sir, are you printing this book at your own risk, or have you sold the copyright to some bookseller?"

"I print at my own risk," said the author, "and I expect to make a thousand ducados at least with this first edition, which is to be of two thousand copies that should sell in the blink of an eye at six reales apiece."

"A fine calculation you are making!" said Don Quixote. "It seems you don't know the ins and outs of the printers, and the false accounting that some of them use. I promise you when you find yourself weighed down with two thousand copies, you will feel so careworn that it will astonish you, particularly if the book is unusual and not at all humorous."

"Then what!" said the author. "Sir, do you wish me to give it to a bookseller who will give three maravedíes for the copyright and think he is doing me a favor? I do not print my books to win fame in the world, for I am already well-known by my works. I want to get something out of it, otherwise fame is not worth a penny."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Chapter 40 [first part]

How the battle came to pass that Amadis had promised the beautiful girl Briolanja in Grovenesa's castle that he would fight against Abiseos and his two sons to avenge the death of her father the King .

[Edmund Leighton's 1900 painting God Speed!] 

This story has told you that when Amadis was in Grovenesa's castle, he had promised the beautiful child Briolanja to avenge the death of her father the King by returning within a year, accompanied by two knights, to do battle with Abiseos and his two sons. When he had left the beautiful girl, she had given him sword to bear for her love, which he needed because he had broken his own defending himself from knights who had wrongly tried to kill him in that castle. The beautiful girl had mercifully ordered lions released to attack those knights, for she believed that such a good knight as Amadis should not die so wrongly, and thus, with those lions, God had saved him from those knights.

Amadis had broken Briolanja's sword in the castle of the lady whom Angriote d'Estravaus loved when he was fighting a knight named Gasinan, but he had ordered his squire, Gandalin, to keep the three pieces of that sword. Now ye shall be told how that battle came to pass, and of the great danger that befell Amadis because of that broken sword, not due to himself but instead to his dwarf, Ardian, who in his ignorance erroneously believed that his lord Amadis truly loved that beautiful girl Briolanja because Ardian had been present when Amadis had offered to be her knight and undertake the battle for her.

Now know that Amadis, while he was in the court of King Lisuarte, often saw his lady, the very beautiful Oriana, who was the beginning and the end of all his desires. He remembered that he had to fight Briolanja's battle and saw that the date was approaching. So that he would not fail to keep his word, he came to his lady with great affection to ask her permission, although leaving her presence would ache like tearing his heart from his flesh. He told her what had happened in that castle and the promise he had made to avenge the girl Briolanja and restore her to her kingdom, which had been taken from her by great treachery.

Oriana, with tears and sorrow in her heart as if she foresaw the great misfortune that would come between them because of it, considered how wrong it would be for him not go, and she granted permission. Amadis also got the same permission from the Queen, so it would seem as if he were going by her orders.

Early the next morning, with his brother Sir Galaor and his cousin Agrajes, armed and on horseback, they got on the road. When they had gone a half a league, Amadis asked Gandalin if he had brought the three pieces of the sword that the beautiful girl had given him. Gandalin said no, so Amadis ordered him to go back for them. The dwarf said that he would get them, since he carried nothing that would slow him down.

This was when, not due to any fault of Amadis and his lady Oriana or of his dwarf, who acted  out of ignorance, they were both brought to the point of death by cruel Fortune, who pardons no one and who wished to show them the bitter medicine hidden inside the sweetness of their great love, as ye shall now hear.

The dwarf arrived at Amadis's residence, took the pieces of the sword and put them in the pockets of his tabard, then rode past the palace of the Queen. He heard himself being called from its windows, and he turned and saw Oriana and Mabilia. They asked him why he had not left with his lord.

"I left with him," he said, "but I had to return for something which I now bring him."

"And what is that?" Oriana asked.

He showed her, and she said:

"Why does thy lord want a broken sword?"

"Why?" he said. "Because he values it more that two best whole ones that ye could give him, due to she who gave it to him."

"And who is that?" she said.

"The very one for whom he goes to do battle," the dwarf said, "and although ye are the daughter of the best king of the world and with all your beauty, ye would rather possess that which that girl has won instead of all the land that your father has."

"And what valuable thing is it that she won?" she said. "By chance did she win thy lord?"

"Yes," he said. "She has his full heart, and he became her knight to serve her."

And he whipped his horse and, as fast as he could, he went back to his lord, without care or culpability in his mind.

When Oriana heard this, she remembered the great affection that Amadis had shown when he asked permission to go, and she gave complete credence to what the dwarf had said. Her color paled like death and her heart burned with anger, and she began to say bitter words against him, though he thought of himself as in only her service. She wrung her hands together and closed off her heart so that not one tear could fall from her eyes, and by remaining inside her, they made her so cruel and lastingly harsh that she could have been justly compared to the fearsome Medea when she saw her beloved husband married to another woman, having discarded her.

Oriana would not take the good advice of the very wise Mabilia, which took the course of reason and truth, nor that of the Damsel of Denmark. She continued the way that women of impassioned minds are generally accustomed to take, and she fell into such error that it would  would require the mercy the Lord on High to repair.

The dwarf traveled down the road and he soon reached Amadis and his companions, who had ridden slowly until his return. Then they hurried a little more, but neither Amadis asked the dwarf anything about what had happened, nor did the dwarf tell him, only showed him the pieces of the sword.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Chapter 39 [final part]

[How Agrajes, Olivas, and Galvanes fought with all their skill and strength to defeat the Duke of Bristol and his nephews in a grisly and bloody trial by combat.]

[Illustration from a 1520 version of German historian Nicolaus Marschalk's Chronicon der mecklenburgischen Regenten reimweise.] 

Agrajes, who was nimble, quickly rose from his dead horse, for he had no equal in the spirit and courage of his heart. He defended himself from the Duke and his nephew with Amadis's fine sword, which he had in his hand, and with which he gave fierce blows.

Galaor, who was watching with great concern, said to himself sorrowfully:

"Oh, God, what is Olivas waiting for? Why does he not rush to help Agrajes, who needs him? Truly, it would be better for him to have never borne arms rather than to err at such a time."

Galaor said this not knowing the serious trouble that Olivas was in, for he was so badly hurt and had bled so much that it was a wonder he could merely remain in his saddle, and when he saw the danger Agrajes was in, he sighed with great pain, for although his strength was failing, his heart was not. He raised his eyes to heaven and said:

"Oh my Lord God, I beg you to give me the chance before my soul leaves my body to help my good friend."

Then, he turned his horse toward them, weakly put his hand on his sword, and went to attack the Duke. The Duke charged him, and they gave each other great blows with their swords. Anger had made Olivas recover some of his strength, so it seemed to all that he did not fight worse than the Duke.

Agrajes remained alone with the other knight, and they both fought so well on foot that it would be hard to decide which one was better. But Agrajes was very anxious to win, for he saw that his lady was looking at him and he did not wish to err at all. As he fought, he did not merely fight as well as he ought to but went far beyond, so much so that his friends were worried, fearing that soon his strength and breath would fail. But he always acted this way everywhere he fought, always more aggressive than the other knight, always trying to end the fight victoriously, and if he had had as much strength as he had will, he would have been one of the best knights in the world.

Still, he was very good and esteemed, and he dealt many blows to the top of the knight's helmet, cutting it in four places and making it of little worth and less use. The knight could only try to protect himself and guard his head with his shield, for his helmet offered scant defense and his chain mail even less, for it had been slashed open repeatedly and his flesh cut more than ten times, and his blood flowed.

When the knight saw himself in such distress, he hurried to the Duke to see if he could get some help, but Agrajes, who followed him, caught him before he could reach the Duke and struck him on the top of his cut and broken helmet with such a blow that his sword sunk through the helmet and into his head, and when Agrajes pulled it out, he left the knight lying at his feet, quaking in the throes of death.

Agrajes saw that the Duke and Olivas were fighting and saw that Olivas had lost so much blood that it was surprising that he still lived, and went to help, but before he arrived Olivas fell as if dead from his horse. The Duke, who had not seen that Agrajes had killed his nephew, saw that Sir Galvanes fighting the other one, so he left Olivas on the ground and rode as fast as he could to Galvanes and gave him great blows.

Agrajes, believing Olivas dead, immediately mounted his horse and went to help Galvanes, who was in trouble. When he arrived, he give the Duke's nephew such a blow that it cut the straps of his shield and his chain mail, and the sword sunk into his flesh down to the bones. The knight turned his face to see who had attacked him, and Agrajes gave him a blow on the visor of his helmet. The sword sunk so deep that it could not be pulled out, and when Agrajes tugged on it, he broke the laces of the knight's helmet, which came off and fell on the ground.

Galvanes, who was very angry, left the Duke and turned to strike the knight's bare head, who covered himself with his shield, which he had already used often. But because its straps had been cut, he could not cover himself well enough from Sir Galvanes, who satisfied his anger by chopping the knight's head to pieces, and he left its owner dead on the ground.

Meanwhile Agrajes and the Duke fought hard with fierce blows, but when Galvanes arrived, they put the Duke between them and began to attack on all sides, for they despised him mortally. And when the Duke saw that he was surrounded, he began to flee as fast as his horse could take him, but those who despised him followed him everywhere as fast as they could.

When the knights-errant who were watching the battle saw this, they were all very happy, and Sir Guilan more than anyone, thinking that if the Duke were dead, he would be able to enjoy the Duke's wife more easily, whom he loved above all things.

Galvanes's horse was badly injured, and as he raced to try to reach the Duke, it could endure no more and fell with him on it, and Galvanes was hurt. Agrajes went at the Duke and struck with his sword on the edge of his shield, and it sunk a palm deep alongside his neck. When Agrajes pulled it back, he would have taken the Duke from his saddle, but the Duke quickly threw the shield from his neck and left it with the sword in it, and turned to flee as fast as he could.

Agrajes took the sword from the shield and went after him, but the Duke turned to give him a blow or two, and turned again to flee. Agrajes cursed him and followed, and gave him such a blow on the left shoulder that it cut through the chain mail and the flesh and bones almost to the ribs, and so the Duke's arm was left hanging from his body. He cried out, and Agrajes grabbed his helmet and pulled, and because the Duke was already partially paralyzed, Agrajes knocked him from his horse. One foot remained in the stirrup, and the Duke could not take it out as the horse fled, dragging him all around the field until it had run out through the gate and continued the distance of the flight of an arrow. When it was finally stopped, they found the Duke was dead, his head smashed by the hooves of the horse.

Agrajes returned to his uncle Galvanes, dismounted, and said:

"My lord, how are you?"

"My lord nephew," he said, "I am well, thanks to God, but I greatly fear that our friend Olivas is dead."

"In good faith, I think so too," Agrajes said, "and I am very sorry for it."

Then Galvanes went to him while Agrajes dragged the nephews of the Duke from the field with all their arms. When Galvanes got to where Olivas lay, he found that he had regained consciousness somewhat, opened his eyes, and with great urgency asked for confession. Galvanes looked at his wound and said:

"My good friend, do not fear death, for this wound is not in a dangerous place, and when the bleeding is stanched, ye shall be fine."

"Oh, my lord," Olivas said, "my heart is failing, and my arms and legs, and at other times when I was injured badly, I never lost sense in them."

"The loss of blood has caused it," Galvanes said, "for ye have bled a lot, but other than that, do not be afraid."

Then they removed his armor and gave him air, and he recovered some strength, and the bleeding soon began to stop. The King sent for a stretcher so Olivas could be carried on it, and ordered him taken from the field to his lodgings. There doctors came to care for him, and when they saw the wound, although it was large, they said they could save him with the help of God, and the King and many others were glad to hear it.

So he remained in the care of the doctors. The families of the Duke and his nephews took their remains back to their lands. And that battle gave Angrajes great fame as an excellent knight, and his skill was better known than ever.

The Queen sent for Brandalisa, the Duke's wife, so that she could be done honor, and asked her to bring her niece, Aldeva. This pleased Sir Guilan. Sir Grumedan, the Queen's tutor, went for them, and within a month he had brought them to the court, where they were well received.

And thus as ye hear the King and Queen were in London with many nobles, knights, ladies, and damsels, where within half a year, when the news reached other lands about how knights were kept there in high honor, so many knights came to London that it was amazing. The King honored them and did them many favors, hoping that with them he could not only defend and protect the kingdom of Great Britain but that he could conquer other lands that in the past had been its subjects and tributaries, but now were not because the previous kings had been weak, avaricious, and subject to vice and depravity. And so it was done.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Princess Olinda, Princess Kristina

In real life as in literature, medieval princesses traveled far.

[In 1978, the city of Tønsberg donated this statue of Princess Kristina, by Brit Sørensen, to the town of Covarrubias. Photo by Ecelan.] 

In Amadis of Gaul, Olinda, a beautiful princess, is the daughter of King Vavain of Norway. She and Agrajes love each other, but because he is a mere knight, their love is secret.

Almost a century before Amadis was written, a beautiful princess from Norway had come to Spain to marry for dynastic advancement. In 1257, Kristina, daughter of King Håkon of Norway, traveled from Tønsberg to Valladolid to marry a brother of King Alfonso X the Wise of Castille.

Alfonso was trying to establish links with royal houses around Europe in a maneuver to become the Holy Roman Emperor of the German Nation. (It didn't work, but that's another story.) Håkon needed backing in his conflicts over trade privileges with the Hanseatic City of Lübeck. Norway got its wheat from Baltic fields through the port of Lübeck.

Kristina had been born in Bergen in 1234, and was described as blonde and beautiful with deep blue eyes. She had been well educated and spoke several languages. She left Tønsberg, near Oslo, in the summer of 1257 with a retinue of more than 100 noblemen and noblewomen, and a generous dowry of gold, silver, and furs. Detailed contemporary accounts testify to the splendor of her trip.

Her ship docked in Normandy, France, where she and her companions bought more than 70 horses and traveled to visit King Louis IX of France. He advised them that the best route to Spain was not by sea, due to Saracen pirates, but through France, and he offered a guide to accompany them.

And so, as autumn began, they began their trek, stopping at castles, towns, and monasteries, but at times sleeping under the stars. When they neared the city of Girona, Spain, they were received by the Count of Girona, who rode two miles outside the city to meet them, accompanied by a bishop and 300 men.

Soon afterwards on their trip, King Jaime I the Conqueror of Aragón met them three miles outside of Barcelona; he brought three bishops and an enormous retinue. Reportedly the King was so struck by her beauty that he proposed marriage, but she had other duties.

By Christmas Eve she had reached Burgos, where she stayed in the beautiful monastery of Las Huelgas, where the abbess was King Alfonso's sister. Kristina was feted, and she presented fine gifts to her hosts.

She began to her trip to the court of Castile in Valladolid, and King Alfonso met her in Palencia and accompanied her back to the court. She was received with great affection and celebration by the people of the city, the nobility, and the clergy.

It seems that the King had not yet decided which of his bachelor brothers should marry her, so she got to take her pick from Fadrique, Sancho, and Felipe. She chose Felipe. They were married on March 31, then went to live in Seville, where Felipe served as the secular archbishop. Seville at the time was a beautiful Moorish city, recently reconquered.

Apparently their marriage was happy though childless, but she fell ill and died four years later, some say due to the unfamiliar climate or from homesickness, others say from meningitis. She was interred in the monastery in Covarrubias.

Legend says her wish for a wedding gift was the erection of a chapel to St. Olav in Spain. Now that is being done. The Fundación Princesa Kristina de Noruega, which promotes cultural activities to better Spanish-Norwegian relations, is building St. Olav's Chapel and Bell Tower in a valley near Covarrubias. It will be a modern building suitable both for religious services and concerts, and the tower will provide a scenic view of the valley.

The website is in Spanish and Norwegian. The section marked "Evolución Construcción Capilla" is a series of photos that will entertain any small child fascinated by construction.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Chapter 39 [first part]

How King Lisuarte held court for twelve days, during which he gave grand feasts, and a large number of noblemen came, both ladies and knights, many of whom remained there for some days.

[International Jousting Association - Canada. Fighting in the Crest Melee at the 2007 Wild Hunt, Severn Bridge, Ontario. More Canadians jousting at this YouTube video. One of the knights participating is a lady, as ye shall see.] 
The King held court in London for twelve days, and he did many thing to greatly increase his honor and credit. After it was concluded, some people left for their lands, but so many nobles remained with the King that it was amazing to see. The Queen also had many ladies and damsels of high lineage remain with her.

The King took for his company Guilan the Pensive and his cousin Ladasin, who were very good knights, although Guilan was better. In all the kingdom of London no one could surpass him in skill, and he had all the other virtues that a knight ought to have. He had only one defect, which was being so pensive that men could not enjoy his speech or company. This was caused by the love that had him in its power and that made him to adore his lady more than he loved himself or anything else. The woman he adored was very beautiful and was named Brandalisa. She was the sister of the King of Sorolis's wife and was married to the Duke of Bristol.

And so, as ye hear, King Lisuarte was in London with such knights that his great fame eclipsed that of any other prince in the world. For a long period of time Fortune was content not to test him further, having put him in the great peril that ye have heard about, for she believed that it had been enough for a man as wise and honest as he was.

Still, Fortune could change her plans again if the King failed to restrain himself from greed, arrogance, or the many other things that can injure kings and darken their fame with more dishonor and shame than if they had not already enjoyed great deeds and glories. Only those who have been blessed can be disgraced. Only those who have been raised up to heaven can attract the attention of Fortune with their madness, vices and sins; then she shall take their success and glory from them, leaving them in great pain and anguish of spirit.

While the King was in London, as ye hear, the Duke of Bristol arrived within the time that had set for him to address the King about a petition by Olivas. He was well received by the King and said:

"My lord, ye ordered me to come before you in your court today, and, from what I have heard, over a great lie, and I shall prove my innocence however ye and those of your court shall hold to be just."

Olivas arose and came before the King, and with him arose all the other knights-errant that were there. The King asked them why they had all come, and Sir Grumedan told him:

"My lord, because the Duke threatens all us knights-errant, and thus very justly we must stop him."

"Truly," the King said, "if it is thus, he seeks a mad war, and I hold that there is no king in the world so powerful or wise to bring such a war to a good end. But go, all of you, for here ye shall seek no harm for him, and he shall get all his due rights. I and the good men who shall counsel me shall not, within our understanding, take them from him."

Then they all went to their places, except Olivas, who remained before the King and said:

"My lord, the Duke who is before you killed my first cousin, and he never said nor showed why he did it. I tell you it is because he is deceitful, and I shall force him to admit it or I shall kill him or drive him from the field of battle."

The Duke said that Olivas lied, and that he would do whatever the King and his court ordered. The King wished to delay the question until the next day. The Duke was willing to fight, but his two nephews had not yet arrived and he wished to have them with him if he could, for he esteemed them so much in arms that he did not believe Olivas could have their equal to help him, and with his nephews he could easily win.

The day passed and the Duke's nephews arrived that night, which made him very happy. The next morning they came before the King, and Olivas challenged the Duke, who called him a liar and promised to fight him, three by three. Then Sir Galvanes, who had been seated at the feet of the King, rose up and called his nephew Agrajes and said to Olivas:

"My friend, we promised you that if the Duke of Bristol, who is here, wished to put extra knights in the battle, that we would be there with you, and so we willingly wish to do it. Let the battle be held now, with no delay."

The Duke's nephews agreed that the battle should be held at once. The Duke looked at Agrajes and Galvanes and recognized them as the ones whom he had insulted in his home, and who had rescued the damsel he had tried to burn at the stake, and who then defeated him in the forest. Because he loved his nephews so, he did not wish by any means to have that battle. Instead he would rather have had one of his nephews fight Olivas alone, for he greatly feared those two knights, but he could do nothing else.

Then all of them went to arm themselves and entered the field that was fenced off for that kind of joust, one group at one gate and the other at the other gate. When Olinda, who was in the window of one of the Queen's chambers from which she could see the entire field, saw that her greatly beloved Agrajes was preparing to fight, she felt such great sorrow that her heart almost stopped, for she loved him more than anything else in the world.

With her was Mabilia, Agrajes's sister, who was anguished to see her brother and her uncle, Sir Galvanes, in such peril. Oriana was with them, who gladly wished to see them do well because of the great love Amadis for them and because she had been raised by King Languines and his wife, who were Agrajes's parents.

The King, who was in the field with many knights, withdrew when he saw it was time to begin. The knights went to meet each other as fast as their horses could go, and none of them missed his blow. Agrajes and his uncle struck the Duke's nephews and knocked them from their saddles over the haunches of their horses, and their lances were broken. They passed by the nephews riding fast and well.

Olivas was wounded in the chest by the Duke's lance, and the Duke lost his stirrups and would have fallen if he had not grabbed his horse's neck. Olivas passed him badly injured, while the Duke righted himself in his saddle.

The nephew whom Agrajes had knocked down got up as best he could and came to stand in front of the Duke. Agrajes charged at the Duke, whom he greatly despised, and began to give him great blows on top of his helmet so that his sword reached his head.

But the nephew who was on foot next to him saw that his uncle was in danger, went to Agrajes and struck his horse on the flank, thrusting in his whole sword to the hilt. Agrajes did not notice that while he sought to take the Duke's life, and so he saw nothing. As he tried to cut off the Duke's head, his horse fell with him on it. Sir Galvanes was so deeply involved in fighting the other nephew that he saw none of this.

As Agrajes was on the ground with his horse, the nephew who had killed it struck him with great and heavy blows, and the Duke also struck as hard as he could.

At that moment all Agrajes's friends felt great pain, Amadis above all, who wished he could be there in the fight in place of his cousin, for he felt greatly feared seeing him die as the result of the trouble he was in.

And the three damsels, of whom you have already heard and who were watching from the windows, felt such great sorrow to see it that they were close to killing themselves with their own hands. But Olinda, his lady, suffered the worst, and all who saw her felt sad to see her in such great pain.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Chapter 38 [final half]

[How the King arrived in London, and what happened then.] 

[The White Tower of London. The people who wrote Amadis of Gaul knew little about London. The text says that Barsinan and his men were in the "alcázar" (fortified royal residence), without specifying the building by name. I like to think they were in the Tower. Photo of me by my husband.]


Meanwhile, King Lisuarte, who was coming to London as fast as he could to find Barsinan, met many of the knights who were looking for him and had them return to the city, and he sent others to search the roads and valleys and make all those they found return, for there were many.

The first ones he met were Agrajes, Galvanes, Soliman, Galdan, Dinadaus, and Bervas. These six were traveling together in great sorrow, and when they saw the King, they wanted to kiss his hands in joy, but he embraced them and said:

"My friends, ye were close to losing me, and without doubt ye would have except for Galaor and Sir Guilan and Ladasin, who by great good fortune came together."

Dinadaus told him:

"My lord, all the men of the town came out when they heard the news, and all shall wander lost."

"My nephew," the King said, "take from these knights the best and as many as ye wish, and take my shield, for at its mere sight all shall obey, and make them come back."

Dinadaus was one of the best knights in the King's family, and was well-considered by noblemen both for his courtesy and for his knightly skills and deeds. He left right away and made many return.

As the King was traveling, as ye hear, accompanied by many knights and other people, he came to the highway to London and met his dear friend Sir Grumedan, who was bringing Oriana, and I tell you that the pleasure between them was boundless, for they had had so little hope that their tribulations would be solved. Grumedan told the King how Amadis had gone to town to see the Queen.

This was how the King arrived at London, in the company of more than two thousand knights, and before he entered, he was told everything that Barsinan had done, and the defense that King Arban had raised and how, with Amadis's arrival, everything was put to rest and Barsinan taken prisoner.

And so now everything woeful had been made happy. When the King came to see the Queen, who could recount the pleasure and happiness that he and Oriana, the Queen and all the ladies and damsels had? Truly, none, for they were so overjoyed.

The King ordered a siege of the castle and ordered Barsinan brought before him, who had recovered his senses, as well as Arcalaus's cousin, and had them tell why they had planned their treachery. They told him everything, with nothing left out. He ordered them taken into sight of the castle so Barsinan's men could see him, and had both of them burned, which was done immediately.

Within five days, all the men in the castle, who had no provisions or help, had come to ask mercy of the King, and to those he pleased he did justice, and others he set free. But this shall not be told of further, except that because of Barsinan's death, for a long time there was great hatred between Great Britain and Saxony, and the son of Barsinan, a brave knight, and many of his men came to attack King Lisuarte, as this story shall recount farther on.

King Lisuarte, having been rescued from his disasters, held court again as before, with great festivities by night in the town and by day in the countryside. And one day there came the lady and her sons before whom Amadis and Galaor had promised Madasima to leave King Lisuarte, as ye have heard.

When they saw her, they came to her to honor her, and she told them:

"My friends, ye know why I have come here, and tell me what ye shall do about it."

"We shall comply with all that we agreed upon with Madasima."

"In the name of God," the lady said.

"Since today is the deadline, let us go before the King," they said.

"Let us go," she said.

Then they went to where the King was, and the lady bowed deeply and the King received her with goodwill. The lady said:

"My lord, I come here to see if these knights shall fulfill a promise that they made to a lady."

The King asked what the promise was.

"It was such," she said, "that I fear it will give sorrow to you and to those in your court who love them."

Then the lady told everything that had happened with Madasima, the lady of Gantasi. When the King heard this, he said:

"Why, Galaor, ye have killed me!"

"Better that than dying," Galaor said, "for if we had been recognized, no one would have let us live. And do not worry about this very much, my lord, for it shall be solved soon, quicker than ye think." Then he said to his brother Amadis, "Ye granted me that ye would do what I would do about this."

"That is true," he said.

And then Galaor told the King and the knights who were there by what trick they were taken prisoner. The King was shocked to hear about the treachery, but Galaor said he thought the lady was the one tricked and deceived by the agreement, as they would see. In front of the lady, he said to the King, and everyone heard:

"My lord King, I say goodbye to you and your company, according to my promise, which I have now kept, and I leave you and your company for Madasima, the lady of Gantasi Castle, who thought it good to cause this sorrow to you and to all others whom she could, for she despised you so."

Amadis did the same.

Galaor said to the lady and her sons:

"Do ye think we have fulfilled the promise?"

"Yes, without a doubt," she said, "for everything ye had agreed to do, ye have done."

"In the name of God," Galaor said, "then now, when ye please, ye may go, and tell Madasima that she did not make as good a pact as she thought, and now ye shall see why." Then he turned to the King and said, "My lord, we have fulfilled what we promised to Madasima, but we have not set a date for when we would have to leave you, so that we may well remain as long as ye wish, and we shall be now as we were before."

When the King and those in the court heard this, they were very happy, and thought the knights were wise. The King told the lady who had come to see the promise fulfilled:

"Truly, lady, since such treachery and deception was done to these knights, they have no further obligations, not even as much as they did, for it is very just to want to deceive those who try to be deceitful. And tell Madasima that if she despises me so, that she had it in her hands to cause me the worst evil and suffering at the worst time possible, but God, who has protected these knights from even greater danger elsewhere, did not wish them to perish in the power of a person like her."

"My lord," the lady said, "tell me, if ye please, who are these well-esteemed knights?"

The King said:

"Amadis and Galaor, his brother."

"What?" the lady said. "It was Amadis whom she had in her power?"

"Yes, without a doubt," said the King.

"Thanks to God for protecting them," the lady said, "for it would have truly been a great misfortune if two such good men were to have died that way. But I think that she who had held them, when she learns who they were and how they escaped from her, shall give herself the same death that she would have ordered for them."

"Truly," the King said, "this would be the most just thing she could do."

And the lady said goodbye and went on her way.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Chapter 38 [first half]

How Amadis came to help the city of London, killed the traitor Barsinan, and put the entire city at peace.

[Illustration for Chapter 38 from the 1526 edition, printed in Seville.]  


While Amadis and his lady Oriana were in the forest, as we have told you, he asked her what Arcalaus had said, and she said:

"That I shouldn't complain, for within five days he would make me queen of London and give me Barsinan as my husband, who would be king of my father's lands, and Arcalaus would be his chief majordomo, for having given Barsinan me and my father's head."

"Oh, holy Mary!" Amadis said. "What great treachery by Barsinan, who pretended to be a friend of the King! I fear he will harm the Queen."

"Oh, my beloved," she said, "go help her as best ye can."

"Thus I should," he said, "but I do so with regret, for I have would have enjoyed spending many days in this forest, if ye, my lady, were also pleased."

"God knows how much it would have pleased me," she said, "but if we did, something very bad could happen to the lands that could still be yours and mine, if God wishes."

So they rested until dawn. Then Amadis arose, armed himself well and, taking his lady's horse by the reins, he got on the road for London and traveled as fast as he could. He met some of the knights who had departed London in groups of five and ten, in all more than a thousand knights. Amadis showed them where to look for the King and told them how Galaor had gone ahead to rescue him.

Continuing on, he met Sir Grumedan five leagues from London, the good elderly man who had raised the Queen, and with him came twenty knights from his family. They had ridden all night through the forest from one side to the other looking for the King. When Grumedan recognized Oriana, he came toward her, weeping, and said:

"My lady, oh God, what a blessed day to see you! But, by God, what news of  your father the King?"

"Truly, my friend," she said weeping, "they separated me from him near London, and it pleased God to have Amadis find those who were carrying me off and use his might to take me from them."

"Truly," said Sir Grumedan, "if he could not do it, no one could." Then he said to Amadis, "My friend and lord, where has your brother gone?"

"He and I separated at the place where they separated the King and his daughter," Amadis said. "He went the way the King went and I the way Arcalaus went, who was carrying off this lady."

"Now I have more hope," Sir Grumedan said, "because such a well-blessed knight as Sir Galaor has gone to rescue the King."

Amadis told Sir Grumedan about the great treachery of Arcalaus and Barsinan, and then he said:

"Take Oriana, and I shall go to the Queen as fast as I can, for I fear that that traitor wishes to do her wrong. Make all the knights ye find return to the city, for though the King needs help, so many have left that quite a few will be unneeded."

Sir Grumedan took Oriana and traveled to London as fast as he could, and made all the men he found go back.

Amadis left as fast as his horse could go, and when he entered the town, he found the squire that the King had sent to tell the news that he was free, and the squire told him how it had happened. Amadis thanked God because his brother had done well, and before he entered the town, he had learned everything that Barsinan had done, so he entered as secretly as he could.

When Arban saw him, both he and his men were very happy and felt greatly encouraged. Arban went to embrace him and said:

"My good lord, what news do ye bring?"

"All of it will bring you joy," Amadis said. "Let us go before the Queen and ye shall hear it."

Then Amadis took the squire by the hand and they went to her, knelt before her, and he said:

"My lady, this squire left the King free and safe, and was sent by him to tell you. And I left Oriana in the hands of Sir Grumedan, your tutor, and she will soon be here. Meanwhile, I wish to see Barsinan if I may."

He took off his helmet and shield and put on others so he would not be recognized, and said to Arban:

"Have your barriers be knocked down, so Barsinan and his men will come, and if God wishes, we shall make him pay for his treachery." And he told him what he knew about Barsinan and Arcalaus.

The barriers were immediately taken down, and Barsinan and all his men charged, thinking they could quickly gain total victory. Arban's men met them, and thus a perilous battle began between them in which many would be injured or killed. Barsinan rode ahead, and since his men were many and the opponents few, he thought they could not be stopped, and he meant to do all he could to take the Queen.

Amadis saw the attack and came out to meet them, bearing a shield that had lost its paint on his neck and a rusty old helmet on his head. They seemed almost worthless, but in the end they served him well. He rode through the battle wearing the King's good sword on his belt.

When he reached Barsinan, he struck Barsinan's shield with his lance, and both the shield and his coat of mail failed, and the lance entered halfway into his flesh and was broken. Then Amadis put his hand on his sword and struck him on top of his helmet and cut so deep that it reached the skin of his head.

Barsinan was stunned, but Amadis's sword had cut so well that he felt almost nothing with his hand. Then he struck Barsinan again on the arm that bore his sword, and cut through the sleeve of his chain mail and his arm above his hand, then Amadis's sword swung down to his leg and cut it halfway through. Barsinan tried to flee but he could not. He fell.

Amadis went to attack others so bravely that anyone whom he hit directly had no need for a doctor, for he was dead. And so Barsinan's men recognized him for the amazing things he did, and they fled, and ran into each other as they did. Arban and his men continued to apply such pressure that Barsinan's company withdrew to the castle, leaving many men dead and injured in the streets where they had fought.

Amadis arrived at the gates of the castle and would have entered if they had not been closed. Then he turned back to where he had left Barsinan. Many townspeople were guarding him, and when Amadis arrived, he saw that he was still breathing and ordered him taken to the palace and guarded until the King came.

Now that fight was over, as ye have heard, with many men dead and others hiding inside the castle, Amadis looked at the bloody sword that he held in his hand and said:

"Oh, sword, on a good day was born the knight who has had you. And truly, ye have been used as ye should, and being the best in the world, the best man in the world shall possess you again."

Then he ordered himself disarmed and went to the Queen, and ordered Arban to rest in bed, who greatly needed it, so severe were his injuries.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Quijote 2.0

If you can read Spanish and have a video camera, you can participate.

[The Real Academia Española and YouTube need you.]


A quick note: The Real Academia Española is organizing a reading of a famous book of chivalry, Don Quijote de la Mancha. It has divided the novel into 2,419 fragments of eight lines each, and is inviting volunteers to sign up to record themselves reading a fragment and submitting it to the project. Each segment takes one to two minutes to read.

Foreign accents are welcome, since the book belongs to the entire world. The videos already placed in the project's Gallery show that some readers have been creative with the location or execution of their reading. One man sang his segment, and a couple read their segment together.

Act fast. Many people have already volunteered. If you read, let us know the chapter and segment so we can enjoy your contribution.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Chapter 37

How the news came to the Queen that King Lisuarte was being held prisoner, and how Barsinan initiated his treachery so he could become king, though he was eventually defeated and the King restored to his reign.

[Battle scene from Cronecken der Sassen (The Chronicles of Saxony), printed in Mainz, Germany, in 1492.]


The woodsmen, who had seen what had happened to the King, arrived in town and let everything be known. When the news was heard, the tumult was enormous, and all the knights took up their arms and left in all directions as fast as their horses could go until it seemed that the countryside was full of them.

Arban, the King of North Wales, was speaking with the Queen when his squires arrived with his arms and horses. A page came in and told him:

"My lord, arm yourself. What are ye doing? No knight of the King's company remains in the town any longer except for you. All have left as fast as their horses could gallop for the forest."

"But why?" Arban said.

"Because," the page said, "they say that ten knights have taken the King prisoner."

"Oh, holy Mary!" the Queen said. "I have always feared such a thing." And she fell as if dead.

Arban left her in the care of her ladies and damsels, who raised a great lament, and went to arm himself. As he mounted his horse, he heard shouting that the castle had been taken.

"Holy Mary!" he said. "We have all been betrayed." He thought it wrong to leave the Queen without protection, for the town was in a great uproar as if everyone were in the streets. Arban paused at the gate of the Queen's palace, armed and with two hundred of his knights, and sent two of them to find out what the uproar was about.

When they arrived at the castle, they saw that Barsinan was inside with all his men, and he was cutting the throats and killing everyone he could, and others he was throwing from the walls, and when Barsinan learned about the uproar over the imprisonment of the King, he had no concern, since the King's men, who suspected nothing, had left immediately to rescue him. Barsinan had with him six hundred knights and servants, all well armed.

When Arban learned this from his knights, he said:

"Because of the conspiracy of that traitor, the King is being held prisoner."

When Barsinan had taken over the castle, he left men there to guard it and left with others to attack the Queen and take the throne and crown of the King. The townspeople realized what was happening and went to the palace of the Queen with all the arms they had. When Barsinan arrived at the palace, he found Arban there with all his man and a huge crowd of townspeople.

Barsinan said:

"Arban, up to now thou hast been the smartest young knight that I have ever seen, and, from here on, do what thou must so as not to lose thy senses."

"And why dost thou say this to me?" Arban said.

"Because I know," he said, "that King Lisuarte is in the hands of those who will send me his head without its body within five days, and there is no one besides me in this land who can and ought to be king, and so I shall be king in good time. The lands of North Wales, of which thou hast lordship, I shall grant thee, for thou art a good and wise knight. So stand back and I shall take the throne and crown. But if thou wouldst do the contrary, here and now I shall defy thee and I tell thee that none shall stand against me in taking what is my reign without losing their head."

"Truly," Arban said, "thou hast said such things that will place me against thee as long as I shall live. First, for thou advisest me to go against my lord when he is in greatest need of me. And then, since thou knowest that those who hold him will kill him, it seems clear that thou hast betrayed him. And because I have always thought that one of the most precious things in the world is loyalty, and thou hast rejected it and acted vilely against it, we can in no way make any agreement."

"What?" Barsinan said. "Thou wishest to keep me from being king of London?"

"A traitor shall never be the king of London," Arban said, "as long as the most honest king in the world is alive."

Barsinan said:

"I have spoken to thee first before all others about what would be good for thee, thinking that thou wert more wise than the others, and now thou seemest to me to have the weakest mind of all, and I shall make thee know well thy madness. I would see what thou shalt do, for I wish to take the crown and the throne, which I deserve for my skill at arms."

"About this," Arban said, "I shall do as much as if the King my lord were sitting in that throne now."

"Now I shall see," Barsinan said, and he ordered his men to attack.

Arban was ready for them with his company, for he was very intrepid and loyal in all things, and he was very angry over what he had heard about the King, his lord. They met one another very bravely, giving great blows everywhere, and thus many were killed or injured, and both sides fought as hard as they could to defeat and kill the other.

But Arban did so much that day that he more than all others in that battle was praised, for he defended all his men and kept attacking, felling and injuring the enemy, and putting his own life at risk.

Thus they continued until night, but Arban's men could not be defeated due to the narrow streets, otherwise they would have been overcome and the Queen taken. Barsinan retired with his company to the castle and found that many of his men were missing, both dead and injured, and they very much needed to rest.

Arban said to his men:

"My lords, let your loyalty and courage shine bright, and let us not be dismayed by this difficulty, for ye shall be well repaid soon." Then he had his men prepare to pass the night securely.

This done, the Queen, who was almost dead with fear, had Arban called, and he came immediately, armed as he was and with many injuries. When he approached the Queen, he removed his helmet, which was damaged, and all saw that he had five wounds on his face and throat, and that his face was greatly disfigured and covered with blood, yet he seemed very handsome to those who, after God, had only him to protect them.

When the Queen saw him, she felt great sorrow for him, and told him, weeping:

"Oh, good nephew! God keep you and help you, so you may conclude your loyal effort. By God, tell me, what shall become of the King and of us?"

"We shall end well, God willing," he said, "and we shall hear good news about the King. And I tell you, my lady, do not fear the traitors who have come here, for with the great loyalty of your vassals that remain in the city with me, we shall defend you very well."

"Oh, nephew!" she said, "I see you in no condition to bear arms, and I do not know what the others shall do without you."

"My lady," he said, "do not worry, for as long as I have my soul, I shall never give up my arms." Then he left her and returned to his company, and so they passed the night.

And Barsinan, although his company found itself in difficulty, showed great strength and told them:

"My friends, I do not wish to fight more about this, nor have any more deaths, so I shall end this without excess and battles, as ye shall see soon. Rest now without any worries."

And so they rested for the night. The next morning Barsinan armed himself and mounted his horse, brought twenty knights with him, and went to a blockade in a narrow street that Arban's majordomo guarded. And when those behind the barrier saw him, they took up their arms to protect themselves, but Barsinan told them that he came to talk and they were safe until noon. The majordomo went immediately to tell his lord, who was pleased by the truce, for all the men in his company were injured and could not take up arms.

Arban returned at once with the majordomo to the blockade. Barsinan told them:

"I wish to make a truce with you for five days, if ye would."

"I wish," Arban said, "that ye agree not to attempt to kill anyone in the town for five days, and if the King were to return, that we shall do what he orders."

"I agree to all this," Barsinan said, "so that there will be no fighting, for I value my company and yours, and ye shall be mine sooner than ye think. And I must tell you that the King is dead, and I wish to take his daughter as my wife, and ye shall see this before the truce has ended."

"May God cease to help me if I were to make any truce with you," Arban said, "for ye are part of the treason that was done to my lord. Now go and do what ye will."

And I tell you that before nightfall, Barsinan had attacked them fully three times and was repelled each time.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Summary, backstory and Chapters 31 to 35

King Lisuarte's festivities turn into a total disaster, but fear not. Amadis will save day!

A map of London in 1300 from the historical atlas of William R. Shepherd.


The backstory

Amadis is born out of wedlock to King Perion of Gaul and Princess Elisena of Little Brittany, and as a newborn he is cast into the sea. He is rescued, raised by a Scottish knight, and called Childe of the Sea. At age 7, he and the knight's son, Gandalin, are taken by the King of Scotland to be raised in his court. There, at age 12, he meets Princess Oriana of Great Britain, then 10 years old, and they both fall in love at first sight, but they dare not tell anyone, even each other.

Later, to try to be worthy of her and despite still being a teen, the Childe of the Sea becomes a knight, and Gandalin becomes his faithful squire. After several adventures in which Amadis proves his extraordinary valor and skill, he saves King Perion's kingdom from invasion and learns his true identity. Many more adventures follow, and he makes some lasting friends – and enemies, including Arcalaus the Sorcerer.

Meanwhile, his brother Galaor, who had been kidnapped as a toddler by a giant, also becomes a knight. He is the equal of Amadis in valor, skill, and good looks, though not in intellect – and while Amadis is true to his love Oriana, Galaor tends to bed every damsel in distress that he rescues.

By then, Amadis and Oriana have declared their love to each other, though it remains a secret to all but their closest friends. Amadis learns that he has a brother, so he goes in search of him and has many thrilling adventures on the way. In one, he promises a beautiful girl, Princess Briolanja, that he will return to help her take back her kingdom, which had been stolen from her by her uncle.

Amadis finds his brother Galaor, and they go to King Lisuarte's court together, rescuing some damsels in distress on their way. Meanwhile, back at the palace, Lisuarte, King of Great Britain and Oriana's father, has promised a mysterious young damsel that he will prove to her that he is worthy to reign over Great Britain in the court that he will soon hold in London.

Amadis and Galaor are received with joy at Windsor Palace. Amadis and Oriana confess their urgent carnal desire for each other and agree to do something about it the first chance they get.

Chapter 31

King Lisuarte holds court in London, and everything is going splendidly – or so it seems. Barsinan, the Lord of Saxony, arrives, and he has schemed with Arcalaus the Sorcerer to take the throne of Great Britain: Arcalaus will kidnap the King and Oriana, and, while Barsinan is fighting to take the crown, Arcalaus will behead the King and send Oriana to marry Barsinan. In exchange, Barsinan will make Arcalaus rich and powerful.

The next day, Queen Brisena, wife of Lisuarte, discovers that the beautiful crown and cloak, which she and the King had bought from a visiting knight, has disappeared, apparently by magic.

Later that day, a lady named Grovenesa arrives to the court to tell her story. A knight named Angriote d'Estravaus had long entreated her to marry, but she despised him, so she tried to get him killed. He fought with Amadis, who defeated him, but then they became good friends, and Amadis promised Angriote to help him wed Grovenesa. Later she met a brave knight who promised to do all he could to free Amadis from his promise, whether by persuasion or force, under the condition that she come to the King's court and fulfill a boon he would ask of her there. So she has come, and she sees the knight standing alongside the King, though she doesn't know his name.

That knight, Amadis, asks her as his boon to marry Angriote and convinces her that Angriote will be her ideal husband, thus freeing himself of his promise. The author attributes this marriage more to the will of God as a reward for Angriote's good behavior than to the cleverness of Amadis.

Chapter 32

The King asks for the advice of the noblemen attending his court on what he should do to maintain and increase his honor. Barsinan tries to give bad advice, but the King in his wisdom ascertains the correct action, which is to hire the best knights he can afford from all lands. The Queen asks them to forever protect all ladies and damsels in Britain.

Chapter 33

A damsel comes to the King and says she needs two skilled knights to free her father and uncle, who are being wrongly imprisoned by a lady named Madasima. Lisuarte sends Amadis and Galaor. But it turns out to be a trap. They are taken prisoner en route by Madasima, who says she will hold them in a vile dungeon forever unless they promise to leave the service of King Lisuarte. She is angry with the King because one of his knights, Amadis, killed a knight she esteemed, and she really wants to kill Amadis, but she will settle for this.

She doesn't know that she has Amadis and Galaor, and the damsel doesn't tell her, but the damsel's uncle tells them what to do to be freed, and Galaor volunteers to do it: seduce Madasima. Galaor does that easily, being skilled at such tasks, and agrees that he and the other knight will indeed leave King Lisuarte's service. Thus they are freed.

Chapter 34

Meanwhile, back in London, the knight who had sold the King and Queen the beautiful crown and cloak has come to collect the goods or the payment, and since they no longer have the goods, he demands Princess Oriana in payment. So the King sends Oriana with him, accompanied by the Damsel of Denmark. Ardian, the dwarf in service to Amadis, rides off to tell him what has happened.

The King has accompanied Oriana to the forest so that no one will try to rescue her. There he meets the damsel to whom he had promised to prove he is worthy to reign over Great Britain. She asks him to avenge her by fighting a knight who has killed her father and raped her. But the King must come alone, and she has a magic sword and lance to him to use.

Of course it's a trick. The magic weapons break immediately, and the King is taken prisoner by Arcalaus and his knights, though he resists bravely. Arcalaus already has Oriana, since the knight who took her works for the sorcerer. All seems lost.

But, the author assures us, God is about to send help.

Chapter 35

Ardian meets Amadis and Galaor on the road and tells them the news about Oriana. They ride to London, where they learn the King has been taken. Amadis's squire, Gandalin, gets the King's sword for Amadis from the Queen. As the brothers and their squires ride off in pursuit, they pause to talk to some woodsmen, who say that Arcalaus has taken both the King ... and Oriana.

The brothers split up, Galaor to rescue the King and Amadis to rescue Oriana. After a long chase, Amadis finds Oriana and defeats Arcalaus's knights. He almost kills Arcalaus, but the sorcerer gets away.

As they are traveling back to London, Amadis reminds Oriana that they had promised to consummate their love. So they leave the road and find a pleasant valley. Gandalin and the Damsel of Denmark make themselves scarce. And thus, in that green forest, the most beautiful damsel in the world becomes a woman, and, briefly, they are happy.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Chapter 36 [final part]

[How Galaor found the King and, with help, saved him.]

[Illustration for Chapter 36 from the 1526 edition, printed in Seville.]


Galaor lay down in his armor next to the fire to sleep, and when dawn began to break, he got up, for he had not slept deeply, as one who was worried he would not find what he sought. He mounted his horse, took up his arms, and commended the mule drivers to God, and they him. His squire could no longer keep up with him, and Galaor promised then and there, if God kept him safe, to get his squire a better horse. He went directly to a tall hill, and there began to study the land all around.

At that time the two cousins left the house where they had lodged to sleep. It was now morning. They saw Galaor, recognized him by his shield, and rode toward him. But as they did, they saw him descend from the hill in the other direction as fast as his horse could go. The knight who had been knocked down said:

"He just saw us and fled. Truly, I think that he is fleeing and hiding because of some evil deed. May God not help me if I can catch him and do not learn what this is about and make him pay, for I would not deserve God's help. Let us go after him."

But Sir Galaor, who was far from worrying about them, had finally seen some knights at a pass that led from the forest. Five rode ahead and another five rode behind, and between them rode some unarmed men, and he realized that they were the ones who led the King. He rode toward them as one who had already offered up his life to save another. When he neared, he saw the King in chains and felt so troubled by it that, not fearing death, he charged at the five who went ahead and said:

"Oh, traitors! Ye shall pay for laying a hand on the best man in the world!"

The five came at him, but he struck the first on the chest such that the iron and a piece of the shaft came out of his back, and he threw him dead on the ground. The others struck Galaor so hard that they knocked his horse to its knees with him on it. One thrust his lance between Galaor's chest and shield, but he lost it, for Galaor took it and went to strike another with it on the thigh, and it passed through his chain mail and leg and into the flesh of the horse, and so the knight was trapped. The lance broke there, and as Galaor put his hand on his sword, he saw all the rest coming at him. He entered in combat with them so bravely that no man could have watched it without being amazed by how he could suffer the many great blows that they gave him.

And as he was in this mortal danger, for there were many knights against him, God chose to help him with the two cousins who had followed him. When they saw him, they were amazed by the great skill of the knight, and the one who had followed him said:

"Truly, we had no reason to call that man a coward. Let us go help him in his great peril."

"Who would do anything other than help the best knight in the world?" said the other. "And do not believe that he would attack so many men except to right some grave misdeed."

Then they let their horses gallop and went to attack bravely, as those who are very valiant and wise about such things, for each had been a knight-errant for more than ten years. And I tell you that the first was named Lasadin the Swordsman and the other good knight Sir Guilan the Pensive.

At that moment Galaor was in great needed of their help, for his helmet had been cut and damaged in many places, and his chain mail rent everywhere, and his horse injured and close to falling, yet for all this he did not cease to work wonders and deliver such great blows to all those he could reach that they hardly dared approach, and he thought that if his horse could endure long enough, they would not defeat him, and in the end he would kill them.

But with the two cousins' arrival, as ye have heard, the battle became more fair, for they fought so well and with such strength that he was astonished, and thus he found he was freed from many blows which were now directed at them. Then he achieved rare deeds, for he could strike at will, and the damage he caused with the cousins in his aid was so great that very soon their opponents were all killed or defeated.

When Arcalaus's cousin saw this, he galloped at the King to kill him, but since all those who had been guarding him had fled, the King dismounted from his palfrey with the chain around his neck and took the shield and sword from the first knight who had died. The cousin tried to strike him on the top of his head, but the King raised the shield, which took the blow, but the sword sank a palm deep into its center and its point reached the King's head and cut the skin and flesh down to the bone.

But the King gave the cousin's horse such a blow with the sword in its face that he could not withdraw the blade. The horse bucked and fell on top of the knight. Galaor, who was now on foot because his horse could no longer move, had been running to rescue the King. He approached the knight to cut off his head, but the King shouted not to kill him.

The two cousins had chased a knight who was fleeing from them and killed him, and when they turned and saw the King, they were shocked, for they had known nothing about his captivity. They immediately dismounted, pulled off their helmets, and knelt before him. He recognized them, lifted them up by the hands, and said:

"By God, friends! At a good moment ye saved me. Sir Guilan's lover did me great wrong, for she separated him from my company, and because of her I lost you, Ladasin."

Guilan felt great shame and his face turned red, but not even because of this did he cease to love his lady, the Duchess of Bristol, and she him, for they had already achieved the aim that their love desired. The Duke always supected that it was Sir Guilan who had entered his castle when it was really Galaor, as this story has already told you.

But let us leave this now and return to the King and what he did after he was set free. Know that Sir Galaor got Aracalaus's cousin out from under his horse, removed the chain from the King, and put it on him. They took the horses of the dead knights, one for the King and another for Galaor, for his could no longer move, and with great joy they began to ride toward London.

Lasadin told the King everything that had happened with Galaor, and the King praised him highly for waiting to see what Galaor was doing. Guilan himself told him how he had been thinking so intently about his lover that he had noticed nothing else, and the knight had knocked him down without saying anything. The King laughed heartily at that and told him:

"Although I have heard of many things that men do for their beloved, I have never heard anything like that, so with good reason, as I see it, they call you Guilan the Pensive."

And of these and other pleasant things they spoke until they arrived at the house of Ladasin, who lived very near, and soon Galaor's squire arrived, then Ardian, Amadis's dwarf, who thought he might find his lord along that road.

Galaor told the King how he and Amadis had separated, and that the King ought to send an envoy to London, because the woodsmen would have spread the news and the entire court would be in an uproar.

"Since Amadis has gone to rescue my daughter," the King said, "I know I shall not lose her unless that traitor by deceit does some sort of sorcery. And as ye well said, the Queen should know what became of me."

So he sent one of Ladasin's squires who knew the land well to go at once with the news. Then the King lodged there that night, where he was well served. The next day they returned to the road, and as they went, Arcalaus's cousin told them how everything that had happened had been at the counsel of Barsinan, the Lord of Saxony, who had planned to become King of Great Britain. Thus the King decided to ride faster than ever to find him there.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Original text, Chapter 35

The polished elegance of Amadis of Gaul set the style for gracious writing and conversation in the 16th century.

[The final text of the chapter, starting with "Oriana mas lieve este mi anillo..." from the edition printed in 1526 in Seville.]


After a summer break, Amadis of Gaul is back. Translations will be again posted every other Tuesday, but the demands of other writing projects mean that I will only be able to post commentaries on occasional Thursdays. Commentaries can be more time-consuming to prepare than the translations.

As I said in July, I think Chapter 35 ends with one of the most beautiful and joyous passages of the novel. I translated it with care, but if you understand Spanish, you may enjoy the original more. This passage begins with: "Amadis led his lady's horse by the reins and she told him how she was so frightened..."


Amadís llevava a su señora por la rienda, y ella le iva cuán espantada iva de aquellos caballeros muertos, que no podía en sí tornar, mas él le dixo:

—Muy más espantosa y cruel es aquella muerte que yo por vos padezco; y señora, doledvos de mí y acordaos de lo que me tenéis prometido, que si hasta aquí me sostuve no es por ál sino creyendo que no era mas en vuestra mano ni poder de me dar más de lo que me davades; mas si de aquí adelante veyéndovos, señora, en tanta libertad no me acorriéssedes, ya no bastaría ninguna cosa que la vida sostenerme pudiesse. Antes sería fenecida con la más rabiosa esperança que nunca persona murió.

Oriana le dixo:

—Por buena fe, amigo, nunca, si yo puedo, por mi causa vos seréys en esse peligro. Yo haré lo que queréys y vos hazed como, aun que aquí yerro y pecado parezca, no lo sea ante Dios.

Así anduvieron tres leguas hasta entrar en un bosque muy espesso de árboles, que cabe una villa cuanto una legua estava. A Oriana prendió gran sueño, como quien no había dormido ninguna cosa la noche pasada, y dixo:

—Amigo, tan gran sueño me viene, que me no puedo sufrir.

—Señora —dixo él—, vayamos aquel valle y dormireys.

Y desviando de la carrera se fueron al valle, donde hallaron un pequeño arroyo de agua y hierba verde muy fresca. Allí descendió Amadís a su señora y dixo:

—Señora, la siesta entra muy caliente, aquí dormireys hasta que venga la fría. Y, en tanto, enbiaré a Gandalín aquella villa y traer nos ha con que refresquemos.

—Vaya —dixo Oriana— ¿mas quién gelo dará?

Dixo Amadís:

—Dar gelo han sobre aquel caballo y venir se ha a pie.

—No será así —dixo Oriana— mas lieve este mi anillo, que ya nunca nos tanto como agora valdrá.— Y sacándolo del dedo lo dio a Gandalín.

Y quando él se iva dixo a passo contra Amadís: —Señor, quien en buen tiempo tiene y lo pierde, tarde lo cobra.— Y esto dicho, luego se fue, y Amadís entendió bien porque lo él dezía.

Oriana se acostó en el manto de la Donzella en tanto que Amadís se desarmava, que bien menester lo avia, y como desarmado fue, la Donzella se entró a dormir en unas matas espessas.

Y Amadís tornó a su señora y cuando assí la vio tan hermosa y en su poder, aviéndole ella otorgado su voluntad, fue tan turbado de plazer y de empacho que sólo catar no la osava. Assí que se puede bien dezir que en aquella verde yerba, encima de aquel manto, más por la gracia y comedimiento de Oriana que por la desenboltura ni osadía de Amadís fue hecha dueña la más hermosa donzella del mundo.

Y creyendo con ello las sus encendidas llamas resfriar, aumentándose en muy mayor cuantidad más ardientes y con más fuerça quedaron, assí como en los sanos y verdaderos amores acaescer suele. Assí estuvieron de consuno con aquellos autos amorosos quales pensar y sentir puede aquel y aquella que de semejante saeta sus coraçones feridos son, hasta que el empacho de la venida de Gandalín hizo a Amadís levantar.

Y llamando la donzella, dieron buena orden de aderezar cómo comiessen, que bien les hazía menester, donde aun que los muchos servidores, las grandes vaxillas de oro y de plata allí faltaron, no quitaron aquel dulce y gran plazer que en la comida sobre la yerba ovieron. Pues assí como oídes estavan estos dos amantes en aquella floresta con tal vida cual nunca a plazer del uno y del otro dexaba fuera, si la pudieran sin empacho y gran verguença sostener.

Donde los dejaremos holgar y descansar, y contaremos qué le avino a don Galaor en la demanda del Rey.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Chapter 36 [first part]

How Sir Galaor freed King Lisuarte from the captivity in which he was being treacherously held.

[This road up Fuenfría Valley in the Guadarrama Mountains has existed since Roman times. It was the main road between Madrid and Segovia throughout the Middle Ages, and the yellow arrow marks the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route. Photo by Sue Burke.]

After Sir Galaor departed from his brother, as ye heard, he got on the road down which the King had been taken. He was anxious to ride as fast as he could, as one whose only concern was to overtake them and who thought about nothing that he saw except their trail. Thus he rode until the hour of vespers, when he entered a valley and found the hoof prints of the horses where they had stopped. Then he followed that trail as fast as his horse could carry him, for it seemed that they could not be far ahead.

But soon he saw before him a well-armed knight on a good horse, who came toward him and said:

"Stay, my lord knight, and tell me what concern makes you gallop so."

"By God!" Galaor said, "free me from your question, for if I were to delay with you, much evil could come from it."

"By Holy Mary," the knight said, "ye shall not pass from here until ye tell me or fight with me."

Galaor did not respond, and rode on. The knight of the valley said to him:

"Truly, knight, ye must be fleeing some evil deed. Now protect yourself, for I wish to learn of it."

Then he came at him with his lance lowered and his horse galloping at full speed. Galaor turned, but he threw his shield to his back, and when he felt him close, took his horse off the road and waited there. The knight missed him and passed him fast, as one who had a valiant and rested horse. He stopped a little beyond Galaor, turned around, raised his lance high, and said:

"Oh, vile and cowardly knight! Thou canst not avoid me by any means. Tell me what I ask of thee or die."

Then he charged, but Galaor, who had the better-trained horse, sidestepped the encounter and continued on as soon as he could. The knight could not stop his horse quickly, and when he turned around, he saw that Galaor had gotten far ahead. He said:

"May God help me, ye shall not leave me thus!" And since he knew the landscape well, he took a shortcut and went to block a pass. Galaor felt unhappy to see him there. The knight told him:

"Vile and heartless coward, now pick which of these three things ye wish: Or ye shall fight, or turn back, or tell me what I ask."

"Any of them troubles me," said Galaor, "and ye do me no courtesy. But I shall not turn back, and it would not be my wish to fight you, but if ye wish to know why I hurry, follow me and ye shall see it, for I would spend much time telling you it, and besides ye would not believe it, such is the disaster."

"In the name of God," the knight said, "ye may pass, but I tell you that ye shall not be rid of me for three days."

Galaor continued on with the knight behind him, and when they had gone a half-league, they saw a knight on foot chasing the horse from which he had fallen, and another knight was leaving him as fast as he could. The knight following Sir Galaor knew the knight who had been knocked down, who was his first cousin, and as fast as he could he went to catch the horse. He gave it back and said:

"What was this, my lord cousin?"

"I was riding," he said, "thinking about that of which ye know, so I was not thinking about myself, and I noticed nothing until that knight gave me a lance-blow on the shield. My horse was knocked to its knees and I fell to the earth, and my horse fled. Then I put my hand on my sword and called him to battle, but he did not wish to come and instead told me to remember to respond when someone called out to me. And by the faith that ye owe to God, let us go after him if we can, and ye shall see how I avenge myself."

"I cannot do this," said the cousin, "for I must follow this knight for three days." And he told him what had happened.

"Truly," said the knight, "either he is the greatest coward in the world or he is going to do some great deed, for if this is how he acts, I will leave aside avenging my injury to see what happens with this plight."

They saw that by then Galaor was far ahead, since he would not stop for anything, and the two cousins went after him. By then it was close to nightfall. Galaor entered a forest, and in the darkness lost the trail and did not know which way to go. Then he began to ask for the mercy of God to guide him so that he could be the first to arrive in rescue. He thought that the knights had gone off somewhere with the King to sleep, so he rode listening through several valleys from one side to another, but he heard nothing.

The two cousins rode on, thinking that Galaor was traveling ahead on the road, but after they had gone a league, they left the forest and did not see him, so they thought he had hidden from them, and they went to take shelter in the house of a lady who lived nearby.

Galaor rode everywhere through the forest, but since he had found nothing in it, he decided to leave and, in the morning, to climb a high hill to survey the land. He returned to the road which he had taken earlier and rode until he came out onto a plain.

Then he saw a small fire in a valley ahead, and when he went there he found a camp of mule drivers. When they saw him coming armed, they became afraid and took lances and hatchets and came at him, but he told them to fear no harm and instead asked them to give him a little barley for his horse. They gave it to him and he fed it to his horse. They asked him to eat, and he said no, but he would sleep a little if they would wake him before dawn. By then two-thirds of the night had passed.