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.