Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Chapter 41 [first half]

How Sir Galaor traveled with the damsel in search of the knight who had knocked him from his horse. Finally until he managed to fight with him, but in the most heated moment of the battle he learned he was his brother Florestan.

[Full Moon over Tourrette-Levens Castle near Nice, France. NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day photo by Poalo Tanga, Observatoire de la Cote d'Azur.] 

Sir Galaor traveled for four days guided by the damsel who was going to take him to the knight of the forest. During those days a great ire grew in his heart, so that with every knight he fought, he demonstrated full ill will, and most of them were killed by his hands, paying with their lives for something that they did not even know about. At the end of those days he arrived at the house of a knight who lived in a beautiful castle on a summit in a valley. The damsel said that there was no where else to lodge, so they should go there.

"We will go if ye wish," Sir Galaor said.

So they went to the castle, and at the gate they found men and ladies and damsels, and it seemed to be the home of a nobleman. Among them was a knight fully seventy years old, dressed in a cape of scarlet leather, who received them very well and told Sir Galaor to dismount from his horse, for he would gladly give him much honor and pleasure.

"My lord," Sir Galaor said, "ye welcome us so well that even if we were to find another place to lodge, we would not leave yours."

His men took his horse and the damsel's palfrey, and they all entered the castle, where Sir Galaor and his damsel dined in a hall with every honor. When the tablecloths were removed, the knight of the castle came to them and asked Sir Galaor quietly if he would sleep with the damsel, and he said no. Then he had two damsels come to take her with them, and Galaor remained alone to rest and sleep in a rich bed that was there.

His host told him:

"May you rest well, for God knows how much pleasure I have had with you and would have with all knights-errant, because I was a knight, as are my two sons. They are now badly injured, because their custom was none other than to seek adventure, and in many of them they gained great fame at arms. But last night a knight passed by here who knocked them both down in combat, which left them very shamed. They mounted their horses to chase him and caught up with him at the edge of a river where he was getting onto a boat. They told him that since they now knew how he jousted, they would continue the fight with swords. The knight, who was in a hurry, did not wish to do so, but my sons insisted, saying they would not let him get onto the boat.

"A lady who was in the boat told them:

" 'Truly knights, ye are disrespectful of us to delay our knight with such arrogance.'

"They said that they would not stop by any means until he had proven himself to them with swords.

" 'Then so it shall be,' she said. 'Now he shall fight the better of you two, and if he wins, the other shall cede.'

"They said that if he defeated one of them, he would still have to fight the other. The knight, very angrily, then said:

" 'Let both of you come right now, for I cannot get away from you otherwise.'

"He put his hand on his sword and went at them, and one of my sons went at him, but my son could not hold his own in the fight, for the knight was like none he had ever seen. When his brother saw him in danger of death, he wanted to help and attacked the knight as bravely as he could, but his help meant little, and the knight was done with both of them quickly. He left them both lying on the field stunned, got onto his boat, and went on his way.

"I went for my sons, who had been left badly injured, and so that ye may better believe what I have said, I wish to show you the worst and most disdainful blows ever given by the hand of a knight."

Then he ordered that his son's arms from the battle be brought, and Galaor saw them stained with blood and cut by great blows from a sword, and he was amazed. He asked the good man what the knight's shield was, and he said:

"A vermillion shield with two leopards on it, the same as his helmet, and he rode on a roan horse."

Sir Galaor knew then that this was the man he sought, and he said to his host:

"Do ye know anything about this knight?"

"No," he said.

"Well, ye may go to bed now," Galaor said, "for I am looking for this knight, and if I find him, I shall set him right for myself and for your sons, or I shall die."

"My friend and lord," the host said, "I shall praise you if ye took up another search and abandoned this very dangerous one, for if my two sons fared so badly, it was due to their great arrogance." Then he went to his room.

Sir Galaor slept until morning, asked for his arms, and with his damsel returned to the road. They reached the boat of which ye have heard, and when they had gone five leagues further, and they saw a beautiful fortress. The damsel said:

"Wait for me here, and I shall return shortly."

She went to the castle, and he did not wait long before he saw her return. Another damsel came with her and ten men on horseback, and the damsel was marvelously beautiful. She said to Galaor:

"Knight, this damsel with whom ye travel tells me that ye seek a knight with a vermillion shield with leopards on it in order to find out who he is. I tell you that not even by force of arms has anyone been able to find out for the past three years, and it will be very hard for you to do this as well, for truly in all the islands ye shall not find a knight like him."

"Damsel," Galaor said, "I shall not cease to look for him, no matter how well he hides his identity, and if I find him, I will be pleased to fight him if there is no other way to learn who he is."

"Since that is how ye feel," the damsel said, "I shall show him to you three days from here out of the love that I have for my cousin, who has been guiding you and who has begged me to do so."

"I owe you a great favor," said Sir Galaor.

They took to the road and by vespers they had arrived at an arm of the sea that surrounded a nearby island, and they would have to sail over the water three leagues to reach it. They got onto a boat that they found in the port, but first they had to swear that among those who were boarding there was only one knight. Sir Galaor asked the damsel why they had to make that vow.

"Because," she said, "the lady of the island where ye are going has ordered that only one knight may pass until the other returns or is dead."

"Who kills them or defeats them?" Sir Galaor said.

"The knight ye are seeking," she said. "This lady of whom I have spoken loves him dearly and has had him with her for half a year. A tournament had been established by her and by another very beautiful lady, and this knight, who came from a foreign land, defeated everyone in it all by himself. She was so taken by him that she did not rest until he had become her lover, and she has kept him with her and does not let him leave, but because he has wanted to leave several times to look for adventure, in order to keep him, she allows knights that wish to fight him to pass to the island. He gives their arms and horses to his lover, and those who have had the ill fortune to die are buried and those who are defeated are expelled. And I tell you that the lady is very beautiful and is named Corisanda, and the island Gravisanda."

Sir Galaor said:

"Do ye know why this knight was in a forest when I found him? He had been there for fifteen days challenging all the knights-errant that he encountered."

"Yes," the damsel said, "for he had promised a boon to a damsel before he came here, and she asked him to guard that forest for fifteen days, as ye have said. And his lover, though much against her desires, gave him the space of one month to go and guard the forest, then return."

As they were speaking, they arrived at the island. It was now night, and the moon shone bright. They disembarked and spent the night alongside a small river, where the damsels ordered tents to be erected, and there they ate and rested until morning. Galaor wanted to spend the night with the damsel, who was very beautiful, but she did not, although he seemed to be the most handsome knight she had ever seen and she took great pleasure in talking with him.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Chapter 40 [final part]

[How Briolanja's love placed Amadis in great danger.]

[This stained glass window in Segovia Castle depects King Enrique III of Castilla and his family. He reigned from 1390 to 1406, when the Trastámara version of Amadis of Gaul was written.]  


[Translator's note: The following section will seem very confusing without some information about the history of this novel. Three versions of Amadis of Gaul are known to exist.

The first was written during the reign of King Alfonso XI of Castilla, between 1312 and 1350; the second during the early years of the Trastámara dynasty in Castilla, that is, after 1369; and the third by Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo at the end of the 1400s. Montalvo's is the only version that still exists, but we know some things about the earlier versions.

The first version encompasses what is now Book I (Chapters 0 - 43) and Book II (Chapters 44 - 64). The second version adds Book III (Chapters 65 - 81). Montalvo's version adds Book IV (Chapters 82 - 133).

Rodríguez de Montalvo said he "corrected" poor copies of the earlier versions, but in general he made few intrusive changes to Book I, except in this section of this chapter, as ye shall see. It deals with an incident in which Briolanja falls so deeply in love with Amadis that she wants to bear his child.

As Montalvo explains (but not very well, and worse, his explanation violates the chronological order of the story), the first version of the novel initially said that Amadis refused Briolanja because he loved Oriana with total loyalty, but Prince Alfonso of Portugal (1289-1329) ordered the story rewritten so that he acquiesced; that is, the first version told the story two ways, both of which Montalvo considered unlikely.

The story in the second version, the Trastámara version, was more complex and involved a boon and a tower, but Amadis did not acquiesce until Oriana granted permission. (The Trastámara version also seems to have added the mysterious knight who appeared earlier in this chapter and defeated Amadis, Agrajes, and Galaor in jousts; he will turn out to be important.)

But Montalvo doesn't like either of those versions (two-and-a-half versions, actually). He tells his own version, in which Briolanja releases Amadis and then decides to marry Sir Galaor because Galaor looks so much like his brother Amadis that she can imagine he is Amadis.

After bothering us with this intrusive and unnecessary explanation, Montalvo never actually recounts this amorous incident in detail in Chapter 42 where it should have appeared because "it has already been told to you."]

Amadis and Agrajes, after separating from Sir Galaor, rode hard for several days until they arrived at a castle called Torin where the beautiful girl and Grovenesa were, and on the way they did many great deeds of chivalry.

When the lady learned that Amadis was coming, she was very happy, and she came to him with many ladies and damsels, bringing the beautiful girl by the hand, and when they saw him they received him well. But I tell you that at this time the girl was so beautiful that she seemed like nothing less than a shining star, and they were very surprised, for she was nothing like she had been when Amadis had first seen her. He said to Agrajes:

"How does this damsel seem to you?"

"It seems to me that if God had wished to make her beautiful, He fulfilled His will in every way."

The lady said:

"My lord Amadis, Briolanja thanks you deeply for having come and for what shall now be done with the help of God. Disarm yourselves and rest."

Then they were brought to a room, where they left their arms, and wearing cloaks, they returned to the hall where they were being awaited. As they spoke with Grovenesa, Briolanja looked at Amadis, and he seemed to be the most handsome knight she had ever seen. And so he was, though he was only twenty years old and his face had been marked by injuries, but considering how well he had earned those scars and how they had made his fame and honor bright and shining, they made him seem even handsomer.

The sight of him struck her so deeply that the beautiful girl fell completely in love with him, and for a very long time her heart never ceased to think of him. When she recovered her kingdom, as shall be told farther on, her spirit could not resist, and she immediately sought to have him be the lord of both her kingdom and her person. When Amadis learned this, he made it fully known through his many tears of anguish and suffering that he felt great loyalty to his lady Oriana. However, Prince Alfonso of Portugal, having pity on this beautiful damsel, ordered it written otherwise, but what was written was not what in fact happened with their love.

Their love was told in another way that can more reasonably be believed. When Briolanja was restored to her reign, Amadis and Agrajes stayed there to rest, for they had been injured, and she remained in love, but she saw that her mortal desires had no effect. She spoke privately and in secret with the damsel to whom Amadis, Galaor, and Agrajes had promised boons in exchange for guiding Sir Galaor to where the knight of the forest had gone, for by then Galaor had returned from that trip. Briolanja revealed her situation to the damsel and, with many tears, asked for help for her growing passion. The damsel, who felt sorry for her mistress, asked Amadis to fulfill her boon by remaining in a tower until he had engendered a son or daughter in Briolanja and the child had been given to her.

Amadis, to keep his word, remained in the tower as he had been asked, but he did not wish to be conjoined with Briolanja, and failed to eat or sleep until his life was in great danger. When it became known in the court of King Lisuarte that he was in such straits, his lady Oriana, in order to save his life, sent him orders to do what the damsel had asked of him. Amadis, with this permission and thinking that he could not leave any other way and still keep his word, took the beautiful Queen as his lover and left twins, a son and daughter, in her womb.

But neither the one story nor the other was true. Briolanja, seeing how Amadis was in fact dying in that tower, ordered the damsel to free him from his boon, but asked that he not leave until Sir Galaor returned, wishing that her eyes could enjoy the sight of that handsome and famous knight, for otherwise she would have been left in deep gloom and darkness. This story can be more justly believed because this famous Queen was married with Sir Galaor, as the fourth book shall tell.

Thus, as ye hear, Amadis and Agrajes waited in that castle for provisions to be prepared, which they would need on the journey to go and fight the battle.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Medieval life: bad and worse

Knights who lost battles died badly, while some other people lived worse.

[This was one way to die in a medieval battle. Photo from The Economist.] 

In an article titled Nasty, brutish and not that short, The Economist newspaper describes what archeologists have learned from the mass grave in Towton, England. It contains the remains of soldiers killed in 1461 in the final battle of the War of the Roses. "Medieval warfare was just as terrifying as you might imagine," the article warns.

Meanwhile, someone had to make all the lances that were shattered and the chain mail that was chopped to bits during a typical chapter of Amadis of Gaul.

The Worst Jobs in History was a television series hosted by Tony Robinson on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom. He discovered that making lances was tedious and exhausting, making chain mail was tedious and painstaking, and being a squire was tedious and unglamorous.

The Worst Jobs in History - The Royal Age - Part 1 (of 6)
Tony Robinson learns how to make lances and chain mail.

The Worst Jobs in History - The Royal Age - Part 2
Chain main (continued), falconry, and food taster....

The Worst Jobs in History - The Middle Ages - Part 1 (of 6)
Squire, leach collector....