Thursday, January 30, 2014

Guzmán el Bueno

A true tale involving a boy, a knife, a castle tower, and a subway station in Madrid. 

Statue of Guzmán el Bueno in Tarifa. Photo by Falconaumanni.

In 1294, the nobleman Alonso Pérez de Guzmán ruled the city of Tarifa, near Cadiz at the southernmost tip of Spain. He received dire news from King Sancho IV that Prince Juan of Castilla, his rebellious brother, was approaching to take the city. The King asked Guzmán to remain loyal.

Juan arrived with Beber and Nasrid troops – and with a page, Guzmán’s oldest son, 10-year-old Pedro.

A siege began, but the mighty walls of Tarifa’s castle held strong – and the King’s reinforcements were on their way. In a desperate move, Juan brought Pedro before his father, who stood at the top of the tower of the castle. If Guzmán did not surrender, Juan said, he would slit his son’s throat.

Legend says that Guzmán replied:

“I did not beget a son to be made use of against my country, but that he should serve her against her foes. Should Don Juan put him to death, he will but confer honor on me, true life on my son, and on himself eternal shame in this world and everlasting wrath after death.”

And, he added, if Juan needed a knife, he could have his. Guzmán threw his knife down from the castle tower.

That reply may be legend, but contemporary reports confirm that Pedro was not only killed, Juan had the boy’s head catapulted into the castle. He and his troops soon retreated.

Among other rewards for his loyalty, King Sancho granted Guzmán the use of “el Bueno” as part of his name, meaning “the Good” or “the Noble.”

This is why, in the subway of Madrid, the stop named “Guzman el Bueno” has knives and castle towers outlined in the tiles paving its platform.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Chapter 68 [part 1 of 4]

In which is recounted how, when Amadis and Sir Bruneo remained behind in Gaul, Sir Bruneo was very happy and Amadis was sad; and how Sir Bruneo decided to depart from Amadis in search of adventure; and how Amadis, his father King Perion, and Florestan agreed to go help King Lisuarte.

[Cochem Castle, Germany. See the full photo here.]

After King Cildadan and Sir Galaor left Gaul, Amadis and Sir Bruneo of Bonamar remained behind. But while they truly esteemed each other, they had different lives. Sir Bruneo was with his lady Melicia, and when he spoke with her, he thought about nothing else in the world. However, Amadis was far from his lady Oriana with no hope of seeing her, so everything around him gave him great sorrow and loneliness.

And so it happened that one day as he was riding along the seashore only accompanied by Gandalin, he headed to the top of some rocky hills to see if any ships had come from Great Britain so he could learn news from the land where his lady was. After he had waited there a while, he saw a ship coming from the place he had hoped for, and when it reached port, he told Gandalin:

“Go and learn the news from those who have arrived, and learn it well so thou canst tell it to me.”

He said this mostly so he could be alone and think about his lady, something Gandalin made difficult. When he had left, Amadis dismounted, tied his horse to the branches of a tree, and sat on a peak so he could better see Great Britain. As he sat there, he remembered the delights and pleasures he had enjoyed in that land in the presence of his lady, where everything he did was by her orders. It was far away and he had no hope to return, which made him very sorrowful, and he locked his gaze on that land as abundant tears fell from his eyes.

Gandalin went to the ship and as he watched the arrivals, he saw Durin, the brother of the Damsel of Denmark. He quickly approached and called him aside, and they embraced each other as those who care deeply for each other. Gandalin took him to Amadis. As they neared, they saw the devilish body of a giant with its back to them waving a javelin, which it hurled at Amadis. It passed close to his head but missed because of Gandalin’s shouts. Amadis, who became aware of his surroundings again, saw the great devil throw another javelin, but he leaped aside and it missed. Then he put his hand to his sword and ran to attack, but he saw it run away so fast that there was no way to overtake it.

It reached Amadis’s horse, mounted it, and shouted:

“Oh, Amadis, my enemy! I am Andandona, the giantess from Sad Island, and though I have not achieved my desire now, I shall soon avenge myself.”

Amadis had wanted to chase her on Gandalin’s horse, but when he saw that she was a woman, he stopped and told Gandalin:

“Take your horse and if thou canst cut off the head of that devil, it would be very good.”

Gandalin mounted and hurriedly left to chase her. Amadis, when he saw Durin, went to embrace him with great pleasure, for he thought he would certainly bring news about his lady. He took him to the peak where he had been and asked him about his trip. Durin gave him a letter from Oriana that were his credentials, and Amadis told him:

“Now tell me what thou wert sent to say.”

“My lord, your beloved is well and sends you her greetings. She asks you not to grieve but to be consoled, as she is, until God brings different times. And she wants ye to know that a son was born, which my sister and I took to Dalasta, the abbess of Miraflores, who will raise it as my sister’s son.”

But he did not tell him how they had lost the child.

“She also asks you, for the great love that ye have for her, not to leave this land until she gives you orders.”

Amadis was happy to learn about his lady and the child, but that command to remain in Gaul did not please him because with it his honor would suffer harm from what people would say about him. Still, whatever happened, he would not disobey her orders.

After he had spent a while there learning the news from Durin, he saw Gandalin coming, who had ridden after that devil, and he was bringing Amadis’s horse and the head of Andandona tied to its breast collar by her long gray hair, which gave Amadis and Durin great pleasure. Asked how he had killed her, Gandalin said that as he rode trying to catch her, she was dismounting to get into a boat she had hidden beneath some branches. In her haste, she made the horse rear up and fall onto her, and it struck her down.

“And I arrived and trampled her so she lay on the ground, and I cut off her head.”

Then Amadis mounted and rode to the town, ordered Andandona’s head be brought to Sir Bruneo so he could see it, and told Durin:

“My friend, go to my lady and tell her that I kiss her hands for the letter that she sent me and for what thou hast told me, and ask her to give me some compassion for my honor and not let me remain here resting for long, since I must not disobey her orders. Those who see me here at rest and do not know the reason for it will attribute it to cowardice and a weak heart. Virtue is hard to acquire and can be damaged with a little forgetfulness and time. The great glory and fame I have managed to win thinking of her and her favor will likely become darkened, since all men are naturally more inclined to speak ill and thus harm rather than advocate for what is good, and soon that fame would be so diminished and dishonored that death itself would not be its equal.”

With that, Durin returned to where he had come.

Sir Bruneo of Bonamar’s body had recovered from its injuries, and it was now even more inflicted by his spirit, for he saw his lady Melicia often, which caused his heart to burn in greater pain. He knew he could not achieve what he desired without making great effort and facing greater danger, doing deeds that merited his lady’s love, so he decided to depart from the pleasure of her company and seek that which would bring about what he so much desired to achieve. He felt himself ready to take up arms, and when he was in the hills with Amadis, who had nothing to do with his life but go hunting, he told him:

“My lord, my age and the little honor that I have won urge me to leave this relaxing life and to take up another where I may be extolled with more glory and praise. If ye are disposed to seek adventure, I shall wait for you, but if not, I ask for permission to go, for tomorrow I wish to be on my way.”

Hearing this, Amadis was tormented with great anguish for he longed to be on that road, but due to the prohibition by his lady he could not, and he said:

“Sir Bruneo, I would wish to be in your company because I could incur great honor, but the orders of my father the King prevent me, who tells me I am needed for some tasks in his reign. So for the time being I can only ask that God protect you.”

They returned to the town that night, and Sir Bruneo spoke with Melicia, who assured him that if it were the will of her father the King and of the Queen, she would be pleased to marry him. He bid farewell to her, and to the King and Queen, giving them great thanks for their kindness and pledging to be always in their service.

He went to bed, and at dawn heard Mass. Armed and mounted, he left with the King and Amadis, with great humility said goodbye to them, and took the road to where fate would lead him. He did many deeds and feats of arms that would be lengthy to recount, but for now no more will be said about him until the proper time.

Amadis remained in Gaul as ye hear, where he spent thirteen and a half months, during which time King Lisuarte lay siege to the castle at Burning Lake. Amadis went hunting in the forest, to which he was inclined more than to do any other thing.

Meanwhile, his great fame and exploits came to be darkened and despised by all those who blessed other knights who sought adventures at arms. They would curse him and say that in the prime of his life, he had abandoned what God had bestowed on him beyond all others. Ladies and damsels especially, who came to him with great injustices and injuries for him to remedy, found that he was not as he had been, and they left proclaiming on every road they traveled the discredit of his honor. Although all or most of this reached his ears and he held it as a great misfortune, not for that or any other thing did he dare disobey or ignore the orders of his lady.

And so during this time, as ye hear, while he was defamed and scorned by all as he waited for orders from his lady, King Lisuarte learned the fateful news that King Aravigo and six other kings were already at the Isle of Leonida with all their men to travel to Great Britain. Arcalaus the Sorcerer diligently urged them onward, making them believe that they would be lords of Great Britain as soon as they got there, and told them many other things so they would have no other plans except to attack.

King Lisuarte assembled as many men as he could to fight back. And although with his strong heart and great discretion he minimized this threat, the Queen did not. Instead, she told everyone with great anguish about the dire loss the King had suffered from the departure of Amadis and his family, who if they were there, the King’s opponents would be able to do very little against him.

But the knights who had been overcome at the Isle of Mongaza, although they held no good wishes for the King, saw that Sir Galaor was on his side along with Sir Brian of Monjaste, who on orders of King Ladasan of Spain had come with two thousand soldiers sent to help under the leadership and orders of Sir Brian. Sir Galvanes, who was Lisuarte’s vassal, agreed to come to his aid in that battle, where great peril at arms awaited.

Those assembled included Sir Cuadragante, Listoran of the White Tower, Imosil of Burgundy, Madansil of the Silver Bridge, and other companions who for their friendship had stayed there. They all hurried to prepare their arms and horses and everything necessary, expecting those seven kings to depart from the island soon and King Lisuarte to move against them.

Mabilia spoke one day with Oriana and said it was poor judgement in such times not to think about what Amadis ought to do. If by chance he were to oppose her father, peril would befall one of them. If her father’s side were defeated, in addition to the great injury that would come to her, losing the land that ought to be hers, her father would certainly be killed, considering how courageously he would fight in battle. And likewise, if Amadis’s side lost, Amadis would be killed.

Oriana realized that this was true and decided to write a letter to Amadis telling him not to fight against her father but to go anywhere he wished or remain in Gaul if that made him happy. This letter was placed inside another by Mabilia and carried by a damsel who had come to King Lisuarte’s court with gifts from Queen Elisena for Oriana and Mabilia. When the damsel bid farewell and returned to Gaul, she gave the letter with the message to Amadis, and after he had read it he was the happiest he could ever have been, like a man who left gloom and entered bright light.

But he was troubled and uncertain because by his own will he did not wish to be in the battle on the side of King Lisuarte, and he could not fight against him because his lady had prohibited it, so he could not decide what to do. So he went to his father the King with the most happy face he had worn until that time, and they spoke together sitting in the shade of some elm trees in a plaza next to the seashore. They spoke about various things, but most of all about the important news that they had heard from Great Britain concerning the uprising of those kings with great armies against King Lisuarte.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Chapter 67 [part 2 of 2]

[In which the war was brought to a close, but not in the way King Lisuarte would have preferred, due to trouble elsewhere.] 

 [Tour San-Nicolas, which guards the inner harbor of the old port of La Rochelle, France, the site of a siege and naval battle between Great Britain and Castile in 1372. Photo by Miles O'Reilly.] 

Then the King spurred his horse and entered the fray without fear of death. When he saw Sir Cuadragante come at him, he turned his horse toward him, and they struck each other on the tops of their helmets so hard that they had to grab the necks of their horses. But as the King had a much better sword, it cut so deeply that it caused a head wound. But immediately they were aided: the King by Sir Galaor and Norandel and those who were with him; and Sir Cuadragante by Sir Florestan and Angriote d’Estravaus.

The King, when he saw the amazing feats of Sir Florestan, went at him and struck such a blow with his sword on the head of his horse that it fell with him on it among the knights. The blow was quickly repaid, for Florestan leaped from his horse and went at the King, and although many men guarded him and he only reached the leg of the horse, he cut it in half and it fell to the ground. The King jumped off it with such agility that Sir Florestan was amazed. Lisuarte gave Sir Florestan two blows with his good sword, and the armor could not stop it from cutting the flesh.

But Sir Florestan, remembering how he had once been Lisuarte’s knight and the honors he had received, let himself be attacked, covering himself with what little remained of his shield. The King, with great anger, did not cease to attack in any way he could. Not even at that did Sir Florestan wish to strike back and instead grabbed him by the arms and would not let him mount a horse or break free. A great fight broke out between one side and the other to help them, and the King shouted his name so his men would recognize him. Galaor came, called by those shouts, reached the King, and said:

“My lord, take my horse.”

Also with him on foot were Filispinel and Brandoivas, who wanted to give him their horses. Galaor told the King:

“My lord, take my horse.”

But to keep Galaor from dismounting, the King took Filispinel’s horse, leaving Sir Florestan badly injured by his good sword, for he had not given a blow that did not cut armor and flesh, while Florestan did not wish to strike back, as has been said. Sir Florestan was put on a horse that Sir Cuadragante brought him.

The King, freely placing his body before every danger, called Sir Galaor, Norandel, and King Cildadan, and the men who followed them, and entered into the thick of battle, attacking and causing devastation to everything he met, so the situation of his side improved due to him. Sir Florestan, Cuadragante, and Gavarte, and other fine knights, resisted the King and his men as best they could, doing wonders at arms, but they were few and many of them were in bad shape and injured. The opponents were a great crowd of men who had taken heart at the courage of the King, and they charged suddenly and so hard that by their blows and the strength of their horses they pushed their opponents from the field against the foothills of the mountains.

There Sir Florestan, Cuadragante, Angriote, and Gavarte of the Fearsome Valley, their armor in pieces, suffering many injuries not only from helping their side but in their attempt to regain lost ground, their horses dead and themselves almost dead, lay on the field under the power of the King and his men. Palomir, Elian the Vigorous, Branfil, Enil, Sarquiles, and Maratros of Lisanda, cousin of Sir Florestan, who had tried to rescue them, were taken prisoner. There were many dead and injured on both sides.

Sir Galvanes would have been lost many times if Dragonis had not rescued him with his men. But in the end they took him from the fray so badly injured that he could not remain on his horse, and so, senseless, they took him to Boiling Lake. He remained there with the small company that had escaped, defending the mountain from their opponents.

Thus it could be said very rightly that by the fortitude of the King and the great foolishness of Sir Florestan in not wanting to strike or harm the King when he had him in his power, this battle was won, as ye have heard.

It should be compared to the mighty Hector’s first battle against the Greeks when they were attempting to disembark in the great port of Troy. After the Greeks were almost defeated and much of their fleet was on fire and their men could fight no more, in the great melee Hector happened upon his cousin Ajax Talamon, son of his aunt Ansiona, fighting with the Greeks. Hector recognized him and embraced him, and Ajax asked him to withdraw the Trojans from the fight and return to the city, relinquishing the victory he held in his hands. Because of that, the Greeks landed, fortified their camp, and with many deaths and fires and great destruction, those mighty men defeated and destroyed that famous city, renowned throughout the world, which shall never be forgotten as long as the world shall last.

Thus it should be learned that in such battles, pity and courtesy have no place neither with friend nor family until victory has finally been achieved, for in such times men often have blessings and good fortune but do not know how to use them properly, and instead give aid to those who were losing, who then take those advantages as their own.

Returning to the matter at hand, when King Lisuarte saw his enemies driven from the field and into the mountains, at sunset he ordered that none of his men advance, and placed guards because Dragonis, who was among the men who had sought safety in the mountains, had taken the most defendable passes. He ordered his tents be brought from where they had been and set up at the bank of a stream that came down the foothills of the mountain.

He ordered King Cildadan and Sir Galaor be brought to him, but he was told that they were in great sorrow because Sir Florestan and Sir Cuadragante were injured to the point of death. Since the King was on foot, he asked for a horse, more to go and console them than with thoughts of getting aid for those knights, for they were his opponents. However, he was moved to pity remembering how Sir Florestan, in the battle with King Cildadan, put his bare head before his own and took a great blow from the valiant Gadancuriel on his shield to it would not reach the King. He also remembered how on that very day Florestan had allowed himself to be injured out of virtue.

He went to where they were, consoled them with heart-felt words, and left them content, having ordered medical care. This had not been enough to keep Sir Galaor from repeatedly fainting over his brother Sir Florestan. But the King had them be brought to a very good tent and his doctors attend to them. He brought King Cildadan with him but gave Sir Galaor permission to stay with them that night. He also had those seven knights who had been taken prisoner, as ye have heard, be taken to the same tent to receive care with the others. And so, as ye hear, those injured and unconscious knights and prisoners were watched over by Sir Galaor. Mostly with the help of God, as well as of the doctors who were very skilled, before dawn they were all conscious, and the doctors promised Sir Galaor that they would all recover and be turned over to him healthy, each according to his wounds.

The next day Norandel and Sir Guilan the Pensive were with Sir Galaor to provide him company in his sadness over the condition of his brother and others in his lineage, they heard bugles and trumpets sound at the tent of the King, which was the signal for the men to arm. They bound their wounds well so they would not bleed, armed themselves, mounted their horses, went there, and found the King with new arms on horseback.

He was speaking with King Arban of North Wales, King Cildadan and Sir Grumedan about how to attack the knights who were in the mountains. They considered various ideas. Some said that since their own men were in bad shape, it was unreasonable to attack their enemies until they had recovered. Others said that since they all still burned with ire, it would be bad to wait longer, especially if Agrajes were to return from Little Brittany, where he had gone for food and more men, from which their opponents would draw strength. The King asked Sir Galaor what he thought, and he said:

“My lord, if your men are in bad shape and tired, so are your opponents, and since they are few and we are many, it would be good if we attacked immediately.”

“So it shall be done,” the King said.

Then he gathered up his men and attacked the mountain with Sir Galaor in the lead and his companion Norandel following him, and all the rest behind them. Although Dragonis and his men defended the passes and heights in the mountains for some time, so many crossbows and archers fired that many of them were injured and they were forced to give way. The knights rode up, and they fought a very perilous battle. But in the end they could not withstand so many men and were forced to retreat to the town and castle.

The King immediately arrived, and ordered his tent and supplies brought, and surrounded them and set up a siege, and ordered the fleet to come and besiege the castle by sea.

Because it does not serve this story to recount the things that happened there, since the tale is about Amadis, who did not fight in this war, this account will end here. Know only that the King had them under siege for thirteen months by land and sea, and they received no help because Agrajes was ill and did not have the equipment to attack the King’s great fleet.

Since those inside lacked food, both sides began to bargain that the King would release all his prisoners and Sir Galvanes would do the same with his, and that they would deliver the town and castle of Boiling Lake to the King for a ceasefire of two years. Although this was of great advantage to the King, he was in a secure position and would not have agreed except that he had received letters from his uncle, the Count of Agramonte, who had remained on land, telling how all the kings of the islands had rebelled against King Lisuarte, since he was away at war. They had taken as their leader and chieftain King Aravigo, lord of the Landas islands, who was the most powerful among them. All this had been the work of Arcalaus the Sorcerer, who had personally visited all those islands to unite them in the uprising, convincing them they would meet no defense and could divide the Kingdom of Great Britain among themselves. The Count of Agramonte advised the King to leave everything and return to his kingdom.

This news made the King agree to what was not his will, which was to take and kill all his opponents. When the agreement was reached, the King, accompanied by many of his noblemen, went to the town, whose gates were found open, and from there to the castle. Sir Galvanes came out with some knights who were with him, and with Madasima, tears falling down her beautiful cheeks. He came to the King and gave him the keys, and said:

“My lord, do with this as you will.”

The King took them and gave them to Brandoivas. Galaor came to Lisuarte and said:

“My lord, moderation and mercy are called for, and if I have served you, remember it now.”

“Sir Galaor,” the King said, “if I were to consider the services ye have done for me, I could not reward you even if I were worth a thousand times what I am. What I shall do here will not be counted among that which I owe you.”

Then he said:

“Sir Galvanes, ye took this by force against my will, and by force I won it back. I freely wish that by your worth, the goodness of Madasima, and Sir Galaor’s insistence, that this be yours, remaining in my realm, and you remain in my service, as your descendants shall also be.”

“My lord,” Sir Galvanes said, “since fate has not allowed me to have it by the means my heart desired and since I have done everything I should have in every way, I accept your mercy with the condition that as long as I possess this I shall be your vassal, and if my heart desires something else, I shall return it to you freely, and I shall be free to do what I wish.”

Then the King’s knights kissed his hands for what he had done, and Sir Galvanes and Madasima kissed his hands as his vassals.

With the war over, King Lisuarte decided to return promptly to his kingdom, and so he did, after resting for two weeks so that he and all the others who were injured were recovered. He took Sir Galvanes and the others who wished to go with him, and boarded his fleet. They sailed the sea and made port in his lands, where they learned the news that the seven kings were coming for him.

And although this troubled him greatly, he did not let his men know that. Instead he acted as if it were nothing. He left the port and went to where the Queen was, who received him with the same true love that he had for her. He learned there that the news that the kings were coming was true, so he had no time to rest and enjoy the company of the Queen and his daughter. With his knights, he prepared the things he would need for that confrontation.