How King Lisuarte went hunting with the Queen and their daughters, accompanied by many knights, and visited the mountain that held the hermitage of the holy man Nasciano, where he found a very fine childe with a strange history, who was the son of Oriana and Amadis, and who was well-treated by the King without knowing who he was.
[A gargoyle of a lion and a boy on the Torres dels Serrans, the northern monumental gate in the medieval wall of the city of Valencia. The towers were built between 1392 and 1398, and are used each year to announce the beginning of the Fallas festival. Photo by Sue Burke.]
For his own relaxation and for the pleasure of his knights, King Lisuarte decided to go hunting in the forest and to take with him the Queen, their daughters, and all their ladies and damsels. He ordered tents to be put up at the Spring of the Seven Beech Trees, which was a very pleasant location. And know ye that this was the forest where the hermit Nasciano dwelled, and where he was raising Esplandian.
After the King and Queen had arrived with their company, the Queen remained at the tents and the King and his hunters entered the thickest part of the forest, and since the land was protected, they had a fine hunt. And it happened that when the King was there with his beaters and dogs, he saw a very tired buck and thought to kill it, and chased it on his horse until they had entered a valley.
And there something odd happened. He saw a childe, a noble boy, coming down the other side of the valley, perhaps five or six years old, the most handsome boy he had ever seen, who led a lioness on a leash. When the boy saw the buck, he let her loose and shouted for her to take it. The lioness ran as fast as she could, reached it, threw it on the ground, and began to drink its blood. Then the childe arrived happily, and then another boy a little older arrived who had been following him, and they came to the buck with great cheer, took out their knives, and began to cut off the part the lioness was eating.
The King was in some bushes, amazed by what he saw, but his horse was frightened by the lioness, so he could not go near them. The childe blew on a little horn he carried around his neck, and two hounds came running, one yellow and the other black, and they fed on the buck. When the Lioness had eaten, they put her on the leash, and the older boy went with her over hill, and the childe followed him.
But the King, who was now on foot and had tied his horse to a tree, went after them and called to the handsome childe, who carried more meat, to wait for him. The childe stood still, and the King came and saw him so handsome that he was astounded, and he said:
“Good childe, may God bless you and keep you. Tell me where ye were raised and whose son ye are.”
The childe answered:
“My lord, the holy man Nasciano, the hermit, raised me, and I have him for my father.”
The King spent a while wondering how a man so holy and so old could have a son so young and so handsome, and in the end he did not believe it. The childe wanted to go, but the King asked him were the house of the hermit was.
“Up there,” he said, “is the house where we dwell.” He showed him a small and not much used path, and told him, “Ye may go there, and God be with you, for I wish to follow the boy who is taking the lion to a spring where we keep our game.”
And he left. The King returned to his horse, mounted it, and went up the path, and he had not gone far before he saw the hermitage between some beech trees and thick brambles. When he arrived, he saw no one to talk to, dismounted, and tied his horse below a portico. He entered and saw a man on his knees praying in front of a book, dressed in the habit of a holy order, and his hair was all white. The King also prayed. The holy man, when he had finished reading from the book, came to the King, who knelt before him and asked for a blessing. The holy man gave it and asked what he sought.
The King said:
“My good friend, I found a very handsome childe hunting with a lion on this mountain, and he told me that he was being raised by you. Because he seemed so unusual to me in his looks and bearing, and to be hunting with a lion, I came to ask you to tell me about him, and I promise as King that no harm will come to you or him for it.”
When the holy man heard that, he looked at him harder and recognized him, for he had seen him before. He knelt to kiss his hands, but the King rose him up and embraced him, saying:
“My friend Nasciano, I have come with a deep desire to learn what I asked you, and do not hesitate to tell me.”
The holy man took him out of the hermitage to the portico where his horse was, sat on a bench, and told him:
“My lord, I well believe all that ye have told me, and how as King ye will protect this boy, as God wishes him kept. And since I am so pleased that ye wish to know, I tell you that I found and raised him in very strange circumstances.”
Then he told him how he had taken the boy from the mouth of the lioness wrapped in rich fabric, and how he had fed him with the milk of the lioness and a sheep until he found a nursemaid, who was his brother Sargil’s wife.
“And that is the name of the other boy that ye saw with him.” He added, “Truly, my lord, I believe the boy is high born, and I wish you to know that he has the strangest thing I have ever seen, and it is that when I baptized him, I found on the right side of his chest some white letters in obscure Latin that said ‘Esplandian’ and so I gave him that name, and on the left side over his heart are seven letters as burning red as a fine ruby, but I could not read them because they are not in Latin or our language.”
The King said:
“Ye have told me the most amazing things I have ever heard, Father, and I think that since the lioness brought him to you as young as ye said, she must have taken him from somewhere near here.”
“I do not know anything about that,” the hermit said, “and let us not worry about knowing more than what our Lord God is pleased to have us know.”
“I ask you to come tomorrow to eat here in the forest at the Spring of the Seven Beech Trees,” the King said, “and there ye shall find the Queen and her daughters, and many other members of our company. And bring Esplandian with the lioness as I found him, and the other boy, your nephew, whom I must treat well because of his father Sargil, who was a good knight and served my brother the King well.”
When the holy man Nasciano heard this, he said:
“I shall do as ye order, my lord, and may God in His mercy be pleased to have it be at His service.”
The King, mounted on his horse, returned by the path he had taken, and rode so fast that he arrived at the tents two hours after midday. There he found Sir Galaor and Norandel and Guilan the Pensive, who had just arrived with two large bucks they had killed. He relaxed with them and laughed a lot, but he told them nothing about what had happened to him. When he asked that tables be set up to eat, Sir Grumedan came and told him:
“My lord, the Queen has not eaten, and asked for you to please, before ye eat, speak with her, and it is important.”
He immediately rose and went to her, and the Queen showed him a letter sealed with a very beautiful emerald and golden cords, and around it some letters said: “This is the seal of Urganda the Unrecognized.” She said:
“Know, my lord, that when I was coming down the road, a richly dressed damsel was seen there on a palfrey, and with her was a dwarf on a beautiful roan horse. Those who rode ahead of me arrived where she was, but she did not wish to say who she was, not even to Oriana or the other princesses who rode with her. When I arrived, she came to me and said, ‘Queen, take this letter and read it with the King today before ye eat.’ She immediately left with the dwarf behind her, spurring their horses so much and so fast that there was no way to ask her anything.”
The King opened the letter and read it, and it said:
“To the most high and honorable King Lisuarte: I, Urganda the Unrecognized, who loves you dearly, advise you that it would be to your advantage when the handsome childe appears, who was fed by three different foster-mothers, to love him deeply and protect him, for he shall give you great pleasure and defeat the greatest danger that ye shall ever face. He is of high lineage, and know, King, that the milk of his first foster-mother shall make him so strong and brave of heart that he shall overshadow all the valiant men at arms of his time. And the milk of his second foster-mother shall make him gentle, discrete, humble, and of great good will, able to suffer more than any other man in the world. And the care of his third foster-mother shall make him intelligent, wise, very Catholic, and well spoken. And in all things, he shall strive and be more outstanding than all others, loved and respected by good men, and no knight shall be his equal. His great deeds at arms shall be put to the service of the Most High God, and he shall despise those knights who often do things more for vainglory in the world than for what their good conscience tells them. His name shall always be on his right side, and his lady on his left. And I tell thee further, good King, that this childe shall be the cause to put peace between thyself and Amadis and his lineage, peace that shall last all thy days, which shall be granted to none other.”
When the King finished reading the letter, he crossed himself to see such things foretold, and said:
“The wisdom of this woman is beyond speech or writing.” And he said to the Queen: “Know that today I found the childe who Urganda speaks of.”
And he told her how he saw the boy with the lioness and how he went to the hermitage and what he learned about him, and how the hermit would come to dine with them the next day and would bring that boy. The Queen was very happy to hear that this odd childe would come and that she would be able to speak with the holy man about some things on her conscience.
The King left, telling her to tell no one about it, and went to his tent to eat, where he found many knights waiting for him. There he spoke with them about their hunting and told them that the next day, no one was going to hunt because he wanted to read a letter to them that Urganda the Unrecognized had sent. He ordered the huntsmen to take all the dogs they had to a different valley, and to spend the next day with them there. He did this to avoid frightening the lioness.
As ye hear, they spent the day resting in that field, which was full of flowers and very fresh green grass. The next day they all came to the King’s tent, and there they heard Mass. Then he took them all to the Queen’s tent, which was set up next to a spring in a very fresh field as was fit for that time of the year, which was May, and the tent had its sides raised, so all the ladies and princesses and other damsels of high estate could be seen on their estrados. Knights of great fame came there to speak with them.
When everyone was there, the King ordered Urganda’s letter read to them, which ye have heard, and when they had heard it, they were amazed that such a blessed childe would be there. But Oriana, who had paid even more attention to the letter than the rest, sighed for her lost son, thinking that by chance it might be him.
The King told them:
“How does this letter seem to you?”
“Truly, my lord,” Sir Galaor said, “I do not doubt that it shall happen as she says, for many other things said by Urganda have proven so true. Perhaps many will be pleased by the arrival of this childe when God has held it good to bring him to us, but I rightly ought to be more pleased than all others, since he shall be the means to bring about what I desire most, which is to see my brother Amadis and all his lineage in your love and service, as it was before.”
The King said:
“All that is in the hands of God. He shall do His will, and with that we shall be content.”
And as they were speaking, they saw the hermit coming with his boys. Esplandian came first, and his foster-brother Sargil behind him bringing the lioness on a very light leash, and behind them came two archers, the ones that helped raise Esplandian on the mountain, and they brought a packhorse carrying the deer the King had seen them kill and on another horse, two roe deer, and hares and rabbits that they and Esplandian had killed with their bows. Esplandian brought two hounds on leashes, and behind them came the holy man Nasciano.
When the people at the tents saw them come, and the lioness so big and frightening, they rose up as one to place themselves before the King to protect him. But he lifted his scepter and had them remain in their places, saying:
“He who has the power to bring the lioness shall protect us from her.”
Sir Galaor said:
“That may be, but it seems to me that the hunter who brings her will provide little protection if she becomes angry, and it is an amazing thing to see.”
The boys and archers waited for the holy man to pass them, and when he had neared, the King said:
“My friends, know that this is the holy man Nasciano who lives on this mountain. Let us go to him and he will give us his blessing.”
Then they knelt before him, and the King told him:
“Beloved servant of God, bless us.”
He raised his hand and said:
“In His name receive it, from a sinful man.”
Then the King took him and went with him to the Queen, but when they saw the lioness they were very frightened, for it looked fiercely at each one of them and ran its scarlet tongue over its lips, showing strong sharp teeth. The Queen and her daughter and all the women received Nasciano well, and they were all very amazed by how handsome the childe was. He came before the Queen with the animals they had hunted and said:
“My lady, we bring you this game.”
The King came to him and said:
“Good childe, divide it as ye will.” He said this to see what he would do.
The child said:
“The game is yours, and ye may do as ye wish.”
“Still,” the King said, “I want you to divide it.”
The child felt embarrassed, and a color like a rose came to his face, and he said:
“My lord, take the buck for yourself and your companions.”
He went to the Queen, who was speaking with his foster-father Nasciano, knelt, kissed her hands, and gave her the roe deer. And he looked to his right and it seemed to him that after the Queen there was no one more worthy of being honored, by her appearance, than Oriana, his mother, although he did not know it was she. He came to her, knelt, and gave her the partridges and rabbits, and told her:
“My lady, we hunted no other game with our bows than this.”
Oriana told him:
“Handsome childe, may ye have Godspeed in all your hunting and everything ye do for Him.”
The King called him, and Galaor and Norandel, who were near him, took him and embraced him again and again, since his shared family roots naturally attracted them. Then the King ordered everyone to be quiet, and told the holy man:
“Father, friend of God, now before everyone tell what ye know about this childe, as ye told me.”
The holy man told them how, when he left his hermitage, he saw how the brave lioness brought that childe in her mouth wrapped in fine fabric to feed him to her cubs, and how by the grace of God she put him at his feet, and how she gave him her milk, as did a sheep he had who had just given birth, until he gave him to be raised by a foster-mother. And he told them all the things that had happened while he raised him, and left out nothing, as this book has told.
When Oriana, Mabilia, and the Damsel of Denmark heard this, they looked at each other, and they trembled with pleasure to know that he was truly that boy, son of Amadis and Oriana, whom the Damsel of Denmark had lost, as ye have heard. But when the hermit told how he had found the white and red letters on his chest, and showed them to everyone, they knew for certain that their suspicion was true, which put great joy in their spirits beyond recounting, especially in the beautiful Oriana when she fully recognized that boy as her son, whom she had thought she had lost.
The King very insistently asked the holy man Nasciano for the two noble boys to raise, and he, seeing how God had made them more for that life than the one he could give them, although he would feel very lonely, agreed, but with great pain in his heart because he deeply loved Esplandian.
When the King had them, he gave Esplandian to the Queen to serve her, and she quickly gave him to her daughter Oriana, which pleased her since she had given birth to him. And so as ye hear, this child came under the care of his mother, who had thought she had lost him, as ye have heard, borne away in great fear, and then taken from the mouth of the very fierce lioness and raised on her milk.
These are the wonders that powerful God, who protects us all, can do when it is His will. Other children of kings and great lords are raised amid rich silks and gentle and delicate surroundings, with great love from those who raise them in such comfort and care, forsaking sleep and rest for them; but with a small accident or minor illness, they are taken from this world. As God is just in all things, He wishes it to be thus, and it should be accepted as proper by fathers and mothers, giving thanks because He wished to do His will, which unlike our own can never err.
The Queen confessed with the holy man, and Oriana as well, by which he learned all the secrets of her and Amadis, and how that boy was their son and by what means he was lost, which until then she had not spoken of to anyone in the world except those who already knew about it, and she asked him to keep the boy in his prayers. The holy man was very amazed by such love in a person of such high standing, who much more than any other woman ought to be a good example for others, and he reprehended her, saying that she should cease to err, for if not, she would not be absolved and her soul would be put in danger.
But she told, weeping, how when Amadis had rescued her from Arcalaus the Sorcerer, when she first knew him, he gave her his word that he could and would be her husband. When the hermit heard this, he was very happy, and this was the reason that many people were saved from the cruel deaths that awaited them, as the fourth book shall say farther on. Then he absolved her, gave her the appropriate penance, and went to the King.
He took Esplandian with him, embraced him, weeping, and told him:
“Child of God, who was given to me by Him to raise, may He keep you and protect you and make you a good man in His holy service.”
He kissed him, blessed him, and gave him to the King. He bid farewell to the King and Queen and everyone else, and with the lioness and the huntsmen, he returned to his hermitage, and the story shall make great mention of him farther on. The King and his company returned to the town.