Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Chapter 73 [part 1 of 3]

How the noble Knight of the Green Sword, after leaving Grasinda to go to Constantinople, was blown by a storm at sea to land at the Island of the Devil, where he found a fierce beast called the Endriago, and how he finally defeated it. 

[An illustration of a medieval legend about the knight Amoras, who tries to sell his wife to the devil for a chest of gold, but, as shown here, the Virgin Mary takes her place and drives the devils away. From the  British Library medieval manuscripts blog.]

The Knight of the Green Sword was sailing through the sea with his crew and companions toward Constantinople, as ye have heard, when the favorable wind suddenly turned contrary, as often happens. The sea grew so stormy and wild that neither the great strength of the ship nor the wisdom of the crew was sufficient to keep it safe. Many times their ship was at the point of sinking. Rain fell so heavily and the wind blew so powerfully and the sky was so dark that doctor Elisabad and the others lost hope and thought that their lives would not be saved without the great mercy of the Most High Lord. Often the ship was filled with water, so neither by day nor night could they rest, eat, or sleep without sudden alarm, and they had no repose other than what fate was pleased to give them.

So they rode the storm for eight days and could not know or calculate where they were in the sea, and the tempest did not cease for a moment. At the end of that time, one night before dawn, the wind beached the ship so forcefully it could not be freed. This gave great consolation to all, as if they were returned from death to life.

But when morning came, the sailors recognized where they were, and knew it was called the Island of the Devil, which a fierce beast had depopulated. Their anguish and the pain in their souls was doubled, for they believed they were in more danger than the sea had held for them. They beat their faces with their hands and sobbed, and came to the Knight of the Green sword unable to speak. He was shocked to see their happiness turned into great sorrow but did not know why, and stood confused, asking them what sudden thing had so quickly changed their pleasure into weeping.

“Oh, knight!” they said, “this tribulation is so great that we have no strength to tell you, but doctor Elisabad will tell you, for he well knows why this is called the Island of the Devil.”

The doctor, no less troubled than them, was encouraged by the Knight of the Dwarf. Trembling and barely able to speak, he solemnly and fearfully told the knight what he wanted to know:

“My lord Knight of the Dwarf, know that of this island were we have landed, a giant named Bandaguido was lord, and with his ferocious brutality he made all other giants whose land abutted his be his tributaries. He was married to a gentle giantess who had been well raised. While her husband’s vile anger and cruelty toward Christians caused him to kill and destroy them, she took pity on them and tried to help them as best she could.

“With this lady, Bandaguido had a daughter who, when she reached the age to be a damsel, nature honored and heightened her beauty so that in much of the world no other woman of her nobility or blood could be found to equal her. But as great beauty may soon be joined to vanity, and vanity to sin, this damsel found her self so gracious and praised, and lovely and worthy of being loved by all, yet due to her father’s fierceness, no one dared to approach her.

“As a result and as a last resort, in vile and very improper affection, she loved her father. So, often, when her mother was not at her father’s side, the daughter came to him, joking and laughing with him, and embracing and kissing him. Her father at first took that as the love a daughter owed to her father, but as it went on and he came to know how she felt, her excessively great beauty and his little conscience and virtue gave rise to the fulfillment of her evil and foul desire.

“We must take that as an example of how no man in this life should be so confident of himself that he fails to avoid and guide conversation and affection away not only from his aunts and sisters but from his own daughters, because that evil passion will reach its natural incitement, and rarely are judgement, conscience, and fear enough to bring it to a halt and retreat.

“From this ugly and greatly erroneous sin soon came a larger one, as happens to those who forget the mercy of God and follow the will of His evil enemy, and wish to remedy one great wickedness with another. They do not know that the true cure for sin is honest repentance and penance. This will bring them pardon from the Lord on High, who for similar errors was placed Himself, after many torments, on the Cross, where as a real man He died and as a real God was resuscitated.

“This ill-fated father was burning with love for his daughter and she for him, and so that they could enjoy their vile desire without inconvenience, they planned to kill that noble lady who was his wife and her mother. The giant was advised by the false idols he adored that if he married his daughter, there would be engendered in her the bravest and strongest thing that could be found in the world, so they made plans. The ill-fated daughter, whom her mother loved more than she loved herself, was walking in a garden speaking with her, when the daughter pretended to see something strange in a well. She called her mother to look at it, then pushed her in down to its depth, and soon she had drowned.

“The daughter shouted for help, saying that her mother had fallen into a well. People rushed there, including the giant, who knew of the trickery, and when they saw that the lady whom they all loved very much was dead, they mourned deeply. But the giant said:

“ ‘Do not mourn her. This is what the gods have wanted, and I shall take as a wife she in whom shall be engendered someone who will make us be feared and become the lords of all things.’

“Everyone fell silent out of fear of the giant and did not dare oppose him. Then that same day, publically and before all, he took his daughter Bandaguida as his wife, and in her that misfortunate night was engendered an animal by order of the devils in whom she and her father believed, and its description ye shall hear now:

“Its body and face were covered with hair, and over that were shells like scales one over another so strong that no weapon could pass through them. Its legs and feet were wide and strong. On its shoulders were wings long enough to reach its feet that were covered not with feathers but with leather black as pitch, shiny and hairy, and so tough that no weapon could harm it. It would cover itself with them as a man would use a shield.

“Below the wings were arms strong as a lion, covered with shells finer than those on its body, and its hands were like those of an eagle with five fingers and claws so mighty and large that anything in the world, no matter how strong, would be destroyed once it was in their grip. It had two teeth in each jaw, so strong and long that they hung a cubit long outside its mouth, and its eyes were large, round, and vermilion like coals, so that from far away at night they could be seen, and everyone fled from it.

“It leaped and ran with such agility that no deer could escape. It ate and drank little, and sometimes not at all, and never felt hunger. Its only pleasure was to kill men and other living animals, and when it found lions or bears that tried to defend themselves, it became irate and blew smoke from its nose so frightening that it seemed like flames, and it would give hoarse bellows that were terrifying to hear.

“So all living things fled from it as from death. It smelled so bad that it poisoned all around it, and when it rattled its shells against each other and gnashed its teeth, it seemed the earth itself shuddered in fear. Such is the animal called the Endriago that I tell you of,” doctor Elisabad said. “And I tell you more, that the great sin of the giant and his daughter caused the evil enemy to enter into it, which multiplied its strength and cruelty.”

The Knight of the Green Sword and the other people on the ship were astonished by what the doctor told him about the devil named Endriago, born of man and woman. The knight said:

“Doctor, how can something so terrible be born from the body of a woman?”

“I shall tell you,” the doctor said, “according to what can be found in a book belonging to the Emperor of Constantinople, whose island this was, and who lost it because his power was not enough to kill that devil. Know ye,” the doctor said, “that when Bandaguida felt herself pregnant, she told the giant, and he was very pleased because he saw that what his gods had told him was true, and so he thought the rest of what they told him was also true. He decided that three or four nursemaids would be needed at the birth because it would be the strongest thing that was in the world. As the vile creature grew in its mother’s belly, since it was the doing and work of the devil, she was often in pain, and her face and eyes turned yellow like poison.

“Yet she thought that was good for she believed, as the gods had said, her son would be the strongest and bravest ever seen, and if it was, she would find a way to kill her father and marry her son. This is the greatest danger for evil: to become more sinful and to delight so much in sin, that although the grace of the Lord on High remains in their spirits, not only do they fail to sense or recognize that grace, they abhor and reject it as something bothersome and foreign. They plan and labor only to do evil deeds, which subject them and overcome them.

“When the time came, a son was born, and not with much difficulty, for until they end, evil things try to be agreeable. When the nursemaids, who were ready to care for it, saw such a horrible creature, they were terrified, but they were so afraid of the giant that they remained quiet and wrapped it in the clothing they had for it. One of them was more daring than the others and offered her breast to feed it, and it took it, but it suckled so hard that she screamed, and when they took it from her, she fell dead from the poison that had entered into her.

“This was immediately reported to the giant, and when he saw his son, he was amazed by such a horrible creature, and he decided to ask his gods why they had given him such a son. He went to the temple where he kept the three gods. One was the shape of a man, the other a lion, and the third a griffon. He offered sacrifices and asked them why they had given him such a son.

“The idol in the shape of a man told him:

“ ‘It was proper for it to be thus, because as its deeds shall be rare and amazing, so must it be, especially to destroy the Christians who are trying to destroy us. That is why I made it resemble me in having free will like men, which beasts lack.’

“The other idol told him:

“ ‘I wished to give it the gift of bravery and strength, which we lions have.’

“The third said:

“ ‘I gave it wings and claws and greater agility than any animal that shall ever be in the world.’

“When the giant heard this, he said:

“ ‘How shall I raise it, for the nursemaid who suckled it immediately died?’

“They told him:

“ ‘Make the other two nursemaids feed it, and they shall also die, but the one who remains will raise it with milk from your cattle until it is one year old, and then it will be as big and handsome as we are, for we have been the cause of its engendering. And we prohibit you and your wife and any other person from seeing it for the coming year, only the woman whom we told you shall care for it.’

“The giant ordered it to be done as his idols had told him, and this is how that rough beast was raised, as ye hear. At the end of a year, the giant learned from the nursemaid that it had grown large, and they heard its hoarse and frightening cries. He and his daughter, whom he had for a wife, agreed to go and see it, and so they entered the room where it was.

“They saw it leaping and running, and when the Endriago saw its mother, it came at her, leaped up, and clawed her face, tearing off her nose and ripping her eyes open, and before it let her go, she was dead. When the giant saw that, he put his hand on his sword to kill it, but it took the sword and struck him on the leg, giving him such a wound that his leg was cut through, and he fell on the ground and soon died.

“The Endriago jumped over him and out the door, poisoning everyone in the castle, and ran to the mountains. Soon after, many of that land’s inhabitants were killed by it, and the rest had fled by the sea in all the ships and boats they could find, and the island was depopulated.

“This happened forty years ago. This is what I know about this evil and devilish beast,” the doctor said.

The Knight of the Green Sword said:

“Doctor, ye have told me astonishing things, and our Lord God has suffered much from those who serve him ill, but in the end if they do not reform, He shall give them a punishment equal to their evil. Now I beg you, doctor, to say Mass in the morning, because I want to see this island, and if He gives me strength, I shall return it to His holy service.”


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