Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Chapter 128 [part 3 of 3]

[Of the greater danger that befell Amadis after defeating the giant.]

[Targe and pavise shields of Lluís Cornell, from the end of the 14th century, in the Fine Arts Museum of Castellón, Spain.]

When the giant fell, Amadis immediately came to him, took off his helmet, put the point of his sword in his face, and said:

“Balan, thou art dead if thou dost not satisfy the lady for the harm that thou didst to her.”

But Balan did not respond or understand what he had said, for he was as if dead. Then the knight from Prince Island, who had come with Amadis, drew near and said:

“My lord knight, is the giant dead?”

“I do not believe so,” Amadis said, “but the giant cannot breathe, as ye see, and I did not observe any mortal blow at all.”

And he said the truth, for the blow to the giant’s chest that impaired his breathing he had not noticed or felt himself give. The knight said:

“My lord, out of courtesy I ask you not to kill him until he has regained consciousness and sufficient judgement to satisfy this lady by his free will. As well, you should not kill him because if he dies, no one will be powerful enough to save your life.”

“For that reason,” Amadis said, “although I shall not fail to do as I wish with him, because of your love for him and because he is related to Gandalac, I shall refrain from killing him until he knows whether he wishes to agree to what I asked.”

As they were speaking, they saw the son of the giant and as many as thirty armed men leaving the castle, and they came shouting:

“Die, die traitor!”

When Amadis heard this, ye may understand what kind of hope he had for his life seeing them all coming furiously to kill him. But he decided not to seek their mercy, and if death came to him it would be after having done everything in his power without failing in a single thing. He looked to one side and the other around him, and he saw a crack between some rocks that surrounded the plaza, for it had been made by removing all of its stones and rocks, but many of them still remained around it.

He ran there and raised up the giant’s shield, which was large and strong, and put it at the entrance to that crack, so they could only hurt him except from the front, and not from above because there was an overhang. When the men arrived, some went to the giant to see if he was dead, and others charged at Amadis. Three men came up to him and attacked with their lances, but they could not do him harm because as we have told you, the shield was very large and strong and covered most of his body and legs, and it, after God, saved his life.

One of the three attacked him with his sword, and when Amadis saw him approaching, he came at him and gave him a blow on the top of his head, which sunk down to his neck and knocked him dead at his feet.

When the other guards saw that he had left the rocks, they all tried to kill him, but he quickly went back, and to the first one who arrived he gave a blow on the shoulder. That man’s armor did him no good, and his arm fell to the ground and he next to it, dead. This made the rest so wary that none dared to come close. They surrounded him at the front and sides, which were the only parts they could, and they threw so many lances, darts, and stones that half his body was covered, but they could do him no harm because his shield protected him from everything.

In the meanwhile they took the giant to the castle in deep mourning and placed him in his bed as if he were dead and senseless, and they immediately returned to help their companions. When they arrived, they saw that no one was approaching him and he had two dead men next to him, and as they were rested and enraged, and they had not seen or heard about his mighty blows, they came to attack him with their lances. But Amadis remained where he was, well covered by his shield, and when one of them came forward and struck his shield hard with his lance, Amadis gave him such a blow that his head flew some distance away. The men immediately backed off to join the others, and no one dared to get close.

So as they stood there with nothing to do but throw many darts and an infinite number of rocks at him, the knight from Prince Island took great pity to see him thus, and believed that if they killed him, the best knight who ever bore arms would die. He immediately went to the son of the giant, who was unarmed due to his tender age, and told him:

“Bravor, why dost thou do this, contrary to the word and promise of thy father, which never before today has been broken? Consider that thou art his son, and thou shouldst resemble him in his good conduct. And consider that thy father had assured that knight’s safety from all his subjects except for himself, and if thou lettest them kill him, it will never be proper for thee to appear before good men, who will always hold this in thy account and will hold thee in great disrespect.”

The boy told him:

“How can I stand to see my father dead before me and not take vengeance against the one who killed him?”

“Thy father,” he said, “is not dead and has no mortal blow on him, for I looked at him when he was on the ground at the request of that knight. He told me that he esteemed thy father for being in the family of Gandalac, and he did not kill him when it was in his hand to do so.”

“Then what shall I do?” the boy said.

“I shall tell thee,” the knight said. “Keep him surrounded that way all night without suffering any harm, and between now and the morning we shall see how thy father is, and depending on that, thou shalt decide, for at thy hand and will is the life or death of that knight, who cannot leave except at thy orders.”

The boy said:

“I thank thee deeply for thy advice, for if the knight were to die and my father live, I could not survive anywhere in the world if my father knew, for I am certain that he would seek me out to kill me.”

“Since thou knowest this,” he said, “do as I have advised thee.”

“Let me speak first with my grandmother and mother to get their counsel.”

“I think that is wise,” the knight said, “and in the meantime order thy men to do no more than they have done.”

The boy said:

“That order will serve for little, since it seems to me that the knight can protect his life from everything except hunger, and I see no other way to kill him, but I shall do what thou hast offered as advice.”

Then he ordered them to stay there and guard the knight well so he could not leave, and to do him no harm, while he went to the castle. They all did as he ordered, and he left and spoke with those ladies, and despite their great passion and sadness, since the knight could not escape, and the giant was breathing better and recovering consciousness, they feared to break his promise. They told him to do what the knight from Prince Island had advised. It greatly helped when the boy’s mother learned that the knight loved her father Gandalac, for she had feared he might be Sir Galaor, whom her father had raised and who had returned to him his reign over the Peak of Galtares by killing Albadan, the brave giant who was holding it by force, as the first book of this story has recounted at greater length.

She knew Sir Galaor well and loved him with all her heart because they had been raised together, and if it would not have been a great impropriety because her husband was in such condition and he might learn of it, she herself in person would have gone to find out whether that knight was Sir Galaor or one of his brothers. She had seen them all when she was in the court of King Lisuarte, where she had spent some time during the battle King Lisuarte fought with King Cildadan, in which her father and brother fought, and they did amazing feats at arms in the service of King Lisuarte out of love for Sir Galaor, as the second book of this story has told at greater length.

With that agreement, the boy returned after night had already fallen and ordered a large fire be built in front of where Amadis was, who knew nothing about the agreement, and told his men to keep careful watch over him, well armed, so the knight could not get out and do them any harm, for he frightened them to death.

Amadis remained in the place where he had been, with the point of the shield on the ground and one hand on the handle and the other on his sword, expecting to die before he would let them take him prisoner. He thought that despite Balan’s promise, those men were trying to kill him, so no other promise they gave him would be kept. He would not consider asking for mercy even if he knew he would die a thousand times, except to ask for mercy from God, to Whom he always commended everything regarding himself with his whole heart, and even more that night when he had no other aid or help and expected none except from Him.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Chapter 128 [part 2 of 3]

[How Amadis fought the giant Balan.] 

[The portal of the Church of Our Lady beneath the Chain, of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, in Prague, Czech Republic. Photo by Sue Burke.]

The knight went to his boat and returned to Amadis. When Amadis heard the answer, without hesitation he went to the port and immediately disembarked on the shore. But first he took aside the man who had guided the lady in the ship and told him:

“My friend, I ask thee not to say my name to anyone. If I must die here, it shall be discovered, and if I am the victor, I shall give thee a great reward for doing this.”

The sailor promised to do so. Then they went up toward the castle, and they found the giant unarmed in the great plaza before its gate. When they arrived, the giant studied him and said to the lady:

“Is this one of the sons of King Perion, whom thy wert to bring?”

The lady told him:

“This is a knight who seeks thee for the wrong that thou didst to me.”

Then Amadis said:

“Balan, thou hast no need to know who I am. It is enough for thee to know that I come to ask thee to make right the great wrong thou didst to this lady. Without any reason, thou hast killed her son and taken her husband and daughter prisoner. If thou makest it right, I shall not have to fight with thee, but if not, prepare thyself for battle.”

The giant said, laughing:

“The best amends I can give thee is to release thee from thy quest and from death, for since thou hast come at thy free will to amend her loss, thou must hold thy life as dearly as hers. And although I am not accustomed to doing this for anyone unless they first test the edge of my sword, I shall do it for thee because thou hast come in ignorance to seek thy own harm unwittingly.”

“If I feared thy threats as much as thou thinkest,” Amadis said, “I would be excused from coming to find thee from such a far-off land. Do not believe, Balan, that I seek thee out of ignorance, for I well know that thou art one of the most famous giants in the world. But as I see that thy custom here is so counter to the service of the most high Lord, and what I seek to do conforms with His holy law, I do not consider thy valor to be much, because He shall fulfill what I lack. And because I consider thee highly and I love thee for what others love in thee, I beg thee to make amends to this lady as is just.”

When the giant heard this, he said:

“Thou has made such fine demands that if I would not suffer shame for granting them, I would do all that I could for the contentment of this lady, but first I wish to test and see what the knights of Firm Island are like. And because it is now late, I shall send thee food and two very good horses so that thou mayst select the one thou preferest, and two lances. Prepare thyself with all thy courage, which thou shalt need, to fight here in three hours. And for thy comfort if thou wishest other arms, I shall give thee the best, for I think that I can offer a great quantity from the knights I have defeated.”

Amadis told him:

“Thou hast acted like a good knight, and the more courtesy I see in thee, the more it troubles me that thou hast no understanding of what thou ought to do. I shall take a horse and lance and no other arms besides those that I have brought, for the blood on it from he whom thou hast killed without cause will give me more courage to avenge him.”

The giant returned to the castle without responding, and Amadis to his company and the knight from Prince Island, who did not want to leave his side no matter how much the giant asked him to come with him to the castle. They remained beneath the portal of a church that was at the edge of the plaza, where soon they were brought food. There they rested, speaking of things that most contented them, waiting for the giant to appear.

The knight frequently studied Amadis’ face to see if the great confrontation had affected him, and he always seemed to see him display greater courage, by which he was very amazed.

When the time came that the giant had set, two very large and beautiful horses were brought to Amadis with fine tackle for such a use, and he took the one that seemed better. After examining it, and since it came with a saddle, he mounted it, put his helmet on and his shield around his neck, and when he was ready in the great plaza, he sent the man who had brought the horses to take the other back and tell the giant that he was waiting for him and not to make the day be in vain.

All the people of the island who could come were around the plaza to see the battle, and the walkways and windows of the castle were filled with ladies and damsels.

And so as ye hear, he saw three trumpeters playing a sweet song in harmony in the great Vermilion Tower, which was the sign that the giant was coming out to fight, as was the custom every time he did battle. Amadis asked those present about it. They told him the reason for it, which seemed good to him and the act of a great lord, and he thought that when he was at Firm Island, with his lady, if he had the occasion to do battle with someone who came seeking it, that he would order the same thing done because he thought it would serve to increase the courage of the knight for whom it was played.

When the trumpets were done, the gates of the castle opened, and the giant came out on the other horse that he had sent to Amadis, his lance in hand and armed in steel polished clean like a mirror. The helmet like the shield were made to his measure, and plate armor covered the rest of his body. When he saw Amadis, he told him:

“Knight of Firm Island, now that thou seest me armed, dost thou dare wait for me?”

“Now I wish thee to make amends to this lady for the wrong thou hast done to her,” he said, “and if not, protect thyself from me.”

Then the giant came at him as fast as his horse could go, and he was so large that there was no knight in the world, no matter how courageous he was, who would not have felt terror. And as he came hard with a great eagerness to meet him, he lowered his lance so much to avoid erring in the blow that it struck Amadis’s horse in the center of its forehead and the lance came out a ways from the back of its neck.

But Amadis, unaffected by his size or valor, for he had already experienced such things, struck the giant on his large and strong shield so hard that the force threw the giant from the saddle and he fell on the field, which was very hard, in a great tumble that seriously injured him. Amadis’s horse fell dead with him on the ground, and he arose as fast as he could, although with great effort because one of his legs was caught beneath the horse.

He saw the giant get up somewhat stunned but not so much that he did not immediately put his hand on the strong steel sword he carried. He believed no knight in the world would dare to wait for two blows from it, for they would leave him dazed or dead.

Amadis put his hand on his own very good sword and covered himself with his shield, and went at him. The giant did the same and charged with his arm held high to strike him without care, both because of his great arrogance and because in his encounter with Amadis, the lance had come right at his heart and with such force that it pushed the shield against his chest so hard that his flesh was bruised and his cartilage broken, so he was in great pain and had lost much of his strength and ability to breathe.

Amadis, seeing him approach, realized that he was defeated, and he raised his shield as high as he could to receive the blow. The giant hit so hard that the sword easily cut through the boss down and took off a third of the shield, but did not strike deeper. If he had struck further, he would have also sent Amadis and his arm to the ground.

Amadis, who in such straits had great experience and knew how to free himself from danger, neither neglecting nor forgetting anything he ought to do, before the giant could pull back his arm, struck him such a blow next to the elbow that although the sleeve of the plate armor was strong and of thick mail, it could not stop or delay his very fine sword from cutting through much of the flesh and one of the forearm bones.

The giant felt the blow deeply and pulled back a ways, but Amadis immediately charged him and gave him another blow on the top of the helmet with all his strength, and the sparks flew as if it had somehow been set on fire. It twisted the helmet on his head, so he could not see.

When the governing knight from Prince Island, who had come with Amadis, saw the blows that Amadis gave, and the encounter with the lance which had thrown from the saddle someone as valiant and as heavy as that giant, and what Amadis had done with his sword, he began to cross himself many times and said to the lady, who was next to him:

“My lady, where did ye find that devil who does such things that no other mortal knight has done?”

The lady told him:

“If many such devils like him were in the world, there would not be so many injuries and deaths from arrogant and evil men as there are.”

The giant quickly placed his hands on his helmet to straighten it, and he felt that his right arm had lost much of its strength for he could barely hold his sword in his hand, and he pulled farther back, but Amadis immediately came at him as he had from the first and gave him another great blow on the center of his shield, hoping to strike him on his head, but he could not, for when the giant saw such a fierce blow coming, he raised his shield to receive it. The sword sunk so deep into it that when Amadis tried to pull it out, he could not.

The giant tried to attack him, but he could only raise his arm a little, so his blow was weak. Then Amadis pulled on his sword as hard as he could, and the giant tugged on his shield, so that the great strength of the one and the other made the straps that held it around his neck break. Amadis pulled away the shield with his sword, which brought great danger to the giant because he had no way to use his own sword.

When the giant understood that and realized he had no shield, he took his sword in his left hand and began to strike Amadis with great blows, who ably protected himself with his shield, but he could in no way keep the giant’s blows from cutting through his chain mail in several places and reaching his flesh. And certainly, if the giant could have attacked with his right hand, he knew he would be in great danger of death, but with the left hand, although the blows were mighty and strong, they were poorly aimed, and most of them missed and were in vain.

Amadis, who wanted to wield his sword to attack, raised it up stuck in the shield, only seeking to defend himself. But seeing himself in such difficulty and danger, he decided to try to resolve the situation as fast as he could, and he pulled back a bit and took his own shield from his neck and threw it in the field between himself and the giant. He put a foot on the giant’s shield and pulled with both hands on the sword so hard that he pulled it free.

Meanwhile the giant picked up Amadis’s shield with his right hand, and although it was very lightweight, he could hardly raise it up and hold it in his hand, for the injury next to his elbow was so serious and with all the blood that had flowed from his arm, it felt almost dead, so he could only raise up and use his hand weakly. What impeded and fatigued him more were the bruised flesh and broken bones over his heart from the encounter with the lance ye have heard about, which cut his breath so much he could hardly breathe.

But as he was valiant both in strength and spirit, and he saw his fate approaching death, he withstood with great effort because after Amadis’s sword had been stuck in the shield with that great blow, Amadis could not attack or ward off blows with it. But when he pulled the sword out and it was free and unimpeded, he took the giant’s shield by its handles and could barely lift it up, given its size and weight, and charged to attack with great blows, using all his strength, so that the giant was harried, and both from the speed of Amadis’ attacks and from his haste to protect himself and attack, his heart collapsed on itself from the pain he felt within it, and he fell as if he were dead on the field.

When the men watching in the castle saw this, they shouted, and the ladies and damsels shrieked, saying:

“Our lord is dead! Death to the traitor who killed him!”


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Chapter 128 [part 1 of 3]

[Christ crucified between two thieves, with the Virgin Mary and John the Evangelist, and Joseph of Arimathea collecting Christ's blood in a grail. From Estoire del Saint Graal, c.  1315-1325. Royal MS 14 E III at The British Library.]

The story says the knight ordered sufficient provisions brought to the shore, and when that had been done, unarmed as he was, he boarded a ship with men to guide them. They set sail for Balan’s island, and as they were traveling through the sea, the knight asked Amadis if he knew King Cildadan. Amadis said he did, that he had often seen him and his great feats of knighthood in the battles that King Lisuarte fought against Amadis, and it could be truthfully said that he was one of the most courageous and best kings in the world.

“Certainly he is,” said the knight from Prince Island, “but against him, fortune has been more adverse than it ever has to anyone else so worthy by placing his realm in vassalage beneath King Lisuarte, because for such a King it is better to rule and be lord than to be a vassal.”

“Now he is freed from that tribute,” Amadis said, “for the great courage of his heart and the valor of his person removed that burden from his great estate, which he bore not at his own fault.”

“How do ye know this, knight?”

“My lord,” he said, “I know it because I saw it.”

Then he told him what King Lisuarte had done to release him, just as this book has recounted. When the knight heard this, he knelt on the deck and said:

“Lord God, praised be Thou forever, for Thou hast freed that King, as his great virtue and nobility deserved.”

Amadis said:

“My lord, do ye know this Balan?”

“Very well,” he said.

“I ask you, if ye please, since there is nothing else we must speak of, to tell me what ye know about him, especially what ought to be known about his character.”

“I shall do so,” the knight said, “and ye might not find anyone else who could tell you so fully. Know that this Balan is the son of the brave Madanfabul, the giant whom Amadis of Gaul killed, when he was called Beltenbros, in the battle King Cildadan fought against King Lisuarte of one hundred knights against one hundred knights, where many other giants and mighty knights in his lineage died. They held many islands in this region of great worth, and with the deep love and affection they had for my lord King Cildadan, they wished to be in his service, and almost all of them were killed in that battle.

“This Balan ye ask me about was a very young man when his father died, and he was left this island which is the most fertile of all with fruit of all types and all the most appreciated and esteemed spices in the world. For this reason there are many merchants and infinite others who come there safely, who provide the giant with great income.

“And I tell you that after he became a knight, he proved to be greater than his father in courage and bravery and in personality and conduct, which is what ye wished to know about. He is very different and the opposite of other giants, who are naturally very arrogant and vain, but he is not. Instead, he is very calm and truthful in everything, so much so that it is amazing that a man who comes from such lineage can be so dissimilar to the character of the others.

“Everyone thinks this comes from the side of his mother, who is the sister of Gromadaza, the brave giantess, wife of the late Famongomadan of the Burning Lake. I do not know if ye have heard about that. Just as she exceeds the beauty of her sister Gromadaza and many other giantesses who in their time were beautiful, she is also very different in all manner of goodness. Her sister was exceedingly brave and impetuous, but she is very gentle and disposed to every virtue and all humility.

“This must be the reason why women who are ugly, with bodies more like men than women, acquire much of the manly arrogance and roughness that men have, owing to their nature, and women who are beautiful and gifted with the proper nature of women are the contrary, conforming to their condition with a delicate voice, soft and smooth flesh, and beautiful faces, which make them peaceful and deflect bravery, as was the giantess who was the wife of Madanfabul and mother of Balan, and this is reflected in her son’s gentleness and repose.

“Her name is Madasima, and because of her, that same name was given to a very beautiful daughter who was left by Famongomadan, who married a knight named Galvanes, a man of high estate, and all who know her say that she is of a very noble nature and very humble with all people.

“Now I wish to tell how I know everything I say and much more about the deeds of these giants. Know that I have been the governor of Prince Island, where ye found me, since the time when King Cildadan was a prince and had lordship over the island without having anything else to his inheritance. And more because of his great courage and good deportment than for his estate, he was called by the entire Kingdom of Ireland to marry the daughter of King Abies, whose realm she inherited when Amadis of Gaul killed the king, and he left me in the post of governor, which I have held since then.

“And as I am here amid those people, and they all have deep affection for my lord the King, I have a great deal of contact with them, and I know that the sons of the giants who died in that battle I told you about are now men, and they have a deep desire to avenge the deaths of their fathers and family if they get the opportunity.”

When Amadis heard these facts, he said:

“My good lord, I am very pleased by what ye have recounted for me. I am only troubled by the good nature of him whom I seek, and I would be more pleased if it were all the opposite and he was very boastful and arrogant, because men like that do not take long in achieving the ire and punishment of God. I do not wish to deny that I am more afraid than I was before. But no matter how it may be, I shall not fail to bring a remedy to this lady, if I can, from the great wrong and injustice she has received for no reason. I would wish to know from you if this Balan is married.”

The knight from the island told him yes. “And with a daughter of a giant named Gandalac, lord of the Peak of Galtares, with whom he has a son some fifteen years old, who if he lives, will inherit that realm.”

When Amadis heard this, he was quite upset and very sorry to have learned about the great love that Balan had for Gandalac and his sons, for Gandalac had been the foster father of his brother Sir Galaor. He considered everything that his brother had to be the same as his own to protect. And he said to the knight:

“Ye have said things that make me more fearful than before.”

He said this for what he had been told about Gandalac. The knight suspected that he held more fears about the battle, but that was not so. Even if he would have to fight against his brother Sir Galaor himself, whom he feared more than the giant, he would do so, for he would not in any way fail to fight to right and restore that lady’s cause or lose his life, because it had always been his custom to help those who rightly asked him for it.

And so speaking of what ye have heard and of many other things, they traveled all that day and night. The next day at the third hour they saw the Island of the Vermilion Tower, which gave them great pleasure, and they sailed on until they were very close. Amadis studied the island, and it seemed exceptionally beautiful, both for its thickly wooded mountains that he could make out in the distance and for the placement of its castle with its beautiful, strong towers, especially the one called Vermilion, which was the largest and made of the rarest stone that could be found in the world.

In some stories it is read that when the island first began to be populated, the man who had the tower and the rest of the great castle built was Joseph, son of Joseph of Arimatha, who had brought the Holy Grail to Great Britain. Because at the time all those lands were pagan, and seeing the location of the island, he populated it with Christians, and he made that great tower where he and all the people took refuge when they saw approaching danger.

But after some time it was ruled by giants until Balan came, and while its population had remained Christian, as they still were, they had lived subjected and oppressed by those lords because most of them were of a pagan sect. But they suffered through it all for the great richness of the land, and if they had any peace, it was only under the time of Balan, both for the good will he had for them and for the love of his father. He was closer to the law of Jesus Christ than any of the others, and even more so farther on, as this story shall recount.

Having arrived, Amadis told the knight from Prince Island:

“My good lord, if ye please, since ye know this Balan, as a courtesy go to him and tell him how the lady, whose son he killed and whose husband and daughter he took prisoner, has brought with her a knight from Firm Island to seek to amend the harm he has done to her, and if he does not give it, to fight him and force him to give her satisfaction. And get a guarantee that this knight shall be safe from harm by everyone except himself, however good or bad things turn out.”

The knight told him:

“I shall be happy to do so, and ye may be sure that the promise he gives will have no exceptions.”

Then the knight with his men boarded a boat and went to the port, and Amadis remained with the lady in some seclusion.

When the knight arrived, he was immediately recognized by the giant’s men and brought before him, who received him with good will, for he had spoken with him a great many times, and he said:

“Governor, what dost thou seek in my lands? Tell me, for thou already knowest that I consider thee a friend.”

The knight told him:

“So I consider thee, and I thank thee deeply, but I have come for a matter that does not involve me, but for an odd thing that I have witnessed. And this is that a knight form Firm Island has come by his own will to fight with thee. I am very amazed that he dares to do such a thing.”

When the giant heard this, he said:

“This knight thou speakest of, does he bring a lady with him?”

“Yes,” the knight said, “absolutely.”

“I understand,” the giant said, “that he would be Amadis of Gaul, he who is lauded with so much praise and fame throughout the world, or one of his brothers, because she left here to bring one of them back, which is why I permitted her to go.”

Then the knight said:

“I do not know who he is, but I tell thee that he is a very handsome knight and very well built for his size, and calm in his reasoning. I do not understand whether simplemindedness or the great courage in his heart has given him such madness. I come to thee to ask for a guarantee for him, so that he shall fear no one except for thee.”

The giant told him:

“Thou knowest well that my word shall never be broken at my will. Bring him with safety, and when thou hast, thou shalt learn from experience which of these two possibilities that thou spoke of are true.”


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Chapter 127 [part 2 of 2]

[How the lady came to seek Amadis, and what he feared most about the giant.] 

[The fortress of Alquézar, Spain.]

“And so my husband and son and the giant were armed, and they mounted their horses in a great plaza between some large stones and the gate to the castle, which is very stout. Then my unfortunate son begged his father so much that against his will he granted him the first joust, in which my son was struck so fiercely by the giant that he and his horse were knocked down so roughly that they both died immediately.

“My husband charged him and struck his shield, but it was like striking a tower. The giant came to him and grabbed him by the arm and, although he has been gifted with sufficient strength for the size of his body and his age, he was pulled from the saddle as if he were a boy. After this was done, the giant ordered my dead son left in the field, and for my husband and me and my daughter, who we were bringing so she could serve your sister Melicia, to be brought to his fortress, and he ordered our company be placed in prison.

“When I saw this, like a woman out of her mind, which I was at that time, I began to shout wildly and say:

“ ‘Oh King Perion of Gaul! If thou wert here, or one of thy sons, how sure I am that by thee or by any of them I would be saved from this great tribulation!’

When the giant heard this, he said:

“ ‘What dost thou know of this King? Is he by chance the father of the one they call Amadis of Gaul?’

“ ‘Yes, he truly is,’ I said, ‘and if any of them were here, thou wouldst not be powerful enough to do me any injustice, for they would protect me as she who has passed and expended all of my days in their service.’

“ ‘Then if thou hast such faith in them,’ he said, ‘I shall allow thee to call whichever of them thou most preferest, and it would please me the most if he were Amadis, who is so esteemed in the world, because he killed my father Madanfabul in the battle between King Cildadan and King Lisuarte when my father took Lisuarte from his saddle and was bearing him beneath his arm to the ships. Amadis, who at the time called himself Beltenebros, chased him, and although he could rightly attack in defense of his lord and those on his side, he saved him without my father seeing him, which should not be considered as great courage or valor, nor a great dishonor to my father. And if thou wishest he, who is so famous and whom thou hast served, to fight for thee, take that boat with a sailor whom I shall give to guide thee, and look for him. And to incite in him more wrath and a greater desire to avenge thee, take thy son the knight armed and dead as he is. And if he loves thee as thou believest, and if he is as courageous as all say, seeing thy great plight, he shall not fail to come.’

“When I heard this, I told him:

“ ‘If I do what thou sayest and bring that fine knight to thine island, how may he be certain that thou hast spoken the truth?’

“ ‘Nor thou nor he should have any fear of this,’ he said, ‘for although there may be in me evil and arrogance, I have kept and shall keep my word for my entire life, and I would rather die than fail to do so. I give my word to thee and to any knight who comes with thee, especially if he is Amadis of Gaul, that there shall be nothing to fear other than my own self at my wishes.”

“So, my lord, because of what the giant told me, and because of my dead son, and my lord husband and my daughter who are prisoners along with all our company, I have dared to come this way, trusting in our Lord and in your good fortune, and that the cruelty of that devil is so against His service that He shall give me vengeance against that traitor with great glory for you.”

When Amadis heard this, he felt great sorrow at the misfortune of this lady, who was dearly loved by his father King Perion and by his mother the Queen and by all others, and held as one of the best ladies in the world of her lineage. And he considered the confrontation grave, not only for the danger of the battle, which was great given Balan’s fame, but also for going to his island and being among people where he would have to act according to their wishes.

But he put the matter entirely in the hand of the Lord who had authority over all things, and had great pity for that lady and her husband. She never ceased to weep, and he, putting aside all fear, with great courage consoled her and told her that soon her loss would be repaired and avenged, if God were willing and he were able to do so.

They traveled for two days and a night, and on the third day to their left they saw a small island with a castle that seemed very tall. Amadis asked the sailor if he knew whose it was. He said he did, it belonged to King Cildadan, and it was called Prince Island.

“Guide us there,” Amadis said, “so we may take on board some food, for we do not know what might happen.”

So he turned the boat and soon they reached the island. When they were at the foot of a craggy hill, they saw a knight descending it, and when he arrived, he greeted them and they greeted him. The knight from the island asked them who they were. Amadis told him:

“I am a knight from Firm Island and, if it is the will of God, I am coming to put right an injustice and wrong done to this lady that she suffered at an island farther on.”

“What island was this?” the knight said.

“The Island of the Vermilion Tower,” Amadis said.

“And who did this injustice?” the knight said.

“Balan the giant, who they say is the lord of that island,” Amadis said.

“Then what remedy can ye give alone?”

“To fight with him,” Amadis said, “and break the arrogance with which he has treated this lady and many others who did not deserve it.”

The knight began to laugh as from disdain, and said:

“My lord knight from Firm Island, do not place in your heart this great folly, by your own free will, of searching for he from whom all the world flees. Even if the lord of that island, who is Amadis of Gaul, and his two brothers, Sir Galaor and Sir Florestan, who are the flower and height of all the knights in today’s world, were to come all three to fight Balan, this would be considered great madness by all who know him. For that reason, I advise you to leave this quest, for I would have to mourn your injury and harm because I am a knight and friend to those whom my lord King Cildadan loves and esteems, and I have been told that he and King Lisuarte are now at peace with Amadis of Gaul. I do not know how, but I know for certain that they now share great love and concord. And if ye continue on what ye have begun, it is nothing else than to go knowingly to death.”

Amadis told him:

“Death and life are in the hands of God, and those who wish to be praised above all others must place themselves in the attempt to do dangerous things that others do not dare to try. I say this not believing I am thus, but because I wish to be thus. And for that reason I ask you, my lord knight, not to cause me more fear than I already hold, which is not little, and if ye please, as a courtesy help me with some supplies that could be of service to us if some difficulty overcame us.”

“I shall do that gladly,” the knight from the island said, “and I shall do more. To see such an amazing thing, I wish to keep you company until your fate, good or ill, comes to pass with that brave giant.”


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Chapter 127 [part 1 of 2]

How Amadis departed with the lady who came by the sea to avenge the killing of the dead knight she brought in her boat, and what happened on that quest. 

[Drawing of King Arthur as he finds a giant roasting a pig from the Roman de Brut by Wace (Edgerton 3028), second quarter of the 14th century, made in England. From the British Library.]

As ye have heard, Amadis remained at Firm Island with his lady Oriana enjoying the greatest delights and pleasure that any knight ever had, from which he had no wish to leave even to become the lord of the world. If his lady had been absent, the troubles and pain and anxieties of his impassioned heart would have tormented him without comparison, and he would have found no renewal or rest anywhere; yet everything was the utter opposite being in her presence and seeing her great beauty, which had no equal. That made him forget all his past troubles and had no thought except for the good fortune he found himself in.

But since among the perishable things of this world, nothing can be found that ends well, since God did not wish to make it so, and when we think we have reached the goal of our desires, at that point we are immediately tormented by others of greater size or better fate. So soon, Amadis looked within himself, and while he was aware that what he possessed was beyond comparison, he began to remember his earlier times when his honor and esteem had been achieved by feats at arms, and he thought that if he spent much time in his present situation, his fame would begin to fade and shrink. So he was placed in great worry, not knowing what to do with himself.

He sometimes spoke to Oriana with great humility, asking her urgently to give him permission to leave and go to places where he believed his aid would be needed, but she, finding herself on that island far from her father and mother and all the people of her native land, having no other consolation or company besides him for her solitude, never wished to grant it. Instead, always with many tears, she begged him to give his body some rest from the labors of the past, and she also reminded him that his friends had left at great danger to themselves and their men to gain realms to increase their honor, and were they to suffer some reversal, if he were there, he could help them much better than if he were somewhere else. With this and other many loving things she tried to detain him.

But as ye have been told many times in this great story, ever since the knight’s spirit had been lit by that great fire of desire on the first day when he began to love her, he had a great fear of somehow angering her or failing to follow her command regardless of the good or ill that would come to him. So with little pressure, although his desire had reached anguish, he was detained.

Determined to fulfill his lady’s command, he agreed with Grasandor that until some news came about the fleet, they would ride out through the mountains and go hunting for exercise, and preparations were quickly made. They left with their beaters and dogs from the island, and rode to where, as this book has told you, there were hills and riverbanks with more bear, boar, deer, waterfowl, and many other animals than could be found anywhere else. They hunted often, and at night returned to the island with great pleasure for themselves and for the ladies, and so they lived that life for some length of time.

Then it happened one day that as Amadis was among the beaters on the skirts of the mountain near the seashore waiting for a boar or wild beast, holding the leash of a very handsome dog that he especially liked, he looked at the sea and saw a boat coming in the distance toward him. And when it was closer, he saw in it a lady and a man who was rowing, and because it seemed odd, he left the line of beater without being seen and rode downhill with his dog, passing through some thick brush.

He reached the shore, where he found that the lady and the man with her had landed and were dragging from the boat a fully armed dead knight, whom they laid on the ground, covered by his shield.

When he reached them, Amadis said:

“Lady, who is this knight, and who killed him?”

She turned to look, and although he was dressed as knights usually do to go hunting, and he was alone, she immediately recognized him as Amadis, and she began to tear her veils and clothing in great mourning and said:

“Oh my lord Amadis of Gaul! Help this sad and ill-fated lady for what ye owe to chivalry, because these hands of mine took you from your mother’s womb and made the ark in which ye were placed in the sea, saving your life when ye were born. Help me, my lord, for ye were born to save and rescue those with tribulations and bitter persecutions such as those that have come over me!”

Amadis felt great sorrow for the lady, and when he heard her words, he looked at her more carefully and immediately recognized her as Darioleta, who was with his mother the Queen when he was engendered and born, and so his pain for her grew. He came to her and took her hands from her hair, which was mostly white, asked her to tell him why she was weeping and tearing her hair so hard, and said he would not fail to immediately place his life in danger of death to repair her great loss.

When she heard this, she knelt before him and wished to kiss his hands, but he would not give them, and she told him:

“Then, my lord, without going elsewhere and finding some delay, come with me right away in  this boat, and I shall guide you to where ye may remedy my troubles, and on the way I shall tell you my misfortune.”

Amadis, seeing her with such anguish and passion, believed the lady had indeed suffered a great injury. And because he had no armor and only his fine sword, knowing that if he sent for his arms, Oriana would stop him from going with the lady, he decided to arm himself with the armor of the dead knight. He ordered the man to disarm the dead knight and help him put on that armor, and so it was done. With the lady and the man who was rowing, he immediately entered the boat. As he was about to cast off from the shore, by chance a beater from his company came chasing a wounded deer that had hidden there where the brush was very thick.

When Amadis saw him, he called to him and said:

“Tell Grasandor that I am leaving with this lady who landed here, and I ask for his forgiveness. Her great loss and haste mean that I cannot see him and speak to him. I ask him to have this knight interred and to win the forgiveness of my lady Oriana because I am making this trip without her permission. She must believe that I could not have failed to do so without great shame.”

That having been said, the boat left the shore as fast as it could be rowed, and they traveled all that day and night the same way that the lady had come. In the meantime Amadis asked her to tell him about her urgency and injury that needed such help. Weeping bitterly, she told him:

“My lord, ye know that when your mother the Queen left Gaul to go to your island to attend the weddings of yourself and your brothers, she sent a messenger to my husband and me at Little Brittany, where at her command we were governing, and in her letter she ordered us to follow her to Firm Island because it would not be right if those celebrations happened without us. She did this because of her great nobility and her great love for us rather than for anything we deserved.

“At this command, I and my husband and my unfortunate son, whom we left there dead and whose armor ye wear, immediately set sail with a fine company of servants in a very large ship. We sailed with good weather, which to our ill fortune changed to bad weather that pushed us far off course, and after two months and many dangers that overcame us because of that storm, one night a high wind took us to the island of the Vermilion Tower, where a giant named Balan is the lord, the bravest and strongest of all the giants of any island.

“We came to port, not knowing where we were traveling, and we took shelter, but we were soon surrounded by people from the island in boats, and we were all taken prisoner and held until the next day when they took us to the giant. When he saw us, he asked if there was a knight among us. My husband said yes, that he was, and that the man next to him, his son, was also a knight.

“ ‘Then,” the knight said, “ye must follow the custom of this island.’

“ ‘And what is the custom?’ my husband asked.

“ ‘Ye must fight me one by one,’ the giant said, ‘and if either of you can defend yourself for an hour, ye and all your company are all free, and if ye are defeated within that hour, ye are my prisoners, but ye shall have some hope for your safety if as good men ye had put all your strength to the test. But if by chance your cowardice is so great that ye do not place yourselves in battle, ye shall be put into a cruel prison where ye shall suffer great anguish as payment for having taken the order of knighthood and fearing loss of life more than loss of honor or those things for which ye took your oath. Now that I have told you everything rightly about the customs maintained here, decide what ye would prefer.’

“My husband told him:

“ ‘We wish to fight, for in vain we would bear arms if out of fear of some danger we would fail to do with them what they were made for. But what security have we that if we are victorious, the custom ye have spoken of shall be followed?’

“ ‘There is none other than my promise,’ the giant said, ‘for come good or ill, it will not be broken willingly by me. I would rather have my body be broken, and I have had my son whom I have here and all my servants and vassals swear to uphold it.’

“ ‘In the name of God,’ my husband said, ‘have my arms and horse be brought to me and to my son, and prepare yourself for battle.’

“ ‘This shall be done at once,’ the giant said.