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.”


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