Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Chapter 133 [part 1 of 3]

How, after King Lisuarte returned to his lands from Firm Island, he was taken prisoner by enchantment, and what happened regarding that. 

[King John hunting a deer with hounds. A miniature from the Law Codes of Henry I from 1321, held as part of the Cotton Manuscripts at the British Library.]

The story tells that after King Lisuarte departed from Firm Island with his wife, Queen Brisena, leaving behind their newlywed daughters and the other ladies who were married at the same time, as ye have heard, he went directly to his town of Fenusa because it was a seaport and surrounded by forests that held a great deal of wild game, a very healthy and happy place where he often went to relax. And when he was there, in order to give some rest and repose to his spirit for its recent labors, he soon began to give himself over to hunting and other sports that provided him with the greatest pleasure, and so he passed a long period of time.

But when this began to tire him, as with all things of the world when a man follows them for too long, he turned his thoughts to the past and how great knights had once filled his court, and the great adventures these knights had, and how they brought him such great honor and fame that he was renowned and praised to the heavens throughout the world. And although at his age he should have sought repose and relaxation, his will had been infused and habituated to a different kind of life for so very long that it could not be content.

Due to the thoughts of the sweetness of past glory and the bitterness of not having nor being able to acquire it in the present, his mind was so grieved that at times he seemed to have lost his good judgement and could not take joy or consolation in anything that came to him. And what most aggravated his spirit was remembering how his honor had been so much diminished due to past battles and events with Amadis, so that now everyone said that more out of necessity than virtue he had ended that conflict.

So with these thoughts, melancholy fell over him in such a way that this man, who had been so powerful, graced, humane, and feared by all, became sad, pensive, and withdrawn without wishing to see anyone at all, as happens to most of those who pass their time in good fortune without suffering setbacks or obstacles to trouble them. Their strength weakens, and they cannot withstand nor know how to resist the hard and cruel blows of adverse fortune.

The King customarily heard Mass each morning, and with only his good and valued sword on his belt, would traverse the forest on horseback with a crossbowman for a long time, brooding, and at times shooting with the crossbow, and that seemed to give him rest. Then one day it happened that when he was some distance from the town in the thick forest, he saw a damsel coming toward him on a palfrey as fast as it could gallop through the brush, shouting for God to help her. Seeing her, he rode toward her and said:

“Damsel, what has happened to you?”

“Oh, my lord,” she said, “by God and by mercy help my sister, whom I left behind with an evil man who wishes to rape her!”

The King felt sorry for her and said:

“Damsel, guide me, and I shall follow you.”

Then they turned down the same road she had come from, as fast as she could spur her palfrey. They rode until, through the thick brush, the King saw an unarmed man holding a damsel by her hair and pulling on it to drag her down, and she was screaming. The King arrived on horseback shouting for him to release the damsel. When the man saw him coming near, he let her go and fled into the thick brush. The King followed on horseback, but he could not go far because of the branches. When he realized that, he dismounted as fast as he could with the desire to capture him and give him the punishment such an insult deserved, for he thought the man could be from his realm.

He ran behind him, shouting at him, and when they had passed through the underbrush, he found a wide clearing where he saw that a tent had been pitched, which the man he was chasing had entered. The King came to the tent door and saw a lady, and the man who had fled behind her, as if he thought she would protect him. The King said:

“Lady, is this man in your company?”

“Why do ye ask?” she said.

“Because I wish you to give him to me so I may do justice, because if not for me, there where I found him he would have raped a damsel.”

The lady said:

“Knight, enter and I shall hear what ye say. And if it is as ye say, I shall give him to you, for ever since I was a damsel I have held my honor in great esteem, and I would not allow any other damsel to be dishonored.”

The King quickly went to where the lady was, and at the first step he took inside the tent, he fell to the ground as insensible as if he were dead. Then the damsels arrived whom he had followed, and with the lady and the man who was there, they picked up the King, who was unconscious. Two other men came from the trees and took down the tent. They all went to the seashore, which was close by and where they had a ship so well hidden beneath tree branches that it could hardly be seen. They put him on board and set sail. This was done quickly and secretively in a place where no one could see them or know what was happening.

The King’s crossbowman, who was on foot, had not been able to follow the King because he had left too fast to rescue the damsel, and when he reached the horse, he was amazed to find it alone. He entered the brush as fast as he could searching everywhere, but he found nothing. Soon he found the clearing where the tent had been, and from there he returned to the horse, mounted it, and rode for a long time from one end of the forest to the other and along the seashore.

And because he had found nothing, he decided to return to the town, and when he neared it and people there saw him, they thought the King had sent him for something, but he said nothing and rode until he had arrived where the Queen was. He dismounted and hurried into the palace. When he saw her, he told her everything he had seen regarding the King and how he had searched diligently without finding him.

When the Queen heard this, she was very upset and said:

“Oh, Holy Mary! What will become of my lord the King if I have lost him to some misfortune!”

Then she had her nephew King Arban and Cendil of Ganota called and told them the news. They remained cheerful, giving her hope that there was nothing to fear, for there was no danger to the King because he could have quickly become lost in the forest in his haste to avenge the damsel. And since he knew that area, where he had often gone to hunt, he would not take long to return. If he had left the horse, it was only because the trees were so thick that it was not useful.

But fearing the truth more than they showed, they quickly went to arm themselves and mount their horses, and they had all the townspeople come with them, and as fast as they could they entered the forest bringing the crossbowman to guide them, and the townspeople, who were many, spread out everywhere. But neither they nor those knights, despite all their efforts in their search, learned anything about what had happened to the King.

The Queen spent the entire day waiting with great disturbance and alteration to her spirit for some news, but no one dared to return with the little results they had found. Instead, everyone in that town and all those in the region, when they learned what was happening, never ceased to search with great diligence.

When night came, the Queen decided to send messengers and letters as fast as she could to as many places as she could. She spent the night sleepless. At dawn, Sir Grumedan and Giontes arrived, and when the Queen saw them, she asked them if they knew anything about their lord the King. Sir Grumedan said:

“We know nothing more than what they told Giontes and me in the lodge where we were hunting, that many people were searching for him. Thinking we could learn some news here, we decided not to go anywhere else. But since we have learned nothing here, we must immediately join the search.”

“Sir Grumedan,” the Queen said, “I cannot find rest nor repose nor aid, nor can I think of what this may mean. And if I were to stay here, I would die of anguish, and so I have decided to go with you, because if good news were to come there, I will learn it faster there than here, and if it does not, I shall not cease to undertake the labor that I rightly must until I die.”

Then she ordered them to bring her a palfrey. With Sir Grumedan, Sir Giontes, and a lady who was the wife of Brandoivas, they went to the forest as fast as they could and rode in it for three days, always lodging in a town, where, if it were not for Sir Grumedan, she would not have eaten at all, but with his great effort he made her eat a little. Every night she sleep dressed beneath trees, for although they found some homes, she did not wish to enter them, saying that her great anguish would not let her.

At the end of that time, it happened that among the many people they met in the forest they found King Arban of North Wales, very sad and fatigued, and his horse so weak and tired it could not carry him. When the Queen saw him, she said:

“Good nephew, what news do you bring of my lord the King?”

Tears came to his eyes and he said:

“My lady, nothing more than what I knew when I left your presence. And believe, my lady, that so many of us are searching and we have looked with so much urgency and labor that it would be impossible not to find him if he were on this side of the sea. But I think that if he has suffered some trickery, he would not have been kept in his kingdom. And truly, my lady, I was always worried by his strange behavior, so withdrawn into himself and so careless about his safety, because princes and great lords who govern and control many people cannot use their position so justly and clemently that they will not be feared, and where there is fear but not love, then hatred soon arrives.

“For this reason, they must be very careful about their safety, so that smaller men do not dare to do anything against their grandeur, for otherwise, often they would not have thought about such things. May God be pleased in His mercy to put me where I may see him and say this and many other things, and I have hope that God will do so. And ye, my lady, should have that hope, too.”

When the Queen heard this, she lost her senses and fainted dead away, falling from her palfrey. Sir Grumedan jumped off his horse as fast as he could and took her in his arms. He held her for a long time, for she seemed more dead than alive to him. When she regained consciousness, she said with great pain and an abundance of tears:

“Treacherous and terrifying fortune, hope of the miserable, cruel enemy of the prosperous, perturbation of worldly things, what could I praise of thee? If in the past thou madest me lady of many realms, obeyed and attended by many people, and above all joined by marriage to such a powerful and virtuous King, in a single moment by taking him thou hast carried off and robbed me of everything, and if in losing him thou leavest me worldly goods, that gives me no hope to recover rest nor pleasure, but instead to cause me much greater pain and bitterness, because if I valued them and gave them consideration, it was only because of he who ruled and protected them.

“Truly, with much greater cause I could thank thee if thou wert to leave me as one of these simple women without fame or pomp because I would forget my petty and minor troubles and shed my tears for the harsh cruelty done to others. But why shall I complain about thee? Thy trickery and mighty reversals, bringing down those who thou hadst raised up, are so plain to all that they should complain not about thee but about themselves for having trusted thee.”

So the noble Queen sat on the ground and mourned, and her foster father, Sir Grumedan, on his knees, holding her hands, consoled her with very sweet words, as he in whom all virtue and discretion dwelled, with the pity and love he had shown when she was in a crib. But consolation was not needed since she fainted so many times that she was without sense and almost dead, which caused great pain to those who saw her.
And when after a time her spirit had recovered some strength, she said to Sir Grumedan:

“Oh my faithful and true friend, I beg thee that just as in my first days thy hands gave reason for my growth, now in my final days may thy same hands receive my death.”

Sir Grumedan, seeing that a reply would not be needed due to her condition, was quiet and said nothing. Instead, he decided it would be good to take her to a town where she might get some help. So he did, and he and the knights who where there put her on her palfrey, and Sir Grumedan rode behind the saddle holding her in his arms, and they took her to the houses of some huntsmen who guarded the forest for the King. They immediately sent for beds and other comforts so she might rest. But she never wished to be anywhere other than in the poorest bed that they found there. She spent several days without knowing where to go nor what to do with herself.

When Sir Grumedan saw her more reposed, he said:

“Noble and powerful Queen, where has your great discretion fled at the time when ye need it the most, when so unadvisedly ye seek and ask for death, forgetting that with it all worldly things shall perish? What aid would it be for your so beloved husband if your spirit left your flesh? By chance with that would ye buy his health and remedy for his ailments? Instead, truly, it is entirely contrary to what wise people ought to do, for valor and discretion was established and provided for such challenges by the most high Lord, and more with great courage and diligence than with excessive tears ought the fates of friends to be aided. If I were to offer you a way to help him, I would have ye know how I have considered the matter.

“Ye well know, my lady, that besides the knights and many vassals that live in your realms who with great affection and love, follow, and comply with your orders, from the blood of your royal house hangs almost all Christendom today, both in its strength and in its great empires and domains rising above all else like the heavens over the earth. Then, who would doubt that these people, knowing of this great troubling venture, would not like yourself wish to bring remedy to it? And if your husband the King is in these lands, we who are his people will supply that remedy, and if by chance he is across the sea, what land is so desert nor what people so brave that they could refuse to offer aid for him?

“And so, my good lady, setting aside the things that bring more harm than good, taking consolation and counsel again, let us continue in what can benefit and bring health and aid to this affair.”

When the Queen heard what Sir Grumedan said, she turned from death to life. And knowing that he spoke in complete truth, she set aside her tears and great complaints and decided to send a messenger to Amadis, who was nearest at hand, confident that his good fortune would as at other times bring remedy to this matter. She immediately sent Brandoivas to look for Amadis as fast as he could and to give him her letter, which read:

Letter from Queen Brisena to Amadis

“If in times past, fortunate knight, this royal house was protected and defended by your great courage, in this present time, with greater obligation than ever, with great affection and affliction, ye are called. If the great benefits received from you were not rewarded as your great virtue deserved, be content, because the just Judge, powerful in all things, in our defect has wished to pay you by raising up your affairs to the heavens and bringing ours down below the earth. Know ye, my very beloved son and true friend, that just as lightning in the dark night redoubles the vision of the eyes in which it blazes, if it suddenly departs, it leaves them in greater shadows and darkness than before; and so having before my eyes the royal personage of King Lisuarte, my husband and lord, who was light and flame for them and all my senses, being snatched from me in a moment, has left them with bitterness and abundant tears, and they soon may expect death. And because the matter is so painful that neither my strength nor my judgment can write of them, I leave that to the discretion of my messenger. I bring this letter to an end, as well as my sad life if the remedy for it is not seen soon.”

When the letter was finished, she ordered Brandoivas to tell Amadis more extensively the unfortunate news, and he immediately departed with the will that a very faithful servant like him ought to have.


  1. Hello. Thanks for posting this. I first heard about Amadis de Gaul from Bernal Diazs conquest of spain , where he compares events in mexico to the book. So after some digging I found some notes on it online. I was interested to know if the book infulenced Diazs writing style

  2. Hello David! We know that the book was popular with the conquistadores. California was even named after a place in the sequel to Amadis of Gaul about his son, The Exploits of Esplandian.

    It may have even influenced not just how Bernal Díaz wrote but how he saw himself and what he did, according to this scholar: https://samla.memberclicks.net/assets/88_Abstracts/grant_gearhart_abstract.pdf