The original source of sword and sorcery You know the story: A knight in shining armor does brave acts of chivalry, with help or opposition from a sorcerer. The knight also serves an unobtainable princess with total devotion. And he's unbeatable in battle. This fantasy meta-story has been floating around in the European collective consciousness since ......
The original source of sword and sorcery You know the story: A knight in shining armor does brave acts of chivalry, with help or opposition from a sorcerer. The knight also serves an unobtainable princess with total devotion. And he's unbeatable in battle. This fantasy meta-story has been floating around in the European collective consciousness since ... well, if you're well-read, you know that Miguel de Cervantes wrote "Don Quixote de La Mancha" to ridicule these stories. And that's probably all you know. Here's your chance to learn the truth. In the Middle Ages, troubadours circulated stories about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table throughout Europe. In Spain, these stories coalesced around one knight, Amadis of Gaul, who lived before King Arthur and was the greatest knight in the world. The stories were collected and expanded in a novel by Garcí Rodríguez de Montalvo right when the printing press became big business. This novel became Renaissance Europe's first best-seller. It spawned dozens of sequels and a hundred spin-offs, popular with emperors and peasants alike. Nobles dressed up and re-enacted the stories. A century later it had gotten so silly that Cervantes cashed in with a satire. And yet, even he insisted that "Amadis of Gaul" was so good it deserved to be read. You can do that. Sue Burke has been translating "Amadis of Gaul" from medieval Spanish to modern English a chapter at a time at http://amadisofgaul.blogspot.com, and the collected chapters for Book I of the four-part novel are available as a book. It's the Middle Ages in its own words, and you might be in for a surprise. First of all, there's sex. All that repression and chastity belt nonsense was invented in the Renaissance or later. Amadis is born out of wedlock, in fact. And although Amadis is too pure to accept carnal thanks from the damsels he rescues, other knights do. Then, there's violence. Knights hack each other to death bit by bit with swords as body parts fall to the ground. Or they smite their opponents in one gruesome blow with a lance. Or chop their heads in two with axes. Amadis always wins, but sometimes just barely. At one point, he's trying to hide his identity and is recognized by the scars on his face. This book drips with blood. As for the sorcerers, even the good ones do creepy things, and the bad ones are arrogant and evil. The worst sorcerer of all, Amadis's sworn enemy, ought to be smote but somehow he keeps getting away while his minions get burned at the stake. Be prepared for a typical medieval story, too: interweaving plots. This isn't just about Amadis. This book tells the story of his family, his friends, his king, and their families and friends. Everyone has adventures. Finally, you can discover why women treasured this novel to the point that religious authorities became alarmed. It wasn't just over the love and sex, although the love story between Amadis and Princess Oriana does get scandalous. In the Middle Ages, women filled important roles, and as their lives became more and more restricted in the Renaissance, they could escape to the past with this exciting book. And if you're a writer, remember what Antoní Gaudí said: "Originality consists in returning to the origin." Here's where it all started, the story that was eventually turned into the watered-down trope that fills so many bookstore shelves today. Here is the real medieval fantasy. This book drove Don Quixote mad. What will it do to you?