Tag Archives: knight

Mucho mejor

Much better. I made Rosinantes just a little bit bigger—115%. It made all the difference.

Don Quixote

What Picasso might have created if he’d learned how to draw. I have to admit I may have made Rosinantes too small. I’ll fix that when I paint him.

We did it! We slogged through every first piece of vernacular Western literature (written in the author’s own language rather than Latin)—at least all the ones I can think of. German, English, Italian, French, Spanish. Chivalry and knights in shining armor sure was a popular subject. It’s as if: even as writers were moving everyone into a more modern age they needed to fondly look back and say so-long to the Middle Ages.

Spanish author Miguel Cervantes (mee-GEL sair-VAHN-tez) was having none of that. It was the late 1500s, the Middle Ages were over and their foolishnesses needed to be lampooned. In his book, El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha (The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha), the doddering old gentleman Don Quixote (DON kee-HO-tay) is obsessed day and night with reading those poems of chivalry and knights and their mighty deeds—to the point where his brain dries out. It’s cooked. Don Quixote loses his marbles; he becomes demented. Don Quixote gets the idea he should put on an old suit of armor he finds in a barn and become a knight-errant to restore honor to Spain. He talks a local peasant, Sancho Panza, into being his squire by promising him a parcel of real estate. The Don chooses as his steed a moth-eaten, played-out scrawny old horse named Rosinantes. As a nod to courtly love, he fixates on a local girl he calls Dulcinea—but she has no idea that she’s being honored this way.

Don Quixote and Sancho go adventuring across the countryside, questing for wrongs to be righted and monsters to vanquish. In the book’s most famous scene, Don Quixote (whose eyesight isn’t so good) mistakes a windmill for an ogre and charges at it with his lance. He gets caught up in the windmill’s vanes and has to be untangled. In nearly every other adventure, Don Quixote and Sancho get beat up by whomever they encounter.

Don Quixote is considered to be the first modern novel (a book-length work of fiction). Cervantes intended to move us out of the past into modernity, and he sure did. One bit of pure writing genius: Don Quixote speaks Old Spanish while the other characters speak modern Spanish. For us English speakers, imagine a modern novel’s character speaking like Chaucer or Shakespeare. Cervantes’ readers understood Don Quixote’s dialogue but he sounds antique and out-of-step.*

* In fact, Aldous Huxley used this gag in Brave New World to give us information about a character—https://www.litcharts.com/lit/brave-new-world/chapter-7

Wikipedia has a comprehensive entry for Don Quixote, including a summary of the story:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Quixote
Look! You can get a poster of the title page of the 1605 edition of Don Quixote: https://www.amazon.com/Quixote-Ntitle-Cervantes-Published-Valencia/dp/B07C4K5LDY/ref=asc_df_B07C4K5LDY/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=527702999903&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=9503647619533183764&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9005111&hvtargid=pla-1401775165677&psc=1
https://www.biography.com/writer/miguel-de-cervantes
And here’s Peter O’Toole in the musical Man of La Mancha. In this scene, Cervantes is in prison, entertaining his fellow prisoners. In real life he’d been imprisoned twice, the first stretch for 5 years as a guest of the Turks. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iH9nDlBr3b4
You can visit Don Quixote’s windmills—https://www.awayn.com/listing/all_listings/consuegra-spain-consuegra-the-windmills-of-don-quixote-hiking-trip/

Hey, whadayaknow—Sophia Loren’s in this movie, too! She’s Dulcinea, who maybe wasn’t so unaware of being treated like a lady. I know, it’s hokey, but I’m a sucker for this kind of stuff—https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42y15BYusmA&t=209s

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A tiny little sermonette from your old Uncle John


I suppose a cynic might say these stories of knighthood and chivalry were propaganda—they glorified the feudal system by trumpeting the goodness of the upper class. True enough. But the stories also inspired better behavior from their readers, which wasn’t a bad thing. Stories help us define ourselves. We all need heroes who set an example. A code of honor is a necessary element of civilization. It’s a social contract. If you can’t count on other people to behave within a common set of rules—to behave morally—a civilization won’t last very long.

A representative republic is impossible if its citizens don’t share a moral code. I mean ALL its citizens. Without the social contract there’s chaos and thievery and violence, which invites an overbearing, armed-to-the-teeth government to step in and regulate everybody. In other words, we’d go back to feudalism. That’s not good, right? It means we’d go back to being serfs. Chivalry and honor are not trifles.

propaganda noun: the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person
https://www.worldhistory.org/Medieval_Chivalry/
https://www.facinghistory.org/nobigotry/readings/alexis-de-tocqueville-democracy-and-religion

One of my favorite movies is My Favorite Year. There’s a scene where swashbuckling-hero-movie-actor Alan Swann tells young Benjy Stone that he (Swann) is really only flesh-and-blood, life-sized. Benjy replies he has no use for a life-sized Alan Swann. He needs his Alan Swanns as big as he can get them. He needs heroes. Who doesn’t?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ioyAJUCTCkQ

Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Reading & Writing.

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El Cid

Chuck Heston as the Cid

The first piece of literature written in Spanish was Cantar de mio Cid (Song of my Lord), whose author may have been Per Abbat who wrote it in either 1207 or 1307 or maybe it was Abu I-Walid al Waqqashi in 1095 or maybe it was one of those pieces of folk literature that gets passed from generation to generation. El Cid, the Cid, al Sayyid means ‘the lord’ or ‘the master.’ Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar was El Cid—an actual person—and he fought against Moorish control of Spain. His army reconquered Valencia so that Christianity could be reestablished there. Like Chanson de Roland, Cantar de mio Cid is a poem about knights who perform mighty deeds and strive to live virtuous lives by sticking to a code of honor.

https://www.actualidadliteratura.com/en/el-cantar-del-mio-cid/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Cid
You can take a biking vacation along the route of El Cid’s exploits: https://en.caminodelcid.org/cid-history-legend/cid-history/
When Charlton Heston wasn’t being Moses or Henry VIII, he was El Cid—with Sophia Loren, the most fabulous woman who ever trod the Earth—https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0054847/?ref_=fn_al_tt_2
https://www.gutenberg.org/files/996/996-h/996-h.htm
https://www.britannica.com/art/Spanish-literature
https://historyofspain.es/en/video/the-history-of-spanish-literature/

Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Reading & Writing.

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Yes, I’m a King Arthur geek

Okay, okay. I’m getting a little sidetracked, but I just want to show you a bit more King Arthur illustration before we get back to late mediæval literature.



Brandywine is an American creek that runs through Chadd’s Ford, Pennsylvania and Wilmington, Delaware. The Brandywine School was a group of illustrators who left New York City and opened studios in the wilds of eastern PA where they posed costumed models against the countryside for their paintings. Their work has a vibrancy that you can’t match if you’re crammed inside a tiny studio in the Big City. Thanks to the railroad, the Brandywine artists could ship their illustrations to their clients in NYC and still make deadlines. Howard Pyle founded the Brandywine school. He was one of those thoroughly admirable and talented types who can illustrate and also write. Pyle produced a King Arthur book that’s packed with superb black & white drawings and some boffo color paintings, too. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Story_of_King_Arthur_and_His_Knights
Get yours here: https://www.thriftbooks.com/w/the-story-of-king-arthur-and-his-knights_howard-pyle/326253/item/9289845/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwu7OIBhCsARIsALxCUaNgzrRTspXOWPTAg64ytNGCJLrrujFSVb-mE9oHNZOdm-tfhAzWHMEaAraNEALw_wcB#idiq=9289845&edition=3431357 (the blurb sez Arthur drew Excalibur from the anvil. He didn’t. He got Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake. So there.)
https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Brandywine_School



Another of my favs is N.C. Wyeth who also did Arthurian illustrations—
https://www.illustratedgallery.com/artwork/original/3923/by-nc-wyeth/
https://www.google.com/maps/place/Brandywine+Creek/@39.8839034,-75.6071849,14z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x89c6fd524d5626bf:0xd0dba77af6c98645!8m2!3d39.7320579!4d-75.5313104

Pyle’s and Wyeth’s work surely must have been at least part of the inspiration for the Sunday comic strip, Prince Valiant. How I used to drool over Hal Foster’s inkwork when I was a mere slip of a thing. https://www.fantagraphics.com/collections/prince-valiant
https://www.comicartfans.com/gallerypiece.asp?piece=1421255

Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Reading & Writing.

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K is for Knight

SKELET~1

This image comes from Z is for Zombies by Merrily Kutner.  I painted this one a long time ago.  I think this was my second book, and the only one I didn’t do for laughs.  Very unlike me.  All the images are kind of scary…