Don Quixote, post #5, ch 19-25

Today’s post is coming a bit late, but it’s here. It will include the famous “yelmo de Mambrino”, we’ll meet Cardenio, there will be more beatings and rocks thrown, and we’ll know more about Dulcinea del Toboso.

Chapter 19 opens with a peculiar conversation, proper of this pair. Sancho blames DQ for all the bad they are enduring, -specially when at the inn, they threw him in the air in that blanket as a punishment-. It’s all because DQ broke a promise he had made of not indulging in eating or laying with any woman. And DQ says that Sancho is completely right, -wait a minute!-, is he?, DQ hasn’t finished this sentence when he blurts that it’s Sancho’s complete fault for not reminding him to keep this promise.

Strange and numerous lights in the night, act like the sirens call to DQ, who is sure he’s into another real adventure. When questioned by Sancho, notice again how he justifies not having come to his help at the inn when he was being tossed in the air, -not able to jump the wall-, but now he feels he’s super ready for this open field adventure. Sancho is genuinely scared.

DQ fells another innocent person, a clerical student, breaking his leg in the process. He was presiding a funeral procession. The people were holding torches, thus the lights, and they were transporting a corpse to bury him where he was from. DQ felled a few more of those who were in this group, making everyone who could, to flee. Nonetheless, DQ aids the student to get from under his donkey, and talks to him telling him who he is. DQ is giving himself a nickname, the knight of the sad figure. Sancho remarks that the nickname will be obvious to anyone who sees him. I guess DQ is looking retched after all the sticks and stones he’s received.

Chapter 20 finds both nowhere, and it’s getting late. They hear strange noises, and Sancho is so scared that he doesn’t want DQ to leave him alone. DQ wants to embrace this other adventure, but Sancho ties Rocinante’s legs, impeding him from moving. DQ stays with Sancho, who also needs to do ‘his business’, but doesn’t want to leave DQ’s side. DQ notices a bad smell, and there you have it, another funny exchange between this two.

To pass the time, DQ encourages Sancho to tell a story. It starts as another unrequited love story. We are told that it’s natural to women to love that who loathes us, and to loath that who loves us. My notes say this may be another rough version of the story of Rosaura and Grisaldo, also in The Galatea book.

The story has a frustrating end. Sancho forgot how it continued when he lost count of the sheep that were crossing the river.

The noise that terrified Sancho, was coming from a hydraulic windmill with these wooden hammers. Here you have a video showing how they worked.

When they find out the next morning, their reactions couldn’t be more different. Sancho is amused. He wants to have this as a story to tell others and laugh. DQ is adamant they keep this to themselves. DQ takes himself very seriously. He may worry about his reputation, he even tells Sancho that, even though they are living at the iron age, he is here to bring back the golden age. The stories he wants to follow his name, are of grandeur. Sancho is a common man, he appreciates a joke, even if it’s on him. DQ goes on the defensive, and says that knights are not supposed to know the noises where coming from those windmills.

Not happy with that, DQ will invent a chivalry rule, that of the silence of the squire. But with Sancho, silence lasts a mere minute second. Speaking of rules and laws, Sancho takes his chance to ask about his salary. Conveniently again, DQ says he’s not heard about such a thing as salaries among squires And DQ is now authority on this, -that’s how he sees himself-. But DQ tells Sancho that he’s left him as his heir. This surely agrees with Sancho, who is now rubbing it to him, saying how valiant a knight he is, and how quiet he’s going to be from now on. DQ is pleased. He tells Sancho that, after our fathers, we must obey our masters.

In these chapters, we heard the expression ‘old christian’ as a positive thing DQ says of Sancho, and that would be said of some characters. One of the biases of the day was to think that one who came from a family of catholic christians was something that spoke well of oneself, by contrast to the ‘new converts’, who were suspected of not being genuine, or not having the family name or pedigree that others inherited through the generations.

Chapter 21, Mambrino’s helmet. DQ claims he sees someone sporting the famous helmet of Mambrino. Sancho says very concisely, -he’s not talking as per DQ’s orders, remember?-, “careful with what you say, and more with what you do”. Now DQ is curious to know what Sancho is thinking. If only he could talk. DQ allows him to, and we see that DQ, with his imagination, asserts he sees that marvelous helmet, while Sancho, with the eyes of reality, assures him that it’s nothing but a man with something shinny on his head.

DESCRIPTION: 18th century brass barber’s/bleeder bowl with an etched decorative design around the inner rim. MEASUREMENTS: 3-1/2″ x 10-1/2″. CONDITION: Slight nicks and dents in the bowl. Also with 1/2″ crack in brass rim. LINK HERE

I believe this section has seen an increase in the idioms and old sayings both express, don’t you?The barber, not expecting DQ’s attack, runs away. DQ says he’s done like the beaver. Apparently, at that time it was thought that beavers, when persecuted by hunters, cut their organs with their teeth for by instinct they’d know they were coveted for a substance, castoreum, contained in them and used in medicine. You would think we don’t use castoreum anymore, right? WRONG. From the internet:

Foods that Contain Castoreum: Raspberry flavored candy, strawberry/vanilla / raspberry ice-cream. It’s also used in alcoholic beverages, baked goods, gelatin, pudding, soft candy, frozen dairy, hard candy and chewing gum.


Sancho laughs again to see that the helmet is none other than a barber’s bowl. DQ standard answer. Yes. You guessed it. It’s been transmuted, which doesn’t bother him at all. He plans to fix it as soon as he finds a forge.

Sancho is also trying to see what he can gain from this last occurrence, and he first tells DQ about exchanging donkey with the abandoned one that belongs to the barber, but DQ is not very keen on that. If not that, at least, could he exchange all the accouterments of the donkeys? DQ doesn’t know what the law says about this, but in this case, he says that, in case of doubt, take the affirmative. Ha!

Speaking of laws, a few pages after, DQ also says not to ask permission for that which you can take by force. This is when he’s making plans in the air, about aspiring to the hand of a princess, -which he plans to do the right way, or his way, if the right one fails. After all, his way is the right way, isn’t it?

When Sancho becomes an important man, he decides he’s going to employ a barber to have handy, as he saw someone of noble title do while he spent some time at court. DQ told him when he gets that important office, he can’t be with that thick beard. We say we shouldn’t judge by appearances.

We also say the habit (as in apparel, and maybe the habit of wearing the habit too), makes the monk. Truth is between these two points. Every society has both apparent and hidden codes of dress, speech, and grooming. Us is the challenge of getting clues from the external, and crossing them with our knowledge of the person behind the appearances.

In chapter 22, Cervantes tells us that ‘Cide Hameti Benengeli’ narrates how they both saw twelve men in chains, convicts, who were led by two men on horse, and two on foot. I always have a blast hearing the peculiar stories of these convicts and how they got to where they are now.

DQ manages to free them. He has a better law than the law which has made them all prisoners. He believes that their faults were much smaller than the punishment they were all going to face. This could have been a neat arrangement, but it doesn’t end well. DQ asks these men to go and tell Dulcinea of his wonderful deeds, and the men refuse. Not only, they also beat him up, and Sancho, and take all they can from both. Too much for helping criminals, DQ!

It’s only now, in chapter 23, when DQ remembers the saying that ‘helping villains is like throwing water into the ocean’. He says now that he should have listened to Sancho, and encourages him to learn from now on, and forget. Sancho is not happy at all with that answer. DQ has meddled with the Santa Hermandad, a very exacting and merciless military peacekeeping association. They don’t just put people in prison, they execute them. And obstructing their plans is penalized with capital punishment.

DQ wants to go to Sierra Morena. He mentions a place called El Viso. My uncle had a country home in that village. It was his hunting place.

In chapters 23, 24, and 25, we find one of the big mistakes in the book. Sancho was supposed to have been robbed of his donkey. However, Cervantes keeps writing about Sancho and his ‘jumento’. He surely didn’t have it at the end of chapter 25, when DQ sends him to take his love letter to Dulcinea, which Sancho does riding on Rocinante

DQ is considering to do some penance. Before that, they both found an unattended luggage, already beaten up by time and the weather. They inspect the contents, and see signs of having belonged to a person of prestige. They find a considerable sum of money in coins, which Sancho appropriates for himself. DQ is trying to find the owner of all of it, while Sancho is more inclined to not look for the owner, or at least, give him time to spend it. Once spent, if they find the owner, he won’t have to give it back.

They find a shepherd who tells them he’s seen that strange luggage too, but didn’t want to touch it. Sancho retorts he didn’t touch it either! (Didn’t you, Sancho?) And they find the strange owner of it all, Cardenio. The shepherd tells them how they first met him when he assaulted his shepherd friends, stealing food from them. Until they realized he has gone mad.

This is interesting. Two men gone crazy. Cardenio, -as a consequence of his love for a woman-, and DQ, -result of his love of chivalry books-. Cardenio has insane moments, and others of lucidity. DQ is another different mock of the knight gone mad, and a different modality of being crazy.

This story is rich. Lots of social content. Luscinda, a pretty and humble girl whose father doesn’t entirely like Cardenio as a suitor and tries to gain time not to give his daughter’s hand to him. Fernando, the spoiled son of duke Ricardo, friend of Cardenio’s father, who calls for Cardenio by means of a letter to his dad. Fernando, infatuated with a pretty peasant, who, after he satisfies his physical desire for her, becomes disinterested. Fernando, who goes back home with Cardenio, and who, after listening to Cardenio’s lauding Luscinda, would also develop an ignoble interest on her. We will know more about these two men, and their two women.

In the middle of Cardenio’s story, he mentions how fond of chivalry books Luscinda was, in particular, of Amadís de Gaula. This initially pleases DQ. This will also end not too well, until Cardenio says he can’t stop thinking how that villain of Elisabat was having an affair with Madásima. (Which my notes says it’s also inacurate). This doesn’t sit well with DQ, who is questioning Cardenio, through which Cardenio, a loony himself, observes DQ’s madness as well.

Cardenio starts hitting DQ, and Sancho doesn’t like it, and that goat shepherd comes too. But Cardenio escapes nonchalant after beating them three to death. Sancho doesn’t like the frustration of being on the receiving end, and attacks the goat keeper, blaming him for not having told them about Cardenio’s Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde personality. The man says he told them, but Sancho didn’t listen. Sancho tells DQ to allow him to keep at it with this man, -after all, they both are of the same condition-. DQ tells Sancho, ‘very well, but I assure you it’s not his fault’. They stop, and DQ asks the goat keeper if they could find Cardenio. DQ wants to hear the end of his story. The man says he needs to go gather the goats, but he also tells him that, mad or sane, sooner or later, they’ll find Cardenio.

Last chapter of today’s section sees DQ tired, in need of doing some sort of penance and wanting Sancho to communicate this his self inflicted pain and his fasting to Dulcinea, looking for acknowledgment from her as her hopelessly devoted knight.

Sancho doesn’t see the point of what DQ is about to do. DQ is going to imitate Amadís. From Wikipedia:

Despite Amadís’ celebrated fidelity, his childhood sweetheart, Oriana, heiress to the throne of Great Britain, becomes jealous of a rival princess and sends a letter to chastise Amadís. The knight (later famously parodied in Don Quixote) changes his name to Beltenebros and indulges in a long period of madness on the isolated Peña Pobre.

DQ doesn’t have a reason to do this, Sancho tries to argue. There lies the merit, answers DQ. Getting mad with a reason is easy to achieve. But becoming mad without one, that’s something! That will show Dulcinea what type of knight he of the sad figure is. Sancho has serious doubts this is anything good. What about the isles, kingdoms, and all that DQ was going to acquire and share with Sancho. Possessions and position. And here is one of the most fascinating passages of this first book. I’m quoting Ormsby:

“By the living God, Sir Knight of the Rueful Countenance, I cannot endure or bear with patience some of the things that your worship says; and from them I begin to suspect that all you tell me about chivalry, and winning kingdoms and empires, and giving islands, and bestowing other rewards and dignities after the custom of knights-errant, must be all made up of wind and lies, and all pigments or figments, or whatever we may call them; for what would anyone think that heard your worship calling a barber’s basin Mambrino’s helmet without ever seeing the mistake all this time, but that one who says and maintains such things must have his brains addled? I have the basin in my sack all dinted, and I am taking it home to have it mended, to trim my beard in it, if, by God’s grace, I am allowed to see my wife and children some day or other.”

Don Quixote, chapter 25, Ormsby’s translation.

“By God! Señor Knight of the Sorrowful Face, but I lose my patience and can’t bear some of the things your grace says; because of them I even imagine that everything you tell me about chivalry, and winning kingdoms and empires, and giving giving me ínsulas and granting me other favors and honors, as is the custom of knights errant, must be nothing but empty talk and lies, and all a hambug or a humbug or whatever you call it. Because if anyone heard your grace calling a barber’s basin the helmet of Mambrino without realizing the error after more than four days, what could he think but that whoever says and claims such a thing must be out of his mind? I have the basin in the bag, all dented, and I’m taking it along so I can fix it when I get home, and use it to trim my beard, if someday, by the grace of God, I ever find myself with my wife and children again.”

Chapter 25, pages 194 – 195, Edith Grossman’s translation.

“Look here, Sancho,” said Don Quixote, “by him thou didst swear by just now I swear thou hast the most limited understanding that any squire in the world has or ever had. Is it possible that all this time thou hast been going about with me thou hast never found out that all things belonging to knights-errant seem to be illusions and nonsense and ravings, and to go always by contraries? And not because it really is so, but because there is always a swarm of enchanters in attendance upon us that change and alter everything with us, and turn things as they please, and according as they are disposed to aid or destroy us; thus what seems to thee a barber’s basin seems to me Mambrino’s helmet, and to another it will seem something else; and rare foresight it was in the sage who is on my side to make what is really and truly Mambrine’s helmet seem a basin to everybody, for, being held in such estimation as it is, all the world would pursue me to rob me of it; but when they see it is only a barber’s basin they do not take the trouble to obtain it; as was plainly shown by him who tried to break it, and left it on the ground without taking it, for, by my faith, had he known it he would never have left it behind.

Don Quixote, chapter 25, Ormsby’s translation.

“Well, Sancho, by the same oath you swore before, I swear to you,” said Don Quixote, “that you have the dimmest wits that any squire in the world has or ever had. Is it possible that in all the time you have traveled with me you have not yet noticed that all things having to do with knights errant appear to be chimerical, foolish, senseless, and turned inside out? And not because they really are, but because hordes of enchanters always walk among us and alter and change everything and turn things into whatever they please, according to whether they wish to favor us or destroy us; and so, what seems to you a barber’s basin seems to me the helmet of Mambrino, and will seem another thing to someone else. It was rare foresight on the part of the wise man who favors me to make what is really and truly the helmet of Mambrino seem a basin to everyone else, because it is held in such high esteem that everyone would pursue me in order to take it from me; but since they see it as only a barber’s basin, they do not attempt to obtain it, as was evident when that man tried to shatter it, then left it on the ground, not taking it away with him; by my faith, if he had recognized it for what it was he never would have left it behind.”

Chapter 25, page 195. Edith Grossman’s translation.

No doubt, DQ is not a sane man. However, do you think Cervantes is telling us something here? I thought there was some truth in the thought that many look at the same thing, and see something different. There may be hidden value in the ordinary, don’t you all think?

Now it’s the quarrel about how DQ’s penance is going to happen. Sancho, for more than he is not with DQ in all this, doesn’t like to hear that he intends to hit his head against sharp rocks. He proposes, picaresque style, that DQ does a bit of a show of penance, and he embellishes the story for Dulcinea’s ears. It seems that, after all the twists and stretches of the law we’ve heard from DQ, here he clearly confesses that to do one thing in place of a different one, it’s a way of lying. Here it’s also where we hear Sancho lament having lost his donkey.

When Sancho says he’ll take the message of this purgatory DQ will endure, DQ brags, what purgatory, you better call it hell! Sancho comes with an erroneous Latin expression, saying that if you fall into hell, “nulla es retentio”, explaining that retentio (retained), means you don’t get out of hell. The correct saying is that in hell nulla redentio, no redemption.

DQ describes Dulcinea to Sancho. Sancho finally recognizes the real maid. Sancho responds appreciating the true qualities of the real Aldonza Lorenzo. DQ tells him that’s not his Dulcinea, but just the inspiration for his dame. It’s clear that Dulcinea is a construct, an archetype. DQ explains that we fall in love with beauty and fame. It’s the same as the infatuation teens have for the idols of the time. These women were the popular women of the moment.

DQ insists that Sancho must see him doing some of those eccentric cartwheels, etc., in his underwear. Sancho wants him to spear him of the spectacle, saying he’ll tell that woman Dulcinea plenty of how wonderful DQ is. DQ calms Sancho from his euforic speech, telling Sancho he’s appearing more crazy than himself, LOL. Sancho wants to know what is DQ going to eat. Does he plan to assault the shepherds like Cardenio? DQ says he’ll forage for food.

I forgot to mention that Sancho departs with a letter for Dulcinea, and another one for him to take to DQ’s state, so that they give him three of the five donkeys he has.

This is it for this week. We have four more weeks or so, -if we are reading at one chapter per week-. I’m going to try something different. I’ll post only once or twice more for book 1. Then I will take a week or two break, and come back with the second book.

2 thoughts on “Don Quixote, post #5, ch 19-25

  1. You said: “I thought there was some truth in the thought that many look at the same thing, and see something different. There may be hidden value in the ordinary, don’t you all think?” This is an interesting thought gleaned from the book. I didn’t think of that. I agree that people’s perceptions of the same thing can vary. And yes, I think there can be hidden value in the ordinary, day to day. 🙂

    And what’s up with the inconsistencies in the novel – for example Sancho’s donkey being taken. Is that an intentional part of the novel or is it a mistake on Cervantes’ part when he was writing?

    Liked by 1 person

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