Of Knights and Damsels

Don Quijote read so many novels about knights and dragons and fair damsels in distress that it unsettled his mind.  In his famous book Cervantes shows great familiarity with those libros de caballerías, as they were called: he had fallen for them too.  He wasn’t the only Spaniard in sixteenth-century Spain that got hooked on them.  Another was Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. And another was Teresa of Avila, the great mystic.

Teresa was afterwards very sorry she had wasted so much time on them. Her mother read them too but was able to put them down when it was time to work.  Not so Teresa:  “I fell into the habit of reading them…and it didn’t seem at all bad to spend many hours of the day and night on such a frivolous activity, without my father’s knowing it.  This love became so extreme that if I didn’t have a new book I didn’t feel happy…”


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2 Responses to Of Knights and Damsels

  1. 100swallows says:

    Mark Twain hated Walter Scott’s novels (like Ivanhoe) because he thought their idea of honor did a lot of harm to the Old South. Everybody played knight or fair damsel. They were all living a farce, no work was getting done, the South was going backwards to an older, feudal society. He liked Don Quijote–I guess because he thought it was a lambast of that same mentality rather than a vindication of it.
    It wasn’t just the reading of those books that Teresa regretted but the way they influenced her. “I started dressing up and putting on perfume and fine clothes and acting the lady,” she said.
    I don’t know that series you talk about, Danu, but I got hooked myself on novels (the more nihilistic works of our time, of course).

  2. iondanu says:

    Wow! I think those books were a bit like the bushido code of honour for the Japanese samurais… They also gave a code of behavior, or honorable behavior… And what Tereza says is just like me with the series (CSI-s or Malcolm in the Middle or whatever – but good ones)…

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