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Tirant Clubs Baby Seal
[From _Tirant_Lo_Blanc_, written by Joanot Martorell &
Marti' Joan de Galba, published in 1490, translated from
Catalan by David H. Rosenthal (c) 1984]
"On the day assigned to the knight with the shield of
Courage, Tirant entered the lists in his usual manner. As soon as
the trumpet sounded, His Majesty's judges told them to commence.
They drew their swords and went for each other like two
ravening lions, while their axes hung from rings on their
saddlebows. Tirant's horse was much lighter, and everyone
thought he was getting the better of it, for as the two charged
each other, he wounded his foe under the arm. When Tirant saw
him bleeding, he sheathed his sword and drew his ax. Feeling
blows rain down upon him, the other knight tried to imitate
Tirant, but he could not sheathe his sword because his armor
impeded him. Befuddled by our knight's buffets, he stuck his
sword under his arm and tried to draw his ax, but the Breton
was too close to him and struck too many mortal blows. Tirant
chopped away as much of his vambrace and rerebrace as he could
reach, for truly, my loerd, an ax is the deadliest of weapons. Our
knight then smote him three or four times on the head, leaving
him so dazed that he never did get the ax out of the ring on his
saddlebow. Holding his sword under his arm so as not to lose it,
the hapless knight tried in vain to turn his horse. He showed his
ignorance of arms and the gentle art of chivalry, and in
everyone's opinion, he died a coward's death without defending
himself. Tirant struck his arm so often that he could no longer
lift it, and at last a mighty blow drove his helmet into his skull,
causing his brain to squirt out his eyes and ears as he fell to
I am struck by how this differs from my notions of chivalry.
I would have expected that Tirant would withdraw a bit, or
ask his opponent to yield.
And I would expect that Diaphebus, the young knight relating
the battle, would describe the loser more charitably.
And I would expect that the man who's hearing the tale, William
of Warwick (aka Guy of Warwick), the paragon of chivalry,
would say something about either the mismatch itself or the
way it was told being slightly unchivalrous.
The fact that this book, written by an actual knight in the Period
to uphold the values of chivalry, fails to meet my expectations,
suggests to me that my notions of chivalry are not accurate.
Is my idea of chivalry, in fact, in line with the general modern view?
Is the author's idea of chivalry in line with the general view in
Is the general modern view of chivalry in line with the Period view?
If the two views differ, which, if either, should the Atlantian Chivalry
Are these questions worth pondering, or discussing at the Merry Rose?
Does this raise any other ponder-worthy questions that I haven't mentioned?
Alfredo el Bufon
Elvegast, Windmaster's Hill, Atlantia
You can't have everything. Where would you put it?
-- Steven Wright
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