Second installation of “The Knights of the Fish”

Sorry for the long wait for this continuation of the story. It has been a long week of quality time with family and fighting a relentlessly beastly cold. I have finished the translation, but I did not want to overwhelm the blog with super long posts, so here is the second installment and I will finish it with a third. I find myself thinking of Don Quixote and his chivalric novels when I read this. Not coincidentally, the 19th century in Spain was one that looked to the Golden Age of literature (the Age of Don Quixote) as a model for how to be a good Spaniard. The author, Cecilia Böhl/Fernán Caballero, was conservative and patriotic, and it is rendered quite explicitly in this tale.

Keep an eye to the echoing voices, which were quite a challenge to translate. There is one spot that just had me stumped and I had to fudge it a little, which is the close but not quite exact sounds of cared for and careful. Otherwise, I am pretty proud of my work on this one. For more historical background, see the footnote. I hope you enjoy it!

And now we move on, to a few days after their marriage, when the husband said to the wife that he would like to see all of the palace, which was so big that it occupied a league of land. And so it went,and they took three days to see it. On the fourth day, they went up to the rooftop terraces. The knight admired the view. And what views, my friend! You have never seen anything like it, nor have I. All of Spain could be seen, even out to the Moors, and to the emperor of Morocco, who was crying over his friend the dragon.

            “Which castle is that,” asked the Knight of the Fish, “that you can see far off in the distance, there, so isolated and so somber?”

            “That is,” responded the princess, “the Castle of Albatroseus, which is enchanted and no one can undo the spell, no one who has tried has returned.”

            The knight fell silent hearing these reasons; but since he was valiant and daring, the very next morning, without even touching the ground, he mounted his steed, grabbed his lance, called to his hound, and headed off toward the castle.

            The castle was such that it gave chills just in seeing it. Gloomier than a stormy night, more foreboding than a villain’s gaze, and more noiseless than a corpse. But the Knight of the Fish only knew fear by its name and not experience, and he only turned his back on his defeated enemies; so, he took up his cornet or bugle and played a sonata.

            His playing awoke all the sleeping echoes of the castle and the crags, which repeated in chorus, now closer, now further off, now muted, now more hollow, the sounds of the sonata. But in the castle, no one moved.

            “Hey, castle!” shouted the knight. “Is there no one to attend to a knight who seeks shelter? Does this castle not have a governor, ancient coat of arms, nor page boy to relieve me?”

            “Leave me! Leave me! Leave me!” the echoes cried out.

            “I should leave?” said the Knight of the Fish. “I do not back down, no matter the number of deeds to rectify!”

            “Aye! Aye! Aye!” moaned/howled the echoes. The knight seized his lance and struck a forceful blow against the door.

            The portcullis opened then and out poked the tip of a long nose which sat between the sunken eyes and the sunken mouth of an old woman uglier than the Devil.

Photo by Pixabay on

            “What do you want, reckless troublemaker?” she asked with a ragged voice.

            “To come in,” answered the knight. “Can I not, perchance, enjoy some rest here on this summer afternoon? Yes or no?”

            “No, no, no,” said the echoes.

            The knight had lifted his visor because the heat was strong, and in seeing how good-looking he was, she said to him, “Come in, and do not fear, handsome squire, for you will be looked after and well cared for.”

            “Careful! Careful!” advised the echoes.

            But the knight entered, saying, “I only fear God, and there I fare well.”

            “Farewell! Farewell! Farewell!” whispered the echoes.

            “So, old mother…”

            “My name is Doña Berberisca,” the old woman interrupted the knight, very irritated,“and I am the lady of Albatroseus.”

            “Atrocious! Atrocious!” shouted the echoes.

            “Would you shut up, cursed chatter boxes?” exclaimed Doña Berberisca, furiously. “I am at your service,” she continued, curtseying for the knight, “and if you want, I will be your wife and you can live with me here as a bajá[1].”

            “Ha, ha, ha, ha!” laughed the echoes.

            “I should marry you, madam, who is a hundred years old? You are crazy and oblivious.”

            “Yes, yes” said the echoes.

            “What I want,” continued the knight, “is to capture this castle and be gone once I have completed this examen.”

            “Amen!Amen!” whispered the echoes in Latin.  Doña Berberisca, pockmarked and rotten to the core, threw a pugnacious look at the Knight of the Fish, and adjuring him to follow her, showed him the castle, in which he saw many things; but he could not recount them because the guileful Berberisca led him down a dark passageway, where there was a trap, into which he fell and disappeared into an abyss and his voice went with the echoes, which were the voices of many other bizarre and courteous knights that the devious Berberisca had punished in the same way for having disregarded her venerable powers.  

Photo by Kenneth C. on


[1] Del DLE: En el imperio otomano, alto funcionario, virrey o gobernador; en algunos países musulmanes, título honorífico. Del árabe bāšā, y este del turco paşa. TRANSLATION: From the Dictionary of the Spanish Language (Diccionario del Lengua Española) bajá is defined as a high-ranking official, viceroy, or governor in the Ottoman Empire. In some Muslim countries, it is an honorific. It comes from the Arabic bāšā, and that from the Turkish paşa.

I believe Caballero uses this term to place the story in a period more suitable to knights, and knight errantry, when the Iberian Peninsula was under Moorish rule (roughly from the 8thcentury through the reign of the Catholic king and queen, Ferdinand and Isabell, who took over the last emirate in Granada in 1492). I chose to leave the word bajá as it linguistically reflects this history and works very well for the echoes to echo laughter in response. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s