Here is the final installation of the tale of the brave Knights of the Fish! I hope you enjoy it! For more about this story, read on afterward!
Let us go now to the other Knight of theFish, who had continued travelling and who came to stop in Madrid. As he entered the gates there, the soldiers came to attention, the drums beat a royal march, and many servants of the palace surrounded him, telling him that the princess was falling to pieces in tears as his absence grew longer, afraid that some misfortune had befallen him in the cursed bewitched castle of Albatroseus.
“Doubtless,” thought the Knight, “madam has taken me for my brother, who, it seems, was blessed with quite good luck. We shall keep quiet and see how this all turns out.”
They took him almost triumphantly to the palace, and it is easy to play the part of one who is the object of so much affection and gifts from the king and the princess.
“So, you went to the castle?” asked the latter.
“Yes, yes,” he responded.
“And what did you see?”
“I shall not allow myself to say a word about it until I return there again.”
“Are you thinking, perchance, of going back to that cursed castle on your own just to never return from it again?”
When they went to bed, the Knight put his sword on the bed.
“But, why?” asked the princess.
“Because I have made a promise not to sleep in bed until I have returned once more to Albatroseus.”
And the next day he mounted his saddled steed and headed toward the enchanted castle, afraid that some misfortune had befallen his brother.
He called at the castle doors and through the portcullis appeared the fiendish nose of the old woman, which looked like a fish spear. But, as soon as she had seen the knight her nose went pale, because it seemed to her that the dead had been resurrected, and she ran, invoking the object of her devotion, Beelzebub, making him promises to eat however many pears and apples he presented her if he freed her from this vision of flesh and bone escaped from the mansion of the dead.
“Madam senectitude,” shouted the recently arrived, “has a knight dresses like this not passed through here? He did, I guess.”
“Yess, yess, yess,” responded the echoes.
“And what have you done with this knight, so courteous and so skilled?”
“Killed! Killed!” howled the echoes.
Hearing this and seeing that the old woman was fleeing, the Knight of the Fish could not control himself. He ran after her and completely ran her through with his sword; and as there was so much wind and the old woman so thin and weightless, she began to spin around the tip of the sword like a pinwheel.
“Where is my brother, fallacious old traitor, beldam of the devil?” asked the knight.
“I shall tell you, sir,” responded the witch, “but, as I am going to die and am dizzy from spinning against my will; I will not say until you have resurrected me.”
“And how am I to perform such a miracle, deceitful witch?”
“Go to the garden,” responded the old woman. “Cut evergreens, eternal flowers, red hot cat’s tails, and dragon’s blood; with these flowers make a coction in the cauldron and with it prepare a bath into which you shall place me.”
And saying this, the old woman died without so much as an amen.
The knight did just as the old woman had ordered, who was effectively resurrected and uglier than ever, because her nose, which did not fit into the cauldron, remained dead and so pallid that it looked like the trunk of an elephant.
So, she told the knight exactly where his brother was.
He went down into the abyss, where he found the latter and many other victims of the scoundrel Berberisca, and he began putting one after another into the cauldron and they all were coming back to life; and as they were resurrected the echo that was their voice would come cheerfully, taking possession of their throats, and the first thing they all said was, “Cursed old woman! Pitiless Berberisca! Heartless evildoer!”
As he had done with these hidalgos, the knight did the same with many beautiful young women who had been taken by the dragon, who was the son of the old woman, and each of the ladies gave thanks to the Knight of the Fish and their hand to one of the resurrected hidalgos; and the Scoundrel Berberisca, seeing this, died once more of envy and ire.
While I really love the playful tone, especially in regard to the appearance of the old woman, the literary scholar in me is always analyzing as she reads. This old woman, evil and cruel, is made into a villain not only by her deeds, but because she is elderly and not beautiful like the virginal maidens the dragon has taken. She is also not a Christian, impure and worshiping the devil. She is a “Berber,” the name itself making her the villain, which demonstrates the religious bigotry which existed and still exists in Spain, stemming back to at least the late 15th century expulsion of Muslims. Though they are not visually obvious as non-Christians, for it is not a matter of race, many characters from stories have distinct features which render them grotesque and they function as the opposition to the pure, virtuous, Christian protagonists. This strong Christian undertone fits within a hegemonic ideal in which conservative Spaniards like Cecilia Böhl believed.
Monserat Joffre, in a paper about the short story and Fernán Caballero, describes her as being fascinated with popular stories, those which came from the voices of rural countrymen. The legend of listening and copying the stories from people in the Andalusian countryside is likely to be, at least partly, untrue. Like the Brothers Grimm, she claimed to compile and gather stories unedited, but her talent for portraying the customs of the common people, and writing multiple voices points to the possibility the she wrote the stories herself. And while the theme of noble Christian knights versus evil-doing non-Christians fits within the time period, it also represents a long history in Spain, and the classic knight errant from the legendary Cid (11th C.) to the knights like Amadís de Gaula (14th C.) who, among others, inspired Don Quixote to ride out into the Mancha.
One of the most interesting knights, to me, is Sant Jordi (Saint George) who is the Saint of Catalonia. Just like the Knights of the Fish, he saved a damsel from the evil clutches of a dragon who demanded yearly sacrifices to appease him. Sant Jordi is celebrated each year on April 23 in a similar way to Saint Valentine’s day, with roses and books exchanged as gifts. There are illustrated children’s books featuring this brave knight. So, it seems the appreciation of knights errant, and saving damsels in distress seems not to have faltered with the years, but simply adapted to the times, changing to give us damsels who save dragons, or themselves, and tales which represent modern ideals. There are many fascinating tales of knights, including the one above, and I look forward to seeing how they take shape in the minds of future storytellers. And if you have not read it yet, Don Quixote is one of the most fascinating and wonderful books about knights and knight errantry in the world. Each time I read it I learn so many new things about it, the world in which it was written, the world around me, and myself.