El Cid’s Poem (Song) Summary
|El Cid was the most famous medieval Spanish hero, a historical figure who became a national hero to Castile. Such elevation made him also a legendary figure, due to the epic poem written in the 12th century, and several versions that followed. It was for this reason that I put his legend here.
The poem is divided into three cantars.
|The Lord (Background)|
|El Cid or The Cid, is actually a Spanish Arabic title or honour, because it mean “The Lord”. His real name was Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar or simply as Ruy Díaz de Vivar. Vivar being a village near Burgos in Castile, Spain; a place where he was born around 1043 to Diego Laínez, a minor nobleman. But his mother came from a greater aristocratic family than her husband.
El Cid was raised in the court of Ferdinand I, where he was promoted to armiger regis (standard bearer) at age 22. He had also receive the title of “The Champion”, which in Spanish is El Campeador. He was a follower of Sancho, Ferdinand’s elder son, not Alfonso. When Ferdinand died, Christian Spain was divided between his two sons, Sancho received Castile, and Alfonso became king of Leon. There were rivalry between the two brothers, and El Cid had supported Sancho. But Sancho died in 1072, while besieging Zamora, leaving Alfonso as sole ruler of Christian Spain. El Cid lost his rank as armiger regis.
His wife was named Jimena, daughter of Count de Oviedo, whom he married in 1074. Jimena is also King Alfonso’s niece. His children were a son, named Diego Rodríguez, and two daughters, Cristina and Maria. In the poem, his daughters were called Elvira and Sol.
His loss of regal favour continued, when he supported the Moorish king of Seville, against García Ordóñez, who supported the King of Garanda. El Cid may have won the battle, but his decline in Castile’s court was dealt a further blow, when he attacked and defeated Toledo, a Moorish kingdom under Alfonso’s protection, in 1081.
It was this reason that El Cid was exile, and where the poem of El Cid begins. See Exile for the beginning of the Cid’s tale. The poem included the capture of Valencia and regaining Alfonso’ favour. The poem didn’t ended with El Cid’s death, but after the marriages of his two daughters to the princes of Navarre and Aragon.
For at least ten years, he served the Moorish kings in Saragossa, under al-Mu’tamin and his successor, al-Musta’in II, where he won greater reputation as a warrior and a general, defeating enemies of Saragossa.
In 1094, El Cid captured Valencia, after a protracted siege that began in 1092. In which he became Lord of Valencia, governing a large part of the surrounding region.
He died in Valencia 1099 at the age of 56. Valencia fell to the Moors, not long after his death, because King Alfonso didn’t think he could control this the region of Valencia.
|Lord of Valencia|
|El Cid turned his attention toward the sea, leaving Saragossa behind, capturing Jerica, Onda and Almenara in rapid succession, as he moved his men closer to Valencia. The people of Valencia fearing that El Cid would take more lands away from them, they sent an army to meet the Castilians.
El Cid attack the Valencians with the main body, with Minaya harried the flanks with only a hundred knights. This strategy defeated the Valencians; two Moorish leaders were killed in the rout. The campaign towards Valencia took three years, capturing even more towns, including Benicadell, and then began the siege on Valencia.
The Valencians had learned the lesson of not confronting El Cid on the battlefield. Yusuf, a king of Morocco fearing the capture of Valencia, send a large army to relieve the city.
During the siege of Valencia, more men from all over Spain joined the ever-victorious El Cid. His fame had spread all over Spain. The ten-month siege saw the dwindling food supply reduced the city into starvation. They had no choice but to surrender because the army from Morocco had failed to arrive in time; the gates of Valencia opened to El Cid. El Cid became even wealthier than he was ever before.
Hearing of Valencia’s capture, the King of Seville sent an army of 30,000 Moors into a battle against El Cid near Huerta. The Moors were decisively defeated, and fleeing Moors were forced to cross the swallowing water of the river Júcar. The King of Seville escaped with three wounds.
El Cid was now the Lord of Valencia. El Cid reaped even more wealth from the siege of Valencia and the battle against the men of Seville.
El Cid decided to send Minaya back to Castile, with more gifts to King Alfonso – three thousand horses, already equipped with saddles and harnesses. Only the nobleman, Count Garcia Ordonez wasn’t pleased with El Cid’s successes, which the king quickly rebuked that the Campeador had served him better in exile than Garcia have in his court. Apparently Garcia Ordonez was one of those responsible for the falling out between the king and El Cid. This count was the Cid’s mortal enemy.
Minaya also pleaded on El Cid’s behalf, to allow the Cid’s wife and two daughters to join him in Valencia. This request, the king granted. Alfonso had also restored properties of El Cid’s vassals, which he had earlier confiscated, as well as releasing all services to him, who wished to join El Cid in Valencia. The king sent a royal courier with Minaya, as well as an armed escort to ensure the safety of the Cid’s wife and daughters as they leave Castile.
Two young noblemen in the king’s court, known as the Infantes of Carrión – named Deigo Gonzólez and Fernando Gonzólez – saw that they could gain a lot by marrying El Cid’s daughters. So the Infantes of Carrion asked Minaya to speak on their behalf about marriage proposals to the Cid’s two daughters. The Infantes were sons of Don Gonzalo, and brothers of Ansur Gonzólez.
Minaya then went to San Pedro, to fetch Dona Jimena and her daughters. Jimena was happy to rejoin her husband. After making preparation for departure, paying the Abbot for his kindness to El Cid’s family and the creditors Rachel and Vidas clearing the interest that El Cid owed them, they finally left the Burgos. Another sixty knights joined Minaya’s escort.
They stopped by Molina, a town, of whose Moorish governor named Abengalbón was friendly towards El Cid, played as host to the Campeador’s family. Abengalbón also joined Minaya’s company, all the way to Valencia.
The moment news arrived that Minaya has arrived in Valencia; El Cid rode out on Babieca to greet his wife and daughters.
The joyous occasion was disrupted by the arrival of the army of Morocco that had come by sea. 50,000 troops were disembarked from the ships.
Jimena and her daughters were alarmed by the size of the Moorish army, but her husband was very confident that his army will defeat the invaders from Morocco.
The two armies fought in a battle outside of the city walls of Valencia. Even the Bishop Jerome took part in the battle. King Yusuf fled after El Cid struck him three times with his sword. The Moorish army was decisively defeated, with only 104 men escaping, out of the 50,000.
The number of booty left on the battlefield was staggering, and the number of horses amount to 1500 in this latest victory.
The next day, the Campeador sent Minaya back to Castile, with Pedro Bermúda, to give to his king with a gift of 200 horses and King Yusuf’s beautiful tent. Alfonso was impressed by both victory and the rich, new gifts, which he accepted. Count Garcia Ordonez was again displeased at the Cid’s new success.
The Infantes of Carrión had again, brought up the marriage proposals to El Cid’s two daughters, but this time they had brought their petition before their king. The Alfonso thought this would be fine arrangement, but he would leave the matter to El Cid for approval. The king proposed that he should meet with El Cid, and the king told Minaya and Pedro Bermúda that El Cid should make the arrangement of where and when. The meeting was to give pardon to El Cid.
The agreement for the meeting took place on the bank of the river Tagus, in three weeks. Lot of preparation took place. El Cid left behind two knights, Álvar Salvaórez and Galindo Garcíaz in charge of the city’s defence. Valencia’s gates would remain closed for the duration of his absence; Ruy Díaz was thinking the safety of his wife and daughters.
When the king approached Cid and his retinue, the hero dismounted with 15 other knights. The were on their knees, and the king granted pardon to Cid and his followers. Alfonso also restored Cid to the royal favour that he had lost. The king was Cid’s host for that day, but the next day it was Cid who was host and the king was guest.
The king brought up the petition of marriage from the Infantes of Carrion to Cid, the champion was reluctant because of their young age (and was not truly happy with this arrangement), but agreed to any decision of the king. So the king said they would be married, and the Infantes were now vassals to the Cid. Alfonso also approved that the Cid remain as Lord of Valencia.
When El Cid left the king, more nobles and knights followed the hero back to Valencia, to attend the wedding. Reunited with his wife and daughters, he gave them the use of their impending marriages to the Infantes. The ceremony took place the following day, and performed by Bishop Jerome. The celebration afterward lasted for 15 days, with El Cid giving away many gifts to guests.
|Treachery and Justice|
|The Infantes proved to be not fearless knights, for one morning, a lion escaped from the net. While the Cid’s men tried to protect their sleeping lord, Fernado hid under the couch, while his equally frightened brother, Deigo, hid in the wine cellar. When El Cid woke from the commotion, he went to the lion, unarmed, and he dragged the beasts back into the net, which surprised his men. The Infantes felt shame of their cowardice because their father-in-law’s men had mocked them, but they also resented their father-in-law’s boldness.
It was around this time that King Bucar arrived 50,000 Moorish warriors from Morocco, with the intention of capturing Valencia.
But as the men in Valencia prepared for battle, El Cid heard from one of his men that the Infantes have no desire to fight in a war, and wished to return home. The Cid informed his sons-in-law that they need not fight….
Unfortunately, around this point, 50 lines are missing from the poem, but it would seem that the Infantes would take to the field and fight anyway.
Cid asked his nephew, Pedro Bermúda, to protect the Infantes in battle, but Pedro refused. Bishop Jerome asked to strike the 1st blow against the Moors, and did so, by killing 2 with his lance and 5 with his sword. El Cid and his men then fought and drove away the Moors.
In the pursuit, El Cid killed King Bucar and won the Moorish king’s sword, Tizon. Another new victory, and it seemed that his sons-in-law have proven themselves in the battlefield. The Cid shared his wealth among his men and his sons-in-law. El Cid and Minaya Álvar Fáñez had praised the Infantes, but some of the men still mocked them.
So secretly they decided take all their new wealth and their young wives back to Carrion, but they would not return to Valencia.
Back home, they will discard their wives, and marry other daughters. When the Infantes asked for leave to return home, the father-in-law had no suspicion of treachery from Fernado and Deigo, so he readily agreed to their departure. The Cid gave more wealth as dowry. He had even gave them the swords that he won in battle – Colada and Tizón.
El Cid sent his nephew, Félez Muñoz with his daughters, so that he can bring any news from his daughters in Carrion.
They stopped by Molina, ruled by Abengalbon, a Moorish governor and a good friend of El Cid. Abengalbon welcomed the Infantes and the daughters of El Cid, but the visit soured, when Abengalbon’s attendant overheard a conspiracy from the Infantes to murder the governor and rob him of his treasure. Abengalbon would have arrested the Infantes were they not sons-in-law of El Cid, so the governor sent them away. Because they bragged about what they have done to Cid’s daughters, the news reach the king’s ears, which distressed Alfonso greatly.
As the company arrived at the forest of Corpes, the Infantes sent their retinues ahead (including Félez Muñoz), while the Infantes stayed with their young wives. Deigo and Fernado revealed their intention, and began beating the sisters senseless with their belts and spurs, and left them for dead. The treacherous brothers headed back towards Carrion, thinking they can escape the consequences of their actions – be rich for the rest of their lives and free to marry.
Félez Muñoz was concern for his young cousins, retrace his steps back into the forest, finding his cousins unconscious and physically abused. He nursed them until they had regained conscious, and then escorted them the Tower of Dona Urraca. Diego Tellez, a vassal of Alvar Fanez, was a leader of the Tower, and he sent message to El Cid. They moved to San Esterban, where the young women can stay in comfort and regain their strength before returning to Valencia to their parents. El Cid sent Minaya, Pedro Bermúda and Martín Antolínez to escort his daughters home.
When they returned, the two young ladies rejoiced being reunited with their parents. El Cid was also angry at the treatment of his daughters, sent a vassal, Muno Gustioz, to King Alfonso about the treachery of the Infantes and what happened to his daughters.
The king agreed that a trial will be held in Toledo, because he felt partly responsible for insisting and arranging the marriages of Cid’s daughters to the Infantes and believed that these treacherous noblemen should be held accountable for their crimes.
The Infantes didn’t want to go to Toledo, but fear the wrath of their king, who threatened to strip them of their nobility titles and exile them. Even Count Garcia Ordonez was there, an enemy of El Cid and supporter of Carrion.
In the court of Toledo, before other noblemen, where Cid brought his case before the king. El Cid first demand the return of his swords that he had given to his sons-in-law. Since the Infantes had admitted they were no longer want Cid’s daughters as their wives, they had no rights to keep the swords; so they returned the swords. El Cid gave one sword, Colada, to Martín Antolínez, and the other sword, Tizón, to Pedro Bermúda.
The Infantes, other noblemen of Carrion were hoping that was the end of El Cid’s demand, but they were sadly mistaken. El Cid then demanded the return of the dowry, 3000 marks in gold and silver. They were no longer entitled to the money, since they were no longer sons-in-law of the Cid. But the Infantes, could not pay the money back since they had already spent it. So the king offered the money, and the king will take it out of Carrion at his leisure. The Infantes had no choice in the matter, since the court held them accountable for their actions.
Finally, El Cid then demanded satisfaction for the ill-treatment of his daughters. Fernado Gonzólez tried to defend his action toward his wife, claiming that he had the rights to marry a queen or empress, and not petty noble. Pedro Bermúda challenged Fernado being not only a traitor, who abused Cid’s daughter that the daughter was in the king’s charge, but also for being a coward, who hid under the couch when the lion was loose in the palace in Valencia. Fernado Gonzólez had no choice but to accept the challenge. Martín Antolínez also charged and challenged Deigo Gonzólez in combat, for being a traitor and coward too.
The Infantes’ other brother, Ansur Gonzólez challenged the court’s verdict, and Muño Gustioz challenged Ansur in trial of combat. El Cid was satisfied by 3 single combats, but the noblemen and supporters of the Carrion, including Count Garcia Ordonez, that the combats to be held in Carrion, because they were hoping assassinate the challengers before combats could take place. Alfonso agreed, but offered personal escort and protection to champions of El Cid.
El Cid didn’t want to go to Carrion, so he decided to return home, but he was very confident that his champions could defeat the Infantes. But before he left, since his daughters’ marriages were annuled by the king and the court, they were single again, so the Princes of Aragon and Navarre, named Íñigo Jiménez and Ojarra respectively, wished to marry the Cid’s daughters. Both hero and king approved of these arrangements; these were the marriages that El Cid could accept. The 2 princes accompanied El Cid back to Valencia.
The single combats involved jousting and the use of sword. Mercy will be granted to loser. Any combatant leaving the field, will forfeit their combat to his opponent. The 3 Infantes brothers were no match for the 3 champions, despite having expensive armours.
Pedro Bermúda and Fernado Gonzólez jousted first, and Pedro managed to pierce Fernado’s shield and armour with his lance, and unhorsed Fernado. Fernado conceded that he was defeated, when he saw Pedro approached him with drawn sword.
In the clash between Martín and Deigo, they broke the lances and attacked each other with swords, while still mounted on chargers. Martín cut through Deigo’s strap, thereby losing his helmet. Fearing death, Deigo rode out of the field, which signified that he lost his contest.
Muño pierced Ansur’s armour in the 2nd charge, and unhorsed the 3rd Infantes. On his back, Ansur cried out for mercy, which was granted.
So the Infantes of Carrión were branded traitors, by trials by combat. They lost their titles and were exiled. With the king’s blessings, the 3 victors were given permission to return to Valencia with the news that their lord’s daughters were avenged. The news reached Valencia with great rejoicing of the 3 victory, and El Cid and his wife enjoyed celebration of double wedding of their daughters to the princes.
So end the poem of El Cid.
(It should be noted that in history, Cristina married Ramiro, Prince of Aragon, but in the poem he is called Íñigo Jiménez, while Maria married Ramón Berenguer III, count of Barcelona, and not of Navarre.)