Don Quixote of the Mancha

This is the story that Miguel de Cervantes, Spaniard, published in
1605, which the world has been reading again and again ever since.
Once upon a time there lived in a certain village in a province of
Spain called the Mancha, a gentleman named Quixada or Queseda—for
indeed historians differ about this—whose house was full of old
lances, halberds, and such other armours and weapons. He was, besides,
the owner of an ancient target or shield, a raw-boned steed, and a
swift greyhound. His pot consisted daily of common meats, some lentils
on Fridays, and perhaps a roast pigeon for Sunday’s dinner. His dress
was a black suit with velvet breeches, and slippers of the same colour,
which he kept for holidays, and a suit of homespun which he wore on
On the purchase of these few things he spent the small rents that came
to him every year. He had in his house a woman-servant of about some
forty years old, a Niece not yet twenty, and a lad that served him
both in field and at home, and could saddle his horse or manage a
The master himself was about fifty years old, a strong, hard-featured
man with a withered face. He was an early riser, and had once been very
fond of hunting. But now for a great portion of the year he applied
himself wholly to reading the old books of Knighthood, and this with
such keen delight that he forgot all about the pleasures of the chase,
and neglected all household matters. His mania and folly grew to such a
pitch that he sold many acres of his lands to buy books of the exploits
and adventures of the Knights of old. These he took for true and
correct histories, and when his friends the Curate of the village, or
Mr. Nicholas the worthy Barber of the town, came to see him, he would
dispute with them as to which of the Knights of romance had done the
greatest deeds.
So eagerly did he plunge into the reading of these books that he many
times spent whole days and nights poring over them; and in the end,
through little sleep and much reading, his brain became tired, and he
fairly lost his wits. His fancy was filled with those things that he
read, of enchantments, quarrels, battles, challenges, wounds, wooings,
loves, tempests, and other impossible follies, and those romantic tales
so firmly took hold of him that he believed no history to be so certain
and sincere as they were.
Finally, his wit being extinguished, he was seized with one of the
strangest whims that ever madman stumbled on in this world, for it
seemed to him right and necessary that he himself should become a
Knight Errant, and ride through the world in arms to seek adventures
and practise in person all that he had read about the Knights of
old. Therefore he resolved that he would make a name for himself by
revenging the injuries of others, and courting all manner of dangers
and difficulties, until in the end he should be rewarded for his valour
in arms by the crown of some mighty Empire. And first of all he caused
certain old rusty arms that belonged to his great-grandfather, and
had lain for many years neglected and forgotten in a by-corner of his
house, to be brought out and well scoured. He trimmed them and dressed
them as well as he could, and then saw that they had something wanting,
for instead of a proper helmet they had only a morion or headpiece,
like a steel bonnet without any visor. This his industry supplied, for
he made a visor for his helmet by patching and pasting certain papers
together, and this pasteboard fitted to the morion gave it all the
appearance of a real helmet. Then, to make sure that it was strong
enough, he out with his sword and gave it a blow or two, and with the
very first did quite undo that which had cost him a week to make. He
did not at all approve the ease with which it was destroyed, and to
make things better he placed certain iron bars within it, in such a
manner that made him feel sure it was now sound and strong, without
putting it to a second trial.
He next visited his horse, who though he had more corners than a
Spanish _real_ or shilling, which in those days was anything but
round, and had nothing on him but skin and bone, yet he seemed to
him a better steed than Bucephalus, the noble animal that carried
Alexander the Great when he went to battle. He spent four days
inventing a name for his horse, saying to himself that it was not fit
that so famous a Knight’s horse, and so good a beast, should want a
known name. Therefore he tried to find a name that should both give
people some notion of what he had been before he was the steed of a
Knight Errant, and also what he now was; for, seeing that his lord and
master was going to change his calling, it was only right that his
horse should have a new name, famous and high-sounding, and worthy
of his new position in life. And after having chosen, made up, put
aside, and thrown over any number of names as not coming up to his
idea, he finally hit upon Rozinante, a name in his opinion sublime and
well-sounding, expressing in a word what he had been when he was a
simple carriage horse, and what was expected of him in his new dignity.
The name being thus given to his horse, he made up his mind to give
himself a name also, and in that thought laboured another eight days.
Finally he determined to call himself Don Quixote, which has made
people think that his name was Quixada and not Queseda, as others
have said; and remembering that the great Knights of olden time were
not satisfied with a mere dry name, but added to it the name of their
kingdom or country, so he like a good Knight added to his own that also
of his province, and called himself Don Quixote of the Mancha, whereby
he declared his birthplace and did honour to his country by taking it
for his surname.
His armour being scoured, his morion transformed into a helmet, his
horse named, and himself furnished with a new name, he considered that
now he wanted nothing but a lady on whom he might bestow his service
and affection. ‘For,’ he said to himself, remembering what he had
read in the books of knightly adventures, ‘if I should by good hap
encounter with some Giant, as Knights Errant ordinarily do, and if I
should overthrow him with one blow to the ground, or cut him with a
stroke in two halves, or finally overcome and make him yield to me, it
would be only right and proper that I should have some lady to whom I
might present him. Then would he, entering my sweet lady’s presence,
say unto her with a humble and submissive voice: “Madam, I am the
Giant Caraculiambro, Lord of the Island called Malindrania, whom the
never-too-much-praised Knight Don Quixote of the Mancha hath overcome
in single combat. He hath commanded me to present myself to your
greatness, that it may please your Highness to dispose of me according
to your liking.”‘
You may believe that the heart of the Knight danced for joy when he
made that grand speech, and he was even more pleased when he had found
out one whom he might call his lady. For, they say, there lived in the
next village to his own a hale, buxom country wench with whom he was
sometime in love, though for the matter of that she had never known
of it or taken any notice of him whatever. She was called Aldonca
Lorenso, and her he thought fittest to honour as the lady of his fancy.
Then he began to search about in his mind for a name that should not
vary too much from her own, but should at the same time show people
that she was a Princess or lady of quality. Thus it was that he called
her Dulcinea of Toboso, a name sufficiently strange, romantic, and
musical for the lady of so brave a Knight. And now, having taken to
himself both armour, horse, and lady fair, he was ready to go forth and
seek adventures.