This Canto is a whirlwind of plate spinning. Ariosto has a lot of character to keep in rotation, and sometimes, True Believers, I can even hear Stan Lee coming through the prose.
This Canto gives us more of the same except maybe more so.
Ariosto is tying up some story lines while laying the groundwork for others. And as always, he introduces a half-dozen new characters into the plot. So buckle on your swords and let’s go!
I could’ve sworn the last canto ended with Melissa about to tell her story, but I was wrong. Instead, we stay with Ruggiero. And Astolfo comes back. Remember him? He’s the guy who was turned into a bush and warned Ruggiero of Alcina? He comes back and gets some hints that he might be an important guy to pay attention to. Then we get Rinaldo. Then, Angelica. Remember her from Canto I? Then we get some Orlando who we haven’t seen in a long time. He’s sad and starting to go furioso. Then we get some new guy and his girlfriend!
I am starting to come to the conclusion that this book is not a single story but a series of nested prologues and the real story will never start!
To start, let’s return to Ruggiero fleeing Alcina’s realm for Logistilla’s. He is making speed when some elf spies him and wonders what’s all the rush for. Finding Ruggiero less than willing to talk the elf pursues him. Falcons get used as weapons. Magic makes people speedy. Ruggiero is not happy and unveils the magic shield he has and knocks the elf, his falcon, and his dog out.
Who was this elf? We don’t know yet.
Meanwhile Alcina learns of Ruggiero’s flight and promptly slips into a rage and rends her clothes. But she doesn’t know where he went so she divides her forces and sends some over land and the others over sea to find him.
Seeing Alcina’s city is now defenseless, Melissa saunters in and starts freeing prisoners and casting dispel magic (a 3rd level abjuration spell according to 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons) all around the place. This means all those knights formerly turned into animals and trees are now human again. Hurray! More characters for Ariosto to introduce! One of these guys, Astolfo, is currently next in line for the throne of England and he has a magic lance that it’s important Melissa find for him. That done she hies off to Logistilla’s realm, and we switch back to Ruggiero long enough for Aruisto to say how hard the miserable landscapes Ruggiero has to cross are. But enough of that guy, let’s go to Britain and check on Rinaldo.
Now that everything is all right in the land, Rinaldo brings up Charlemagne’s scheme to recruit English and Scottish knights to the war against the infidel. The King is all for it and plans get made. All the knights are to set out for the continent on such and such a day. And that’s enough of Rinaldo. Let’s check on Angelica.
Angelica’s been on the run since Canto 1. Last we saw her she’d found help from a hermit. And while at first that hermit seemed all right, it now turns out not to be the case. Angelica’s beauty has inflamed his heart and he’s conjured up a devil and put it in a horse’s body to keep her from staying in any one place. At last the horse reaches the sea and dives in, carrying Angelica far out to sea to an empty island. She laments her fate and how everywhere she goes men slander and seek to abuse her. The hermit reappears dressed as a monk and she ceases her complaints and beseeches the good man to assist her. Instead, he starts feeling her up. When she protests he pulls out some “magic juice” and knocks her out. He then goes full-on molester and would penetrate her if he could, but the “years have undermined his aptitude”.
Then the pirates appear.
The pirates come from Ebuda an island far beyond Ireland and the Hebrides where the God Proteus keeps the orc and all the other monsters of the deep. This is because long ago Proteus raped the island king’s daughter only to have the king kill her and the unborn child. This sent Proteus in a rage and he unleashed the seas and all its creatures on the Edudians. It was bad for them, so they went to an oracle and the oracle said you need to sacrifice a maiden to the sea beast every day. Before long the Ebudians ran out of their own maidens so they started raiding and taking captives. Imagine how glad they must have felt finding Angelica and the horny hermit there on the desert island. They gather them right up and set off for home where the sea beasts wait.
Time to look at Orlando, who’s back with Charlemagne in Paris. Orlando’s in a glum place due to desire for Angelica. He’s sad and despondent, sifting over his past and lamenting fate. He tosses and turns. He dreams, and in his dreams Angelica is calling to him for help. He wakes and decides to abandon Paris, setting off without a word to anyone except some other guy. This guy is Brandimarte and to be honest at first I thought he was a horse, but no he is a knight and Orlando’s friend. In the morning when Charlemagne wakes up and asks where Orlando is, Brandimarte tells the king and the old man rages. Brandimarte promptly sets off to find Orlando, a task he expects will be easy, but of course it isn’t. He’s gone for so long that Ariosto gives him a girlfriend, Fiordiligi, and has her set out after him, promising MORE STORIES ABOUT THEIR ADVENTURES. I can’t wait!
But enough of these jerks. It’s Orlando the book’s named after, so let’s spend more time with him. And we will… in the next canto!
Until then True Believers,