Orlando Furioso, Canto XIV
This one has everything.
We get some historic details, some ass-kissing by Ariosto for his patrons. We get a list of names, all knights fighting for or against Charlemagne. We get a damsel being “rescued”. We get massive grand battles. We even get some of that yesterweirdness I love.
After the historic details (the state of the war this far), some ass-kissing (dealing with his patron’s sacking of Ravenna: “We feel too much the anguish and the woe // Of weeping women garbed in widows’ weeds, // The sad young victims of your valiant deeds.”), and a roll call of the Saracen army (Marsilio, Agramante, Brunello, Isolier, Folvirant, &c), we come at last to the Saracen knights who are the primary movers of this canto, Mandricardo and Rodomonte.
Orlando killed Mandricardo’s father at some point earlier. Now Mandricardo wants revenge. Driving home the Iliad homage, Mandricardo wears Hector’s armor after finding it in a tower in Syria and has recently arrived in Europe. He is not happy to sit in a siege, so he decides to hie off and seek adventure/glory/Orlando elsewhere. Very soon he finds survivors of Orlando’s earlier onslaught and they point Mandricardo on to where the battle was fought. Unfortunately, Orlando’s already gone by the time Mandricardo arrives, and so the search continues. Soon he comes upon a band of knights camped by the Tiber.
A parley starts with Mandricardo asking who they are. They say they’re from Granada and have come to escort the King’s daughter to Rodomonte since the two are betrothed. Mandricardo asks if he might maybe possibly get a peek at this princess, but the guard refuses. So Mandricardo kills him and all the other guards. Stabby. Stabby. Stabby (with a spear because Mandricardo doesn’t use a sword for reason’s mentions under Swords below). Killing done he goes to find the princess. Her name’s Doralice. She woke mid combat, tried to flee, but failed. Now she cowers from Mandricardo, but her beauty is so great it weaves a web of love around his heart. And so he abducts her. Content with his prize, he’s less keen on finding Orlando and he starts to pitch woo to Doralice. Eventually the two shelter in a cottage for the night.
“What in the darkness of the night befell / Between the Tartar and the young princess / I cannot, I regret, precisely tell, / So everyone must be content to guess. / I think that they agreed together well / For in the morning they arose no less / But rather more content”
In the morning they return to wandering and soon come upon two knights and a fair maid, but you’ll have to wait to hear about that later, because now it’s time for CHURCH!
King Agramant has heard that Rinaldo and a host of fresh knights are on the way from England to help Charlemagne, so Agramant wants to attack Paris in the morning. Knowing that the Saracens plan to attack, Charlemagne goes to mass. A whole lot of Catholic pomp gets described, communion hosts, confessions, how all the paladins and princes in Paris went to church too. And the prayers are so loud they reach the Big G, God Himself, in heaven. He hears all this and sees the threat to Christendom and decides to join the fray. (This is more inspired by the Iliad than by either Testament). God commands the Archangel Michael to find Silence and Dame Discord, the first to help the English knights sneak across France, the second to sow strife among the Saracens.
This bit delivers the weird.
Michael flies around searching for Silence. At first, he hears that Silence likes to hang out in monasteries, but when Michael arrives at one he discovers that Silence, Peace, Quiet, and Love have all left the monasteries and been replaced by Greed, Wrath, Cruelty, and the rest. In fact who should he find in the monastery but Dame Discord hanging around with a pack of lawyers. Well, Michael figures, that’s half the task done and he tells her what God wants from her. She sets off, but not before telling Michael that Fraud might know where Silence can be found. Michael finds Fraud and she tells him how Silence had taken up with Treachery and Homicide, but still visits the House of Sleep. Off then Michael flies to the House of Sleep where he finds Silence working as something of a security guard in slippers. Silence via gestures asks what Michael wants, and when Michael tell Silence God’s orders (in a whisper natch) Silence sets off right away.
Meanwhile, Agramant’s attack is ready. This guy is over there, this guy is over there, Charlemagne does this and barricades that and for a bit it’s like listening to war gamers go on but eventually Ariosto takes us into the action of siege warfare where Rodomonte (Algerian King, betrothed to Doralice who unbeknown to him Mandricardo is likely diddling at that very moment) hews down Christians right and left. His armor is made of ancient dragon skin, crafted by his ancestor who on the plain of Babel built a tower to challenge God’s majesty. It grants him great strength and invulnerability as if he was a Space Marine.
More hewing and more death ensues. It gets quite grisly. But…
“Discordant concert and harsh harmony / Of shrieks and wailing, fearful to relate, / Of anguished victims in their agony, / Led by so great a leader to their fate, / Were mingled in a strange cacophony / With raucous roarings of primeval hate. / My lord, this canto has now run its course, And I must rest awhile, for I am hoarse.”
CANTO SCORE CARD
Knights: A skazillion named Saracen knights, a skazillion earlier named English Knights, a skazillion Christian knights named as they die, Rodomonte, Mandricardo, Rinaldo
Damsels: Doralice, princess of Granada, betrothed to Rodomonte, abducted by Mandricardo
Mages: None except those Monsters below
Monsters: God (the Big G), Angels, personifications of various things like Silence, Fraud, and Dame Discord who are described as sitting squarely between Ovid’s cosmology and Neil Gaiman’s Endless.
Horses: None are named, but there’s one I’m keeping my eye on because it might be important.
Swords: Durindana lore (this is Orlando’s sword now but once belonged to Mandricardo’s dad, and way long ago belonged to Hector.)
Magic Items: Hector’s Armor (worn by Mandricardo), Rodomonte’s dragon-scale power armor
Orlando Furioso, Canto XIII
Despite the awesome illustration this canto was another yawn.
There’s a damsel (Isabella). She has relationship problems. Yadda yadda. There’s a super awesome knight (Ruggiero). He solves the damsel’s relationship problems by killing people (Pirates). Then it’s off to another knight (Bradamante). This one does something that necessitates the name dropping of a whole heap of names. They’re all Bradamante’s wicked awesome female descendants. None of whom have any bearing on the story. The knight then gets some advice from a mage (Melissa). Of course the knight ignores this advice and the bad thing happens (Bradamante gets caught in the Knight Motel.) Then it’s off to someone or someplace else, before Ariosto calls it quits and promises he’ll get back to the good stuff in the next Canto. Just let him rest a bit.
Going with my Marvel comics Stan Lee comparison I’d say this is pretty much a filler issue where the characters you love are there punching the villains you hate, but it’s neither the first awesome take on the story or the startling re-imagining; it’s just Spiderman punching the Vulture. Again.
But, it’s not dull enough to make me stop reading.
Canto Score Card
Knights: A bunch
Damsels: A few
Mages: A Melissa
Old Ladies: One
Horses: I suppose
Monsters: Pirates and the Knight Motel
Orlando Furiso, Canto XII
Back to them knights doing knightly stuff and messing the sweet honey iced tea up! Last canto was a bit of a bust. This Canto? It’s aight.
To start that rascally old sorcerer Atlante has devised a new trick to stop all them knightly battle boys: the Knight Motel. Think of it like a roach motel except it’s a castle and it casts an illusion (usually a damsel in distress) on passing knights to trap them within. Sadly Atlante didn’t coat the floors in glue, but instead provided food for all the knights his castle captured. And being the old rascally mage he is Atlante don’t give a dang that he’s capturing Infidel and Christian knights willy. Makes no diff to him. A knight’s a knight’s a knight after all.
So Orlando thinks he spies Angelica but it’s only an illusion cast by the knight motel. We also learn Ruggiero saw a similar illusion back in Canto ??? when he saw Bradamante carried away by a giant. That too was the Knight motel at work.
Meanwhile Angelica’s decided she’s had enough of Western Europe and wants to go back home to Asia. But to do this she wants to have a knight who will protect her. She’d prefer Orlando, but figure Sacripante is better since he’d be easier to manipulate. But where is Sacripante? He’s stuck in the knight motel. So Angelica slips in there using the magic ring.
Now the magic ring makes her immune to sorcery, so when she gets in there she sees all these dopes roaming around unable to see each other because of the ~magic~. She finds Sacripante and via the ring dispels the illusions. Unfortunately, Orlando and Ferrau are within range of the spell and also affected. They realize where they are and see Angelica right there in front of them. Oh dang! Poor Angelica, she’s in a pickle now. And what does Angelica do when she is in a pickle? Why, she flees! So that’s what she does. And the knights pursue.
But fortunately the knights are knights and therefore prone to fighting over stupid stuff, which they promptly start doing. This time the three start arguing about a helmet. Ferrau doesn’t have one and has vowed not to wear one until he gets Orlando’s. This leads to a duel between Orlando and Ferrau.
A thing about both Orlando and Ferrau they both got the Achilles treatment and are invulnerable except in certain spots. Orlando can only be injured on the soles of his feet and Ferrau in his belly button. This makes the duel between them a big, loud, pointless affair. Sacripante watches for a bit, then figures he can catch Angelica while the others are distracted.
Of course, Angelica has been watching the whole thing and she grabs Orlando’s helmet which has been hanging from a tree this whole time. The two knights realize the object of their dispute has disappeared and quit with their fighting. Setting off again they ride into the wood choosing different paths. By now Angleica is tired and she’s stopped by a well and set the helmet down. Ferrau reaches the spot and claims the helmet but not Angelica (because she disappeared again). She figures she will try to make her back east using the ring’s magic.
Meanwhile, Orlando roams the forest and gets lost. Days pass. Ariosto takes us back to the siege on Paris and some Saracen knights. Orlando comes upon them and there’s a huge melee in which Orlando’s sword, Durindana, blithely sings. He kills a couple of Saracen knights, then travels on to where he spies a cave with a light within.
And guess what he finds in there?
Why, it’s another damsel in distress!
What’s her deal? I don’t know because…
Please hear the rest, my lord, another day,
It is now time to put the book away.
Until next time!
CANTO SCORE CARD
Knights: Too many! Orlando (you know him), Ruggiero (you know him), Gradasso (no clue who this is), Brandimarte (some guy from an earlier canto), Ferrau (a Saracen “giant”), and Sacripante the Circassian (a Circassian). They are all stuck in the knight motel, Manilard King of Norizia, a Saracen knight and Alzirdo, another Saracen knight, fight Orlando at the end and get whupped.
Mages: Atlante (Alcina gets mentioned in passing)
Damsels: Angelica and an as yet unnamed sad damsel in a cave
Horses: Brigliador (Orlando’s wicked sweet horse)
Orlando Furioso, Canto XI
Knights: 5+ (Ruggiero, Orlando, Bradamante, Oberto King of Ireland, Bireno the bastard who did Olimpia dirty, and probably a bunch of unnamed Irish knights)
Damsels: 2 (Angelica and Olimpia)
Monsters: 3 (the hippogriff (it gets tired of Ruggiero and flies off to deus ex machina elsewhere), the Orc (RIP), and a giant (defeats Bradamante)
Swords: 1 (Orlando’s Durindana)
Horses: unknown and unnamed
Wizards: ? (a couple mentioned in passing)
In this canto nothing much happens that we haven’t already seen.
A knight (Ruggiero) seeks to assault Angelica. Angelica flees by magical means (she still has the magic ring from last canto). Ruggiero sets off in search of her. Both stumble into their own unrelated adventures. One being Ruggiero witnessing his beloved Bradamante get defeated by a giant.
Then it’s back to some other knight and that one goes to a place we’ve already seen (the Isle of Tears where the Ebudans feed women to the Orc) and the earlier scene plays out again only this time it’s different.
Now it’s Olimpia about to get fed to the Orc and it’s Orlando who shows up to save her. The Orc gets killed (Orlando drags it out of the sea with an anchor) and the Ebudians are massacred by the Irish. Then the king of Ireland, Oberto, glimpses Olimpia and instantly falls in love with her. (She’s naked.) Orlando asks her how she got there, since last he saw she was about to get happily married. She then relates her tale of woe and betrayal by Bireno, and the Irish king is like “Well, stay with me and I’ll give you your kingdom back.” She does and that all gets taken care of in a couple of stanzas.
Meanwhile, Orlando goes off to do his own thing and Ariosto says Orlando did so much cool stuff but Ariosto can’t talk about it all because then this book would be even longer than it already is.
Along in there Ariosto uses the word “lover” to mean perspective rapist, and we get a few stanzas concerning the evils of guns and a few more talking about how sexy and white the naked Olimpia is.
A yawn all around.
I hope it will pick up some in the next canto.