This canto’s a long one full of death and mayhem. Or more death and mayhem. There’s been plenty to go around. What makes this canto different is that we are hopping from one violent adventure to another. Rodomonte kills a bunch of people. Grifone kills a bunch of people. Astolfo kills a bunch of people. Zerbino kills a bunch of people. Darindildo (not his real name) kills a bunch of people. Etc. Some new people show up who seem a bit more like actual characters than names on a list.
To start we get some more monarchist boot-licking from Ariosto. A lot of “Magnanimous Signor…” and all that. His point being only bad monarchs jump to conclusions without making thorough investigations, which is exactly what King Norandino did and now he’s pissed off Grifone and the heads of his people are getting lopped off and their brains bashed in. It’s gory with heads being cloven down to the teeth, limbs hewed hither thither, and people being chopped in twain. Grifone’s killed everyone who’s come at him and now holds a defensive position on a bridge. The king approaches to see who this knight is, but enough of that let’s leave Damascus and go back to Paris where Charlemagne’s cornered Rodomonte.
Charlemagne’s whole crew attacks Rodomonte but he shrugs it all off since he’s in his dragon armor. More heads get severed (goodbye Hugh of Dordogne), Rodomonte wades through corpses, reaches a wall, and leaps over it into the Seine. He swims ashore and thinks of redoubling his attack, but who does he see? A dwarf, come to him bearing a message (and carrying Discord with him.) This dwarf tells him that Doralice has been “abducted” by Mandricardo. Rodomonte’s anger shifts away from the Christian army and he demands the dwarf take him to Doralice. And away they go.
Meanwhile, back inside Paris, Charlemagne’s rallied the troops and it’s time to counterattack. More names! Falsiron, Serpentino, Balugante! More limb loppery!
The biggest part of this bit besides all the killing is Darindildo, I mean Dardinello. He’s a new guy, one of the Saracens, and a courageous knight. He kills Lurcanio. Remember him? He was the guy back in England who accused that damsel of cheating and driving poor prince Ariodante insane (way back in cantos V and VI) until Rinaldo showed up and set things straight. Well, Darindello kills him, and then Rinaldo makes to kill Darindello. (The two having to cleave through the massed soldiers to fight each other.)
This all gets important later, but for now it’s back to Damascus!
Grifone’s killed a bunch of people but now he’s trapped on the bridge. Norandino eventually parlays with him and it’s a lot of chivalrous nonsense about honorable foes and all that. But he admits his mistake in thinking Grifone a base coward, and really he had to kill every one he killed, because it’s the only way to repay the insults he suffered. Such is the reasoning of kings. He offers Grifone half his kingdom and the two put aside their differences. Norandino invites Grifone back to the palace where they set about feasting. (Orrigille and Martano having high-tailed it as soon as Grifone returned.)
But enough about them… let’s go to Jerusalem and see what’s happening there!
Aquilante’s discovered Grifone’s disappearance and very quickly realizes the cause of it. He sets off in pursuit and comes upon Martano wearing Grifone’s armor. At first Aquilante thinks it’s his brother and goes to embrace him, but soon realizes that this isn’t his brother, it’s that boy-toy miscreant Martano. Martano and Orrigille make to flee, but get caught and brought back to Damascus for punishment. There’s a warm reunion between Aquilante and Grifone then they and Norandino talk of what to do with Martano and Orrigille. Aquilante and Norandino favor torture before execution. Grifone pleads for mercy. The others relent. Martano gets publicly flogged and Orrigille locked away in prison. That done, Norandino suggests they throw another tournament with some awesome weapons (a sword and a mace) he found as a prize.
Word of the tournament reaches Jerusalem, so Sansonetto and Astolfo depart for Damascus. On the road they meet Marfisa. She’s a lady knight and Saracen, but she’s pals with them and joins their party because she’s heading to Damascus too. We learn a bit about her prowess: strong enough to make Orlando sweat, and that she was robbed of her weapons by the dwarf Brunello offscreen sometime ago. So of course when they reach Damascus, it’s her weapons Norandino’s offering as a prize… and since everyone in this book responds to every inconvenience with violence Marfisa, Astolfo, and Sansonetto attack and we’re back to the loppery. That goes on for a while. The trio wins the weapons and makes their escape. Grifone and Aquilante hear about this and pursue, thinking these knights are bad news. But then when they reach them, they see it’s their old buddies and there’s a reunion. They get the trio to ride back with them to Damascus, which they do, and Norandino forgives them and claims it was all a misunderstanding. He’s also scared shitless of Marfisa. Tempers cooled, the tournament begins, and every one’s happy. Afterward, they set off back for France and the war, but of course a raging storm throws them off course.
But wait there’s more…
Back on the battlefield outside Paris, Rinaldo and Dardinello are advancing towards each other. They boast. They jeer. Then Rinaldo takes his sword Fusberta and splits Dardinello’s head in twain. And the Saracens flee at the sight of this. Night starts to fall and the battle ends, each army digs in, the Saracens much worse off then the Christians. And so, having a quiet moment in his narrative Ariosto does what Ariosto does best: introduce more mothertruckin’ characters.
Enter Medoro and Cloridano.
These two guys were Dardinello’s best friends in that Cary Grant/Randolph Scott kind of way. Cloridano’s a tall huntsman, and Medoro’s a beautiful youth. These two are having a bad time of it because they loved Dardinello and now he’s dead. Medoro is especially upset and he can’t stand thinking about Darindello’s corpse being left out on the battlefield for the scavengers. They sneak away and enter the Christian camp, Cloridano says they should take the opportunity to kill as many knights as they can. And they do. A dozen death scenes later, they reach the battlefield and Medoro prays to the moon to lead them to Darindello’s body. It does and they lift up the body, seeking to return home. But lo, what’s that? It’s Zerbino come back from killing Saracens. He sees the two and approaches. Cloriando is for abandoning the body and fleeing, but Medoro refuses. They make for a nearby tangled wood of labyrinthine twists… and what happens there will be revealed in another canto.
CANTO SCORE CARD
Knights: Oodles! Christian and Saracen! Charlemagne, Rodomonte, Charlemagne’s Bros (Namo, Olivier, Ugier, Avolio, Alvin, Otto, Berlinger), Norandino King of Syria, Martano Boy-Toy Miscreant of Antioch, plenty who were named in those lists from earlier cantos who get name checked again before they get deaded, Dardinello is the most important of these, Astolfo, Aquilante, Sansonetto, Marfisa the Lady Knight, Medoro and Cloriando
Mages: Alfeo, a shitty soothsayer killed in his sleep by Cloridano
Damsels: Orrigille that Jezebel, others like Doralice mentioned in passing
Horses: none named
Magic Items: none we haven’t seen already
This canto’s odd and not for any good reason.
Ariosto gets political. Except he’s a Christian Monarchist. So in this chapter we learn that tyrants are god’s judgment against evil populations, Christians should invade Africa, and no European ruler should sleep while the Turks hold Jerusalem. Also like Dante, Ariosto has the habit of bringing up some genuinely awful local ruler you’ve never heard of.
That’s the trouble with the age of despots. If everyone’s terrible, it’s easy to get lost in the scrum and not stand out. No matter how Magnifico you might have been.*
After all this it’s back to the action.
Charlemagne rallies his troops. They return to a Paris where Rodomonte has left a trail of slaughter. The only survivors are trapped in the palace with Rodomonte pounding at the doors. No sword, no arrow, no catapult, nor mangonel can injure him. Terror runs rampant in the halls. Charlemagne arrives with his companions and makes some speeches. Then they all charge Rodomonte, and… Ariosto cuts to Grifone and Origille as they enter Damascus.
Damascus is hopping for the festival. Silks and gems adorn balconies, tapestries and brocades hang from every window, fragrant perfumes, gladsome sounds, sumptuous repasts, the whole bit. Grifone wants to know what’s the deal and who’s the party for. A courtier explains. The King (Norandino) married the Princess of Cyrpus. While traveling by ship they put in on an island. While wedding party hunted they encountered a terrible monster.
“It ambles on towards us where we sit,
As though an alp had yawned and given birth,
Its chest is moist with slobber, long its snout,
Whence tusks or fangs, as on a boar, stick out.”
This beast promptly captures heaps of people excluding the king but including the princess and takes them back to its lair for the eating. The king learns all this and sets off to rescue the princess. He encounters the monster’s wife. She tells him the Princess is safe because the monster only eats men, and simply keeps the women imprisoned forever and ever. That’s no good, the King says, but the wife tells him it’s hopeless. The king refuses to believe this, and the wife finally says “Well, I got this idea.”
And so, Norandino King of Syria covers himself in goat shit. Honestly, I don’t know if this is goat shit or not. They take an old goat carcass and remove “stuff” from its buttocks region.
“The beldam urged the king to use the grease
Of an old goat which around its bowels clung.”
The king rubs this all over himself and puts on a goat skin. This done he tricks the monster (the monster’s blind and hunts by smell) into letting the king into its lair where he quickly tells everyone imprisoned there to rub goat shit all over themselves. This done they all sneak away but Lucina gets scared and flees back into the cave. The king lingers. The princess languishes. Tears and sadness abound. This goes on until Mandricardo and Gradasso show up, loot the monster’s lair, and take the princess away. Except this isn’t really explored too much. They give Lucina back to her dad and he gives her back to Norandino, and that’s why they’ve decided to have a party.
Grifone agrees that this was indeed a cool story, bro. He then preps for the coming tournament and we learn Orrigille’s current boy-toy’s name at last. It’s Martano. Grifone and he enter the fray, but Martano gets scared during the first combat and flees. Everyone laughs and jeers at him. All this fills Grifone with shame, but instead of turning tail he uses his shame to fight ever harder. He defeats everyone including a state minister named Salinterno who no one liked. Grifone then goes home to sleep off his rage. While Grifone’s sleeping Martano sneaks in and steals his armor and horse (as yet unnamed). He then goes to the King and convinces everyone that it was himself who defeated all those guys. The King falls for this, and Martano-Grifone takes a seat of honor in the royal tent along with Orrigille.
Back in his room, Grifone wakes up and finds all his stuff stolen. Martano’s stuff however is still there, so he dresses in this and asks the innkeeper about whoever too his horse. He learns where Martano and Orrigille went and sets off after them. Meanwhile the King and Martano complain about that cowardly asshole who ran away. And look isn’t that him riding by now. So they capture Grifone and throw him in a dungeon and heap insults on him and parade him through the square and read his alleged crimes to his face which are in fact not his but Martano’s. The people plan to chase Grifone through the streets, but the moment they cut him free a sword and buckler does he seize.
Now he shall show them real power… well, not now but in the next canto. Ariosto’s tired and says this canto’s gone on long enough.
See you then!
CANTO SCORE CARD
Knights: Charlemagne, Rodomonte, Charlemagne’s Bros (Namo, Olivier, Ugier, Avolio, Alvin, Otto, Berlinger), Norandino King of Syria, Mandricard and Gradasso, Martano Boy-Toy Miscreant of Antioch, Syrian Knights (Thyrsis, Corimbo, Salinterno, etc)
Damsels: Perfidious Orrigille, Lucina Princess of Cypress
Horses: none named
Swords: none named
Monsters: Another “Orc” who might be the aged cyclops Polyphemus
Magic Items: Grease from an old goat’s bowels, Grifone’s Impenetrable Armor (enchanted by a snow-white maid)
* The person Ariosto brings up is Ezzellino da Romano and I leave it to you to read about him on wikipedia.
And here we are again.
Ariosto starts by telling us that he’s been unlucky in love too. He’s a sensitive guy after all and has felt the pain of being spurned. That done it’s back to Grifone sneaking away to Antioch to meet-up with the brazen Orrigille. She’s there with her new beau (as yet unnamed) to take part in a joust hosted by the King of Syria. Grifone’s itching to fight, but Orrigille doesn’t want him to kill her current boy-toy. She puts on a fake smile and embraces Grifone, saying how awful it was that he abandoned her. Her lover plays along, and they cool Grifone’s temper. In the end it’s himself who feels like he’s done wrong. The trio enters Antioch, and that’s where Ariosto leaves them.
Time to go back to Paris where a bajillion knights battle on.
A lot of these guys get named only to get killed a few lines later. The main part though is Rodomonte killing everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY he meets in Paris. Old man? Dead. Child? Dead. Fair maiden? Dead. He’s also setting fire to the city as he goes. It’s a grisly scene full of terror, and the Saracens would’ve won if they had followed behind him, but Rinaldo and his English reinforcements appeared. Rinaldo rallies the troops with a long speech and then the battle starts.
This is the meat of the canto, but difficult to summarize. I’ll say it’s a montage of mayhem. Spears break. People die. It’s grisly.
“And where you see one dying soldier lie,
Another he has slain lies stretched near by.”
Ferrau’s favorite lyre-boy dies. Zerbino is unhorsed and nearly killed. Bambirago and Agricalt, whoever the heck they are, die. Pauliano, too. Did I make up that last guy? I don’t know. At last, Charlemagne hears word that Rodomonte’s killing everyone and the city’s on fire. The king pulls back to save the city, and the tide of battle turns again.
But that’s a story for another canto.
CANTO SCORE CARD
Knights: Grifone, Orrigille’s as yet unnamed current beau, Rodomonte, Rinaldo, Zerbino, Lurcanio, Ariodante, Ferrau, a bajillion others (the Guidos! AGAIN!) some of whom are only named a line or two before they die.
Damsels: Orrigille the not-so-innocent
Horses: Baiardo, Rinaldo’s horse
Swords: Fusberta, Rinaldo’s sword
Monsters: None really, although some of the Saracen knights are descended from giants
Magic Items: Rodomonte’s Dragon Power Armor either burns and/or makes its wearer immune to fire
(My favorite thing about this canto is the illustration above. It could literally be captioned, “Holy shit! Is that your ex?”)
This one’s long and has a bajillion names in it so buckle up kids, it’s time to get FURIOSO!
Last we left off, the Saracen army was attacking the walls of Paris. Knights were dying every which way and Rodomonte was leaping over flaming trenches to get inside the city. We get back to that in this canto, but first Ariosto has to do some ass-kissing/state craft commentary. Lots of advice against killing everybody including your own troops in order to achieve your goals and stuff like that. Basically, don’t be a Rodomonte.
“Eleven thousand men and twenty-eight
Amid that raging holocaust lay dead.
Unwillingly they went to meet their fate,
Unwisely by so great a leader led.”
Then of course we hear about another bajillion named knights: King Bambirago, Baliverzo, Corineo, Prusion, Malabuferso, Ugier the Dane, Salamone, the Guidos, both Angelins, Namo and his sons Avolio, Otto, Avino, and Berlingier, and many more. Are any of these people important? I don’t know. It’s a mad brawl and everyone is killing everyone, but Ariosto decides he wants to go back to Astolfo.
Who is Astolfo you ask? Well, he is a guy from a few cantos ago.
To refresh your memories he was one of Alcina’s former lovers who got turned into a tree and told Rindalo? Ruggiero? Ruggiero to watch out for her. I think he’s also related to the king of England and might be in line for the throne. After Alcina’s defeat, he’s hung around with Logistilla and her people, but now it’s time to go back home. So he sets sail with a couple of Logistilla’s handmaidens (Sofrosina and Andronica) and because Alcina’s power doesn’t extend to Persia and Arabia he figures he can sneak past her by going that way. Logistilla also gives him a couple of magic items: a book (a Guide Against Enchantment) and a horn (pretty much a Horn of Blasting for you gamer nerds). Once outfitted, and “with a favourable wind to poop,” Astolfo is off. As they go Andronica talks about Italian explorers who she sees in the future discovering a new land somewhere in the sea and how great it is that Christianity will be brought to these places.
There’s also a long aside here about a historical figure named Andrea Doria. He was a statesman/mercenary captain from Genoa, and I only bring him up because I want to share this painting of him as an elderly thirst trap.
Once all that’s done and the travelogue finishes up, Astolfo reaches the east coast of Africa (around Ethiopia) and disembarks. At which point he is given a horse, and not just any horse, but a *magic* horse named Rabicano. Now Astolfo is ready. First person he encounters is a holy man who says there’s a terrible giant nearby who kills all travelers so wise-up son and don’t go that way. But Astolfo is a knight and he says that sounds like someone that needs killing! So the holy man tells Astolfo how the giant has a magic net (forged by Vulcan) he lays under the sands to trap his victims before taking them back to his lair for slaughter. Astolfo thanks the hermit and makes for the giant’s abode.
The giant’s name is Caligorante and his place is covered in bones and grisly trophies, naked torsos and limbs and all that mess. He sees Astolfo approaching and gets giddy anticipating the killing. But Astolfo uses his horn first and the blast scares Caligorante so bad he takes off running, only to get caught in his own trap. As Caligorante struggles, Astolfo approaches with sword in hand ready to lop off his head – but at the last minute Astolfo relents. Instead, he keeps the giant bound and decides to parade him throughout the land. So that’s what he does, making straight for Cairo. Everyone there is very impressed, and they tell Astolfo about another horrible giant named Orrilo.
Orrilo lives in the dread domain next door and is the enchanted offspring of a sprite and a fairy, born to do men spite. His magic power is that he can reattach limbs when they get chopped off. This is described as like when two beads of mercury draw together and rejoin, so I imagine him sort of looking like Odo from Deep Space 9.
When Astolfo gets there he finds two knights already fighting Orrilo. These guys are the sons of Oliver (?) and they’re names are Grifone the White and Aquilant the Black. They’ve already killed Orrilo’s giant crocodile and now are making to fight the giant. But no matter how many times they lop off his head or hack off a limb, Orrilo laughs and simply reattaches it.
“Down to his teeth Grifone splits his skull
And Aquilante splits it to his chest,
On him such mortal blows are void and null.
He laughs: the sons of Oliver are vexed.”
While the knights fight Orrilo their adoptive moms watch from nearby. Like plenty of others in this fakakta book Grifone and Aquilant have the Achilles problem where bad things are prophesied to happen to them if they leave home, so their moms are doing what they can to prevent their going. The moms step in when their knights are near to exhaustion and tell Orrilo to go home, which he does. Astolfo then rides up, glad to see the brothers, and all return to a nearby castle to recover. (They leave Caligorante tied up outside.)
Over dinner Astolfo pulls out Logistilla’s magic book and reads the entry for monsters like Orrilo. He discovers the giant can be killed if a certain hair is plucked from his head. But which one? That’s the puzzle. He asks the brothers if it would be all right if he fought Orrilo tomorrow. The brothers are like go ahead, it’s cool. So next day Astolfo and Orrilo in combat engage.
There’s stabbing and smacking, Orrilo’s dismembered like the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but no matter how many times he slices the giant Astolfo can never figure out which hair he needs to pluck from the beast’s head. Finally he chops off Orrilo’s head and runs away with it while the body chases after him. Astolfo hops on Rabicano and as he rides away he searches the head for the hair. In the end he can’t find it so he decides to shave the entire thing. He sticks his fingers up the giant’s nose to hold it steady (a detail apparently forever lodged now in my head). This works, because once the head is shaved the giant’s torso falls down dead. Astolfo then rides back to town to show off, because why not?
But wait! There’s more!
Astolfo convinces Grifone and Aquilant to leave home and come with him back to Europe by way of the Holy Land. Their moms are sad, but so it goes. Along the way they meet a knight from Mecca named Sansonet, who converted to Christianity at Orlando’s request. Sansonet is helping to build a fort against the Caliph and he welcomes the travelers and escorts them to Jerusalem. Once there Astolfo gives Caligorante to Sansonet as a gift and Sansonet gives Asolfo a sword (so far unnamed) and a set of spurs that once belonged to Saint George. And being Christian knights in the Holy land, all three tour the sites and spend time mediating in monasteries. As they prepare to leave they run into a Greek traveler who tells them all about the girl Grifone loves. Her name’s Orrigille and she’s BAD.
“For she, a woman in the bloom of youth,
No more could bear to sleep alone, in truth.”
And before anyone can stop him Grifone sneaks off to Antioch where he knows Orrigille has gone.
But that’s a story for another canto.
CANTO SCORE CARD
Knights: A bajillion (the Guidos!), Rodomonte, Astolfo, Grifone the White and Aquilant the Black, Sansonet
Mages: Queen Logistilla and her hand maidens Sofrosina and Andronica, a holy hermit, the evil Alcina mentioned in passing
Damsels: Orrigille the not-so-innocent
Swords: As yet unnamed sword Sansonet gives Astolfo
Monsters: Caligorante the Giant, Orrilo the non-dismemberable Giant, Orrilo’s giant crocodile
Magic Items: Logistilla’s Guide Against Enchantment (it counters spells and is full of magic lore), a horn of blasting, Vulcan’s Net of Entrapment, the Spurs of Saint George