Orlando Furioso, Canto XX
If you remember last time, Ariosto teased a big reveal for the Black Knight. Going into the canto I was trying to guess who was it going to be? Brandimarte? Ruggierro? Sacripante? But no, it was none of those guys. It was…
… Guidon Selvaggio!
A. Whole. New. Fucking. Guy.
That’s right. Ariosto’s big reveal is to just add a whole new fucking guy.
But, more seriously, Selvaggio is a chivalric character who was once popular but who hasn’t come down to our era like Lancelot or Parsifal has. At least that’s what this Bodelian Library PDF suggests. Fascinating! Back to the canto, Selvaggio of course has a story to tell and it’s all about how the city of women came about.
It all happened because the Greeks went to fight the Trojan War. After twenty years they came back and found their wives had all shacked up with other men and their houses were full of bastards. The husbands forgave their wives, but couldn’t forgive all the bastards and demanded they die. Some were killed, but others were expelled. These exiles took to the wandering life. And one, Phalanthus by name (bastard son of Clytemnestra), recruited others into a mercenary army. They went to Crete to fight a coming war. There they took wives among the populace. Except the war never happened and the Cretans told the mercenaries to move on. They were happy to go, but their wives weren’t and begged to go with them. The mercenaries refused. The women didn’t care. They robbed their Cretan parents and piled into the boats with the men. For a bit things were okay, but after a time the men grew bored and wanted nothing more to do with their wives. And so they abandoned them on a rocky shore.
Here the women went hysterical for a bit, until they decided to hell with men. Let’s get revenge! And that’s what they did. Any boat that landed on their shore they captured and murdered the crew. This went on a while, but then the women started to realize they needed men if only to keep their country populated. And so the ten champions ritual was established. Before long the whole place took on a eugenics cult kind of atmosphere with the women killing or selling male children and sending agents out into the world to trade for girls and money. Then a stranger showed up, Elbanio a Greek hero descended from Hercules. Of course he’s handsome and beautiful and the local princess, Alessandra, falls for him. She pleads with her mom to spare Elbanio, and after much discourse the City of Women add the smutch ten women bit to the defeat ten champions challenge. Elbanio agrees to the challenge, wins, and the rest is history.
History lesson finished, Guidon then laments how he needs to kill Marfisa and her friends the next day. Also, he’s tired of being a boy-toy sex slave and is ashamed of wasting his youth in that way. Sadness ensues. But Astolfo leans in and tells Guidon that they’re actually cousins and he can free himself from shame if he joins them in destroying the City of Women. And between that and Marfisa’s urging, Guidone agrees to join them. He says one of his lovers (Aleria) can be trusted and she’ll prepare a boat for their escape. But they’ll have to cross the arena to reach the port.
Morning comes. Once more the knights set off for the arena. All the women have gathered there to watch the combat, but what’s this? Guidon’s entered and made for the far door with the captured knights right behind him. Treachery! Soon all the women are shooting arrows at the knights, but the knights give as good as they get. The smiting and smoting begins. Sansonetto’s horse gets killed and the knight thrown. Astolfo realizes they’re in a desperate way and their chance of escape is fast dwindling. He busts out the horn of blasting and lets toot.
People are thrown from windows. Buildings collapse. Everyone panics. Women. Knights. Everyone!
Astolfo’s just done Hiroshima’d the City of Women!
And he doesn’t stop.
He keeps riding around the country blasting things apart. Meanwhile all the other knights have panicked and fled for the ship. They don’t care that Astolfo’s not with them. They haul anchor and go. Only when the ship’s way out on the horizon does Astolfo realize he’s been left behind. And so Ariosto leaves him and follows Marfisa and the other knights as they reach Marseilles. There Marfisa says goodbye to her companions, since she’s technically on the other team being a Saracen and all, and sets off alone.
Marfisa rides for a bit and comes upon an old crone sitting by the road. She’s the crone from Canto XIII And she’s been having a bad time of it. Marfisa tells her to hop on her horse and the two ride off. Soon they encounter a knight and his lady. It’s that asshole knight Pinabello from Canto III and his unnamed asshole girlfriend. The girlfriend sees the crone and laughs at her, which insults Marfisa’s honor. She challenges Pinabello to a joust and trounces him. As a prize she claims the girlfriend’s horse and clothes and gives them to the crone. Eugene Delacroix did a painting of the scene. Marfisa decides to make this her schtick: ride around with a crone, get laughed at by a knight, trounce knight, ride away.
And look, here comes Zerbino. He sees the crone and laughs, and before long he and Marfisa are trading barbs. At last they agree to fight with the loser having to claim the crone as theirs. Both agree and Zerbino gets his ass handed to him. Marfisa reveals she’s a Lady Knight, gives Zerbino the crone, and rides away.
Now if you remember from Canto XIII this crone was kept by a group of bandits to watch over their prisoner, Isabella. Isabella’s Zerbino’s betrothed and the crone had to listen to Isabella go on and on about the guy while they were captives. So she knows who he is and starts using her info to torture him. Stuff like “I saw your girl. She’s alive and she was with twenty dudes. Twenty. Dudes.” Zerbino threatens to kill the crone and she’s like fine kill me, but you won’t learn anything else about Isabella if you do. Knowing he’s beat, Zerbino simply bows his head.
And in silence the two ride on until the canto ends.
What will happen next?
CANTO SCORE CARD
Knights: Guidon Selvaggio Sex Slave Knight, Phalanthus an Ancient Greek Bastard, Elbanio a Greek descended from Hercules, Astolfo, Aquilante, Grifone, Sansonetto, Marfisa the Lady Knight, Pinabello an Asshole Knight, Zerbino
Mages: Atlante and Knight Motel Magic Castle mentioned in passing
Damsels: Orontea founder of the City of Women, Alessandra daughter of Orontea, Aleria Betrayer of the City of Women and Guidon’s favorite, Pinabello’s unlikable girlfriend
Horses: Sansonetto’s unnamed horse (RIP)
Swords: None named
Monsters: The Man-Hating Lesbians of the City of Women (the city’s named Alessandretta), A Crone (currently my favorite character)
Magic Items: Marfisa’s Hell forged magic armor, Astolfo’s Horn of Blasting