Orlando Furioso, Canto XXVI
I read this one in the middle of the night somewhere above the Sonoran Desert.
Needless to say my recollections may be fuzzy, but IIRC there’s a big fight about a horse.
More people show up because of course they do. Smoting happens. We encounter our first multi-classed knight. A lot of people argue about a horse. You know, the usual Orlando Furioso stuff.
When we last left off Aldigier, Ricciardetto, and Ruggiero were riding along to free Vivian and Malagigi from some bastard, when a mysterious knight blocked their path. This knight instantly starts with the challenges, but Al, Dick, and Roger say they can’t fight because there’s an army coming with prisoners they need to free. The mysterious knight then says, “A whole army! I’ll fight them with you.” So now it’s a whole adventuring party and the Mysterious Knight turns out to be Marfisa, Saracen Lady Knight Extraordinaire.
Eventually the army shows up. The knights charge. They kill Bertolagi the Bastard then attack the army. Smiting, smoting, skicking, and snicking ensues. They win, free the prisoners Viviano and Malagigi, and loot all the random money that was in the caravan. Ruggiero and marfisa are impressed by each other’s smiting and flex for each other. It’s some chaste, gym rat stuff. Everyone’s happy and off they go to a nearby fountain.
This fountain was made by Merlin and works like a widescreen TV. First it shows them a beast defiling Europe. Then some brave kings defeat the beast and I think this is all a political reference towards the Guelph/Ghibelline strife, but it could also be a depiction of Europe being threatened by Islam. I don’t know. The knights watch it for a bit and are like what’s all this. Malagigi then tells them these are pictures of the future and the beast will attack Europe and these kings will unite to fight it. Like I said I think Ariosto is doing a propaganda here but I don’t know the history well enough to get the references.
The most important bit of all this to me is that Malagigi is both a knight and a wizard! How cool is that?
The knights are interrupted by a damsel. She’s Ipplaca who was tasked with giving Frontino to Ruggiero only to have Rodomonte steal it. She managed to track Ruggiero down and promptly tells him the news. He goes straight to Dick and says, “Are we good?” Dick’s like yeah. Ruggiero’s like seeya! And off he rides with Ipplaca. They reach a crossroads and take the high road hoping to catch Rodomonte. But of course, Rodomonte is on the low road. He, Mandricard, and Doralice come to the fountain where Viviano, Aldigier, Malagigi, Marfisa, and Ricciardetto are lounging. Marfisa’s in woman’s clothes at the moment and Mandricard promptly demands she be handed over (so he can give her to Rodomonte and keep Doralice for his own.) Marfisa says hell no. The knights take to their horses and are promptly defeated. Marfisa then says:
“I belong to no one but myself; and so you see,
Who wants me must do battle first with me.”
The smashing ensues except both have magic armor on and make little progress. Rodomonte then breaks them up and reminds them that they’re all on the same side. He shows the king’s message ordering all the knights back to Paris. Mandricard and Marfisa make peace.
Meanwhile Ruggiero and Ippalca have realized they went the wrong way. He gives her the letter he wrote for Bradamante and returns to the fountain. And here all hell breaks out because there’s Rodomonte with Frontino, Ruggiero’s horse, and Ruggiero refuses to make peace until he has the horse back. Things escalate. Mandricard gets drawn into the argument. Weapons are drawn. And where there was peace discord appears. Marfisa tries to part them, but nothing she says or does works. Before long she’s pulled into the fray. Viviano and Ricciardetto too. It’s a mad free for all. At last Malagigi casts a spell that sends Doralice’s horse bolting. Mandricard and Rodomonte set off in pursuit. Ruggiero wants to pursue but knows none of the available horses are fast enough. Marfisa says we’re all going to Paris anyways, we can finish our fight there.
So they bid farewell to Mal, Al, Dick, and Viv, then set off for Paris.
Where I am sure a whole bunch more crazy stuff will happen!
See you then.
CANTO SCORE CARD
Knights: Aldigier, Ricciardetto, Ruggiero, Marfisa, Bertolagi the Bastard, Viviano, Malagigi, Mandricard, Rodomonte
Damsels: Ippalca, Doralice
Horses: Frontino, the cause of so much trouble
Swords: Balisarda, Ruggiero’s adamantine sword that cuts through iron like paper
Monsters: One seen on the magic widescreen fountain TV that is a political metaphor I don’t understand
Magic Items: Merlin’s magic widecreen fountain TV, the usual magic armor forged for Hector or crafted from dragon bones
Orlando Furioso, Canto XXV
Buckle up, we’re about to meet a half dozen new characters!
Rodomonte and Mandricard (at Doralice’s urging) have pledged to keep peace between themselves until the war’s over. They ride off and before long find a group of knights hanging around a well with a damsel. Ariosto tells us to remember how Ruggiero threw Atlante’s magic shield in a well, but before telling us what happens he decides to see what Ruggiero’s doing.
Ruggiero’s eager to complete his quest (rescue the transvestite knight) and meet Bradamante (so he can be baptized before the two get married), but up rides one of those messengers from Agramante urging him to return to the battle. This sparks introspection as to what course he should follow. In the end he sticks with the damsel who was taking him (and Bradamante) to rescue the transvestite knight. They reach the town where the knight is to be burned, and Ruggiero’s like “OMG, that’s Bradamante tied on the pyre!” He charges the crowd and the smoting ensues. It goes on for stanzas and Ruggiero is compared to a bird of prey and the common people to pigeons. Also his sword gets some lore “the cruel sword which Falerina made to slay Orlando in Orcagna’s glade.”
I have no clue about any of this.
Smoting done Ruggiero rescues Bradamante only to realize it’s not Bradamante at all, but a young man! They ride away, and Ruggiero’s really confused. At last the youth explains he’s in fact Bradamante’s twin brother Ricciardetto (the translator’s calling him Richard by the end of the canto and I will do the same). And so starts a story about Bradamante rescuing a damsel named Fiordispina, Fiordispina falling in love with Bradamante because she thinks she’s a guy, Bradamante’s attempts to clarify things, Fiordispina’s refusal to accept things, Bradamante’s leaving Fiordispina behind, going home and telling her family everything, and Richard realizing he always loved Fiordispina, and him thinking he might be a able to replace his sister in the damsel’s affections with a magical sex change from a nymph story. Yes, it’s a lot. But it works! Until he’s caught “planting his standard” and sentenced to death on a bonfire.
Ruggiero and Richard eventually reach a castle held by Aldigier. He’s Buovo’s bastard son (I don’t know who that is) and his brothers are Vivian and Malagigi. Are these people important? Again, I don’t know. But Vivian and Malagigi are supposed to be sold off to pay Aldigier’s debt to an actual bastard named Bertolagi and wouldn’t it be great if some brave knight were to step in and stop that from happening. Richard volunteers Ruggiero, but Ruggiero is super-conflicted right now. He has no idea whether to meet Bradamante, help Aldigier, or go back and serve his king and defeat the Christians outside Paris. Much internal conflict ensues, but in the end Ruggiero decides to return to his king. He writes a long letter, but before he can send it he’s duped into escorting Vivian and Malagigi to where Bertolagi awaits. Or some knight waits. But who? To learn that we have to wait.
Until next time!
Whenever that is…
CANTO SCORE CARD
Knights: Rodomonte, Mandricard, Ruggiero, Ricciardetto, Bradamante (in a flashback), Aldigier, Vivian, Malagigi, Bertolagi
Damsels: Fiordispina, Doralice in the background
Swords: Ruggiero’s sword “the cruel sword which Falerina made to slay Orlando in Orcagna’s glade.” Foreshadowing!
Magic Items: 0
Orlando Furioso, Canto XXIV
“For what is love but madness after all”
Welcome to Orlando Furioso, Part 2.
We’ve come a long way, but have further still to go. Come on!
Ariosto didn’t intend his epic to be split into two parts, but publishing wants what publishing wants. This volume has a whole new dramatis personae. Oh boy!
When we last saw Orlando he was running wild smashing things. When we return to him now he’s still doing it. Knocking down trees. Smashing rocks. Sullying rivers. Eating animals raw, innards and all. The shepherds don’t much like that and try to stop him, but he just attacks them, killing one and using the corpse as a weapon to kill the others. Soon the whole landscape is up in arms against Orlando and marching against him. But Orlando don’t give a sh**. He’s like a honey badger. You come at him. He comes at you. And he’s impervious to weapons except on the soles of his feet or something. He slaughters many, wanders far, reaches a bridge, and there Ariosto leaves him for Zerbino.
Zerbino and Isabella ride along and find a trio of knights in the woods. It’s actually two knights and a third kept prisoner. Both Orlando and Isabella know them. The prisoner is Odorico, the guy Zerbino left Isabella with and who promptly tried to assault her. I think this happened in a canto we read, but I’m too tired to look it up. The other two guys are Corebo and Almonio, Zerbino’s other pals. They explain how they captured Odorico and were bringing him to face justice. But now that Zerbino’s there, they can give the miscreant over to him for judgment.
Odorico promptly begs for his life. Zerbino listens, but knows only death will right the wrong done. Still for friendship’s sake he stays his hand. Then, as if sent by God to deliver him from this decision, a horse and rider appears. Who can this be who will solve all his problems? Why it’s none other than Grabina, our favorite evil crone! They catch her horse and drag her down. By rights Zerbino should punish both, but instead he gives them to each other. He makes Odorico pledge to protect Gabrina for a year just as Marfisa made Zerbino pledge. Odorico accepts and rides away with Gabrina, and out of the story they go! Ariosto can’t say what happens to them, but he read a story in a book that killed Odorico killed Gabrina a day later and then Almonio killed Odorico. But it’s a story he heard and can’t say whether it’s true or not.
Goodbye, Gabrina! You will always be my #1 meanie.
All that done, Zerbino sends Almonio and Corebo away and continues on (with Isabella) looking for either Orlando or Mandricard. Soon they come upon the devastated landscape left by Orlando’s passage and find his horse, armor, and weapons. They gather it all up and put a sign over it saying don’t touch property of Orlando. Then Fiordiligi arrives. Who’s she? She’s Brandimarte’s wife. Who’s Brandimarte? He’s a knight, Orlando’s best friend gone to in search of him, and most recently seen as prisoner in the knight motel. This all happened in Canto whatever. Really, people, try to keep up!
Fiordiligi rides up all weepy because she’s been searching for her husband for months. (He’s actually back in Paris by now according to Ariosto.) I suspect she and Brandimarte are to be another pair of tragic lovers in this story. She recognizes all Orlando’s gear and fears what must have happened, but before she can do anything up rides Mandricard and Doralice. He asks what’s going on and whose stuff is all this? Zerbino explains it’s Orlando’s, and Mandricard says well, Orlando stole my dad’s sword so I’ll be taking it back now and if Orlando wants it back he can come find me. And Zerbino’s like the hell you will. And Mandricard takes the sword and says come and stop me.
So before long the two are duelling and I will tell you true: this is actually a great bit.
Both knights have been set up as interesting characters over multiple cantos, and the fight is depicted in heaps of the swordporn of smoting and smiting. Lances shatter. Horses die. The damsels look on awestruck and afraid. At last, Mandricard wounds Zerbino so savagely, Isabella screams at Doralice to do something. Doralice implores Mandricard to show mercy. He does and leaves with Doralice. Fiordiligi also leaves. But what of Zerbino?
First, Isabella urges him off his horse. Then he lies in the grass and the two share sweet words and weep together. Isabella says she’ll kill herself right after Zerbino dies and maybe some pious folk will come by and bury their bodies together. More weeping, then Zerbino dies and Isabella prepares to kill herself when a hermit appears. He talks her back from the brink and convinces her to join a convent. He says he knows just the one and will take her there. And for once the hermit seems all right. He doesn’t try to rape Isabella. He has a casket made for Zerbino. They then ride south through the devastated countryside where a knight appears and insults them. But enough about them. What about Mandricard?
Doralice and he ride away straight into Rodomonte. To remind you, Doralice was betrothed to Rodomonte before Mandricard “seduced” her. Soon another duel begins and this one is like a storm. More horses die. It looks bad for Mandricard, when up rides an envoy from Agramant, the Saracen King. Agramant needs them both back with the army to defeat the French. So Rodomonte and Mandricard swear an oath before Doralice to call a truce to their strife until the war is ended, and off to Paris they ride.
Until next time!
CANTO SCORE CARD
Knights: Orlando, Zerbino, Odorico, Corebo, Almonio, Mandricard, Rodomonte
Damsels: Isabella, Gabrina, Fiordiligi, Doralice
Horses: Brigliadoro (Orlando’s horse)
Magic Items: Mostly magic armor