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
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
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)
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.
Knights in this Canto: 100s (Ruggiero, Astolfo, Bireno, Rinaldo, a few 100 English knights with names like Harold, Herman, or Godfrey, but including Zirbeno and Lurcanio from Cantos 5 and 6)
Damsels in this Canto: 12? (Alcina, 3 unnamed sorceresses, Olimpia, Logistilla, four sorceresses loyal to Logistilla, Melissa, Angelica)
Monsters in this Canto: The Hippogriff that is not at all a private jet plane, the Orc that is not at all meant in the Tolkien sense, but in the Orca sense.
… and a Boat Guy!
Welcome to Canto X. The hottest nightclub this side of Dante’s Inferno. Jousting happens every hour!
Last canto Ariosto left Bireno and Olimpia ready to be wed. This canto we learn Bireno is awful and his whole plan was to seduce Olimpia and abandon her. Which he does, but not before Ariosto warns his readers (listeners?) to be on guard against such men.
“Dear ladies, be less credulous at first;
Be not so readily disposed to please,
For love less likely is to play her false
Who learns at the expense of someone else.”
Thinking they’re heading for her new home, Olimpia boards a ship with Bireno, but when the ship gets blown off course and sets down on an empty island Bireno leaves Olimpia and sneaks away with the ship in the night. Olimpia wakes alone and promptly freaks out as would be normal for anyone in her situation. Ariosto leaves her tearing her hair out on the beach, before returning to Ruggiero. By the way, I should also mention that Ariosto mentions that Olimpia is fourteen years old here. Yikes.
Last we saw Ruggiero he was fleeing the sorceress Alcina’s realm and making for her sister Logistilla’s. He was stuck in some horrid wasteland, plodding along. When we return to him that is where he still is: in the wasteland plodding along. But not all is terrible in the wastelands. Look ahead Ruggiero, there are three ladies there drinking wine. Oh no. Those ladies are in league with Alcina and mean to entrap you.
Run, Ruggiero, run! There ahead is a Boat Guy, get on his boat and he will take you to Logistilla’s realm.
But Alcina doesn’t give up so easily. Alerted to Ruggiero’s location she brings her fleet to bear upon the boat guy’s boat and a chase begins. Boat Guy reaches Logistilla’s realm and then commences a naval battle. Alcina’s fleet is defeated and she flees, wailing and lamenting the loss of Ruggiero. He is glad to meet Logistilla and her four loyal sorceresses. There’s a brief reunion with Astolfo and Melissa, some mention of the wonders in Logistilla’s realm and how sorceresses can never dies, then Logistilla starts training Ruggiero in the ways of controlling the hippogriff. Once that’s done, Ruggiero and Astolfo decide to head back home by different paths. Ariosto says he’ll come back to Astolfo’s journey in some later canto, but for now he plans to stay with Ruggiero.
Ruggiero’s got it in his head to fly back to Europe by following the sun and thereby flying around the world. We get a brief travelogue as he goes, but it’s all names of kingdoms, rivers and mountain ranges. He eventually reaches England, by way of the Baltic because he doesn’t want to return to the war too soon and wouldn’t it be nice to see Germany. He lands outside a castle where an army is forming. There he sees Rinaldo and the whole host of English guys who get names and have their livery described. I skimmed those lines. Ruggiero then takes off again, this time looping around England and Ireland. On a dismal island out at sea he espies Angelica chained naked to a cliff with the dreaded Orc on its way to devour her.
Her lily-white nudity is described.
Ruggiero decides to save her from the Orc, and there’s a battle between knight and beast with the beast being too strong. Ruggiero decides to use his magic shield and daze the orc. He does so, freeing Angelica while the beast thrashes and taking her away in his private jet hippogriff. They set down in a deserted corner of France, and Ruggiero begins pulling off his armor. Of course he now wants to do the dirty with Angelica. But Ariosto stops there.
What will happen next I can’t even guess.
Knights introduced in this canto: 3 (Bireno the Prince of Zealand, Arbante the Prince of Friesland, Cimosco the King of Friesland)
Damsels introduced in this canto: 2 (an as yet unnamed Irish Princess and Olimpia the Princess of Holland).
Horses introduced in the canto: 1 (Brigliador the Horse)
Last canto Ariosto promised more Orlando and this canto he delivered. It’s all Orlando all the time except for those times when he meets someone who gives forth some quest-related exposition.
To start, we last left Orlando abandoning his king to seek Angelica. This then is his madness: to put gals before pals. He starts by entering the Saracen army and searching among the troops for word of Angelica. This was interesting because all Orlando had to do to disguise himself was change his clothes. This makes me think that to Ariosto the visible difference between Europeans and African/Asians was more costuming than skin color. The bigger, unseen factor was a person’s religion, and knights on both sides were converts from the other side so you couldn’t assume anything from simple physical appearance. Interesting.
Now, back to the action…
Orlando has no luck and starts getting desperate, roaming this way and that. Eventually he spies a ship out at sea with a damsel on it and parleys with her. She’s not Angelica, but she needs a hero to help her. Orlando being a hero agrees to hear her story, and she tells him she’s from the King of Ireland and how that land is plagued by the terrible Ebudans who kidnap women to feed to their terrible sea beast, the Orc. Orlando figures maybe Angelica has been captured by the Ebudans and agrees to help the damsel. They set off for Ireland but a storm blows them off course and they end up in the Netherlands. There another damsel appears. Her name’s Olimpia and it’s her troubles that give this canto its action.
Her story is familiar. She’s a princess and fell in love with a guy. His name’s Prince Bireno and he went away to fight in Spain. That left room for another guy, King Cimosco, to demand Olimpia marry his son, the Prince Arbante. She refused. War broke out. Cimosco killed the princess’s brothers and father (all unnamed) with a terrible magical weapon he had (a big gun) and demanded the princess agree to the marriage. She still refused, because Bireno was on his way to rescue her, but then Cimosco captured Bireno. Olimpia finally agreed, but on the night when Arbante came to consummate the marriage, Olimpia slit his throat and fled. (RIP Prince Arbante). Now Cimosco wants revenge and says he will free Bireno if Olimpia gives herself up for execution. He gives her a year and a day to think on it, which is of course running out when Orlando appears.
Not one to let a damsel down Orlando agrees to assist her and sets off on a new horse, Brigliador, to fight. King Cimosco goes full Snidely Whiplash and lays ambushes and traps. But Orlando is Orlando and he impales villains 5, 6, 7 on the end of his lance. Cimosco flees back to the castle to get his gun. Orlando pursues. The guy shoots… and misses (RIP Brigliador the Horse). Orlando hies up and lops off Cimosco’s head. (RIP King Cimosco) Olimpia and Bireno are reunited. Orlando takes Cimosco’s gun and rejoins the first damsel. Once at sea he tosses the gun overboard, damning it back to the deep hell from which it was forged.
And so Orlando sails on, but Ariosto takes us back to the Netherlands to spend time with Olimpia and Bireno.
“For new disturbances arising there
Will interrupt my story for a bit.
Of all these happenings I’ll give you news
If my next canto you will now peruse.”
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,
This canto starts with a bang but ends with a whimper. It also introduces a new character! Well, sort of. It actually names a character we met before. But all that in time. For now, let’s look at Ruggiero setting off for his duel with Erifilla. It’s good stuff. Erifilla makes a grand entrance being both Princess Mononoke and Prince Gaynor the Damned.
“For a mount a horse she does not choose,
But sits astride a wolf, alert and keen,
Upon the richest saddle ever seen.”
They charge each other and blam! Ruggiero proves the stronger. He’s all ready to lop off Erifilla’s head when the damsels stop him saying that the shame of defeat is enough. So, exits Erifilla… for now. I fully expect she will be back to tell her tale in some future canto. But that will happen when it happens. For now Ruggiero is victorious and the damsels lead him to the palace where he is promptly bewitched by Alcina.
“Her person is as shapely and as fine
As painters at their most inspired can show.”
An aside. Ariosto does go big in with whiteness equals beautiful and good while blackness equals grotesque or comical. Alcina’s fairness gets highlighted a lot. Ruggiero is totally bewitched and forgets all about his quest and his betrothed, Bradamante. Instead he and Alcina get into making love and whiling the days away in pleasure.
Meanwhile Bradamante searches for Ruggiero, deciding at last to go back to that enchantress that helped her back in Canto III. We now learn the enchantress’s name is Melissa, and she hatches a cunning plan to free Ruggiero from Alcina’s spell. She asks that Bradamante give her the magic ring, then Melissa transforms herself to look like the evil wizard Atlante before flying over the ocean to Alcina’s realm.
There she finds Ruggiero and gives him a stern lecture about how spending his days having sexy times and wearing silk pajamas are unbecoming of a man. Not only that, but Alcina’s not what she seems and here take this ring so you can see through her enchantments. Ruggiero dons the ring. The next time he sees Alcina he discovers she is not young and fair at all, but withered and old. A crone! Not letting on that he knows her secret, Ruggiero makes for the stables, steals a horse, and sets out immediately for Logistilla’s realm.
And the next Canto will tell us how he found his way!