Literature: Don Quixote

En un lugar de la Mancha, de cuyo nombre no quiero acordarme, no ha mucho tiempo que vivía un hidalgo de los de lanza en astillero, adarga antigua, rocín flaco y galgo corredor.

In a place of La Mancha, the name of which I don't want to recall, there lived not long ago one of those gentlemen with lance on the rack, old shield, worn-out horse, and racing greyhound.

These are the very first lines of Don Quixote, full title The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha ("El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha" in the original Spanish). The novel was written by Spanish writer and satirist Miguel De Cervantes. Cervantes wrote the story in two parts, the first part published in 1605 and the second in 1615.

The story is about an old hidalgo named Alonso Quijano, who was so into chivalric novels that he became insane and decided that he was a vagrant knight. Quijano renames himself as "Don Quixote de La Mancha" and decides to win eternal fame through the besting of wrongdoers and general upholding of the Chivalric Code. Unfortunately for a lot of innocent people, his delusions make him pick fights with innocent bystanders, some of whom do not fight back because Don Quixote is obviously crazy. Of course, there are strangers who are not that sympathetic, and after one of those delivers a brutal beating to Don Quixote, a neighbor from his village meets the wounded Don Quixote and takes him home, where his friends and family burn out the accursed books of chivalry to try to cure him, but he soon returns to his delusion and journey. This time he manages to convince a simple farm-man, Sancho Panza, to become his squire and sidekick under the promise of a governorship in the future. Then they live a lot of adventures, including the famous one where Don Quixote attacks some windmills because they might be giants in disguisenote . At the end of the book, Don Quixote’s friends trick him by making him believe he is enchanted and take him back to his village.

Throughout the novel, Don Quixote never, even for a moment, doubts that the fictional adventures that he has read were real and that he really is a knight errant. Not even the petitions of his loved ones, the continuous ridicule of his peers, or the brutal beatings he suffers made him break his resolution: Don Quixote always continues trying to impose his quixotic (literally; he's the word's origin) beliefs on the world.

The first part of the novel was published in 1605, when the books of chivalry were pushing Deader Than Disco and Don Quixote's dreams of reviving chivalry ways were really a strange, misbegotten idea. The novel became a big success among the public of the time (although that success was nothing unheard of at the time with other titles, and certainly that was not the case with the contemporary Spanish critics), and was reprinted several times in the next decade and even translated into French and English. But most notable was the change in Spanish popular culture. A few months after printing, virtually all of Spain knew about Don Quixote’s exploits: Memetic Mutations arose, those ridiculous books of chivalry became popular again, and even apocryphal "continuations" appeared. Cervantes created a character to mock the Fan Dumb and the books of chivalry that perverted true heroism, only to find that Don Quixote, thanks to his readers, had achieved his goal: to change reality.

Cervantes had promised a sequel at the end of Volume I and had begun writing it when he caught word of a spurious fake sequel of Don Quixote written as a cash grab. This led him to denounce the book in his own pages and led him to make Vol II, the hidalgo's final adventure. The second part has a more serious tone, taking advantage of the change operated by the first part of the book in Real Life, where Don Quixote has evolved from a Lord Error-Prone to an honest (but still insane) man whose noble attitude and delusions makes him the Butt Monkey of a lot of people. Don Quixote has to confront his delusions (but only in the very last chapter), and the harshness of reality makes him realize that his naïve dreams were shallow, which brings him back to sanity before his death.

It has been adapted to every medium, among those illustrated by Gustave Doré. Also made into a couple of animated adaptations (one of them with Funny Animals) and even a Musical.

Very commonly cited, in literary criticism, as "the first modern novel", and is probably among the most influential books of all time (just take a look at The Other Wiki's list). It's also largely considered the best book ever written in the Spanish language, and nowadays every single Spaniard kid must read it and study it in school at one point or another, pretty much as every kid in the USA and UK must read and study Shakespeare.

Tropes found in Don Quixote:

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  • Genius Ditz: Don Quixote despite his reputation as a crazy is highly intelligent and several characters who come across him note that he occassionally sounds rational and sane before going off tangent on his chivalric ideals. Several characters who later trick him note that he's fairly astute about the minor points that concern a given situation but neglects the bigger picture altogether.
  • Genre Deconstruction: See Deconstructor Fleet
  • Genre Savvy: Apart from the protagonist (who is Wrong Genre Savvy), many other characters are familiar with chivalric tropes and invoke or discuss them. Note that at the end of both volumes, Don Quixote is defeated and forced to return to his village in strict accordance with the laws of the genre.
  • Gentle Giant: Part I Chapter I reveals that the giant Morgante is one of Alonso Quixano’s favorite characters, because despite being a giant, he is affable and well bred.
  • Giver of Lame Names: The protagonist is probably the Trope Codifier.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Inverted: Don Quixote goes mad trying to make sense of the Purple Prose that plagued the chivalry books he has read, but there never was any reveal because even Aristotle could not have made sense of it.
  • Grand Dame: Small Name, Big Ego Dueña Doña Rodríguez is the only one character stupid enough in all the novel (and In-Universe, in all Spain) to sincerely believe that Don Quixote is a real Knight Errant.
  • Healing Potion: Parodied. Don Quixote claims to have the recipe for an elixir that heals all wounds, but beng who he is, it instead induces severe pain and vomiting.
    • Although after throwing up he does seem to get up easier...
  • Heroic Wannabe: Practically made this trope.
  • Hero's Muse: The eponymous hero fights for his lady love, whom he refers to as Dulcinea. In his mind, he elevates her to a princess and the most beautiful woman in the world, although she is in reality a peasant girl named Aldonza.
  • Hikikomori: Somewhat of an Ur-Example. Don Quixote seems to be living in his village for years, doing nothing but hunting, reading romances of chivalry, selling his property to pay for them (books were a lot more expensive then) and discussing them with his friends. Justified, because the landed gentry of the time were expected to do little else.
  • Hypocritical Humor: When Don Quixote reads some pages of the Second Part of 'Don Quixote of La Mancha, he claims there are obvious errors from the author, the most important is that he errs on the name of Sancho’s wife (see Series Continuity Error to understand why this is hypocritical). that he goes wrong and departs from the truth in the most important part of the history, for here he says that my squire Sancho Panza's wife is called Mari Gutierrez, when she is called nothing of the sort, but Teresa Panza; and when a man errs on such an important point as this there is good reason to fear that he is in error on every other point in the history."
    "A nice sort of historian, indeed!" exclaimed Sancho at this; "he must know a deal about our affairs when he calls my wife Teresa Panza, Mari Gutierrez; take the book again, senor, and see if I am in it and if he has changed my name."
  • Honor Before Reason: The protagonist falls victim to this trope countless times.
  • Hot-Blooded: Don Quixote sure makes a lot of passionate speeches, and charges forward with aplomb, later subverted when he denies chivalry with the same passion.
  • Hourglass Plot: In the first part of the novel, Don Quixote is a Daydream Believer Mad Dreamer and Sancho Panza has Simpleminded Wisdom and represents realism. Both are Static Characters. At the second part, Sancho is influenced by Don Quixote and becomes more and more of a Daydream Believer, while at the end, Don Quixote will become Bored With Insanity by Sancho’s influence. The relevance is that they maybe were the very first characters in literature to use this trope and become Dynamic Characters.
  • Humiliation Conga: Practically every single chapter ends up being this to Quixote and Sancho.
  • Hurricane Of Aphorisms: Sancho Panza does this, usually so poorly that it just makes him look stupider. Interestingly, in the First part of the novel he does it only once. In the second part, he gives those almost always.
  • Idiot Hero: If not the Trope Maker, pretty much the Trope Codifier. Up to Eleven if you think that in the end when he denies chivalry, Don Quixote is portrayed as the Only Sane Man and even as the ideal man.
    • It's subverted: Don Quixote is not an idiot, and we know it since the very beginning of the novel. He is a very intelligent, well-educated man, who is perfectly normal as long as he is not talking about his obsessions: "apart from the silly things which this worthy gentleman says in connection with his craze, when other subjects are dealt with, he can discuss them in a perfectly rational manner, showing that his mind is quite clear and composed; so that, provided his chivalry is not touched upon, no one would take him to be anything but a man of thoroughly sound understanding." Part I, chapter 30. Of course, when he is indulging his chivalry fantasies... well...
  • If I Can't Have You: Part II, chapter LX, Claudia Jeronima and Don Vicente Tornellas, from different factions of the civil war that was plaguing Barcelona, secretly fall in love and planned to marry, but one day Claudia Jerónima learned that Don Vicente wants to marry another woman. The next day, overwhelmed and exasperated, she shot him. And then she learned that he never intended to marry any other woman than Claudia.
  • Impoverished Patrician: Alonso Quijano is an Hidalgo that still has the ancient arms of his ancestors, but has so little money that almost all of it is spent on food. What can he do? He is very smart and talented, so he could work, but if he does, he will lose the few privileges he has as an hidalgo (like, to be excused from paying taxes). He is poor and bored. It does not help that he spent a lot of time in those silly chivalry books. Sure, they help him with the boredom, and the knight life is certainly exciting, but they are only absurd tales, right?
  • In Name Only: Joel Silver is threatening to produce a big-budget, "Pirates of the Caribbean-like" film about a Swashbuckler Don Quixote that is not crazy and fights real monsters from Another Dimension. Ironically, Don Quixote would have preferred this kind of adaptation to any other.
  • The Insomniac: Alonso Quijano is a type B, as described in Part I Chapter I: lead by his obsession to read chivalry books, he sleeps less and less while reading more and more and that sends him over the edge.
  • Insanity Defense: The reason why Don Quixote is never killed (but often beaten) by the poor Innocent Bystander of the day.
    The landlord shouted to them to leave him alone, for he had already told them that he was mad, and as a madman he would not be accountable even if he killed them all.
  • In Which a Trope Is Described: Played Straight with Almost All the Chapters of the Two Parts because the Beginning of a Chapter Summarizes the Chapter's Events, but then Inverted in Some Chapters that Do Not Summarize Anything:
  • Just Like Robin Hood: Deconstructed by Roque Guinart, a deconstruction of the Gentleman Thief, who leads a band of highwaymen at Barcelona’s Civil War. He is an armed beggar, that takes only a part of the money of his victims... by asking them. His 60 men assault two soldiers (300 crowns), a Noblewoman (600 crowns) and some pilgrims (60 reals). That would have been 15 crowns and a real for each highwayman. Roque asks for 60 crowns for the soldiers (20%) and 80 crowns from the Noblewoman (13.6%). That’s 140 crowns. He gives 2 crowns to each highwayman and the 20 crown left he gives 10 to the pilgrims (that’s almost 100 reals) and 10 crowns to Sancho Panza in a clear attempt to Buy Them Off. The people who attacked are happy to keep most of their own money, and Roque Guinart is considered a hero. Everyone is happy! Except for the highwaymen who were cheated of 13 crowns and a real, but Roque manages to Make an Example of Them by murdering the one who dares to be a Deadpan Snarker.
  • Kick Me Prank: They play this prank on Don Quixote at Barcelona:
    That afternoon they took Don Quixote out for a stroll, not in his armour but in street costume, with a surcoat of tawny cloth upon him, that at that season would have made ice itself sweat. Orders were left with the servants to entertain Sancho so as not to let him leave the house. Don Quixote was mounted, not on Rocinante, but upon a tall mule of easy pace and handsomely caparisoned. They put the surcoat on him, and on the back, without his perceiving it, they stitched a parchment on which they wrote in large letters, "This is Don Quixote of La Mancha." As they set out upon their excursion the placard attracted the eyes of all who chanced to see him, and as they read out, "This is Don Quixote of La Mancha," Don Quixote was amazed to see how many people gazed at him, called him by his name, and recognised him, and turning to Don Antonio, who rode at his side, he observed to him, "Great are the privileges knight-errantry involves, for it makes him who professes it known and famous in every region of the earth; see, Don Antonio, even the very boys of this city know me without ever having seen me."
  • Knight in Shining Armor and Knight Errant: What Don Quixote thinks he is, and thereby thoroughly deconstructs.
    I would have thee know, Sancho, that the famous Amadis of Gaul was one of the most perfect knights-errant—I am wrong to say he was one; he stood alone, the first, the only one, the lord of all that were in the world in his time. A fig for Don Belianis, and for all who say he equalled him in any respect, for, my oath upon it, they are deceiving themselves! ... In the same way Amadis was the polestar, day-star, sun of valiant and devoted knights, whom all we who fight under the banner of love and chivalry are bound to imitate.
  • Knighting: Parodied at Part I Chapter III when Don Quixote insists that an innkeeper (who he thinks is a castellan) knight him after he has watched his armor in the castle chapel — that is, in the stable of the inn. This shows that Don Quixote could be mad, but he knows exactly how the ceremony must be.
  • The Lady's Favour: Deconstructed when (even if it’s only part of a Massive Multiplayer Scam), Altisidora gave Don Quixote three kerchiefs that later are stolen by bandits:
    Roque on coming up asked Sancho if his men had returned and restored to him the treasures and jewels they had stripped off Dapple. Sancho said they had, but that three kerchiefs that were worth three cities were missing.
    "What are you talking about, man?" said one of the bystanders; "I have got them, and they are not worth three reals."
    "That is true," said Don Quixote; "but my squire values them at the rate he says, as having been given me by the person who gave them."
  • The Law of Conservation of Detail: This law is invoked by the Innkeeper when he and Don Quixote discuss at Part I Chapter III the need for money being a Knight Errant who is Walking the Earth, (Don Quixote doesn't have any money because he never has read about a Knight Errant paying for anything) and helps to deconstruct those tropes in the book.
    On this point the landlord told him he was mistaken; for, though not recorded in the histories, because in the author's opinion there was no need to mention anything so obvious and necessary as money and clean shirts, it was not to be supposed therefore that they did not carry them,
  • Life Embellished: Ruy Pérez de Viedma relates all his biography in “The story of the Captive Captain”. He was a handsome captive captain who wanted to escape the Moors and was helped by Zoraida, a beautiful Moor princess who wanted to convert to Christianity. The captain organized a successful evasion to Spain, was well received by his powerful and rich relatives and married Zoraida. Cervantes was a captive who failed all his evasion intents, his family paid his rescue and he always was an Impoverished Patrician.
  • Literary Agent Hypothesis: Cervantes (only referred in the book as "The second author") says that the book was based on some manuscripts he found and made translate to Spanish by an Arab translator.
    • Written by some Arabian named Cide Hamete Benengeli (or Sidi Ahmed bin Engeli, as it would be rendered today) whose first name, "Cide", could be translated as "Mister", and whose last name is a pun on "berenjena" (eggplant/aubergine).
      • This trope is parodied, because a lot of chivalry books have his authors claim that they are based in an old manuscript found in an ancient pyramid or another ruined building in some faraway country, written in an exotic language by a wise, famed wizard who favored the hero of the novel. Those claims are made to feign that the chivalry book was inspired by real events. Cervantes twist this and uses it to a comic effect, explaining that the next part of the novel was found in some pamphlets and papers (only a few years old) found in Alcana de Toledo (a real city in Spain) in a silk mercer store, written in Arabic (a fairly known language in Spain) by a (foolish) boy who didn't know what was written in them and so sold the papers to Cervantes for peanuts. If we include the funny name of the wizard and the fact that the second author, the translator and Cide Hamete Benengeli are always making comments about the book, we can see that Cervantes want us to admit that all this tale is a long sequence of lies and nonsense... just like all the chivalry books.
  • Long List: This trope is played straight and parodied:
  • Loony Fan: Sanson Carrásco presents himself as one fan of Don Quixote and discuss with him and Sancho the Series Continuity Errors, and wants to help that poor, mad fool to regain sanity. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Lord Error-Prone: Pretty much the Trope Maker and the Ur-Example: In the first part of the novel, Cervantes settles Don Quixote characterization as this: he almost kills the Vizcayan at chapter IX and maimed for life the Licenciate at chapter XIX. Misaimed Fandom insisted in seeing him as the much more sympathetic Mad Dreamer.
  • Lost in Translation: A joke in the Spanish version is that even when everyone understands the term island, only truly sophisticated people understand the term ''insula''. So, Sancho doesn’t really understand what an insula really is, but he desperately wants to rule one, so he would be tricked later in a Massive Multiplayer Scam to rule a little town that is not an island. In some English translations (for example, the Gutenberg project this joke is Lost in Translation).
    • Cervantes is constantly making puns and wordplay, most of which is untranslatable.
  • Love Martyr: Part II, chapter LX, Don Vicente Tornellas has been shot by his fiancée Claudia Jeronima because she believed that Don Vicente wanted to marry another woman. Don Vicente's last words are to tell her that he was innocent, never intended to marry any other woman, that he considers himself lucky to talk with her in his last moments of life, and then his last act before dying is to give Jeronima his hand and ask her to make him his husband.



Alternative Title(s):

Don Quijote