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Literature / Lazarillo De Tormes

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"Aprende, necio, que el mozo del ciego un punto más listo ha de ser que el diablo." Translation 

The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes and its fortunes and adversities (known as Lazarillo de Tormes for short) is an anonymous 16th-century Spanish novel, written in the first person and in epistolary style (as a single, long letter), whose earliest known editions date back to 1554. In it, the titular Lázaro de Tormes, who's an adult at the present, tells his life from his miserable childhood until his wedding in a message to another person. It's considered the precursor of the picaresque novel and one of the greatest inspirations of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist.

Lazarillo de Tormes is an ironic and ruthless sketch of the society of the moment, showing its vices and hypocritical attitudes, especially those of clergymen and religious. There are different hypotheses about its authorship; the author was probably sympathetic to Erasmus ideas. This motivated the The Spanish Inquisition to prohibit it and, later, to allow its publication, once it was expunged.


Lazarillo de Tormes provides examples of:

  • Anti-Hero: Lazaro.
  • Battle of Wits: Lazaro has two with the Blind Man and Cleric, respectively.
  • The City: The work takes place in various urban environments from 16th-century Spain.
  • Corrupt Church: The entire work seems to be a critic against the Spanish Church's hypocrisy at the time, with two of Lazaro's masters (the Cleric and Papal Bull Vendor) being corrupt clergymen. Many scholars have suggested that this is why the book was published anonymously, with the writer (correctly) expecting the Inquisition to come out against it.
  • Crapsack World: 16th Spain
  • Disappeared Dad: Lazaro's father went to war and never came back.
  • Guile Hero: Over the course of the first three chapters, Lazaro uses his wits to survive.
  • Impoverished Patrician: Lazaro's third master, the Hidalgo, is a nobleman who, while wearing decent clothing, is in far worse life conditions than Lazaro was at the time. Being unable to pay his rent makes the Hidalgo leave Lazaro and escape once his landlords come after him.
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  • Innocence Lost: One of the book main themes.
  • Long Title: The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes and its fortunes and adversities
  • Son of a Whore: It's implied Lazaro's mother worked as a prostitute at one point.
  • Street Smart: Lazaro.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Lazaro tricks the Blind Man to jumping to a column for all the mistreatment he has endured.
  • The Trickster: The Blind Man, and eventually, Lazaro as well.
  • Trickster Mentor: The Blind Man, in a pretty harsh way.
  • Zen Slap: One of the most iconic moments of the novel is when Lazaro arrives with his first master, the old blind man, to a bridge with a statue of a bull made of stone. The blind man then tells him to put his ear against the bull, because he will hear a great noise inside it. Lazaro does as he says... and then the blind man proceeds to bash his head against the stone. The blind man then tells him that he can't provide him with many luxuries, but yes with ample lessons. And Lazaro also recalls this moment as the one that teached him the most important lesson in his live. To be smart about who to trust, and to make use of his guile to survive.