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Literature / Martín Fierro

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Aquí me pongo a cantar
Al compás de la vigüela,
que al hombre que lo desvela
una pena estrordinaria
como el ave solitaria
con el cantar se consuela
José Hernández, "Martín Fierro"

Martín Fierro is considered the basis of the Argentine Literature, and the pinnacle of the gauchesque poetry, and it has spawned at least one official sequel and two Ascended Fanfics by the master of Mind Screw, Jorge Luis Borges. In a rural landscape, Fierro is a gaucho that has been forced to join the Argentinian Army to fight the Mapuche and Ranquel Indians in The Savage South. There he spends three years in miserable conditions, unpaid and half naked, until he decides to go back to home. However, he suffers a Heroic BSoD when he realizes that his family had left long time ago because they had been gradually deprived of their belongings..

Fierro then goes in a revenge rampage with anyone stupid enough to cross his path, and he becomes a fugitive of The Law until he finally throws himself in a Final Battle with the police. There, one of the cops (another gaucho named Cruz note ) makes a Heel–Face Turn and defends Fierro from the injustice of his life.Finally, they both decide to cross the frontier and go living with the indios.

Martín Fierro provides examples of:

  • The Alleged Steed: When Martin Fierro was recruited to fight at the Frontier, he came on a Cool Horse so cool that the Commander stole it from him. Fierro and the other recruits are forced to use very old and slow horses, and they are fighting Badass Natives with cool horses.
  • Anti-Hero: Fierro is a deserter, a murderer, and a racist, but he was pushed beyond his limits and had his Berserk Button smashed beyond repair.
  • Apathetic Citizens: Martin Fierro was this even before all his disgraces happened: At Song II, he says that he didn’t want to vote in the election (In Argentina, to vote for the Civil Judge was required) because He is a gaucho redondo (dumb) and those things do not interest him. Notice that he never rebels against the authorities, he just runs away from them.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: He indeed became a killer, but the first time that he is conscripted, it's for laziness.
  • Arcadia: At Song II, Fierro declares his former life as a rancher as this: All the hard work the gauchos made seemed to be a party, everyone was happy after work, even the poorest gaucho had hope in the future , the Cattle Baron respected them, and there was food in abundance for all. At the third song, Fierro implies this is full of Nostalgia Filter because he is now an Outlaw who only can remember his lost old life.
  • Arms Dealer: At Song III, Fierro denounces that the Colonel did not gave fire arms to the new recruits, pretexting he will give them when the Indians will attack them. When the Indians attack, the army gave the soldiers spears, because the firearms are useless without ammunition. Then a sergeant tells Fierro that the argentinian army really has ammunition, but they sell it to hunt ostrichs. The natural consequence is that the Indians are free to Rape, Pillage, and Burn the Frontier.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Averted. The entire poem is written in an argentine peasant slang, with plenty of intentional "mistakes" to give more local flavor, but the author did his research, working for months in the fields.
  • Attack! Attack... Retreat! Retreat!: Played for Drama at Song III when the Conscripted Gauchos, without any military training, chase for the Indians after yet another indian incursion on the Frontier. Only this time, the Indians made a Tactical Withdrawal and they pull a Defensive Feint Trap against the Gauchos. Cue a Curb-Stomp Battle where the Gauchos end literally Chased by Angry Natives.
  • A Taste of the Lash: At Song III Fierro says that when the conscripted soldiers arrived at the Frontier, an official told them that anyone who tries to desert will get five hundred strokes, and so he could count himself as dead.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: When he is conscripted to the Frontier, Fierro invokes this trope by taking his best clothes, his best horse, and all the instruments that are needed for it. He is not only showing off, all of those clothes and instruments are needed for a Gaucho who is going to fight someone. The page image depicts Fierro at this moment, the last time Fierro looks so elegant, before his Perpetual Poverty.
  • Badass Native: The Indians. Fierro describes them as really badass at Song III. See also Major Injury Underreaction.
  • Badass Unintentional: Fierro didn't wanted in the first time to became a malevo. Then, he turns in a Badass Bystander.
  • Berserk Button: Martín Fierro, when he came back to his house and found... nothing.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: Even Hernández says so. He doesn't want to create a idyllic society, but depict the injustices of the society. Again, Fierro commits crimes, even if it is understandable by context. But it turns out the government throws gauchos to the fight with the indians planning a total genocide.
    • This has proven to be truth, as long as former President Domingo Faustino Sarmiento considered that only the white population could be civilized, and had used the mestizos and black population as Cannon Fodder in the wars against the mapuches and tobas, and even against Paraguay. Both wars ended with a total genocide of the Paraguayan nation and the colonization of Patagonia by killing the natives. He even made a ghetto in Buenos Aires for the black people when a yellow fever epidemic struck.
  • Blatant Lies: The Judge told the Gauchos that they will be recruited to defend the Frontier and they will be relieved after six months. When they get to the Frontier, the first thing they see is a Villainous Demotivator about Resignations Not Accepted.
  • Bragging Theme Tune: This is a poem where the gaucho is supposed to sing accompanied by guitar music, so Song I of the first book is about how amazing Martin Fierro is as gaucho, warrior, and poet - singer… and the rest of the songs are about his terrible misadventures.
  • Book Dumb: Martin Fierro never went to school, however, he is an excellent poet and musician. A lesser case seems to be Martin Fierro's sons and Picardia.
    • El Moreno plainly declares he can’t read, but he has learned everything he knows with a friar, and he is a Worthy Opponent as poet and musician to Martin Fierro.
  • Cannon Fodder: The gauchos for the government.
  • The Captivity Narrative: At Song III in Book I, Martin Fierro says that the women of The Pioneer and DeterminedHomesteaders at the Frontier are captured by the Indians attacks.
    • At Songs VII to X of the Second Book, Martin Fierro narrates how he helped a captive woman to escape the Indians and come back to the Frontier.
  • Cattle Baron: The oligarchy plains to became rich by this, extending the frontier into the Savage South. Historically, they succeeded.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Fierro doesn't hesitate to play dirty. He throws dirt to the eyes of one of the cops to blind him
  • Conscription: The gauchos (Argentina's miscegenated population) were Press-Ganged by the civil authorities to fight the Indians in the frontier in the book and in Real Life.
  • Cool Horse: When he is conscripted, Martin Fierro takes his best clothes and his best horse to the Frontier: The "Moro" (a horse with gray hair) that is a beautiful horse that had won a lot of races and had made a lot of money for Fierro. The "Moro" is so cool that The Commander steals it from Martin Fierro.
  • Corrupt Politician: Almost all the government, authority or landowner is dirty, one way or another.
  • Costume Exaggeration: When Fierro leaves for the Frontier, he wears every piece of the costume of a typical gaucho, trying to invoke the Gaucho version of Badass in a Nice Suit. Jorge Luis Borges even remarks that when Fierro gets stuck in Perpetual Poverty, he says maybe no one will believe he was once rich enough to do it.
  • Cowboy: The gauchos, at some point. But there is a few major differences, for example the distaste of guns, or the mestizo origin.
  • Crapsack World: Argentinian pampas under the government of Domingo Faustino Sarmiento.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The protagonist is a Gaucho that has a lot of “picardía criolla” (gauchesque mischief) that is very funny… at least for the people that is not directed at. Fierro deconstructs this trope because people consider him a Jerkass and they attempt to Offing the Mouth with him.
    • Fierro describes an Englishman as from “Inca-la perra” that could be translated like “a dog rider”, demeaning the Englishman, who was someone who found a job digging trenches instead of doing something like riding a horse, only work worthy of a Gaucho.
    • Fierro describes another immigrant as a “Pa-po-litano”, meaning a Napolitan… but "Papo" means "pussy" in Argentinian “lunfardo”, so it’s an insult.
  • Defensive Feint Trap: At Song III, Fierro declares that when the Gauchos were chasing the Indians after yet another Indian incursion on the Frontier, the Indians were hidden behind the hills and when the Gauchos reached them, the Indians chased them. Cue a Curb-Stomp Battle where the Gauchos end literally Chased by Angry Natives. The irony here is that the Indians applied military tactics better than the Gauchos!
  • Dehumanization: Martin Fierro denies various person’s status as "human” comparing them to animals.
  • Determinator At Song III, Fierro describes the indians as this, because even when they are hungry, thirsty and tired, they will keep fighting. He even compares them to ants, who never sleep.
  • Did Not Do the Bloody Research: Subverted. Hernández was a provinces man, and the slang used is strictly correct. El gaucho Martín Fierro was a total success partially because the slang, and turned to be the first bestseller in the history of Argentina. Even today, most the country people remembers entire paragraphs of the poem and recite them.
  • Dirty Cop: A lot. Even Cruz, as he sides with a (partly justified) criminal.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Averted by the Argentinian Army: Every official is very nasty and the conscripts are tortured continuously, but Fierro denounces the instructors the Army assigned did not know how to train soldiers. Justified because the Army does not have any interest in training the conscripts: they are there as mere Cannon Fodder and to work as Indentured Servants. The absence of this trope is deconstructed: Because Fierro is a conscript who get tortured but never trained properly, he had to be Taught by Experience: he learned how to kill in a real battle, so he learns that Violence is the Only Option and Murder Is the Best Solution to all his problems. Later on, when Fierro becomes a Dangerous Deserter, he commits a lot of murders.
  • Dumb Is Good: At Song II, Fierro invokes this trope when he says that he didn’t want to vote in the last election (In Argentina, to vote for the Civil Judge was required) because He is a gaucho redondo (dumb) and those things do not interest him. If the judge was angry at this, he would have done better persecuting the real culprits and not him, or in other words, people interested in the election.
  • Evil Colonialist: the plans to extend the agricultural border.
  • Flaying Alive: At Song III of the first book, Martin Fierro says that The Savage Indian does this to the feet of the women they took captives.
  • Gaucho: Fierro is the archetype of this character.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Fierro deliberately replaces his spanish real world swear words when he uses them (In Spanish, "badajo" (part of a bell) for "carajo", "puchá" for "puta" (meaning bitch), etc.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: Played deliverately straight, and Played for Laughs. Used specifically with the gringosnote . The trick is that Martín Fierro doesn't know really what the Italian says and understands phonetically. Example "ha garto!" says the "pa-po-litano" (intentionally misspelled by napolitano -a person from Napoles), and he says "más lagarto serás vos" (You are the lizard), and so on.
    • In fact, the language speaked by the gringo is ''cocoliche'': a mix between Spanish and Italian.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: All the misfortunes Fierro and all the Gauchos suffer are by design: in Real Life, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento (who never gets mentioned on the book) had decreed the Conquest of the desert so the native Indians will be subjected to genocide and the Gauchos will be replaced by the Gringos (immigrants of European descent).
  • Guns Are Worthless: The recruited Gauchos discover that yes, without ammunition they really are. This trope was invoked by the Argentinian Army.
  • Hellhole Prison: The barracks in the frontier.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Cruz.
  • Heroic BSoD: Fierro, when he sees his house ruined and his family missing
  • Horrible Judge of Character:
  • Humans Are White: Values Dissonance, but there it is. Fierro's first victim is a black guy that he teases and bullyies into being drunk and rabid. Specially vissible when he's talking of the indians.
    • Somewhat subverted by the fact that Fierro actually regrets killing the moreno, and hopes to give him a proper burial.
  • Hunter Trapper: The gauchos at the military camp, as it is the only way for them to survive.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: At Song III, Martin Fierro declares that the Indians can kill any enemy with polearms and the boleadoras.
  • Invading Refugees: The Italian migrants, who came to Argentina to escape the occupation of their country by Austria, are viewed this way by the Gauchos.
  • Knife Fight: Almost every fight (except in the Frontier)
  • Last-Second Word Swap: Used by Martin Fierro when he is not using Gosh Dang It to Heck!.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: At Song III of the first part, Fierro mentions that when the indians spill his guts, they don't even worry, they will stuff them back in a moment.
  • Make an Example of Them:
    • When the conscripted soldiers arrived at the Frontier, none of the old recruits are relieved. One of them complains, and he is promptly tortured in ''La estaca''.
    • Fierro dares to ask for his salary to the army officials, and they offer to investigate the matter, but when Fierro mocks a gringo about his incapacity to speak spanish, the Gringo mistakes him for the enemy, shoots and almost kills Fierro. When the officials get word of it, they took the chance to torture Fierro in ''La estaca''.
  • Narrative Poem: Martin Fierro recounts his life singing thirteen songs in the first part and thirty three improvised songs in the second part of the book La Ida. This format could be a parody or pastiche (José Hernández was a Cattle Baron who wanted to imitate the style of the gauchos), but Jorge Luis Borges thinks the book could be classified as a novel.
  • Never Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight: Averted by the Argentinian Army. The Gauchos have guns and the Indians have only polearms. But the Army wants the Gauchos to be Cannon Fodder, so they invoke Guns Are Useless by selling the bullets to The Pioneer.
  • Never My Fault: When Fierro reflects that The Judge punished him because Fierro didn't want to vote in his election, Fierro invokes Dumb Is Good and blames Persecuted Intellectuals instead.
    • At Song III, Fierro thinks of one Indian that wanted to kill him ("God forgive him for having tried to kill me"), conveniently forgetting that he was an Evil Colonialist who was Settling the Frontier.
  • One-Man Army: Partially straight. Fierro fights alone with a 'cuchillo' against an unnamed number of soldiers, but when he's close to defeat Cruz makes a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Penal Colony: Again, the army's quarters.
  • Persecuted Intellectuals: When Fierro reflects that the Judge punished him because Fierro didn't vote in the last election, Fierro invokes this trope arguing that The Judge took him for one of them. However, the truth was that Fierro didn't vote because Dumb Is Good and he is simply not interested in that.
  • Police Brutality: Almost all the poem is about this, and how Fierro reacts to the continuous torture in the barracks.
  • Press-Ganged: At the first book, The Judge came into a bar where Martin Fierro and other gauchos were having fun, he arrested them all, and conscripted them. In the Second Book, Picardia (Mischief) reveals that years later, The Commander came to his town, arrested all the men, judged all of them guilty of various crimes and then condemned all to Conscription.
  • Rancher: Every gaucho (including Fierro) in a minor scale, and every major landowner in a full scale.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: At Song III, Fierro describes how the Indians destroyed the settlements of the Frontier: They Plunder and Burn Baby Burn the town, kill kids and old people, and take the women captive and torture them. (Argentinians even have a name for this attacks: a malón). Fierro was conscripted into defending the settlements, but he can’t do it properly: The army has no firearms because the Colonel sold them to the settlers so they can hunt ostrichs. The Argentinian army is exploiting this trope: As long as there are malones the settlers will ask for the Government to continue Settling the Frontier, so the army recruits the Gauchos as Cannon Fodder who cannot stop the malones, while the army officials become Cattle Barons until is time to implement the Final Solution.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Fierro believes that all the authority figures are like this, and that becomes his downfall:
    • Fierro sees some Gauchos and all the Gringos doing a Run or Die when The Judge tries to conscript them, but he doesn't run because he has not done anything wrong, so there is no motive.
    • After arriving to the Frontier, Fierro gets a Villainous Demotivator and sees the officials Make an Example of Them with a solider who wanted to be relieved. Even after that, Fierro complains to The Mayor about not being paid. That doesn't end well for Fierro.
  • Resignations Not Accepted: The first thing that happens when the conscripted gauchos arrived at the Frontier was the oldest conscript to ask to leave, so one of them was tortured and the rest shut up.
  • Run for the Border: the end of of El Gaucho Martín Fierro
  • Run or Die: All the other Gaucho’s and gringo’s reaction when The Judge caughts them to enforce the Conscription.
  • The Rustler:
    • At Song III of the first part, Fierro denounces the Indians as rustlers of the cattle as part of the Malón.
    • At Song XII of the first part, Fierro admits that him and Sergeant Cruz stole some cattle when they decided to go to Injun Country.
    • The most archetypical Rustler is found at the Second Part, at Song XIV to Song XVIII, el viejo viscacha (Old man viscacha, an argentinian rodent), an old man who is a two bit villain, Evil Counterpart of the cowboy.
  • The Savage Indian: Specially in the sequel.
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: At Song III of the First Book, Martin Fierro describes the Indians as this. At the Song X of the Second Book, Fierro describes how he and a captive woman flee an Indian town and cross The Pampas until they reach the Frontier. They were terrified of this trope because Fierro had killed one indian and they were after them.
  • Separated by a Common Language
  • Serious Business: Justified because in Real Life: When the book was written, to sing with a guitar was one of the only pleasures the gauchos could afford, so at the very beginning of his book, Martin Fierro declares that he has come to this life to sing, that he will sing until he dies and that singing will give him glory. In the second Book, there will be more characters who sing about the story of their lifes, and the ending shows us a duel between singers that prefigures a duel to the death.
  • Settling the Frontier: the "official" motif for the quarters
  • The Sleepless: At Song III, Martin Fierro declares that the Indians are like ants that are awake day and night.
  • Starting a New Life: Fierro and Cruz in the end.
  • Stock Punishment: El cepo, also called La estaca, was one of the most dispensed punishments in the Argentinian Army. Song III shows us one of the old soldiers, and later Martin Fierro himself, being tortured there.
  • Suffer the Slings: Gauchos and Indians used the "Boleadoras" or “Bolas”, a type of throwing weapon made of weights on the ends of interconnected cords, used to capture animals by entangling their legs and to kill enemies. These are Argentina’s National Weapon.
    • At Song III, Martin Fierro declares that the Indians dominate this weapon so well, they have Improbable Aiming Skills.
    • At the same Song III, Martin Fierro uses his own boleadoras to defeat an Indian in battle and says that without them, the Indian would have killed him.
  • The Pampas
  • Tactical Withdrawal: At Song III, Fierro declares that when the Gauchos were chasing the Indians after yet another indian incursion on the Frontier, the Indians were hidden and when the Gauchos reached them, the Indians pulled a Defensive Feint Trap against them. The irony here is that the Indians applied military tactics better than the Gauchos!
  • Technical Pacifist: Martin Fierro claims to fight and kill when he has the need at Song I, but the facts narrated at Song III (Fierro killed an Indian who was chasing after him) Song VII (Fierro provoked and killed a black man in a bar fight), Song VIII (Fierro provoked and killed a Bit Part Bad Guys) and Song IX (Fierro kills many men of the Partida who wanted to arrest him for the two last killings) contradict this fact, or at least seem to be very Metaphorically True.
  • The Unapologetic: At Song III, before describing the Indians as The Savage Indian and an Always Chaotic Evil race, Fierro exaggerates this trope when he asks from his audience: "No one asks them for forgivennes".
    • The only one Martin Fierro asks for forgiveness is God at Song IX, when Fierro kills a lot of the men of the partida (soldiers who work as policemen) who tried to arrest him for murder. He never apologizes to anyone else.
  • Villainous Demotivator: When the conscripted soldiers arrived at the Frontier, none of the old recruits are relieved. One of them complains, and he is promptly tortured. Then an official told the new recruits that anyone who tries to desert will get five hundred strokes, and so he could count himself as dead.
  • Violence is the Only Option
  • Warrior Poet: well, Fierro sings his own story. Also Cruz. And the author, José Hernández, was himself a soldier in the civil wars, siding with the Federals against the Unitarians (that ultimately won in the political field).
  • Would Hurt a Child:
    • Fierro mentions at Song III of La Ida that The Savage Indian kills the settler's children without a second thought.
    • Fierro mentions the murder of a gringo kid by The Savage Indian because they thought he was the cause for the plague that is killing them.
    • It was not mentioned in the book, but given that the Argentinian Army implemented the Final Solution on the Indians and Martin Fierro celebrates this fact, it's obvious the same applies for the indian children.