A tale that spans over 400 years, the story of Don Quixote was written by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra and published in 1605 in Spain. Don Quixote is a bittersweet tale of innocence and loss, and seeing beauty in a world that so many find dark and frightening.
Don Quixote, a retired country gentlemen, lived in La Mancha with his sister and his niece. As an avid reader, he was obsessed with learning all he could about chivalry, knights, and being a hero for the common man. He became fascinated with stories of knights coming to the rescue of beautiful maidens and battling giants and evil magicians.
Some say it was lack of sleep and food that caused Don Quixote to loose his mind, but one day he just woke up and decided he was a knight errant, and that he must go out into the world and do good deeds. He went out into his stables, where his only horse, a tired old work horse, resided. But to Don Quixote this horse appeared as a most noble steed. So out into the world he rode on this noble steed, wearing an old suit of armor left to him by his grandfather.
Don Quixote’s fair maiden was named Dulcinea (she was actually a local farm girl named Aldonza), and in his eyes she was the most radiant and beautiful maid that ever lived.
During his travels Don Quixote found himself at a small village inn (which he mistook for a grand castle). While he stayed at this inn he managed to convince the innkeeper (whom he believed to be the greatest of royalty) to dub him a knight.
One of Don Quixote’s first acts of chivalry was to free a young boy who had been tied up when he’d asked his master to pay him the money owed to him for work he’d done.
Sancho Panza joined Don Quixote in his travels as his good-natured and chubby sidekick. Don Quixote promised Sancho his own island in payment of faithful service.
Don Quixote’s adventures frequently caused him misfortune. One time he mistook a cluster of windmills for evil giants. When he attacked the windmills, his lance was caught, causing both he and his horse to be thrown to the ground. He proclaimed that a powerful and terrible magician had caused the giants to appear as windmills, thus thwarting his attempts to kill them.
On another occasion he saw a herd of sheep and declared them an evil army. As he set off to attack them, the shepherds hurled rocks at him because of course they were protecting their surprised and frightened sheep!
Meanwhile, back home, two of Don Quixote’s friends had taken it upon themselves to cure him of his madness. They first burned his books, then set out after Don Quixote to bring him home and cure him. They hired a woman to pose as a damsel in distress, and the weary knight was then trapped and caged. All the way home, his friends kept trying to convince him of the craziness of his actions, proclaiming that chivalry and knighthood were just fantasy and lies.
Once home, Don Quixote refused to believe his fantasies could not be real, and soon he and Sancho were off on another set of adventures. They were strengthened by the fact that their exploits had now been released as a book, and they were called to visit a local Duke and Duchess who found their adventures entertaining.
Eventually Don Quixote and Sancho returned home, where Don Quixote took quite ill. Upon examination it was found that he was dying. He spent more and more time sleeping, and then one day woke up and announced that he had indeed been insane, and that now he was sane again. His adventures had been the flights of fancy of a crazy man and the beautiful Dulcinea was not his lady at all. He passed from this world and into the next a broken dreamer.
Don Quixote’s life is a story of idealism in a world of practicality. It’s about seeing beauty and having faith in a world gone wild. It’s also a bittersweet reminder that sometimes that idealism is lost, and in that loss is an emptiness that cannot be filled.