[BACK]          [Blueprint]         [NEXT]

Click on the footnote symbol in text and you will jump to the reference. Then, click on that footnote symbol and you will jump back to where you were in the text.


From Count Lucanor; of the Fifty Pleasant Stories of Patronio, written by the Prince Don Juan Manuel and first done into English by James York, M. D., 1868;; Gibbings & Company, Limited; London; 1899; pp. 85-105.

stylized border print of flowers and interlacing vines



What happened to King Ben Abit, of Seville, with Queen Romaquia his wife.

manuscript letter T HE Count conversed with Patronio one day in the following manner: —

“There is a man,” said he, “who has begged me frequently to assist him, and, whenever I have done so, he has always given me to understand how grateful he feels. Lately, he has again called upon me for aid, but I find if I do not do as he requires, he becomes angry, and does not fail to give me to understand, by his manner, that he has forgotten all his previous obligations. Now, as you are a man of good understanding, I beg you to advise me how I should act towards this man.’

“Count Lucanor,” said Patronio, “it appears to me that what has occurred to you with this man resembles much that which happened to the King Ben Abit, of Seville, with the Queen Romaquia, his wife.”

The Count begged him to recount what that was.

“My lord,” said Patronio, “the King Abit, of Seville, was married to Romaquia, and he loved 86 her better than anything in the world. She was a very virtuous woman, and the Moors recount many of her good acts. But in one thing she did not display much wisdom; this was, that she generally had some caprice or other which the king was always willing to gratify.

“One day, being in Cordova during the month of February, there happened to be (which was very unusual) a very heavy fall of snow. When Romaquia saw this she began to weep. The king, seeing her so afflicted, desired to know the cause of her grief.

“ ‘I weep,’ said she, ‘because I am not permitted to live in a country where we sometimes see snow.’

The king, anxious to gratify her, ordered almond trees to be planted on all the mountains surrounding Cordova, for, it being a very warm climate, snow is seldom or never seen there. But now, once a year, and that in the month of February, the almond trees came forth in full blossom, which, from their whiteness, made it appear as if there had been a fall of snow on the mountains, and was a source of great delight to the queen for a time.

“On another occasion, Romaquia being in her apartment, which overlooked the river, saw a woman without shoes or stockings kneading mud on the banks of the river for the purpose of making bricks. When Romaquia saw this she began to cry, which the king observing, begged to know the cause of her grief.


“She replied, ‘It is because I am not free to do as I please; I cannot do as yonder woman is doing.’

“Then the king, in order to gratify her, ordered a lake at Cordova to be filled with rose-water in place of ordinary water; and, to produce mud, he had this filled with sugar, powdered cinnamon, and ginger, beautiful stones, amber, musk, and as many fragrant spices and perfumes as could be procured; and, in place of straws, he ordered to be placed ready small sugar canes. Now when this lake was full of such mud, as you may imagine, the king informed Romaquia that now she might take off her shoes and stockings and enjoy herself by making as many bricks as she pleased.

“Another day, taking a fancy for something not immediately procurable, she began weeping as before. The king again entreated to know the cause of her grief.

“ ‘How can I refrain from tears,’ said she, ‘when you never do anything to please me?’

“The king, seeing that so much had been done to please and gratify her caprices, and feeling now at his wit’s end, exclaimed, in Arabic, ‘Ehu alenahac aten,’ which means, ‘Not even the day of the mud.’ That is to say, that, although all the rest had been forgotten, she might at least have remembered the mud he had prepared to humour her.

“And you, Count Lucanor, if you see, after having done so much for this man, that he is ungrateful, and forgets all previous obligations because you are 88 not disposed to do more, I would now advise you to have nothing more to do with him, for he might act in a manner injurious to you.

“But, above all things, I counsel you never to forget a previous obligation, although the person who was once your friend, and conferred it, is no longer disposed to do all you may require.”

And the Count thought this very good advice, and, acting upon it, found the results favourable.

And Don Juan, considering it a very good example, caused it to be written in this book, and composed the following lines, which say: —

Waste not your kindness on one
Who heeds not the good you have done.


The act of ingenious gallantry recounted in the above chapter is recorded by Condé, author of the “History of the Domination of the Arabs in Spain,” as due to Abd el Rahman III, King of Cordova, who reigned from the year 912 to 964; and who, to satisfy the caprice of his queen, or, as is rather supposed, of his mistress Azahra (the flower), caused, as the little history of Don Manuel tells us, the distant mountains to be covered with almond trees; but which, one would be rather inclined to believe were orange, the flowers of which bear, in Arabic, the same name as that given to the favourite — Azahra. It was for this capricious lady also that the king caused to be built the famous palace of Azahra, near Cordova.



Concerning what happened to a Lombardian in Bologna.

manuscript letter C OUNT LUCANOR held converse one day with his counsellor, Patronio, in the following manner: —

“Patronio,” said the Count, “some men have advised me to enrich myself as much as possible, assuring me it will be more advantageous than anything else, enabling me to meet all contingencies. I pray you, therefore, to tell me what you think of this advice.”

“My lord,” said Patronio, “it is requisite that great men like yourself should have some riches for many reasons, especially that they may not, through want, leave undone that which they ought to do. But do not understand that these riches should be collected for the mere pleasure of accumulation, while you leave unfulfilled the duties which you owe to your people, or the protection of your honours and estates. For, were you to do so, that which happened to a Lombardian, in Bologna, might happen to you.”

“How was that?” said the Count, requesting him to relate the particulars.


“My lord,” said Patronio, “there lived in Bologna a Lombardian, who had amassed a large fortune, but had never concerned himself as to the means therein employed, keeping in view only the accumulation of his riches. The Lombardian being seized with a mortal illness, one of his friends, seeing him in great danger, advised him to confess to Saint Dominic, who happened to be then in Bologna; to which the sick man consented. When Saint Dominic was sent for, he desired that a friar should attend the dying man in his place. The sons of the Lombardian, hearing that Saint Dominic had been sent for, were much concerned, fearing that Saint Dominic would influence their father to leave all his possessions for the salvation of his soul, and that nothing would remain for them. When the friar arrived, they told him their father was in a critical perspiration, and that as soon as it was over they would inform him of it. Soon after this, however, the Lombardian lost the use of his speech and died, nothing necessary having been done for the salvation of his soul.

“When the day of interment arrived, Saint Dominic was requested to preach his funeral oration. To this the Saint consented. In his sermon, referring to the deceased, he quoted from the Gospel as follows: — Ubi est thesaurus tuus, ibi est cor tuum,’ that is to say, ‘Where thy treasure is, there is thine heart also;’ and having said this he turned himself towards the people, and said, ‘My friends, in order 91 to show you that the words of the Evangelist are true, go and seek for the heart of this man, and I tell you you will not find it in his body, but you will find it in his money chest.’

“They then went to search for the heart in the body of the Lombardian, but it was not there. It was found in his strong box, as Saint Dominic had said, full of maggots, and in a most putrid and infectious condition.

“And you, Count Lucanor, if you desire to accumulate riches as you have been advised, be careful of two things — the one, that the means by which they are obtained be honourable; the other, that you do not place your heart too much on the possession of them: never do anything which you ought not to do, or leave undone that which it is incumbent on you to perform, but let your treasure be in good works, in order that you may receive the grace of God and be worthy the esteem of your people.”

And the Count was much pleased with the advice which Patronio gave him, and, acting upon it, found it prosperous.

And Don Juan, holding that it was a very good example, ordered it to be put in this book, and made these lines, which say as follows: —

The true treasure gain,
And the false disdain.



The tale related in this chapter is as ancient as it is famous. All countries repeat the moral, in some way or other, it has become a proverb. Where do we not hear the expression, “The avaricious man is heartless.” The French have a proverb corresponding to the precept of this example: — “Le cœur de l’avare est au fond de sa cassette,” — “The heart of the miser is at the bottom of his money box.” What more particularly distinguishes Don Manuel’s tale is the moral commentary which concludes it — that all earthly treasures are perishable.


What Count Fernan Gonzales said to Nuño Lainez.

manuscript letter O NE day, Count Lucanor spoke to Patronio, his counsellor, as follows: —

“Patronio, you know that I am no longer a young man, and that, during my life, I have had many troubles. It is my wish now to inform you that I have resolved from henceforth to enjoy myself — follow the chase and avoid all worldly cares and anxieties. And, since I know that you are always able to give me the best advice, I pray you to counsel me as to this determination.”

“Count,” said Patronio, “what you have said is very sensible, and I should like to be permitted to inform you what the Count Fernan Gonzales once said to Nuño Lainez.”


“Tell me, I pray you,” said the Count, “what that was.”

“My lord,” said Patronio, “the Count Fernan Gonzales, who resided at Burgos, had had much trouble in the defence of his possessions; but, there happening to come a period of peace, Nuño Lainez said to him, ‘Now let me advise you henceforth not to concern yourself so much with external troubles, but give yourself some ease and enjoyment, and leave your people a little leisure to amuse themselves.’

“ ‘No one,’ said the Count, ‘would feel happier to have leisure to enjoy himself and be at rest than I, if I could; but, as you know, I have had wars with the Moors, with the people of Leon, and with the inhabitants of Navarre. However much we may desire to enjoy ourselves, our enemies would lose no time in taking advantage of us; so if we wished to go hunting with our good falcons — riding on comfortable fat mules up and down the fair plains of Arlanza — leaving the country undefended, however agreeable it might be, it would not be wise. It would be said of us as says the ancient proverb —

‘The man is dead and gone;
 No more his name is known.’

But, if we avoid self-indulgence and work hard to keep ourselves in a proper state of defence, guarding well our honour, they will say of us when we die —

‘The man is dead and gone;
 But his name and fame live on.’


Now, since all, good and bad, must die, it does not appear to me right, for the mere sake of self-indulgence, to act in such a manner as to sacrifice to pleasure that fame which should be the reward of our good actions, and remain to us long after we are no more.’

“And you, Count Lucanor, since you know that you must die, I would advise you never for the sake of self-indulgence, or for love of pleasure, to neglect those duties, the fulfilment of which, when you die, shall make your name to survive you.”

Now the Count was much pleased with what Patronio said, acted upon it, and found it just.

And, as Don Juan considered this a good example, he caused it to be inserted in this book, and composed the following lines: —

If for vice and wanton pleasure our good fame we spend,
Life is given in meagre measure, and we miss the end.


Fernan Gonzales was one of the independent lords or counts of Castile, who, by their power, so long retarded the unity of Spain. His life was similar to that of all the great vassals of the crown — one of perpetual warfare. He began his reign of power 933 and died in 968, according to Mariana; or 970, according to Ferreras. The noble answer given by him, as related in this tale, is not a poetic invention, but an historical fact, and may be found in the general chronicle arranged by order of Alfonso the Wise. This observation is particularly interesting as relating to Fernan Gonzales, as poets and chroniclers have sung his praises, with those of the Cid, Bernardo al Carpio, and San Fernando. As we stated in another place, 95 the count was the hero of a laudatory poem mentioned by Argote de Molina. A work, also written by an Anti-Castilian, entitled, “Defence of Fernan Gonzales, as Sovereign Count of Castile,” and which appeared eight centuries after the demise of the count, shows how his memory was revered by the people.


Of what happened to Don Rodrigo Melendez de Valdez.

manuscript letter C OUNT LUCANOR conversed one day with Patronio his counsellor in the following manner: —

“Patronio,” said he, “you know that one of my neighbors and I have had contentions, that he is a man of great influence and much honoured. It now happens that we are both disposed to possess ourselves of a certain town, and it is positive that whoever arrives there first will possess himself of it, and thus it will be entirely lost to the other. You know, also, that all my servants and dependants are ready to march, and I have every reason to believe that, with God’s help, if I proceed at once, I shall succeed with great honour and advantage. But there is this impediment; not being in good health, I shall not be able to avail myself of this opportunity. Now I regret much the loss of 96 this town; but I acknowledge to you that to lose it in this manner provokes me still more, as I lose also the honour which the possession of it would give. Having great confidence in your understanding, I pray you tell me what is best to be done.”

“My lord,’ said Patronio, “I can understand your anxiety in this matter; and, in order that you may know how to act always for the best in cases like this, I should be much pleased to relate to you what happened to Don Rodrigo Melendez de Valdez.”

The Count desired him to relate what that was.

“Count Lucanor,” said Patronio, “Don Rodrigo Melendez de Valdez was a knight much honoured in the kingdom of Leon, and was accustomed, whenever any misfortune happened to him, to exclaim, ‘God be praised! for, since he has so willed it, it is for the best.’ This Don Rodrigo was counsellor to, and a great favourite with, the King of Leon. He had many enemies, who, through jealousy, reported so many falsehoods, and induced the king to think so ill of him as to order him to be put to death.

“Now, Don Rodrigo, being at his own residence, he received the king’s command to attend him. Meanwhile those who were employed to assassinate him waited quietly about half a league from his house. Don Rodrigo intended going on horseback to the king, but coming down stairs, he fell and broke his leg. When his attendants who were to 97 have accompanied him saw this accident, they were much grieved, but commenced saying, half jocosely, to Don Rodrigo, ‘You know you always say, “that which God permits is ever for the best:” now, do you think this is for the best?’

“He replied, that they might be certain, however much this accident was to be deplored, yet he would say to them, since it was by the will of God, if was surely for the best, and all they might say could never change his opinions.

“Now those who were waiting to kill Don Rodrigo by the king’s command, when they found he did not come, and knew not what had happened to him, returned to the palace to explain why they could not fulfil his orders.

“Don Rodrigo was a long time confined to his house, and unable to mount his horse. During this delay the king ascertained how Don Rodrigo had been calumniated, and, having ordered the slanderers to be seized, went himself to the house of Don Rodrigo Melendez de Valdez, and related to him the slanders that had been propagated against him, and for the fault that he the king, had committed, in ordering him to be put to death, entreated pardon; and, in consideration thereof, bestowed on him new honours and riches. And justice was satisfied by the speedy punishment of those who had reported such falsehoods. In this way God delivered Don Rodrigo, who was not guilty. Hence was his customary affirmation proved true, — that, ‘Whatever 98 God permitted to happen was always for the best.’

“And you, Count Lucanor, should not complain of this hindrance to the fulfilment of your wishes. Be certain, in your heart, that ‘whatever God wills is for the best;’ an, if you will but trust in Him, He will cause all things to work for your good.

“But you ought to understand that these things which happen are of two kinds. The one is when a misfortune happens to a man which admits of no relief: the other is when a misfortune is remediable. Now, when an evil can be cured, it is a man’s duty to exert all his energies to obtain the necessary relief, and not remain inactive, saying, ‘it is chance,’ or ‘it is the will of God,’ for this would be to tempt Providence. But, since man is endowed with understanding and reason, it is his duty to endeavour to overcome the misfortunes which may befall him, when they will admit of alleviation. But, in those cases where there is no remedy, then man must patiently submit, since it is really the will of God, which is always for the best.

“And as this which has happened to you is clearly one of those afflictions sent by God, and admits of no remedy; and as what God permits is for the best, rest therefore assured that God will so direct circumstances that the result will be as you desire.”

And the Count held that Patronio had spoken wisely, and that it was good advice; and, acting accordingly, he found good results.


And Don Juan, considering this a good example, caused it to be written in this book, and composed the lines, which say thus: —

Murmur not at God’s dealings; it may be
He seeks thy good, in ways thou canst not see.


Don Manuel, in this tale, while calling upon us to exercise implicit faith and resignation to the will of Providence, as a Christian duty, proves that his mind was not prejudiced by the then prevailing Arab doctrine of fatalism and inert blind submission to what was supposed to be dispensations of Providence, but urges equally the duty of using our intellectual powers that we may be enabled to discriminate between what really is the will of God, and what arises from our own indiscretion, and what does or does not admit of remedy.


Concerning that which happened to a great Philosopher and a young King, his Pupil

manuscript letter C OUNT LUCANOR conversed with Patronio, his counsellor, at another time, in the following manner: —

“Patronio,” said he, “it happens that I had a relative whom I loved very much, and who was also much attached to me. He left, at his death, a son, still very young, and it devolves upon me to educate this boy, both from the great obligations I am under, as also for the love I had for 100 his father; neither can I forget the great assistance I received from this good friend when I needed it, and which I feel I shall hereafter receive from the son also: and God know I love him as my own child. Now, as the boy has intelligence, I hope, through God, that he may become a good man; but youths are often led away by bad examples, and fail in doing all that they ought to do. Now, knowing the correctness of your understanding, it would please me much to have your opinion; and I pray you to advise me how I should direct this youth, so that his body, soul, and estate may profit by it.”

“Count Lucanor,” said Patronio, “in order that you may act as concerns this boy in the manner which appears to me most desirable, I would wish you to hear what happened to a great philosopher, who had a young king for his pupil.”

The Count begged he would relate to him what that was.

“My lord,” said Patronio, “a king had a son, whom he placed in the charge of a great philosopher to be educated, a man in whom he had great confidence.

“When the king died, his son, the young king, still remained under the care of the philosopher until he was more than fifteen years of age. But soon after this he began to disregard the wise counsels of his preceptor, and to associate with reprobate companions, who, having no interest in his real welfare, flattered and encouraged him in all his wishes. 101 This conduct caused his manners and habits to become so entirely degenerated that the people began to observe it, and to speak of him, saying, how he was gradually losing the charm and openness of youth.

“The philosopher whose duty it had been to educate the king, seeing this state of things, was much grieved, and thought seriously of it, but felt quite at a loss how to act. He had tried many times to restrain him by prayers and by gentle means, and often by severe ones, but all without effect. The philosopher seeing this, and finding that in no way could he induce him to listen to good counsel, thought by means of the following device that he might influence him. He commenced gradually circulating about the court that he possessed the art of divining, and to a greater extent than any other man in the world.

“After a time this reached the ears of the king, who asked the philosopher if it were really true that he possessed the art of augury, as they had informed him?

“This at first he denied; but, after some further solicitation on the part of the king, he admitted it was so, but expressed great anxiety that it should not be known to the world.

“Youth is usually impatient to know and do all things; and the king, being young, urgently pressed the philosopher to give him an example of his powers. The more he excused himself, the more 102 the young king entreated. At length the philosopher proposed that they should one morning leave the palace together very early, so as not to be observed, when he would give him an exemplification of his powers.

“Early the following morning they started, the philosopher directing his steps towards a valley in which were a number of deserted villages, where they heard a crow cawing on a tree. The king pointed this out to the philosopher, who made signs for him to be silent. Another crow, which they saw on a neighbouring bough, commenced likewise to caw from time to time, giving it the appearance of a conversation.

“After the philosopher had listened some time, he began to weep bitterly, rent his clothes, and exhibited all the outward signs of violent grief.

“When the youthful king saw this, he was in great alarm and begged he would tell him what had occurred to disturb him in that manner.

“The philosopher requested he would not insist on knowing the cause; but, after much entreaty, told him, saying, it were better for him that he were dead than living, feeling so disgraced through his pupil’s conduct; for not only the people, but even the birds, knew that, from his unjust taxation and total neglect of his duties, he would lose his kingdom, together with all his possessions, and be despised by mankind.

“The young king inquired how he could learn 103 this from the birds; and was told, in reply, that these crows intended marrying the son of the one with the daughter of the other. The crow who commenced speaking first, said to the other, ‘It is a long time since this marriage was arranged; it would be better now that it should take place.’

“ ‘It is true,’ said the other crow, ‘it was to have been so; but now I have become much richer than you; and, thanks be to God,’ said she, ‘since the present king began his reign, all the villages in this my valley have become deserted, and I find in the abandoned houses abundance of snakes, lizards, toads, and other things which usually exist in such places; therefore, as I have much more to eat than formerly, the marriage would not now be equal.’

“When the other crow heard this she commenced laughing, and replied, ‘What you have said has very little sense in it, if it be all the reason you can give for breaking off the marriage; for, if it pleases God to prolong the life of the young king, my daughter will be very much richer than your son, as there will be many more deserted houses in the valley where we live, we having ten villages where you have only one; you need not, therefore, on this account, delay the marriage.’

“Hearing this explanation, the two crows consented at once to the union of their children.

“Now, the young king, hearing all this, was much grieved, and began to reflect how deficient and careless he had been in the proper fulfilment of 104 his duties, by his neglect converting his kingdom into a desert. When his preceptor saw how thoughtful and unhappy he had become, and that he appeared now disposed to listen to advice, he gave him some good instructions; and in this way was his conduct entirely changed, and he devoted himself ever afterwards to improve, not only his own affairs, but those of his kingdom.

“And you, Count Lucanor, since you desire to educate and establish good principles in this youth, let it be done by good examples; by instructive conversations and in agreeable manner lead him to understand and like his duties. But on no account worry him by misjudged chastisements, or think to guide him by ill-treatment, for the disposition of the young is such that they soon acquire a dislike to those who correct them, particularly young men of high, independent spirit, as they will never admit they are in the wrong, although it may be their best friend who corrects them, and with the kindest intentions, yet they never see things in this light. Avoid carefully this method, so injurious to both parties, and so destructive to the happy accomplishment of your wishes.”

The Count was much pleased with the advice Patronio gave him, and acted upon it.

And as Don Juan approved of this example, he ordered it to be written in this book, and composed the following verses: — 105

Do not chastise the erring youth,
But lead him gently to the truth.


This fable is evidently of Eastern origin, and is found in almost all their collections. Although its style seems peculiar to the old Indian, we find in the different relations the birds sometimes represented to be crows; in others, owls; again, as other birds of prey. The first idea has had many imitators, but none have developed it with the good style and clearness of the author of Lucanor. Le Sage related a very amusing tale, similar to the above, of a conversation between two magpies, without, however, determining its origin. He merely says, “It reminds me of an Indian tale that I read in Pilpay or some other fabulist.”

stylized trinagular border print of flowers


[BACK]          [Blueprint]         [NEXT]
Valid CSS!