Caballero Cifar, El


Caballero Cifar, El
(Caballero Zifar)
(ca. 1299–1305)
   El Caballero Cifar is the earliest full-length indigenous chivalric ROMANCE in Spanish, written in Castilian prose in about the year 1300.While its author is anonymous, he was clearly familiar with the LAIS of MARIE DE FRANCE and with the romances of CHRÉTIEN DE TROYES, and possibly with the prose romances of the 13th-century French VULGATE CYCLE as well. Evidence suggests that the author may have been a cleric, and some scholars have suggested Ferrán Martínz, archdeacon of Madrid, as a possible author, but such conjectures are impossible to prove. The romance survives in two extant manuscripts, one preserved in Madrid at the National Library of Spain, the other in Paris at the National Library of France. An early printed version, published at Seville in 1512, is also extant.
   The structure of the Caballero Cifar is rambling and, by modern standards, somewhat incoherent. It has been compared to the loose narrative style of late Greek or Byzantine tales. The plot follows the adventures of the knight Cifar and his wife,Grima, as well as the later chivalric adventures of his sons Garfín and Roboán. These, along with an episode concerning the Lady of the Lake, suggest the influence of the popular romances of King ARTHUR. In addition, the text combines a secularized adaptation of the life of St. Eustache, other popular tales, and didactic matter and exempla.
   The most admired and discussed character in the Caballero Cifar is the peasant squire of Cifar’s son Roboán, known as El Ribaldo. The last part of the romance focuses chiefly on the adventures of Roboán and his squire, and scholars have seen in El Ribaldo a predecessor of the picaresque hero of later, Golden Age Spanish literature—embodying a sort of realism uncharacteristic of most chivalric literature. Also, in El Ribaldo scholars have seen the original forerunner of Cervantes’s immortal Sancho Panza.
   Bibliography
   ■ Burke, James F. History and Vision: The Figural Structure of the Libro del Cavallero Zifar. London: Tamesis, 1972.
   ■ Nelson,Charles L., trans. The Book of the Knight Zifar. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1983.
   ■ Olsen,Marilyn A., ed. Libro del Cauallero Çifar. Madison, Wisc.: Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies, 1984.
   ■ Walker, Roger M. Tradition and Technique in El libro del Cavellaro Zifar. London: Tamesis, 1974.
   ■ Webber, E. J. “The Ribaldo as Literary Symbol.” In Florilegium Hispanicum, edited by John S. Geary 131–138, Madison,Wisc.: Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies, 1983.

Encyclopedia of medieval literature. 2013.

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