The Legend of Count Grifos Lombardo

The legend of Count Grifos Lombardo is preserved only in a single Spanish ballad, first printed 1562. It has been thought to have some connection to the legend of the birth of Bernardo del Carpio.

Durán 325, Class V; Wolf 137, Class I. “En aquellas peñas pardas.” First printed in the Cancionero llamado Flor de enamorados, 1562.
Charlemagne orders Count Grifos Lombardo, who lives in Moncaya, arrested, because he raped a girl on the Way of Saint James, who was daughter of a duke, and niece of the Pope. He is cast into prison strong, with seven counts to guard him, on penalty of death if he escapes. He is at last sentenced to marry his victim.

Where Moncaya may be I do not know, but Moncayo is a mountain in Aragon, close to the Way of Saint James, but not on it.

Some other Hispanic ballads also begin with the rape of a pilgrimess to Saint James, after which their plots diverge wildly. Collectively, they are known to scholars as El Conde Preso, or as Conde Grifos Lombardo, but one can actually distinguish four different plots that share this name and this opening:
1. The Kick at the Scaffold [El Puntapie a la Horca]
2. Dom Garfos
3. Bury Me Not in a Church [No Me Entierras en Sagrado]
4. The Judgment of God [Justiça de Deus]
This classification and these titles, like the letters referring to some of the ballads below are from my own system, an attempt to keep the forty-seven versions included in the PHBP straight. They are not used by anyone else.

1. The Kick at the Scaffold. The most common (Eighteen versions in the PHBP, and I know of at least two that they are missing1) and the closest to the legend of Bernardo. Known in Asturias, Leon, Lugo, Cantabria, and even Cuba.

1Menéndez y Pelayo, Antología De Poetas Líricos Castellanos, Volume X, p. 48. 10. Bernaldo del Carpio – I. “Íbase por un camino.” Also one in the Romancero judeo-español en el Archivo Menéndez Pidal.

Count Miguel del Prado is arrested, not for theft or murder, but for raping a noblewoman on the Way of Saint James. She was the king’s daughter, and the Pope’s niece. Since she is so highly-born, his penalty is harsh. He is guarded by a hundred during the day, and a hundred and four by night. He wishes for his cousin Don Bernardo to come.

Bernardo does indeed come, with one sword at his belt and one in his hand. He demands the count’s freedom from the king (sometimes Alfonso). The king assures him his cousin shall be pardoned, and invites him to eat, drink, and play cards. But as they play, a page comes and tells Bernardo that the count is about to be hanged anyway. Bernardo throws the cards in the king’s face. The king bids him respect the crown, but Bernardo refuses. He leaps down the palace stairs in a single bound, mounts his horse without stirrup, and rides to the scaffold. He arrives just in time. He destroys the scaffold with a kick, sends the hangman’s head flying with his sword, and gives a sword to his cousin, saying that no kinsman of his shall die on the scaffold.

In some versions, Bernardo is playing cards at his palace when a page tells him the news. Sometimes the king’s invitation to play comes before the falsely-promised pardon. Sometimes Bernardo meets the king in the street, sometimes in the palace. His mighty leaps either occur when leaving the palace, or when leaving his own house. Sometimes the hangman is spared. The princess’ family varies, as do other minor details.

In a unique version from Leon, 1916 (PHBP 0118:3), the cousins kill a hundred soldiers, and the king is obliged to give the infanta in marriage to the Count and a princesa to Bernardo.

2. Dom Garfos. A much less common version, ends tragically (three versions in PHBP, all from Portugal).

C: 1867, Covilhã, Castelo Branco, Beira-Baixa, Portugal. Braga, Romanceiro Geral, No. 25. (PHBP 0118:18)
R: 1919, Portugal. Thomas, Cantares do Povo, pp. 6-8. (PHBP 0118:11)
AA: 1958, Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro, Portugal. Leite de Vasconcellos, Romanceiro Português, I:49-50. (PHBP 0118:17).

The count (Dom Golpes, AA) was taken, not for thefts or murder, but for outraging a noblewoman who went to Saint James. She complains to the king, who gives the count a choice between marrying her and dying. He chooses neither, and calls for his nephew Dom Garfos C, Gaiferos R, Dom Golpes (again) AA, who arrives, and to whom he explains the situation C, R, AA. Garfos obtains his pardon from the king, who bids him go home and sleep soundly, for his uncle will be freed at midnight C, before dawn R, AA.

At midnight, however, he awakens from a nightmare that his uncle has been hanged in the palace yard. In C, his wife, the king’s daughter, informs him that it was no dream: she heard the whole thing. He runs to the gallows, where seven counts C, seven noblemen R, came to see the hanging. [As he leaves the palace, he meets seven counts who are coming thither to gloat AA]. He kills six, and the seventh barely escapes. He threatens the king, who is at a balcony window, and swears revenge C, R. [The survivor is sent to the king, whom Golpes meets shortly afterward, and threatens AA]. He returns home and stabs his wife four times, for her father, her mother, his health, and her treason C.

The Sephardic versions, not in the PHBP, are even bloodier. See the Romancero judeo-español en el Archivo Menéndez Pidal [Madrid, 1978]. In this one, the rapist is sentenced to be hanged at midnight. As he is being led out, he calls for his nephew. His nephew’s wife, however, is the king’s daughter, and tells her husband that it is merely the howling of a dog he hears, and so the nephew arrives too late to save the count. He swears vengeance, and kills his wife, cuts off her breasts, shows them to the king, and proceeds to kill the king, the queen, the princess, and all the courtiers he can find. He then embalms his uncle and sits him on the throne.

1-2. At least two versions are known which combine Puntapie and Dom Garfos:
I: 1893, Castelo de Frades, Cereixedo, Cervantes, Luga, Becerreá, Lugo, Spain. (PHBH 0118:8)
V: 1948, Villaselán, Sahagún, Riberas del Cea, León, Spain. Romancero general de León I, pp 140-141. (PHBP 0118:6)

I (PHBP 0118:8) begins like Puntapie, but after Count Aguilar del Pardo calls for his nephew Gaifer, we cut to the latter awakening from a nightmare that his uncle has been hanged. His wife informs him that it was no dream; she heard his laments. He curses his wife, arms, and rides out. He sees his uncle dead, destroys the scaffold with a kick, knocks the hangman’s teeth out, kills the king’s three sons, but still is not satisfied.

V (PHBP 0118:6) has the plot of Dom Garfos, but many of the lines and phrases are from Puntapie. Count Leonardo calls for his nephew Don Golfo. Don Golfo awakens from a nightmare, and his wife Doña Sancha tells him it was no dream. He leaps down fifteen stairs, and kills some counts who were celebrating his uncle’s execution. The king bids him cease, but he threatens to kill the king, too. He cuts his uncle’s body down, washes it, and has it buried honorably in a church.

3. Bury Me Not. The most common Portuguese form of the ballad (18 versions in PHBP) has been combined with another ballad, No me entierran en sagrado. “Bury me not in a church.”

The Count not only rapes the maiden, but gives her to his henchman. He is given a choice between marrying her and death, and chooses death. He asks that he not be buried in a church, nor in holy ground, nor in an open field, but that his body be placed on his horse, that all who see him may know he died for love.

4. The Judgement of God. Dead in oral tradition. Only recordings known are from the 1800s.

Almeida Garrett’s Justiça de Deus in his Romanceiro, Volume II, p. 295, No. XVI. He confessedly cobbled two versions together and likely made changes of his own.

Braga, Romanceiro Geral, p. 65, No. 26. Justiça de Deus. “Préso vae o conde, préso.” From Beira-Alta, would appear to be an attempt to restore Almeida Garrett’s version as he heard it.

In this version (and only this version) we are actually told how the poor pilgrimess escaped. The count and his henchman abandoned her in the woods, but she was rescued by an old soldier who was going on pilgrimage himself. He takes her to the king’s court, where the count is arrested, tried, and given a choice between death and marriage. He chooses death, but the soldier says this is not right. He must make an honorable woman out of his victim. He casts off his pilgrim’s garb and reveals himself to be a holy bishop. He marries the count and the pilgrimess, after which the count dies. [Almeida’s version ends with two lines explicitly stating that the soldier was Saint James, which Braga rejects.]

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