The Legend of Bernardo del Carpio 8: Bernardo Learns His True Identity

Section I: Chronicles

Lucas: Says nothing.

Rodrigo: Ditto

PCG: In the 28th year of Alfonso’s reign, the 13th of Charlemagne’s, AD 808, [813] two of Bernardo’s kinsmen, Blasco Meléndez and Suero Velásquez, having sworn an oath to Alfonso not to tell Bernardo about Count Sancho, make a plan with two of their kinswomen, Maria Meléndez and Urraca Sánchez. The women play at tablas [prob. backgammon] with Bernardo, let him win, and then inform him how his father languishes in durance vile. Benardo asked Alfonso for his father’s liberty, which was refused, but Bernardo swore he would nonetheless stay faithful to his king.

Ocampo: Omits the game of tables, and makes the women tell Bernardo directly.

Section II: Ballads

Burguillos “En corte del casto Alfonso” Durán 626, Class I; Wolf 9, Class I; Pidal Eruditos 3a-3b. Found in the Cancionero sin año, Cancionero de 1550, Silva I.
3a is the printed version.
3b is from a MS.

Bernardo, living at Alfonso’s court, does not know his father is imprisoned, though everyone else does. Two courtiers, Vasco Melendez and Suero Velazquez, tell two noblewomen, Urraca Sanchez and Maria Melendez, to tell Bernardo the truth. Bernardo storms to the throne room, so angrily that Alfonso thinks he has come to kill him. But Bernardo merely asks humbly for the release of his father. Alfonso swears it will never be done while he [Alfonso] lives. Bernardo swears to serve the king loyally until he earns his father’s pardon. But King Alfonso had always loved Bernardo, who thought he was his son.

Pidal’s 3b omits the last few lines of exposition about Alfonso and Bernardo’s relationship.

Lorenzo de Sepúlveda Durán 6, Class IV; Pidal Eruditos 13. “En Luna está preso el Conde.”

The Count has long been imprisoned in Luna. Bernardo knows nothing of this. Two damsels break King Alfonso’s orders and tell Bernardo the truth. He laments, then goes before the king. Alfonso thinks Bernardo has come to kill him, but he merely asks for his father’s liberty. Alfonso swears it will never be done while he [Alfonso] lives. Bernardo swears to serve the king loyally until he earns his father’s pardon.

Gabriel Lobo Lasso de la Vega (perhaps) Durán 624, Class VIII. Pidal Artificiosos 21. “Contándole estaba un dia.” Printed in the Romancero general de 1600, in broadsides from 1638, 1677.

Elvira Sanchez, Bernardo’s nurse, tells him that he is not really King Alfonso’s bastard son. He is the son of the lawfully married Count Sancho Diaz of Saldaña and the king’s sister Jimena. The Count is imprisoned in the castle of Luna, and the princess in a nunnery. Bernardo is the rightful heir to the throne, though Alfonso wishes to leave it to the French. Bernardo rebukes her for not telling him sooner, and swears to set them free. Elvira says she was afraid of the tyrant Alfonso. Bernardo looks to heaven and weeps, and swears mighty oaths to free his father.

This ballad has no author given in the old copies, but it was printed alongside four other works of Gabriel Lobo. Whoever the author was, he was likely responsible for the unique details of this version.

Section III: Plays

De la Cueva.

Before the battle of Roncesvalles, Suero Velazquez and Velasco Melendez tell Bernardo that Alfonso is planning to give the kingdom to Charlemagne, and then Maria Melendez and Urraca Sanchez, (who are both nuns in this play) tell him of his father’s true identity, without a backgammon game. Bernardo is shocked, but swears to foil Charlemagne’s plans and free his parents. He enters Alfonso’s presence with a great retinue, enough to unnerve Alfonso. Bernardo explains that he intends to stop Charles. Alfonso is at last persuaded to retract his offer to Charles and promised to free Count Sancho. The play ends, however, without us ever learning if he keeps his promise

Lope de Vega’s Mocedades de Bernardo goes completely off the rails of the traditional story. Bernardo, having been raised by Don Rubio, is a holy terror, and exasperates his foster father to the point that he calls him a bastard. Bernardo is taken in by King Alfonso, who reveals that he is his nephew, but no more, and dubs him a knight. At the festivities, Bernardo chases away a Moorish ambassador and insults his cousin Don Ramiro, who claimed a higher seat at the table than him. Bernardo flees the court to El Carpio, currently held by the Moors, and offers them his sword. They, remembering his conduct to their ambassador, welcome him with a smile while plotting to kill him. Bernardo foils their plans and drags them captive back to Alfonso, who reveals that his father is alive, and then asks Bernardo to do him a favor and investigate the haunted castle of Luna, which Bernardo sets off to do.

Lope’s Casamiento opens with Bernardo already aware (before Roncesvalles) of his heritage.

Origins and Influence

Galien li Restore learns his true parentage under similar circumstances to Bernardo; his uncle calls Galien a bastard after losing to him at chess. In the Crónica de 1344, Mudarra, half-brother to the Seven Sons of Lara, learns his true parentage after beating the King of Segura at backgammon.1

Katherine P. Oswald, “The Formation and Transmission of the Legend of Bernardo del Carpio” (PhD diss., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2015), p. 177.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.