In 1605 a novel appeared that has become one of the most beloved stories of European literature. It was the history of Don Quixote, the tall, gaunt knight-errant astride his fallible steed, with his potbellied, illiterate squire, Sancho Panza. These eccentric characters are as famous as Sinbad, Tarzan, Odysseus, Hamlet, or Superman. Don Quixote was immediately embraced by his countrymen; it is a testament to the novel and Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra's vivid characterization that the character of Don Quixote is still utilized to mock politicians and satirize the self-righteous.
The original story, El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha, was immediately popular— with six editions in 1605 alone—and has never lost its prominence. Cervantes not only created one of the greatest comic figures of world literature, but with his realist and humanist techniques, he originated, some critics assert, the modern novel.
Part I of Don Quixote's story appeared in 1605 and was complemented ten years later—a year after the usurper, Avellaneda, published a false sequel—by Part II. In both parts of the novel, Don Quixote lives in a world created in his imagination, which had been fueled by his obsession with chivalric tales. He longs to resurrect this world he has long read of: chivalry, battles with giants and evil knights, the rescue of virtuous maidens. Instead, Don Quixote deals with windmills, bedclothes, and much disappointment. Along the way, he acquires a sidekick, Sancho, who helps Don Quixote in hopes of getting rich. This dynamic duo has provided readers throughout the centuries with humorous, yet poignant, chivalric tales.