The name of Lobeira (lew-BI-ruh) is extremely vexing to scholars of Spanish and Portuguese literature, for it is not certain (and perhaps never will be) whether João de Lobeira (fl. 1258-1285) or Vasco de Lobeira (fl. 1385-1403) is principally responsible for Amadís of Gaul, the romance that Miguel de Cervantes invokes as the cause of Don Quixote’s madness. The great scholar of Iberian literature, A. F. G. Bell, believes that the prose romance is by Vasco, based upon an earlier poetic version by his ancestor João in the reign of King Dinis. The work was first published in four books by Garci Ordóñez (or Rodríquez) de Montalvo in 1508.
Fifteenth and sixteenth century sources refer to a Vasco de Lobeira who was knighted by King João I on the field of Aljubarrota about 1385. Since Amadís of Gaul was first referred to some thirty-five years earlier, this would mean either that Vasco was more than sixty years old when knighted or very young when he wrote his romance—unless one assumes that the reference in 1350 was to a poetic version by João de Lobeira. Vasco’s father left a will, dated 1386, in which he stipulated that if his widow were to remarry, the estate should go to Vasco. The fact that Vasco’s mother later married a Castilian knight may mean that Vasco was influenced to compose or translate his novel into Spanish.
In any event no original Portuguese manuscript is extant, and the question remains one of academic dispute. One thing is certain, however: The tale exerted a powerful influence on French, Spanish, English, and Italian literature through the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, with subsequent romancers adding tales and adventures to swell the original three books to fourteen. The places and dates of Vasco’s birth and death are not certain.