Vasco de Lobeira Biography

Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

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.

Vasco de Lobeira Bibliography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Bell, A. F. G. Portuguese Literature. 1922. Reprint. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1970. A discussion of the problem of authorship and sources; the reprinted edition contains an updated bibliography to the original text.

Entwistle, W. J. The Arthurian Legend in the Literatures of the Spanish Peninsula. 1925. Reprint. New York: Phaeton Press, 1975. A discussion of the problem of authorship and sources.

Green, Otis H. Spain and the Western Tradition. 4 vols. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1963-1966. A discussion of Amadís of Gaul in the context of the mythology of courtly love appears in volume 1 on pages 104 to 111.

Moorcock, Michael. Wizardry and Wild Romance: A Study of Epic Fantasy. London: Victor Gollancz, 1987. Chapter 1 discusses Amadís of Gaul as the primary ancestor of the modern genre of fantasy.

Northup, George Tyler. An Introduction to Spanish Literature. 3d ed., revised by Nicholson B. Adams. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960. Describes the origins of chivalric romance, discussing the authorship and influence of Amadís of Gaul.

Place, Edwin B., and Herber C. Behm. “Amadís of Gaul”: A Romance of Chivalry of the Fourteenth Century Presumably First Written in Spanish. 2 vols. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1974. A full English translation of the work from the earliest available source; the introduction offers a brief history of the text.

Williams, Grace S. “The Amadís Question.” Revue Hispanique 21 (1909): 1-167. A comprehensive discussion of the origins of the story and its various versions.