In the great Castilian epic poem El Cantar de mio Cid (The Song of My Cid), composed in the twelfth or the thirteenth century by an unknown author, the main character, El Cid, loses favor with King Alfonso and is banished from the court. El Cid is given nine days to leave Castile. Unless he heeds the order, the king’s men will kill him. Gathering his family, soldiers, and vassals, he heads for Burgos. But the residents deny him shelter. Only Martin Antolinez sends them wine and bread and then joins El Cid’s camp himself. There is no money, and the soldiers need food. So El Cid decides to use deception. He says to Martin,
With your help I will make two chests, and we will fill them with sand, so that they be heavy, and they shall be covered with red leather and studded with gilt nails, and thou shalt go to Rachel and Vidas, and say that I cannot carry with me my treasure, for it is very weighty, and that I would pawn it for what may be reasonable. I call God and all his Saints to witness, that I cannot help this, and do it against my will.
He then sends Martin with the chests to Burgos to the Jewish moneylenders, claiming that there is gold inside that has been plundered. Rachel and Vidas believe him and give him six hundred marks.
The Infantes of Carrion are moral antipodes of El Cid. While he does use deception to provide for his army, he is a true and noble knight. The Infantes, however, are mean, arrogant, cowardly, and avaricious.
The author captures their private conversation, which reveals their motives and intentions. They want El Cid’s wealth, but they do not consider him equal in dignity:
My Cid is growing in importance. It would be well for us to marry his daughters, but we dare not think of it, for he is of Bivar and we are Counts of Carrion.
Not only are the Infantes ignoble, they are ungrateful, too. In the middle of the joyous festivity that follows the military victory over the Moors, the sons-in-law come up to El Cid, asking him to let them go home. He gives them Colada and Tizon, his glorious swords, as well as many other gifts. But the thankless Infantes do not forget that their wives are lower in dignity and so unworthy of becoming co-rulers with them at Carrion. On the way home, in the forest, they strip their wives naked, beat them, and abandon them there.
However, the Infantes’ own words elucidate the deepest motive of such a cruel act:
“Here,” said they, “in this wild forest, do we cast you off, and the Cid Campeador shall know that this is our vengeance for the affair of the lion.”
This is a reference to the cowardice the Infantes exhibited when a lion broke loose once in Valencia and El Cid witnessed their unmanly behavior.