Why is Don Quixote considered heroic if all he is doing is "tilting at windmills"?

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Alonso Quixano is a middle-aged (about 50 years old), low-born noble (hidalgo) from the arid, windswept region of La Mancha in central Spain (present-day Castile–La Mancha) who spends his time reading epic tales of chivalrous knight of ages past.

Quixano is obsessed by the stories he reads—some say he's simply mad—and he transforms himself into Don Quixote de la Mancha, a knight-errant on a quest to revive chivalry and champion the causes of justice and honor throughout Spain.

In The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha, usually shortened to simply Don Quixote de la Mancha, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (he added the surname "Saavedra" when he was about forty years old), recounts Don Quixote's many adventures.

In chapter 4, "Of The Good Fortune Which The Valiant Don Quixote Had In The Terrible And Undreamt-Of Adventure Of The Windmills, With Other Occurrences Worthy To Be Fitly Recorded," Don Quixote encounters "thirty or forty windmills" that he envisions as "monstrous giants," all...

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