Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1153
Not many years after the passion of Christ, there lives in Lesser Britain a Christian king named Garinter. His older daughter is married to the king of Scotland. The younger daughter, Elisena, finds none of her suitors attractive until the day her father brings home King Perión of Gaul, whom Garinter watched defeat two powerful knights and kill a lion. The scheming of Elisena’s attendant, Darioleta, allows the young people to meet secretly in the royal garden. King Perión departs ten days later without knowing the results of their nights of love.
When Elisena’s son is born, Darioleta conceals her mistress’s indiscretion by putting him into an ark, along with his father’s sword and ring, and a parchment declaring the boy to be “the timeless Amadís, son of a king.” She sets the ark afloat in the river beside the palace; it drifts out to sea, where it is found by a knight, Gandales, who is on a voyage to Scotland. Gandales, who rears the foundling with his son Gandalin, calls the boy “Child of the Sea.”
Gandales, riding through the woods when the boy is three years old, rescues Urganda, an enchantress who is being pursued by a knight. The grateful witch, after prophesying that the adopted boy will become the flower of knighthood, the most honorable warrior in the world, promises to aid him should he ever need her help.
When the boy is seven years old, King Languines of Scotland and his queen see him and offer to bring him up at court. Five years later, King Lisuarte and Queen Brisena pause in Scotland on their way to claim the throne of England. They ask permission to leave behind their daughter Oriana until conditions are safe. King Languines appoints the “Child of the Sea” to be her squire.
The two children fall deeply in love with each other, but they dare not let others know of their feelings. To be worthy of Oriana, Amadís determines to be knighted, and when King Perión visits Scotland to seek help against his enemy, King Abies of Ireland, Oriana asks her father’s old friend to knight Amadís. The young knight then rides away in search of fame through adventures.
Urganda meets him in the forest and gives him a lance with which he rescues King Perión from Irish knights. Although neither is aware of the blood relationship between them, Amadís swears always to aid King Perión in time of danger. Then follows a series of fantastic and extraordinary adventures, among them the encounter with haughty Galpano, whose custom is to stop and rob all who pass through his realm. Amadís defeats the bully and his two brothers, although he is so severely wounded in the battles that he has to be nursed back to health by a friendly noble.
Meanwhile, King Perión marries Elisena. Although they lament their lost son, they take pleasure in a second son, Galaor. When King Abies sends an expedition against Gaul, Amadís overcomes the Irish champion. In the celebration festivities at King Perión’s court, the identity of Amadís is discovered through the ring he wears, and King Perión proudly acknowledges his long-lost son.
Amadís remains melancholy, thinking himself unworthy to aspire to wed the daughter of the king of England. He does briefly visit her at Vindilisora (Windsor), only to be called away to rescue his brother Galaor. That summons is a trick of the enchanter Arcalaus, who casts a spell over the knight and disarms him. When the villain appears in the armor of Amadís and riding his horse, Oriana almost dies. Only the timely news of further feats of arms by Amadís tells her that he is still alive, and so she is restored to health.
Tireless in his villainy, Arcalaus causes King Lisuarte to disappear and abducts Oriana. Amadís and his brother, knighted by Amadís, rescue the princess, but in the absence of the king, the traitor Barsinan tries to seize Brisena and usurp the throne. Dressed in rusty armor, Amadís defeats the rebel, and when Oriana’s father reappears, twelve days of feasting follow. Amadís, however, is no nearer to winning the hand of his beloved despite his great service to the king.
Continuing to seek knightly fame, Amadís and his friends sail for Firm Island, settled by Apolidón, son of the king of Greece, who took refuge there after eloping with the daughter of Emperor Siudan of Rome. On Firm Island is an enchanted arch through which only faithful lovers can pass. Beyond it is a marriage chamber guarded by invisible knights. After his arrival in that land, Amadís receives a note from Oriana, who believes the lying charges of unfaithfulness made against him by a malignant dwarf. She signs herself as a damsel pierced through the heart by the sword of Amadís.
His overwhelming grief upon reading the note and his withdrawal, under the name of Beltenebros (Fair Forlorn One) to the hermitage at the Poor Rock, convince Oriana that she wronged him. There is nothing she can do, however, to right matters, for King Lisuarte gives her in marriage to the emperor of Rome.
When a fleet from Rome takes her away, Amadís, calling himself the Greek Knight, defeats it and returns Oriana to her father, asking only that she be protected against further misalliances. King Lisuarte decides to punish such effrontery by an attack on Firm Island, a decision that ranges the knights of the world on two sides. King Lisuarte enlists the help of the emperor of Rome. Amadís visits the emperor of Constantinople and sends a messenger to the king of Bohemia. Arcalaus hates both Amadís and King Lisuarte and encourages King Aravigo to march with his army and prey on both sides.
When the hosts assemble for the battle, King Gasquilán of Sweden sends a personal challenge to Amadís to meet him in single combat between the lines. The king’s overthrow is the signal for a general onslaught that lasts for two days, until at last the death of the emperor of Rome disheartens and routs his army.
Out of affection for Oriana, Amadís does not pursue the defeated host, but King Aravigo takes the opportunity to plunder the followers of King Lisuarte. A hermit, who was trying to bring about peace among the combatants, sends the youthful Esplandían to take the news of King Lisuarte’s distress to Amadís. The hero marches at once to the rescue of King Lisuarte, a kindness that wipes out the enmity between them. The marriage of Oriana and Amadís is solemnized on Firm Island. Afterward, the couple pass under the Arch of True Love into the magic bridal chamber.
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