Lazarillo de Tormes

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Lazarillo de Tormes

Lazarillo de Tormes (lah-sah-REE-yoh deh TOHR-mehs), so named because he was born in a mill over the River Tormes. Bereaved at an early age by the death of his father, Lazarillo is given by his impoverished mother to his first master, a blind beggar whose cruelty is precisely the kind of education the unfortunate lad needs to remove his naïvete and prepare him to exist in a cruel world that promises only hardships for him. Treated cruelly, Lazarillo learns all the tricks of providing himself with food and drink. Becoming sharp and witty, although keeping his good nature, he develops the ability to please people and impress them. He is a kindhearted, generous lad, though his environment might well train him in the opposite direction. He is what may be best described as one of nature’s gentlemen. Given an opportunity by a kindly chaplain, Lazarillo settles down to an honest career as a water carrier. A diligent worker, he saves enough money to become respectable. Another friend, the archpriest of St. Savior’s Church in Toledo, provides Lazarillo with an opportunity to marry an honest and hardworking woman who gives her husband no trouble, though gossip, until silenced by Lazarillo, tries to make out that the young woman is the archpriest’s mistress. By his wit, competence, and industry, Lazarillo thrives and becomes a government inspector of wines at Toledo, a post that provides him with comfort and self-respect, if not affluence or great honor.

Antonia Pérez Goncales

Antonia Pérez Goncales (ahn-TOH-nyah PEH-rehs gohn-SAH-lehs), Lazarillo’s mother. A good but poor woman, she faces adversity following the death of her husband. To help her keep alive and provide for her small son, she takes a Moorish lover, by whom she has a dark-skinned child. After her lover’s conviction for theft, she is thrown upon her own meager resources, at which time she tries to provide for Lazarillo by putting him in the service of a blind beggar.

Thome Goncales

Thome Goncales (TOH-meh), Lazarillo’s father, a miller. Convicted of fraud and theft, he enters military service and is killed shortly thereafter in a battle with the Moors, while Lazarillo is a small child.

The Zayde

The Zayde (SI-deh), a stable master for the comendador de la Magdalena. He is a Moor who becomes the lover of Lazarillo’s mother. Being a poor man, the Zayde steals to provide for his mistress and the two children, Lazarillo and his half brother. His thievery discovered, the unhappy man is punished brutally and forbidden to see his adopted family.

The Blind Beggar

The Blind Beggar, Lazarillo’s first master. He treats Lazarillo cruelly from the first, beating the boy and starving him. He is a clever man who imparts his knowledge of human nature to the boy. No better master could have been found to acquaint Lazarillo with the rigors of life for a poor boy in sixteenth century Spain, though Lazarillo realizes this fact only later in life; as a boy, he becomes bitter toward the man.

The Penurious Priest

The Penurious Priest, Lazarillo’s second master, who also starves the lad and keeps up a battle for months to prevent his acolyte from stealing either food or money; he has little success against the ingenious Lazarillo.

The Proud Squire

The Proud Squire, Lazarillo’s third master. A man of honor, he starves himself rather than admit he is without money. Lazarillo joins him in the expectation of finding a rich master, only to learn he must beg on behalf of his master as well...

(This entire section contains 781 words.)

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as for himself. Eventually the squire, besieged by creditors, disappears.

The Friar

The Friar, Lazarillo’s fourth master, who is so busy and walks so far each day that Lazarillo leaves him after a few days.

The Seller of Papal Indulgences

The Seller of Papal Indulgences, a hypocritical pardoner who knows, like Geoffrey Chaucer’s famous Pardoner, all the tricks to part poor Christians from their money. He is a fraud in every way, but he has little effect on the quite honest Lazarillo.

The Chaplain

The Chaplain, Lazarillo’s sixth master and first real benefactor. He gives Lazarillo work as his water carrier, enters into a partnership with the lad, and provides Lazarillo with a mule and the other necessities of his work.

The Archpriest of St. Savior’s Church

The Archpriest of St. Savior’s Church, a good and benevolent clergyman who helps Lazarillo to preferment and becomes his friend. He introduces Lazarillo to his future wife.

Lazarillo’s Wife

Lazarillo’s Wife, a former servant of the archpriest. She gives birth to Lazarillo’s child, a daughter.


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Alter, Robert. Rogue’s Progress: Studies in the Picaresque Novel. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1965. Discusses several picaresque novels, beginning with Lazarillo de Tormes, and (by stretching the meaning of “picaresque”) traces the form’s survival into the twentieth century.

Bjornson, Richard. The Picaresque Hero in European Fiction. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1977. An expansive survey of picaresque literature in Spain, Germany, England, and France. Declares that Lazarillo de Tormes’ author was among the first to realize “the novel’s potential as a serious form of literary expression.”

Deyermond, A. D. “Lazarillo de Tormes”: A Critical Guide. London: Grant & Cutler in association with Tamesis Books, 1975. Discusses the novel in its social and religious context, and analyzes the novel’s structure, style, and imagery. Indispensable. Annotated bibliography.

Dunn, Peter N. The Spanish Picaresque Novel. Boston: Twayne, 1979. Surveys the birth of the form with Lazarillo de Tormes and its growth in Spain until the first half of the seventeenth century. Also discusses the many sequels to the short novel that appeared after its publication.

Fiore, Robert L. Lazarillo de Tormes. Boston: Twayne, 1984. A starting point for the general reader. Devotes a chapter to the novel’s disputed authorship and concludes by praising the novel as being “universal in scope.” Chronology, annotated bibliography.