The Nonexistent Knight

by Italo Calvino

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The main characters in The Nonexistent Knight are Agilulf, Raimbaut, Bradamante, Torrismund, and Gurduloo.

  • Agilulf is a knight who does not possess a physical body but exists as an empty suit of white armor. He fights for Charlemagne in the Crusades.
  • Raimbaut is a young knight who seeks revenge against a Saracen named Isohar for the death of his father.
  • Bradamante is a female knight with whom Raimbaut falls in love and who falls in love with Agilulf.
  • Torrismund is a knight who denies that Agilulf saved a virgin from rape.
  • Gurduloo is a peasant who becomes Agilulf’s squire.


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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 544


First, we have the nonexistent knight himself, Sir Agilulf of Emo Bertrandin of the Guildivern and of the Others of Corbentraz and Sura, Knight of the Selimpia Citeriore and Fez. He fights for Charlemagne against the Saracens. He is nonexistent in that he does not have a physical body: he cannot sleep, he does not eat—he does nothing that would sustain a material body. However, it does "wear" white armor that distinguishes him from other knights. Further, he is very conscientious and a stickler for the rules, and as such he tends to irritate other knights who are demonstrably less chivalrous and virtuous. In the end, when he believes that his title is no longer valid, he seems to simply remove his armor and then dissolve into the air.


There is also Raimbaut, an idealistic young knight who is bent on exacting revenge on the Saracen, Isohar, who killed Raimbaut's father. He is disappointed to learn that neither wars nor knights are as honorable as he expected, and so he does look up to Agilulf (who is quite honorable). He falls in love with the Amazon warrior, Bradamante, and eventually sleeps with her (when he is dressed in Agilulf's armor—which the knight has left to him—and she believes that he is Agilulf himself). The fact that this is rape—that she did not consent to sleep with Raimbaut, but only did so because she thought he was Agilulf—is never dealt with.


Bradamante is a knight who wears periwinkle, and she is an Amazon. Raimbaut falls in love with her, though she loves Agilulf. We learn later in the story that the narrator, Sister Theodora, is actually Bradamante: after Raimbaut sleeps with her, she ran off to a convent, but when he comes from her in the end, she gladly leaves with him. (Again, very problematic because, since she did not consent to sleep with him, his action constitutes rape, and now she chooses to be with him after that act of violence.)


Torrismund is a young knight who says that Agilulf did not actually save a young virgin named Sophronie many years ago. Though she was about to be raped by brigands, she was not a virgin; he says that he knows this because Sophronie is his mother, and he would have been born prior to her attack. (Apparently preventing nonvirgins from being raped is not a knight-producing action; only virgins have chivalric value.) After a potentially incestuous moment, it is finally revealed that Sophronie is not Torrismund's mother but his stepsister only, and then they get married).


Gurduloo is a peasant whom Charlemagne appoints to be Agilulf's squire. He has a strange habit of identifying with almost any animal or object that he sees. He sees ducks, and he thinks he's a duck. He sees frogs, and he thinks he's a frog. He sees pears, and so he thinks he's a pear. One old man says of him, "'He's just a person who exists and doesn't realize he exists.'" There is an interesting contradiction between Gurduloo's abundant physicality—his physical identification with anything and everything—and Agilulf's total lack of physicality, with his abundance of intelligence and cerebral qualities (which Gurduloo totally lacks).

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