I’d be lying if I tell you when was the first time I read Don Quijote. I always tell people it was the second book I ever read—the first one being the Bible, which I still read every now and then. But the important thing here is not the ‘when,’ but rather the ‘how.’ How this book made me feel. Apropos of new beginnings, I think this book serves as the genesis of my love for storytelling. It is crazy, it is fantastic, it is… quixotic. I’ve been absent from blogging, podcasting, and video-making for a while, but I haven’t stopped writing. I’ve been hammering at a new book, and I am almost done; more updates are coming soon. When I first started making videos and podcasts, I was incorporating a lot of humor, which is not a horrible thing to do, granted, but it wasn’t really who I am. Sure, I like to laugh, just like the next guy, but I am really not that funny.
I’m a reader, and readers aren’t inherently humorous. We are kind of boring.
And so, trying to embrace my true self, I’m here to bore you. Well, if you enjoy reading as much as I do, you’re probably going to stick around, aren’t you? Without further ado, I present to you a brief summary of Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes.
Just like me, a guy named Alonso Quijano found himself one day not knowing what to do. At the time, social media didn’t exist, so this guy had few options to properly waste his time. So, what did he do? He started to read chivalric romance books, lost his mind in the process, and became a knight errant. So, why did he do this? To represent La Mancha, his native city, and let everyone know that being a gentleman was still cool.
He needed to come up with a cool name, and just like that rich guy from Gotham City, he created his own moniker: Don Quijote De La Mancha. Next up, he needed to find a sidekick, someone to kick around and blame when everything turned into shit. His personal assistant, in this case, is a man who goes by Sancho Panza, who is always happy and doesn’t seem to give a dime about how nuts his master is. He just nods at everything he says, like a waiter at your local diner, who knows for a fact that you’re wrong but is supposed to make you think that you’re right.
In Part 1 of the book Don Quijote sees the world differently, not as it is supposed to be, but as he wants it to be; pretty much the way you do when you’re madly in love with someone, and you think they’re perfect, but they end up being even more fucked up than you.
Yes, just like that.
Since La Mancha is actually a real place, unlike Gotham City, it is said that Cervantes might have found inspiration from a real person when he wrote Don Quijote. This is how I see it: Cervantes was most likely suffering from writer’s block while eating at some restaurant over in La Mancha about a thousand years ago. What was he eating? Probably paellas, patatas, o pimientos de padron. Who cares? He was hungry and depressed. Cervantes overheard a conversation where some shameless ruffian was bragging about his travels as he was eating and drinking copious amounts of wine. He talked about the places he visited, the women he slept with, the men he fought, and the money he borrowed and never paid back.
This is how Cervantes created a character that has survived for decades and is now talked about by some random dude on the internet in 2021.
Now, are you ready? Let’s dive into the story.
As I mentioned before, Alonso Quijano has nothing better to do and reads all the time, just like me. He’s not a spring chicken anymore, lives with a niece, a housekeeper, and a mysterious boy who is only mentioned once in the first chapter; I feel this is a ghost, but they didn’t want to admit it. Poor Alonso reads so much and sleeps so little. His brain shrinks and wrinkles more than a raisin. He loses his temper and gets more upset than Trump when he lost the election.
Furthermore, he takes every word in the books he reads as gospel and becomes a knight errant looking for adventure. Next, he starts acting like a self-appointed priest and baptizes everything and everyone around, including himself. Now he is Don Quijote, and his horse is Rocinante, and some girl in the village he never really talked to becomes Dulcinea del Toboso. Her real name was Aldonza Lorenzo; maybe Don Quijote did her a favor by changing her name.
With this new mindset of his, where the world around him is no longer what it really is, he goes out and starts causing mayhem. He arrives at a motel/bar that he mistakes for a castle, treats prostitutes as ladies (maybe that’s not such a bad thing), and pressures the barkeeper to make him a knight. Why? Because Don Quijote thinks this guy is the king of the castle. The barkeeper obliges, and now everything is good with the world. Well, not after Don Quijote starts fighting with everyone and the ‘lord of the castle’ tells him to go fuck himself.
He continues with his adventures, fighting with more people and talking too much about himself and the love of his life, just like we do on social media nowadays, but face to face. And that’s when everything goes to hell in a handbasket because when some peasants made fun of him and said that Dulcinea was nothing but a figment of his imagination, Don Quijote charged at them and fought to the end…
…to the end of himself, because he was obviously defeated, left for dead, and with no other choice but to return to La Mancha.
Don Quijote is in his bed this time, while everyone in his house, including a real priest, starts burning most of the books that drove him mad, and when he wakes up, they tell him that a wizard came and burnt them all. And of course, he believes it… because he is crazy.
A while later, Don Quijote is ready to go at it again, and after remembering the holly beating he got, he decides to get some backup this time. And that’s when Sancho Panza comes in; he never got his name changed for some reason. I wonder why. Either way, convincing him to join in the adventure wasn’t hard. The only thing Don Quijote had to do was to offer him a house. Did Sancho believe that was going to happen? I think not, but who cares? He was going to have some fun.
They go around, and Don Quijote feels a lot safer. But he is still crazy. He is so out of it that he mistakes two traveling monks for enchanters who are after a lone lady going on the same road. They are not after the lady! She’s minding her own business! They ALL are minding their own business! This other guy is accompanying the monks, he tries to defend them against the delusional knight errant and almost lost his life, but because he was smart enough to get a pillow and used it as a shield, the man survived.
And if you think that was it, you’re gravely mistaken. We are not even halfway through!
Something interesting happens after the encounter with the monks. Don Quijote and Sancho Panza come across a group of goat hoarders. They start shooting the breeze, and Don Quijote doesn’t seem to be in the mood to fight. He starts talking about peace so much it makes you wonder if a hippie from the seventies traveled back in time and gave him some of that good weed. The Goat People are so pleased with this knucklehead knight errant and his obese companion that they invite them to the funeral of a dude who goes by the name Grisóstomo.
Now you may ask: who the fuck is this Grisóstomo character?
It turns out this guy chose to become a shepherd after reading pastoral novels, just like Don Quijote decided to become a crazy man after reading crazy and unrealistic books. Also, making the story even more mind-blowing, Grisóstomo has a lady named Marcela; only that Marcela actually knew Grisóstomo, unlike Dulcinea, who is still in the dark about the whole thing. Marcela comes to the funeral, says goodbye to good old Grisóstomo, and leaves. And, not surprisingly, since our main characters are fucking weird, they end up stalking Marcela, following her into the woods.
But don’t you worry, they didn’t find her.
Don Quijote and Sancho Panza continue vagabonding about. And this time, there is a fight. They come to a waterhole, pond, lake, or something like that and take a break from doing nothing. Rocinante and Sancho’s donkey are thirsty, so they go nuts sipping water; You know, the equine version of a bar. Don Quijote and Sancho sit nearby and talk about the day ahead. At the same time, some dudes from Galicia come around with their ponies as they are also thirsty. The water in the lake may or may not have had wine in it because Rocinante got so drunk and started looking at the ponies with carnal desire. The donkey warned him not to yield to his basic animalistic instincts, but, being an actual animal, Rocinante was adamant and wanted to pick up a pony. The men from Galicia come and beat Rocinante with clubs, Don Quijote comes to the rescue, but he and Sancho also get beaten up so hard their mothers wouldn’t recognize them.
But if you think these constant beatings were going to dissuade Don Quijote from wasting his time, you’re gravely mistaken. He and Sancho go to another inn, he thinks this is another castle, and he tries to get handsy with a girl. Some other dude at the inn beats up Don Quijote, he leaves without paying, and some guests bullied poor Sancho, rolling him in a blanket and tossing him in the air like a volleyball. They end up kicking Sancho out, and he and Don Quijote continue with their travels.
Next up, they have several adventures, notably the case of the galley slaves—we’ll talk more about that later. After that, they are in Sierra Morena, where Don Quijote and Sancho Panza find this wretched miscreant crying in one corner of the town, sad about lost love and the unfairness of life. His name is Cardenio, and he has a depressing tale to tell. Like Don Quijote, Cardenio loves this gal named Lucinda, writes poems in her honor, and speaks to one of his friends about it. His friend, Don Fernando, also falls in love with Lucinda, even though he’s engaged with someone else!
What is it with these men who fall in love with women they hardly know anything about?
Anyhow, Don Quijote remembers his own cheesy love story and gets an idea after listening to Cardenio.
He writes a love letter to his Dulcinea and sends Sancho back to La Mancha to deliver it. But Sancho has plans of his own. I understand that Sancho was getting tired of the crazy behavior of his boss, as well as the constant beatings, and tried to put a stop to the whole farce. He gets the help of a priest and a barber to try and persuade Don Quijote to come back home. Sancho takes the priest and the barber to Don Quijote, thinking this would easily persuade the delusional knight errant to change his ways. Of course, it wasn’t that easy, so they had to come up with an idea. They get help from Dorotea, who happened to be the woman engaged to Don Fernando! Do you remember him? He was Cardenio’s friend, the idiot who falls in love with another woman!
Apparently, Dorotea knows how to deal with crazy people, and so she comes up with a plan to get Don Quijote back home. She pretends to be the Princess of Micomicona, coming from Guinea desperate to get Don Quijote’s help. And, of course, he can’t say no to a damsel in distress. Convinced that he was the man for the job, Don Quijote and everyone else comes back to La Mancha, to the first inn where he got knighted. Once there, the priest starts reading them a story, while Don Quijote starts arguing with some wineskins on the table for no fucking reason. Strangely enough, once everyone is there, Dorotea is reunited with Don Fernando and Cardenio with Lucinda.
I find that weird and hard to believe, but hey, I didn’t write the story.
Now, to conclude Part 1, do you remember the galley slaves? Well, some officers came to arrest Don Quijote for that, but the priest begs them to have mercy and tells them that the guy is crazy, and that’s why he freed the slaves. Trying to heed the priest, the officers put Don Quijote in a cage and made him believe that he is being sent home as a hero; and yes, he believes that. On their way back home, the group stops to eat, let Don Quijote out of the cage, he starts fighting with some people, and they beat him up so hard he ended up asking for mercy.
If I could change the title of this book, I’d call it “The Times Some Random Person Beat Up Don Quijote.”
The two parts are now published as one book, but back in the day, it took Miguel De Cervantes ten years to publish the second part. Why? Your guess is as good as mine.
Don Quijote is one of the first novels that implements a meta-fictional device, where the author self-consciously alludes to the artificiality of a story by pointing out that what you’re reading is fiction. Cervantes was a genius, though, because he went as far as to make the characters aware of Part 1, as well as a fake Part 2. Why did he do that? I think he did it because he didn’t want anybody out there to go crazy like Don Quijote.
Part 2 starts with a memorable encounter. A Duchess and a Duke meet the duo. They already know Don Quijote and Sancho are famous, like Justin Bieber in his prime. They all become good friends, read the same books that drive people crazy, and start a series of imaginary adventures together. These adventures put Don Quijote’s devotion for Dulcinea to the test, and he suddenly becomes obsessed with trying to find her. Seeing all this erratic nonsense, Sancho ends up realizing that everyone is crazy, including himself. Still, as any good sidekick does, he declares that there is nobody crazier than his master.
Now, based on everything Sancho has experienced so far, seeing how his master mistakes an inn for a castle, a bunch of random monks for kidnappers, and windmills for giants, he ends up suggesting Dulcinea is some sort of a subliminal presence. Sancho’s luck brings along the road three irregular peasant women who were sitting not far from where he had started, and he soon says that they are waiting for Don Quijote and that all of them are Dulcinea. Say what!? Don Quijote has a hard time believing that nonsense, and that’s when Sancho tells him that there is an enchantment going on, and that’s why he’s unable to see things as they are.
Things continued as they have been since Don Quijote lost his marbles. He’s quite the celebrity now, thinks nobody can defeat him, but, as expected, The thousand-page behemoth of a story comes to an end after Don Quijote gets into a fight he could not win; well, did he actually win one? He battles against this dude called the knight of the White Moon (a young man from La Mancha who had previously posed as the Knight of Mirrors). Forced to comply with the rules of the game, Don Quijote is forced to do whatever the victor tells him to do. Don Quijote was willing to do anything: clean boots, wash clothes, feed horses. But the knight of the White Moon has a different request: he tells Don Quijote that he is to go home and stop his crazy adventures for at least one year. The Knight of the White Moon thought this was a perfect length of time for Don Quijote to gain his sanity.
As it turns out, feeling lost and defeated, Don Quijote announces that he plans to retire to the countryside as a shepherd, but the housekeeper advises him to stay home. He ends up doing it, jumps into his bed, and becomes sick. He then awakes from a bad dream that made him recover his sanity. Sensing his end as a sidekick, Sancho tries to brownnose his master into living la Vida Loca again, but Don Quijote is done. He doesn’t want this life anymore. He ends up apologizing for the shit storm he caused, writes his will, and demands his niece to stop seeing another crazy guy who reads the books Don Quijote read.
According to Wikipedia, after Don Quijote dies, “the author emphasizes that there are no more adventures to relate and that any further books about Don Quijote would be spurious.”
Also, according to Wikipedia, Don Quijote “is often labeled as the first modern novel and is considered one of the greatest works ever written. Don Quijote also holds the distinction of being one of the most-translated books in the world.”
Yep, more than the Bible.
Furthermore, and because I’m not done quoting Wikipedia, “The book had a major influence on the literary community, as evidenced by direct references in Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers (1844), Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), and Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac (1897), as well as the word quixotic and the epithet Lothario; the latter refers to a character in “El curioso impertinente” (“The Impertinently Curious Man”), an intercalated story that appears in Part One, chapters 33–35.”
To conclude, and because I actually would like you to read the book, I have to admit I didn’t talk about other things. This is a great story, and you wouldn’t be wasting your time if you read it. Just do the world a favor and don’t go crazy as Alonso Quijano did. Remember, there can’t be more than one Don Quijote De La Mancha.
Until next time.