Tirant lo Blanch

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Part of the dedication, and part of the last page of the 1490 edition.

Tirant lo Blanc (Valencian pronunciation: [tiˈɾand lo ˈβlaŋk], ancient spelling: Tirant lo Blanch) is a romance written by the Valencian knight Joanot Martorell, finished posthumously by his friend Martí Joan de Galba and published in the city of Valencia in 1490. The title means "Tirant the White" and is the name of the main character in the romance. It is one of the best known medieval works of literature in Valencian, and played an important role in the evolution of the Western novel through its influence on the author Miguel de Cervantes.

Its current spelling is Tirant lo Blanc, although it is also referred to by the ancient spelling Tirant lo Blanch, where the h was mute.


Title page of the first Castilian-language translation of Tirant lo Blanc, printed in Valladolid by Diego de Gumiel

Tirant lo Blanc is one of the most important books in Valencian literature. Written by Joanot Martorell in the 15th century, the Tirant is a chivalric novel that also appears to have a strong autobiographic component. It tells the feats and adventures of Knight Tirant lo Blanc from Brittany. At times, it parallels the life and adventures of admiral Roger de Flor, a Templar Knight and participant in the last crusade, leader of the Almogàver (Valencian, Catalan and Aragonese). This historical resemblance is also evident in the description of events occurring around Constantinople and the defeat of Sultan Mehmed II "the conqueror," and ultimately leading to the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

Compared to books of the same time period, it lacks the bucolic, platonic, and contemplative love commonly portrayed in the chivalric heroes. Instead the main character is full of life and sensuous love, sarcasm, and human feelings. The work is filled with down to earth descriptions of daily life, prosaic and even bitter in nature.

Tirant lo Blanc and Don Quixote[edit]

A long-standing controversy, with culturo-political overtones, exists concerning Miguel de Cervantes' opinion on Tirant lo Blanc. A famous passage in Chapter 6 of Part I of Don Quixote, called by Diego Clemencín "the most difficult passage in Don Quixote", contains praise of and enthusiasm for the work. The controversy is over what is being praised, and why.

All early editions of the Spanish text of Don Quixote state that because of certain characteristics of Tirant – characters with such common Spanish names as Fonseca, or outlandish names like Kirieleison de Montalbán, the presence of a merry widow, the fact that in the book knights eat, and sleep, and die in their beds, having made a will – the book is quite different from the typical Spanish chivalric romance (libro de caballerías). Because of these elements, the book is exceptional; in fact "por su estilo," which can be translated "because of its style" but more likely means "in its own way", the book is "a treasure of enjoyment and a gold mine of recreation" ("un tesoro de contento y una mina de pasatiempos"), the "best book in the world." Catalan scholars, anxious to demonstrate that Cervantes is praising a major work of their culture, conclude that Cervantes believed that these were highly appropriate, realistic elements to include in a chivalric romance; therefore it should be celebrated as "the best book in the world." Skeptics maintain that the sense in which it was the best book in the world, to Cervantes, was because it is exceptionally ridiculous, because these elements are completely inappropriate in a chivalric context; it is a funny book, and Cervantes liked funny books and believed the world needed more of them.[1]

The text of this "most obscure passage" is often emended by editors, such as Juan Eugenio Hartzenbusch[2] or Francisco Rodríguez Marín (es:Francisco Rodríguez Marín), to make it congruent with the interpretation the editor wishes to champion. The emendations are frequently not annotated, so the reader is unaware the text has been altered. Needless to say, these conflicting versions of the Spanish text are reflected in discrepancies among the English translations, and contributed to the confusion over the meaning of the passage.[3]

It should be noted also that Cervantes had no way of knowing that Tirant lo Blanc was a fifteenth-century Valencian work. He had access only to the 1511 Spanish translation, which nowhere says that it is a translation or supplies the original authors' names. Nevertheless, Cervantes saw this 100-year-old book as the crown jewel of his library.[4]

Other Influences and Genre[edit]

Recent scholarship has called into question some understandings of this work. In a recently published thesis, Macias states that his “initial approach was to see the work as a conventional work of medieval literature.” [5] Yet as he worked through the intricacies of the work and resolved the questions that surfaced, he came to understand that “the work is undoubtedly a satire; and it should be analyzed as one. Martorell’s narrators are quite astute; they guide us into the labyrinth that is the Tirant with hints of satirical discourse that is hidden in plain sight: satire is hidden in the blatantly obvious narrative where the reader does not question; rather, he surrenders and allows the narrator(s) to (mis)lead him into a totally different reality. Subtleties that were not obvious from the outset become clear in retrospect.”[6] He also clarifies that “perhaps the totalizing approaches and the heft of some of the scholars, with respect to contentions concerning genre and studies of the Tirant at large, resulted in a thought-terminating cliché of sorts that stopped new scholars from feeling the need to look further for other possibilities.” He admits that he “too halted.”[7] He provides some thought-provoking analysis by highlighting some connections between Tirant, Edward II, Piers Gaveston and Edward III of England. In fact, the parallels he establishes between Tirant and Edward III bring back into question the etymology of the name of Tirant, the Tyrant.


Tirant lo Blanc tells the story of a medieval knight Tirant from Brittany who has a series of adventures across Europe in his quest. He joins in knightly competitions in England and France until the Emperor of the Byzantine Empire asks him to help in the war against the Ottoman Turks, an Islamic tribe of invaders threatening Constantinople, the capital and seat of the Empire. Tirant accepts and is made Megaduke of the Byzantine Empire and the captain of an army. He defeats the Turkish invaders and saves the Empire from destruction. Afterwards, he fights the Turks in many regions of the eastern Mediterranean and north Africa, but he dies just before he can marry the pretty heiress of the Byzantine Empire.

The loss of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire in 1453 was considered at the time to be a major blow to Christian Europe. In writing his novel, Martorell perhaps rewrote history to fit what he wanted it to be - which in a way makes it a precursor of the present-day genre of alternate history.

Film adaptation[edit]

Tirant lo Blanc, a film based on the book, was released in early 2006. Its plot is based on the later part of the Tirant, and events leading to his involvement in Constantinople and afterwards.


The book has been translated into several European languages (Italian, Spanish, German, Dutch, Swedish...) as well as Chinese.

Modern translations of the book into English include:

External links[edit]

Further Reading & New Anaslysis[edit]

Macias, Francisco. Tirant lo Blanc(h): Masculinities, phallosocial desire, and triangular constellations. Thesis. ProQuest Dissertations & Theses. 2011. Document URL.


  1. ^ Daniel Eisenberg, "Pero Pérez the Priest and his Comment on Tirant lo Blanch, MLN (Modern Language Notes), volume 88, 1973, pp. 320-330, https://web.archive.org/web/*/http://users.ipfw.edu/jehle/deisenbe/cervantes/peroperezhigh.pdf, included in Eisenberg, Romances of Chivalry in the Spanish Golden Age, Newark, Delaware, Juan de la Cuesta, 1982, http://www.cervantesvirtual.com/servlet/SirveObras/01159841877587238327702/index.htm
  2. ^ LAS 1633 NOTAS de Juan Eugenio Hartzenbush a la primera edición foto-tipográfica del Quijote. Texto preparado por Enrique Suárez Figaredo, n.d., but 2004 is found at the end of the prologue (the first edition was from 1874), p. 30, http://users.ipfw.edu/jehle/CERVANTE/othertxts/1633Notas_de_Hartzenbusch.PDF, consultado 10-10-2014.
  3. ^ Daniel Eisenberg, "On Editing Don Quixote, Cervantes (journal of the Cervantes Society of America), volume 3, no. 1, 1983, pp. 3-34, https://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.h-net.org/~cervantes/csa/artics83/eisenber.htm
  4. ^ Daniel Eisenberg, La biblioteca de Cervantes, in Studia in honorem Martín de Riquer, volume 2, Barcelona, Quaderns Crema, 1987, pp. 271-328; online as "La reconstrucción de la biblioteca de Cervantes", pp. 41-52 of La biblioteca de Cervantes: Una reconstrucción," https://web.archive.org/web/*/http://users.ipfw.edu/jehle/deisenbe/cervantes/reconstruction.pdf, on p. 51.
  5. ^ Macias, Francisco. Tirant lo Blanc(h): Masculinities, phallosocial desire, and triangular constellations. Thesis. ProQuest Dissertations & Theses. 2011.
  6. ^ Macias, Francisco. Tirant lo Blanc(h): Masculinities, phallosocial desire, and triangular constellations. Thesis. ProQuest Dissertations & Theses. 2011.
  7. ^ Macias, Francisco. Tirant lo Blanc(h): Masculinities, phallosocial desire, and triangular constellations. Thesis. ProQuest Dissertations & Theses. 2011.