Why You Need to Remember ‘Don Quixote’ Author Miguel de Cervantes

These wise words come from Miguel de Cervantes himself, who died today 403 years ago. Don’t know who he is? You should. you really should…
Don Quixote Cover
Image Via Amazon
Okay, I’ll give you some slack. Today is the anniversary of his death. He was sixty-two when he died back on April 22nd, 1616, and that might seem like a bygone era, but his work lives on, influencing not only Spanish culture but the culture of the world.
His influence on Spanish culture is so great that some even call the language “a lengua de Cervantes” (“the language of Cervantes”.
His penultimate work was Don Quixote and it has been translated in over a 140 languages. It is, after the Bible itself, the most-translated book in the world, and is also considered by some to be the first novel.
Don Quixote Cover
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So without  Don Quixote, you wouldn’t have all the novels that followed afterwards. That means Madame Bovary, the Harry Potter series, and Game of Thrones.
With that said, let’s learn about good ol’ Miguel.
Miguel de Cervantes
Image Via Today in History
That’s Miguel, and in 1570, at the age of twenty-third, he enlisted as a soldier in a Spanish infantry regiment stationed. Encyclopedia Britannica states that “[h]e was there for about a year before he saw active service” but come “mid-September 1571 Cervantes sailed on board the Marquesa….” and, although “[t]here are independent accounts of Cervantes’s conduct in the action, and they concur in testifying to his personal courage”.
No crap. He was sick, but refused to stay below deck. He fought, even after sustaining two gunshot wounds in the chest and a third bullet permanently marred his left hand. The website, Classical Spanish Books, notes that because of this “he was called ‘The Cripple of Lepanto’.

And he became a writer.

 

Another picture of Miguel de Cervantes

Image Via Magnolia Box

But before that happened, he was a slave. Seriously. Picture this: it’s 1575 and you’re returning to Spain from Naples when your boat is attacked Barbary pirates. You’re captured, and for the next five years you’re forced into slavery.

Cervantes tried to escape four times without success. At least he had the company of his brother Rodrigo, until, of course, mother paid his brother’s random but not Miguel. Only enough coin for one brother, apparently.

Three years after Rodrigo earned his freedom, Miguel was released in September 1580. Thank God. His family, “with the aid and intervention of the Trinitarian friars, raised the 500 gold escudos demanded for his release”.

 

Miguel de Cervantes writing

Image Via Alchetron

Despite being a certified action hero with an Oscar-winning story attached to his name, he failed to make much splash as a writer. Come 1585, his first novel, La Galatea, failed to make much headway. His plays did even worse, with only plays having survived. La Galatea is available here.

In 1605 Cervantes published the first part of Don Quixote. It’s about an  elderly man who becomes so enamored by the old stories of brave knights that he seeks out his own adventures, getting lost in his own fantasy word as he takes on a peasant, Sancho Panza, to serve as his squire. Don Quixote is so cool he fights a giant monster, which is really just a windmill.

It became a breakout hit. Audiences loved the humor and the new take on old tales.

 

Don Quixote and the Windmills

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Ten years later, in 1615, Cervantes published the second part of the story.

Cervantes would continue to write, but none of his works were finished before his untimely death on April 22, 1616, in Madrid. His grave is unmarked, forgotten to history.

But we have not forgotten him. No only has Don Quixote influenced fiction as we know it today, but the story itself has survived. You might recall that Terry Gilliam’s film, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, was in the news last year. The film adaption turned the story on its head, having a main character convinced he was Don Quixote. The film even stared Adam Driver who played Kylo Ren.

It’s pretty clear we’re still obsessed with Miguel de Cervantes’ masterpiece. Maybe today’s the day to finally pick up the book?

Man shrugging

Image Via StickPNG

Just a suggestion…

Even if you don’t read the book, look at your books, movies, even your music. Maybe it’s been influenced by Don Quixote and know that Miguel de Cervantes still lives on.

 

 

Featured Image Via AZ Quotes