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The Story of What Happened to a Young Man Who Married a Very Strong and Very Aggressive Woman

By don Juan Manuel

Translated from the Spanish by the Proprietor.


Translator's Introduction.

This story comes from a book by don Juan Manuel called El conde Lucanor o Libro de Patronio (Count Lucanor or Book of Patronio), which was written in 1335. This this explains the somewhat antiquated language I have used here, because it is antiquated language to begin with, though Spanish has not changed nearly as much in the past 665 years as English has, so the story is still very readable, as opposed to, for example, Chaucer, which is nearly incomprehensible without extensive study of the arcahic language. The age of the work also explains its attitudes towards women as servants that need be controlled, and must be obsequious lest they displease their husbands.

To veiw this story in its original Spanish, go here.


The Story of What Happened to a Young Man Who Married a Very Strong and Very Aggressive Woman By Don Juan Manuel Translated from the Spanish by Jim Cadwell

Once again Count Lucanor spoke with Patronio and told him:

"Patronio, my servant has told me that he is thinking of marrying a very rich woman who is more honourable than he. There is only one problem and the problem is this: He has been told that she is the most aggressive and strongest thing in the world. Should I tell him to marry her, knowing how she is, or tell him not to do it?"

"Count," said Patronio, "if he is like the son of a certain moor, tell him to marry her, but if he is not, tell him not to."

The count asked Patronio to explain.

Patronio told him that in a village there was a man who had the best son he could want, but because they were poor the boy could not undertake the great things that he would have liked to do. And in the same village, there was another man who was more honourable and richer than the father of this boy, and he only had a daughter, and she was quite the opposite of the boy. Whilst the boy had very good manners, the girl's were quite crude. No one would want to marry that devil woman!

One day, the boy went to his father and told him that rather than living in poverty or leaving his village, he would prefer to marry some rich woman. His father gave his accord, so the boy proposed to marry the daughter of that rich man. When his father heard this, he was much astonished and told him that he should not think of such things, that there was no one, however poor, who would want to marry her. His son only asked him to please arrange the marriage, and he insisted so strongly that finally his father consented, although it seemed foolish to him.

So he went to see the man, who was a good friend of his, and told him all that had passed between he and his son, and he begged that since his son would dare to marry the rich man's daughter, that he give her to him for his son. When the man heard that he said:

"By God, man, if I did such a thing, I would be a very false friend, because you have such a good son; I mustn't allow harm or death to come to him, and I am very sure that if he could marry my daughter, or he could die, death would seem better to him than life. And don't think that I say that so as not to satisfy your desire, because if you want me to, I will give her to your son, or to anyone who gets her out of my house."

And his friend thanked him much, and as his son did want the marriage, he asked him to arrange it.

The wedding took place, and the bride was brought to her husband's house. The moors have a custom of preparing a supper for the new married couple, setting the table for them, and leaving them alone in their house until the next day. That is how they did it, but the parents and the relatives of the bride and groom were afraid that the next day they would find the groom dead or badly battered.

When the two were alone in the house, they sat at the table, but before the woman said anything, her husband looked about the table and saw a dog, and he said to it angrily:

"Dog, give us some water for our hands!"

But the dog didn't do it, and the man began to get angrier and told it more forcefully to give him water for his hands. But the dog didn't do it, and when the man saw that the dog wasn't going to do it, he got up very angrily from the table, took up his sword, and went for the dog. When it saw him coming, it fled, and they both jumped over the table and over the fire until the man overtook the dog and cut off its head and its legs, and tore it to pieces, and bloodied all of the house, and all of the table, and his clothes.

And thus, very angry and covered in blood, he sat down again at the table and looked about. Now he saw a cat and told it to give him water for his hands, and when it did not do it, he said:

"What, false traitor! Did'st thou not see what I did to the dog because he refused to do what I ordered him? I swear to God that if thou dost not do what I order thee, I will do the same to thee as the dog."

The cat didn't do it because it is not the custom of dogs or of cats to give water for washing the hands, and since it didn't do it, the man got up and took the cat by the legs and smashed it against the wall, breaking it into more than a hundred pieces, and getting angrier than he had at the dog.

And thus, very wrathful, and gesturing ferociously, he returned to sit at the table, and looked about the whole house. The woman, who saw him do all that, thought that he was mad and didn't say anything. When the man had looked all about, he saw his horse, which was in the house, and which was the only horse he had, and he told it very ferociously to give him water for his hands, but the horse didn't do it. When he saw this, the man said:

"What, horse! Thinkest thou that because I do not have another horse that I will do nothing if thou dost not what I order thee to do? Be careful, because if dost not what I order thee, I swear to God that I will do the same to thee as the others, because I would do the same to whoever doth not what I order him."

The horse didn't move, and when he saw that it didn't do what he told it, he went to it and cut off its head with as much wrath as he could muster and chopped it to pieces.

When the woman saw that he killed the only horse he had and said that he would do that to anyone who didn't obey him, she realised that the man was not jesting and she was so afraid that she did not know whether she was dead or alive.

And the man, ferocious, wrathful and bloody, returned to the table swearing that if there were a thousand horses in the house and men and women who didn't obey him, that he would kill them all. And he sat down and looked all about, holding the bloody sword in his lap, and after looking in every part of the house, he didn't see any living thing, he turned his eyes to his wife ferociously and said to her with great wrath, with the sword in his hand:

"Get up and get me some water for my hands!"

His wife, who was sure that he would chop her to pieces, got up quickly and got him some water for his hands.

"O, thank God that thou did'st what I told thee, for if thou hadst not, with the anger given me by those crazy animals, I would have done the same to thee as I did to them!"

Then he told her to give him food, and she did.

And always when he said something, he said it in such a tone that she thought he would cut off her head.

Thus passed that night: she never spoke and did what he told her to do, and when they had been sleeping only a short while, he said:

"With the wrath I have had tonight, I have not been able to sleep well. Let not anyone wake me up in the morning, and prepare me a good breakfast."

In the morning, the parents and relatives came to the door and because no one was talking they thought that the man was dead or wounded. They thought so even more when they saw the woman at the door and not the man.

When she saw them at the door, she went over very slowly and fearfully and told them:

"Are you insane? What have you done? How dare you speak here! Shut up, or we shall all die!"

Upon hearing this, they were surprised, and they esteemed the man highly who commanded his house so well.

From then on, his wife was very obedient and they lived happily.

A few days later the young man's father in law wanted to do what he had done, and he killed a rooster in the same way, but his wife said to him:

"In faith, don Fulano, thou hast done this much too late! It would be worthless now if thou did'st kill a hundred horses, because we already know each other."

"And so," said Patronio to the count, "if your servant wishes to marry with such a woman, he must only do it if he is like that man who knew how to tame the ferocious woman and govern in his house."

The count accepted Patronio's advice and all was well.

And don Juan liked this example and included it in this book. He also composed these verses:

If at the beginning you don't show who you are,
You will never be able to later, when you would like to.