‘The Youthful Deeds of Rodrigo’

On this website you will find an audio recording of the Mocedades de Rodrigo, rendered in early fourteenth-century Castilian, following a normative transcription of the poem’s unique manuscript housed in the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris.  The link to the recording of the entire poem is provided at the bottom of this page and is accessible via the browser player or as an mp3 download.  The normative text and audio corresponding to individual folios of the manuscript can be accessed by clicking on the “Folios” menu item above, just underneath the page image.  Listeners may also subscribe to a podcast of the recordings; accessible to the right of this page either as an RSS feed or via iTunes.

The Mocedades is a verse narrative of the youthful deeds of Rodrigo Díaz, who had not yet earned the sobriquet El Cid.  It was put to parchment in the first quarter of the fourteenth century.  A similar narrative of Rodrigo’s youth constitutes the initial chapters of a prose history known as the Crónica de los reyes de Castilla [Chronicle of the Kings of Castile], written a generation or so earlier (c. 1295).  The poem and the chronicle, both of which narrate events from the early history of the kingdom of Castile, reflect the growing importance of Castile among the Christian kingdoms of Spain.

Most of the deeds recreated in the poem are fanciful, a distinction that makes them more interesting as literature, although of less interest to historians.  One of the most celebrated deeds in the Mocedades is confirmed in additional contemporary sources and is believed to reflect an historical event.  This is the singular combat in which the young Rodrigo successfully defends the Castilian claim to the city of Calahorra against the seasoned champion of the King of Aragón.  In the course of the combat, Rodrigo knocks his foe to the ground and then descends from his horse to decapitate him.  Other deeds attributed to Rodrigo include the killing of Count Gómez de Gormaz in legal combat, an act that results in the forced betrothal of Rodrigo to Ximena as compensation for the loss of her father, the five battles Rodrigo swears to win before he will consummate his marriage to Ximena, and the spectacular invasion of France by the five kingdoms of Spain, led by Rodrigo and the Castilians in response to a demand from the king of France, the Pope, the Patriarch, and the Holy Roman Emperor that Spain pay an annual tribute to France.

The Mocedades is chronologically the second Spanish epic poem devoted to the deeds of Rodrigo Díaz, the first and most prominent being the Cantar de Mio Cid.  Overall its expression is inferior to the longer Cantar, but it is richer in literary themes and imagination.  This is evidenced not only in the poem itself, but also in later Spanish literary traditions such as the sixteenth-century ballads and Golden Age drama, which celebrate the vitality of the young Rodrigo and virtually ignore the accomplishments of the mature Cid.

The Cantar is also admired for its masterful blending of varied themes and deft portrayal of multiple characters, as well as a keen sense of communion with the listening audience.  The Mocedades is a more direct narration of a series of events with little nuance and very little in the way of comments directed to the audience.  The Mocedades text also includes seemingly unrelated themes that disrupt the narrative flow of the story of Rodrigo’s youth.  Yet, it is a compelling story in its dramatic rendering of confrontations and in the curious thrill of the events it narrates.  It recreates a world of mounted warriors vying for power and prestige in the ways of their ancestors, and the coming of age of Rodrigo, who starts his journey as a brash youth of the Laínez clan, blood kin intent on defending themselves and their ancestral rights.  Circumstances and experience eventually compel Rodrigo to commit himself to a larger and more modern project, including loyalty to Fernando I, king of Castile and León, and the preservation of his sovereignty.

Interested readers of the Spanish epic will find abundant scholarship on the Mocedades, including the following books:  Alan Deyermond, Epic Poetry and the Clergy (1969), Samuel G. Armistead, La tradición épica de las Mocedades de Rodrigo (2000), Leonardo Funes, Las mocedades de Rodrigo: Estudio y edición de los tres estados del texto (2004), Matthew Bailey, Las mocedades de Rodrigo: estudios críticos, manuscrito y edición (1999), and Las mocedades de Rodrigo / The Youthful Deeds of Rodrigo, the Cid (2007), a bilingual edition of the epic text with critical commentary in English.

Link to full audio file (1 hour 43 minutes):

 

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