The medieval Spain was divided into few smaller countries, and the Arabs ruled one of them. War was an everyday thing there. Sometimes the citizens would fight with each other, and sometimes they would stand united against the Arabs. All of that circumstances created this epic poem or epopea.
In Spain, as well as other European countries, it was believed that epic poems were translated from generation to generation orally. Also, most of them have anonymous writers and few scriptures. The basis of every epic poem is historical event involving the country the epic came from.
In a Spanish epic, we can see the influence of the French and German epic. The Spanish epic poem is unique because it is more realistic that the other European epics that involve fantastic and idealized stories and heroes.
The oldest Castilian epics date from the 12th century and they consisted of no more than 12 verses. Their scripture was not preserved.
From the numerous Spanish poems, the only one preserved is "El cantar de Mio Cid" or "The poem of the Cid" and it is the oldest literary work on the Castilian language. The poem has 3730 verses that are not equal in length. It was made in 1140, and one of the scriptures was found in 1779.
It is believed that the author also knew about the "Song of Roland" but decided to write differently and use a different style. He found his inspiration in the Spanish chronicles that had a lot of Castilian history in them. It is assumed that the author was a Christian living under the Muslim control.
Rodrigo Diaz de Vivara is the historic character in the epic. The name Cid Campeador, which means fighter, he got from the Arabs.
Rodrigo Diaz was born in the second half of the 11th century, and that was the period of high political tensions. He was one of the heirs of the royal bloodline and because of his virtues, he became a Castilian hero. He was incredibly brave and honest.
Cis did not get along with king Alonso and that is why he was banished to exile twice. That is why he decided to serve to the Muslim main ruler Zaragoza and later on became famous because of his conquest of various cities.
1904 Cid conquered Valence, and he lived there in richness until he died in 1099.
The date of his death tells us that the epic was written nearly 50 years after his death. He was a historical figure in Spain and he was mentioned in the Spanish chronicles. It is believed that the author new the Latin chronicle named "Historia Roderici".
The epic is divided into three parts.
In the first part, we have the story of Cid’s banishment from Castile. He was banished under false accusation that he tried to hide a part of taxes he collected. He was forced to leave his wife and two daughters in a monastery. He prayed on his way to spend his life in peace and happiness. After that, we have a detailed descriptions of the good deeds he did all through Spain with his loyal soldiers.
The triumph of his conquests was when he conquered Valence. He brought his family there, and they all lived happily.
The second and third part of the epic revolves around the life of his daughters before and after marriage. Cid got the kings attention again because he became rich and Alonso offered him grooms for his two daughters. The grooms accepted to marry girls from a lower class just because they had a rich dowry they could bring into a marriage.
The weddings were held in Valence. After the husbands had been defeated in a battle, they took out their rage on their wives. After that, they decided to run away with their dowry.
The king decided to call up the court in Toledo. Cid appeared and demanded his two swords and dowry back. The court said yes to that request, and Cid decided to defend the honor of his daughters in a fight. The court was considering that demand messengers came from Aragon and Navarra and said their kings are asking for the hands of Cid’s daughters.
The king said yes to the marriages, but he also said yes to Cid’s fight to defend the honor of his daughters. Cid was not involved in the fight, but his nephews were, and they defeated the ex-husbands.
The epic has to different themes. The first part tells the story of Cid and his life in exile until death, and the other one is about his daughters. The first part has 1084, the second one 1193 and the third one 1453 verses. Perhaps the author wanted to use the symbolic of the number three because there were three provinces and three gifts. The number three was probably there to represent the Trinity.
The storytelling is short and realistic. Descriptions of characters, things or surroundings are rare. The few descriptions are necessary for the plot.
The author used a lot of verbs and few adjectives. The reason for that is that the verbs are used to show as the plot and the changeability of the characters.
Honor is the base of the epic. After he had been banished from Castile Cid had to start up his life in another place. In Valence, he found glory again and then he was in the position to threaten king Alonso with his power and glory.
The epic is showing us the value system that ruled in medieval Castile. Democratization just began, and more and more citizens have rights. There are some parts in the epic where the power of the people on high position is laughed out.
Cid - the hero and the main character of the epic. He is introduced as a banished man who has to build up his life again. He is extremely brave and always wants to give his best to acquire fame, fortune and glory. When he was banished he became an adventurist because he had to fight for his honor again. He respects the law and is reasonable and natural. All of those characteristics make him the perfect leader. Next to his represented as a magnificent figure all of the other characters look negative.