Home School Life Journal From Preschool to High School

Home School Life Journal ........... Ceramics by Katie Bergenholtz
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales

Medieval Literature, part 3; Spanish Literature and The Cid

City of Toledo, Spain

Early Beginnings

Under the Moors, Spain became a cultural center, where Arab, Hebrew and Christian scholars translated important words of Islamic and ancient Greek culture into Latin. Most were not literature, however, but were math and science related. With the Christian reconquest of the peninsula began in the 11th Century, Alfonso VI, the king of Castile, a descendant of the Visigoths, captured the city of Toledo, Spain and the Spanish dialects of northern Spain became dominant. These dialects slowly replaced Arabic and Mozarabic, a Romance language with many Arabic words, as spoken languages. Writing in these dialects became standard during the 12th and 13th century. The works of this time period were varied according to status and social structure. Uneducated but highly entertaining bards sang stories of the Christian heroes. Scholars wrote and translated works of monarchs. The monks, clerics and priests composed poetry about the natural and spiritual world. 
The first works were jarchas, first appearing as short stanzas at the end of a muwassaha, a kind of poem written in the second half of the 11th century in Arabic and Hebrew. 

The Earliest Spanish Literature: Love Poems and Songs

The first works that could be considered truly Spanish were the jarchas written in dialects as the reconquest spread. These were most often from the point of view of a woman in love who seeks solace and advise and later developed into love songs in the oral tradition of the 12-early 14th centuries. 

The Troubadour Style and the Epic

The first great works of Spanish oral tradition were composed by troubadours, medieval poets who sand for the people in the village squares and for the nobility in castles and royal courts. They flourished as a result of pilgrimages to the burial place of Saint James, the patron saint of Christian Spain. The troubadours entertained the pilgrims with songs and long narrative poems called epics, which were about the deeds of Christian heroes. Most were 12-16 syllables long with a caesura (pause) in the middle. The rhyme scheme was one in which the last accented vowel in a line, and any vowels after it in that line, were repeated in the lines that followed.
The Spanish epic tradition differs from other European epic traditions in its focus on social and political issues. They also lacked the exaggeration, supernatural forces and fantasy that other European works tended to have. 
El Cid-estatua-(Parque de Balboa).jpg
Statue of El Cid
Prince of Valencia

The Cid

One of the most celebrated works in Spanish literature, The Song of the Cid, is a poem in the troubadour style and was composed around 1140. It is about Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (1043–1099), a Castilian nobleman and military leader. He was called El Cid (the Lord) by the Moors and El Campeador (the Champion) by Christians. He is the national hero of Spain. The nearly 4,000 verses describes a lifetime of armed conflict and celebrates steadfast loyalty to family, vassals and king.
We read the version of The Tale of The Cid by Andrew Lang, the author of the colorful Fairy Tale books.

  • I used this study years ago with my daughter, who graduated a few years ago. Because of this, I am not sure if I made this unit up entirely myself or if I found some of it on the internet. If you know if any of this has come from a source I have not credited, please let me know, and I will make the appropriate corrections.
Our next lesson will be on Brittany and Bisclavret


  1. To my mind ballads are one of the few types of acceptable poetry.

    Ummmm, I need to work on my apathy to poetry, soon, Princess has decided she likes poems.

  2. We provide training programs (BBC dance mat typing) for kids typing. All the learning progress on our website is easy and fun, there are 4 levels to play, including 12 stages. Kids can start by learning the home row keys. Each stage is based on previous ones, introducing new letters as you progress. There are some also other fun typing games and a resource page.


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