Story of the Cid for Young People - C. D. Wilson

Rodrigo Becomes 'el Cid Campeador'


The king, Don Ferrando, was now for a time in Galicia, and while he was absent, the Moors came into Estremadura. The people of that region, being terrified by the approach of the enemy, sent word speedily to Rodrigo to come to their help. He at once gathered together his friends and kinsmen, and set off in pursuit of the Moors, who had taken many captives and flocks and were hastening away with the spoil. After a time Rodrigo overtook these robbers, and fell upon them with his soldiers, and there was a hard battle. At last he put the enemy to flight, followed them for more than twenty miles, and recovered all the spoil of two hundred horses and several thousands of dollars' worth of other property. All of this Rodrigo divided among his followers.

When the king had returned, he desired to have revenge upon the Moors who had made this invasion; and for this purpose he took with him a great company and entered into their country, burning and killing wherever he went; until he had conquered that region and made the people there promise to be his vassals and pay him tribute. And now that he had succeeded so well, the king went on taking other towns, and finally laid siege to the city of Viseu, for he had a desire to take vengeance upon that place because his wife's father had been killed there.

The people of Viseu had been anticipating this revenge ever since the king's father-in-law had been slain, and in order to be ready for the coming of the king's army they had fortified their city and had laid away a great store of provisions. They also had great confidence in their Alcaid or governor, who was a Moor from Africa, named Alafum, and a famous warrior. This Alafum encouraged his people in every way, declaring that they need have no fear, for their city could not be taken in ten years by a much greater force than was now besieging it. There were also in the city many men who were very expert in the use of the great cross-bows then in vogue, and they could shoot so powerfully that their bolts would pierce through shields and armor.

King Don Ferrando therefore ordered his people to make mantles for themselves; that is, they were to use thick quilted cloth to swing in front of them, as it is more difficult to pierce a moving cloth than a rigid substance. He also had them use pavaises; that is, shields large enough to cover the whole body: such were held up by one man, while the archer was also protected. He further ordered that they should fasten heavy boards upon their shields, so that the bolts from the cross-bows could not pierce through them.

Then the king besieged the city for eighteen days, keeping such close watch that no one could go in nor out of the town. On the eighteenth day the king's forces stormed the city, and the greater part of the inhabitants were put to death. A few escaped for the time with Alafum into the castle, but on the next day these also surrendered on condition that the lives of all save one should be spared. This man was the Moor who had killed the king's father-in-law; him the king took vengeance upon by lopping off the hands that had held the bow and fitted the bolt that killed the king, and plucked out the eyes that had taken sight; and the living trunk of this man was then set up as a mark for the bowmen. At the taking of this city there was no one who performed more heroic deeds than Rodrigo.

The king, Don Ferrando, now proceeded to the city of Lamego, and laid siege to it also. The king of this city was a very great warrior, by name Zadar Abem Huim, and he was held in great esteem by all the Moors in the country round about. As his city was very strong and was well stored with food, the principal Moors of that region, who had been terrified by the taking of the town of Viseu, entered Lamego to find protection there. In spite of all this, King Don Ferrando placed his army all around the city, and used so many great engines and catapults for throwing stones and battering against the walls, that this city was taken just twenty-five days after the capture of Viseu. The king of Lamego now became a vassal of Don Ferrando.

The attention of Don Ferrando was called to the city of Coimbra in this manner: The Abbot of Lorvam, a monastery near Coimbra, grieved very much that this city was in the power of the Moors, and he said to his monks: "Let us go to the king, Don Ferrando, and tell him how he can take Coimbra;" and to this end they chose two monks to carry the message. The Moors, when they went hunting in the mountains, were accustomed to lodge in the monastery, in order to find shelter and food; and shortly after the Abbot had made his proposal, certain of the Moors came to find lodging. The two who were to act as messengers said to the Moors, "We desire to go to the holy Dominicum to say prayers for our sins;" and having given this reason for their errand, they set forth and came to the king in the town of Carrion.

Then they said to him: "Sir, we have come over rivers and mountains to bring you news of the condition of Coimbra. If you desire to know, we can tell you how many Moors are there, and how carelessly they guard the city." To this the king said: "I wish very much to know this very matter. Go on, and tell me what you can." Then the monks gave him information as to the state of the city and how he might take it. When the king had learned these things, he called Rodrigo to him, asking what he thought ought to be done, and Rodrigo said: "Surely the Lord will help you to win this city! Also I am very anxious to be made a knight by your own hand, and I believe now that I shall receive knighthood at your hand in Coimbra;" for although Rodrigo was now the most famous soldier in Spain, he had not yet been made a knight.

The king told the monks that he would take his army against Coimbra in the month of January, it being at that time October. The king at once sent word to his people to assemble and to proceed to do all the damage they could around Coimbra, and to ravage the country so that the city could not lay in supplies for a siege. Now Rodrigo advised the king to make a pilgrimage to Santiago as a religious duty, that he might have success in this campaign; this the king did, remaining three days and nights in prayer, and offering great gifts.

Then by the help of St. James, as he believed, he assembled a great army and went against Coimbra in the month of January, and besieged that place through all of February, March, April, May, and June,—five months,—but was unable to take it. When July came, the army of King Don Ferrando had but little food left, and they were in nearly as bad a plight as those within the city. In these circumstances, the king was about to give up the siege and announcement was made that they would remain yet four days, and on the fifth every man could go to his own house.

But the monks of Lorvam and the Abbot consulted together and said: "Let us now go to the king and give him all the food we have,—oxen and cows and sheep and goats and swine; wheat and barley and maize, bread and wine, fish and fowl. For if the city should not be won by the Christians, the Moors, knowing what we have done to bring the king against them, will destroy us." Then they took to the king all their store of food and drink, which was a great quantity, for they had laid these up through many years.

Thus the camp of the king was well supplied, and the siege was undertaken with new vigor. But the people in the city were growing weak with hunger. The king's army now used their engines against every part of the walls, and broke them down in some places, and fought constantly with great fury. The Moors, seeing this, were filled with despair, and coming out, fell at the king's feet, begging him to spare their lives and let them go away, and they would leave to him their city and everything within it. The king granted them their prayer, and the city surrendered in less than a week from the day when the monks succored the army with their supplies of food.

King Don Ferrando now gathered about him his counts and generals, and told them what the monks of Lorvam had done, having advised him to lay siege to the city, and having supplied the army with food when they were almost in despair. The officers replied, "Surely, O king, if the monks had not given us food, you could not have taken the city." The king then sent for the Abbot and the brethren, who were with the army saying prayers on their behalf, nursing the sick, and burying in the monastery such as died. These came gladly to the king, and congratulated him on his victory; and the king said to the monks, "Since by your advice and the favor of God I have won this town, you may have as much of this city as you desire."

But the monks answered: "We thank God that through you and your ancestors our monastery has all that it needs. We only ask that you will give us one church, with its dwelling houses, in the city, and that you will confirm to us the gifts already made by your ancestors and other good men." With that the king turned to his officers and said: "Truly, these men are of God, who ask almost nothing! Now, since they desire so little, let us grant their request." The charters were brought, and the king confirmed them; and then the monks brought a crown of gold and of silver, set with precious stones; and when the king saw this, he asked, "Why do you bring here this crown?" And they said, "That you should take it in return for the good you have done us." But he said: "By no means will I take from your monastery what good men have given it. Take back the crown, and also this money, with which you are to erect a cross to remain with you forever."

So the king signed the documents, as did his sons and officers also, and in the writings he commanded them and their descendants to always honor and protect the monastery of Lorvam.

At this time also Rodrigo was made a knight, on account of the great deeds he had done at this siege and in former battles. This ceremony was performed in the great Mosque of Coimbra, which having been a Mahometan temple was now dedicated as a Christian church. In the presence of a great company Rodrigo knelt down before the king, and the king girded on him his sword, and gave him a kiss, but he did not dub him with a blow as the custom often was. In order to do him the greater honor, the queen herself held the rein of his horse, and the Princess Doņa Urraca fastened on his spurs; so that he was more honored than any other knight had been.

The king commanded him also to knight nine noble squires with his own hand; and he took his sword before the altar and knighted them. Then the king appointed a governor of the city of Coimbra, and departed; but soon after, Benalfagi, who was a great leader among the Moors, gathered a great host, and entered the town of Montemor and from there made war against Coimbra; so that the people of that place sent word to the king to come to their help. So the king returned and laid siege to Montemor. There Rodrigo gained great honor, for the enemy came out against him, and three times in one day he was attacked by them. Though he was in great peril, he refused to send to the camp for help, but put forth all his strength and drove the foe back with great slaughter. From that day the king made him head over all his household.

About this time the king received a request from the people of the kingdom of Leon that he would re-people the city of Zamora, which had been desolate since it was destroyed by Almanzor. The king thought well of this plan, and carried thither many men and women, and reorganized the city. During the time the king was at this place, messengers came from the five kings who were vassals of Rodrigo, bringing him their tribute. These came to Rodrigo, while he was in the presence of the king, and called him "El Seid," or Cid, which signifies Lord; and they would have kissed his hands, but he would not permit them to do so until they had kissed the hand of Don Ferrando. Then Rodrigo offered one-fifth of the tribute to the king as an acknowledgment of loyalty to him as his sovereign, but the king would not receive it. Don Ferrando, having heard the Moors call Rodrigo "Cid," was pleased with the title, and ordered that he should be called so by the Spaniards also. So from that time forward Rodrigo began to be known as the Cid.