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

The Siege of Zamora


When Doņa Urraca, sister of these kings, heard that her brother King Don Alfonso had been made a prisoner by Don Sancho, she was afraid that he would be put to death. She therefore took with her the Count Don Peransures, and went to Burgos, the city where the king was, and there she sought the Cid. She begged the Cid to go with her to the king, and ask him to free Don Alfonso from prison, and permit him to become a monk. As the Cid was always glad to do anything to please this lady, they went together to Don Sancho; and there she knelt before the king, and asked him to be merciful to their brother.

Don Sancho took her by the hand, and lifted her up, and made her sit by him, saying, "Now, my sister, tell me what you wish me to do."

Then Doņa Urraca said, "I desire that you will permit Don Alfonso to become a Benedictine monk, in the monastery of Sahagum."

The king asked the Cid privately what he advised him to do, and the Cid said that if Don Alfonso was willing to become a monk, he thought Don Sancho should give him his liberty. Acting upon this advice, the king permitted Don Alfonso to enter the monastery at Sahagum; but Don Alfonso soon after fled by night, and went to the Moorish King Alimaymon of Toledo, where he was made welcome and given great possessions. Then Doņa Urraca sent her exiled brother three men to be his counsellors, and Alimaymon loved Don Alfonso as if he had been his own son. Don Alfonso promised this Moorish king to love him and serve him as long as he should be with him, and not to go away without his permission; and the king promised to love and to defend him. Yet when Don Alfonso saw that this Moor was great and powerful and ruled over one of the best parts of Spain, it grieved him.

When Don Sancho learned that his brother had fled from the monastery, he took his army and went against the city of Leon, and took the city and all the towns and castles that had belonged to his brother, Don Alfonso; and he put the crown of Leon on his head, and proclaimed himself king of the three kingdoms. Then Don Sancho went against his sisters, pretending that they had helped Don Alfonso to escape, and he took from Doņa Elvira the city of Toro, and went to Zamora, demanding that Doņa Urraca should give up this city to him. But she said she would not give up what her father had granted her.

As it was now winter, Don Sancho determined to put off the siege of Zamora until March, and sent word to his vassals that they should assemble in Sahagum at that time. On the day appointed, his army gathered together, and he ordered it to march to Zamora, where three days afterward they arrived and pitched their tents. Then Don Sancho rode on his horse outside the city, and looked on its strong walls and towers placed on a great rock, and he said to his knights: "This city is so strong that neither Moors nor Christians can take it. If I could buy it from my sister or exchange it for another city, I should be lord of Spain."

Then he sent for the Cid, and said to him: "I beseech you to go to my sister and say that I will give her a price for this city, or I will give her two others in exchange for it, and will promise never to take back what I give. But if she will not agree to this, I will take this town by force." The Cid did not wish to go on this errand, but at last consented, and took with him fifteen knights, and rode toward Zamora, calling upon the guards not to shoot, as he had a message from Don Sancho for Doņa Urraca.

At this, the gate was opened, and the Cid with his followers passed within. When Doņa Urraca heard that the Cid had come with a message, she was pleased, and when he had come to her palace, she greeted him cordially and had him sit by her side, asking what his message was. Then the Cid told her the demands of her brother. At this she lamented aloud, saying: "Wretched woman that I am! Don Sancho has taken the kingdom of Don Garcia and put him in irons. He has taken the kingdom of Don Alfonso and driven him to live among the Moors! He has taken the lands of my sister, Doņa Elvira, and now he would take Zamora from me also. Now let the earth open and swallow me, that I may see no more trouble. I am a woman and cannot fight against Don Sancho in battle, but I will have him slain secretly or openly!"

El Cid


But her counsellor, Don Arias Gonzalo, said that she should call all the men of the city together, and ask them if they would fight for her; that if they would, she should hold the city, and if they would not, then she should go to Toledo among the Moors to her brother Don Alfonso. When this was done, the men of Zamora declared they would hold the city, and eat mules and horses before they would give it up without her command. Doņa Urraca was greatly pleased at this, and asked the Cid to urge her brother to give up his attack upon her city; but if he would not, then they would hold the city and die with it.

When the Cid carried this message to Don Sancho, the king was very angry, and accused him of having given this counsel to his sister because he had been bred up with her and was fond of her. But the Cid answered: "I have faithfully done your commands. Nevertheless, I will not fight against your sister, because of the kindness of old days; and I beg you not to besiege this city." But Don Sancho grew more angry, and said: "If it were not that my father commanded me to do you no harm, I would order you to be hanged. But I now command you to leave my kingdom within nine days." At this the Cid went to his tent and called together his followers, twelve hundred men, and departed, meaning to go to Toledo, to Don Alfonso.

But when the followers of Don Sancho knew what was done, they went to the king, and said: "Why do you send away one who has done you such good service? If he should go to Don Alfonso, he will bring an army against you." The king now saw that what they said was true, and he sent messengers after the Cid, begging him to come back, and agreeing to any terms he would make. When the messenger found the Cid, and said that the king asked him not to bear in mind the words he had spoken, being in anger, the Cid counselled with his friends, and agreed to return to Don Sancho.

So when the Cid was returning, the king took five hundred knights and went out to meet him and did him great honor, and the whole army rejoiced because the Cid had come back; but the people of Zamora were grieved, for they had hoped that by the Cid's departure the siege would be broken up. Still the Cid said he would not fight against Zamora.

But the king with the rest of his army attacked the town and fought against it for three days and nights, and filled up the ditches, and the waters of the river were red with blood. When Count Don Garcia de Cabra saw how great was their loss, he begged Don Sancho to cease fighting and to besiege the town and reduce it by famine. Then the king ordered the fighting to stop, and upon inquiry he found that he had lost more than a thousand men. Now the king ordered his men to surround the city, so that no one could go out nor in. The great suffering in the city caused the counsellors of Doņa Urraca to say to her that she had best tell the men of the city that they had done enough, and that they should give up the town within nine days, and she would go to Toledo to Don Alfonso. Then the men of Zamora determined that they would all go with her.

But there was there a knight named Vellido Dolfos, who went to Doņa Urraca, and said: "Lady, I came here with thirty knights to do you service; and if you will grant my demand I will relieve Zamora, and make Don Sancho break up the siege." To him Doņa Urraca said: "I would not have you do any evil, but if you can relieve Zamora, I will grant whatever you require." Then Vellido kissed her hand, and went to a porter who kept one of the gates of the town, and said to him, that he should open the gate when he saw him riding toward it.

Vellido armed himself and mounted his horse, and rode to the house of Don Arias Gonzalo, and called out to him a dreadful insult that made him very angry. Then the sons of Don Arias arose and armed themselves, and went after Vellido, who rode toward the gate of the town. When the porter saw him coming he opened the gate, and he passed through and galloped into the camp of Don Sancho, followed by the others until they dared venture no further.

Vellido now went to Don Sancho and kissed his hand, and said: "Because I urged the Council of Zamora to yield the town, the sons of Gonzalo would have killed me, as you saw. Therefore I am come to you, and will serve you. And I will show you how you may take Zamora." The king believed what he said, and received him as a vassal. That night, Vellido told the king his plan, and told of a secret gate by which he could admit him to Zamora.

And the next morning, a knight of the city cried from the wall, saying: "A traitor, Vellido Delfos, has gone into your camp to kill you. Beware, and do not say you have not been warned." Other messages were sent to Don Sancho from Zamora, telling him the same tale. When Vellido heard this, he said, "The old Arias Gonzalo has sent you this word, because he knows I would help you to win the town." Then the king took Vellido by the hand, telling him to give no thought to what had occurred.

After this Vellido took the king aside, saying: "Let us ride out together alone; we will go around Zamora, and I will show you the secret gate by which we may capture the town, for it is never closed. When night comes, give me one hundred knights, and we will go on foot, and we will enter and let all your army in." The king and Vellido then rode around the city, and looked at the trenches, and Vellido showed him the gate of which he had told him. When they were riding, the king had occasion to alight for a moment, and handed Vellido his spear to hold. Then Vellido took the spear, and thrust it between the king's shoulders, so that it went through him and came out at his breast.

Then he turned his horse, and rode as fast as he could toward the gate. Now the Cid saw him going at speed, and asked why he was in haste, but he got no answer. The Cid feared that he had killed the king, and he called for his horse, but in the meanwhile Vellido had ridden far away. And the Cid in his haste took only a lance, and did not wait for his spurs, and he followed him to the gate, but Vellido got in. It is said that the only mistake the Cid ever made was that he did not ride after Vellido into the town; but he thought it was possibly a stratagem arranged between the king and this man, and that he fled by the command of Don Sancho. Nothing else could have kept the Cid from going into the town and slaying Vellido in the street.

When Vellido was once inside the gate, he was as much afraid of those in the city as of those outside; and he fled to the palace of Doņa Urraca, and covered himself with her mantle. When the governor of the town, Don Arias Gonzalo, knew what had been done, he went to Doņa Urraca, and said that since Vellido had killed the king, which was an act of treason, all of them in Zamora would be considered guilty unless Vellido was given into the hands of the followers of Don Sancho, the Castilians.

But as Doņa Urraca was anxious to save his life, Don Arias Gonzalo said he would take him in charge for three days, and if the Castilians demanded Vellido, they would give him up, and if they did not, he would put him out of the town and let him go.

Meanwhile Don Sancho's followers went to look for him, and found him lying by the river, dying, with the spear in his body. He was still able to speak, but they did not dare take the spear out for fear he would at once bleed to death. Therefore, one sawed off the spear. Then the king said, "The traitor Vellido has killed me, and I die for my sins because I broke the oath I made to my father." At this time the Cid came up, and kneeling by the king said: "I am more desolate than any of your followers, for I have made enemies of your brothers by fighting against them for you. The king commended me to them as well as you, but I have lost their love for your sake. Now, remember me." The king therefore told his chief men that if Don Alfonso should come from the land of the Moors, they should ask him to show favor to the Cid, and then in a few moments Don Sancho died.

Now since Don Sancho was dead, Don Alfonso, who was at Toledo among the Moors, was the heir to the throne. But his sister Doņa Urraca was afraid that the Moors would do some injury to Don Alfonso to keep him from his inheritance, therefore she sent messengers secretly to Don Alfonso that he should come and take his kingdom; and she bade these deliver their letters privately. The Castilians also, who were encamped before Zamora, sent Don Alfonso word secretly. However, certain spies that the Moors had among the Christians, went at once with messages to the Moors of the death of Don Sancho.

Don Alfonso told Alimaymon that he wished to go into his own country, where his vassals needed him, and he asked Alimaymon to give him some soldiers to go with him; but he said nothing about Don Sancho's death. King Alimaymon answered that he feared to let him go, lest his brother Don Sancho should do him an injury; but Don Alfonso said he had no fear, if the king would lend him some Moors to go with him.

Now all this time Alimaymon knew the report about Don Sancho, and he had placed soldiers in the roads and passes to prevent Don Alfonso from going away, if he intended to do so without his consent. But now as Don Alfonso did not speak of the death of his brother, Alimaymon thought the report might not be true, and he said: "I am glad, Alfonso, that you have told me of your wish to go into your own country; for in this you have dealt loyally with me, and have saved me from that which might have happened, for the Moors have always urged me to take your life. And had you departed secretly, you could not have escaped death. Now go and take your kingdom, and I will give you whatever you need to bestow on your own people to win their hearts." Then he besought Alfonso to make again the oath that he would not fight against him nor his sons. And Alimaymon made the same oath, and included in it his own sons. But Alimaymon had a grandson whom he loved greatly, who was not named in the oath, and Don Alfonso was not bound to keep his oath in regard to him. Then Don Alfonso made preparations to go away from Toledo, and King Alimaymon and many of his chief men rode with him part of the way; and the king made him many rich presents, and they parted with great love.

When Don Alfonso had come to Zamora, he pitched his tents near by, and asked the advice of his sister, and Doņa Urraca sent letters throughout the land, asking the Cortes to meet and receive Don Alfonso as king. When the people of Leon, over whom he had reigned before Don Sancho took his crown, knew that Don Alfonso had come from the country of the Moors to rule over them again, they rejoiced greatly and acknowledged him as their king. The Castilians also declared they were ready to acknowledge him as king, if he would swear that he had had no part in the death of Don Sancho, but he did not take the oath. Yet the Castilians kissed his hands, with the exception of the Cid.

When Don Alfonso noted that the Cid did not do homage to him, he said: "I would know of the Cid why he does not acknowledge me. For I would do something for him, as I promised my father." Then the Cid arose, and said: "All who are here present suspect that by your advice Don Sancho came to his death; and therefore, unless you clear yourself, as you should do, I will never acknowledge you as my king." Then Don Alfonso said: "Cid, what you say pleases me, and here I swear that I never slew him, nor took counsel for his death, neither did it please me, though he had taken my kingdom from me. I beseech you all therefore, as friends and vassals, to tell me how I can clear myself."

Then the chief men said that he and twelve of the knights who came with him from Toledo should make this oath in the Church of St. Gadea at Burgos, and so he should be cleared. So Don Alfonso and his company rode to Burgos, and on the day appointed the king, Don Alfonso, went to the church, with his sisters. There the king took his place on a high stage where all the people could see him, and the Cid took the Gospels and opened the book, and laid it on the altar, and the king laid his hands on it, and the Cid said: "King Don Alfonso, you have come here to swear concerning the death of King Don Sancho, your brother, that you neither slew him nor took counsel for his death. Do you and these knights now swear to this?" And Don Alfonso and his knights said, "Yes, we swear it." Then the Cid said, "If ye knew of this thing, or gave command that it should be done, may you die even such a death as your brother Don Sancho, by the hand of a villain whom you trust." To this Don Alfonso and his knights said, "Amen." Then the Cid repeated the oath a second and a third time; but now Don Alfonso grew very angry, and said: "Why do you press me thus to repeat my oath? To-day you swear me, and to-morrow you will kiss my hand." And from that day Don Alfonso did not love the Cid, until a long while after.