Tirant lo Blanch

Tirant lo Blanch

Final page of 1490 edition
Author Joanot Martorell
Martí Joan de Galba
Original title Tirant lo Blanch
Country Kingdom of Valencia
Language Valencian
Genre Chivalric romance
Set in Europe, north Africa, Middle East, 15th century AD
Publisher Martí Joan de Galba
Publication date
Original text
Tirant lo Blanch at Catalan Wikisource

Tirant lo Blanch (Valencian pronunciation: [tiˈɾand lo ˈblaŋk], modern orthography: Tirant lo Blanc) is a chivalric romance written by the Valencian knight Joanot Martorell, finished posthumously by his friend Martí Joan de Galba and published in the city of Valencia in 1490 as an incunabulum edition. The title means "Tirant the White" and is the name of the main character in the romance. It is one of the best known medieval works of literature in Valencian and played an important role in the evolution of the Western novel through its influence on the author Miguel de Cervantes.

Its spelling in Modern Valencian is Tirant lo Blanc, but it is also referred to by its original spelling Tirant lo Blanch, where the h is silent.


Title page of the first Castilian-language translation of Tirant lo Blanch, printed in Valladolid by Diego de Gumiel

Tirant lo Blanch is one of the most important books written in Valencian. Written by Joanot Martorell in the 15th century, the Tirant is an unusual chivalric novel in its naturalistic and satirical character, which also appears to have a strong autobiographic component. It tells the feats and adventures of Knight Tirant lo Blanc from Brittany. At times, it parallels the life and adventures of Roger de Flor, main leader of the mercenary Company of Almogàvers, which fought in Asia Minor and Greece, both for and against the Emperor of Byzantium. This historical resemblance is evident in the description of events occurring around Constantinople and the defeat of Sultan Mehmed II "the conqueror". While Roger de Flor's almogàvers had the upper hand in the region, the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 was a huge shock to Europeans, marking an end to the Byzantine Empire that Martorell's contemporaries wished to change.

Compared to books of the same time period, it lacks the bucolic, platonic, and contemplative love commonly portrayed in the chivalric heroes. Instead the main character is full of life and sensuous love, sarcasm, and human feelings. The work is filled with down to earth descriptions of daily life, prosaic and even bitter in nature.

Tirant lo Blanch and Don Quixote

The Spanish text of Don Quixote states, in Chapter 6 of Part I, that because of certain characteristics of Tirant characters with unlikely or funny names such as Kirieleison de Montalbán, the presence of a merry widow, the fact that in the book knights eat, sleep, and die in their beds having made a will, and the title can be understood as "Tirant the Blank", lacking a major victory to put on his shield the book is quite different from the typical chivalric romance. These aspects make the book exceptional, and made Cervantes state that "por su estilo", which can be translated "because of its style" but more likely means "in its own way", the book is "a treasure of enjoyment and a gold mine of recreation" ("un tesoro de contento y una mina de pasatiempos"), the "best book in the world." It is an (unintentionally) funny book, and Cervantes liked funny books, believed the world needed more of them, and in Don Quixote wrote his own.[1] Cervantes saw this 100-year-old book as the crown jewel of his library.[2]

Other influences and genre

Recent scholarship has called into question some understandings of this work. In a 2011 thesis, Macias states that his "initial approach was to see the work as a conventional work of medieval literature."[3] Yet as he worked through the intricacies of the work and resolved the questions that surfaced, he came to understand that "the work is undoubtedly a satire; and it should be analyzed as one. Martorell's narrators are quite astute; they guide us into the labyrinth that is the Tirant with hints of satirical discourse that is hidden in plain sight: satire is hidden in the blatantly obvious narrative where the reader does not question; rather, he surrenders and allows the narrator(s) to (mis)lead him into a totally different reality. Subtleties that were not obvious from the outset become clear in retrospect."[3] He also clarifies that "perhaps the totalizing approaches and the heft of some of the scholars, with respect to contentions concerning genre and studies of the Tirant at large, resulted in a thought-terminating cliché of sorts that stopped new scholars from feeling the need to look further for other possibilities." He admits that he "too halted."[3] He provides some thought-provoking analysis by highlighting some connections between Tirant, Edward II, Piers Gaveston and Edward III of England. In fact, the parallels he establishes between Tirant and Edward III bring back into question the etymology of the name of Tirant, the Tyrant.


Tirant lo Blanch tells the story of a medieval knight Tirant from Brittany who has a series of adventures across Europe in his quest. He joins in knightly competitions in England and France until the Emperor of the Byzantine Empire asks him to help in the war against the Ottoman Turks, an Islamic tribe of invaders threatening Constantinople, the capital and seat of the Empire. Tirant accepts and is made Megaduke of the Byzantine Empire and the captain of an army. He defeats the Turkish invaders and saves the Empire from destruction. Afterwards, he fights the Turks in many regions of the eastern Mediterranean and north Africa, but he dies just before he can marry the pretty heiress of the Byzantine Empire.

The loss of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire in 1453 was considered at the time to be a major blow to Christian Europe. In writing his novel, Martorell perhaps rewrote history to fit what he wanted it to be - which in a way makes it a precursor of the present-day genre of alternate history.

Film adaptation

Tirant lo Blanc, a film based on the book, was released in early 2006. Its plot is based on the later part of the Tirant, and events leading to his involvement in Constantinople and afterwards.


The book has been translated into several European languages (Italian, Spanish, German, Dutch, Swedish...) as well as Chinese.

Modern translations of the book into English include:


  1. Daniel Eisenberg, "Pero Pérez the Priest and his Comment on Tirant lo Blanch, MLN (Modern Language Notes), volume 88, 1973, pp. 320-330, https://web.archive.org/web/*/http://users.ipfw.edu/jehle/deisenbe/cervantes/peroperezhigh.pdf, included in Eisenberg, Romances of Chivalry in the Spanish Golden Age, Newark, Delaware, Juan de la Cuesta, 1982, http://www.cervantesvirtual.com/servlet/SirveObras/01159841877587238327702/index.htm
  2. Daniel Eisenberg, La biblioteca de Cervantes, in Studia in honorem Martín de Riquer, volume 2, Barcelona, Quaderns Crema, 1987, pp. 271-328; online as "La reconstrucción de la biblioteca de Cervantes", pp. 41-52 of La biblioteca de Cervantes: Una reconstrucción," https://web.archive.org/web/*/http://users.ipfw.edu/jehle/deisenbe/cervantes/reconstruction.pdf, on p. 51.
  3. 1 2 3 Macias, Francisco. Tirant lo Blanc(h): Masculinities, phallosocial desire, and triangular constellations. Thesis. ProQuest Dissertations & Theses. 2011. Document URL.
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