No giant or dragon
Is bigger or stronger
Than the human imagination
– Margarita Engle
That was the first poem in the children’s book, ‘Miguel’s Brave Knight – Young Cervantes and his Dream of Don Quixote‘. It acted like a magnet on me – not that iron had entered my soul, far from it, but you get the gist. Silly thing to say that magnets work on people, what I mean is that the book appealed to me.
The son and I read it together a few days later, and he cackled, “My goodness! This boy thinks of Knights on every page. “
“Yes. Doesn’t he?” I said, bemused that one who introduced car and ninja motives into everyday speech should find it amusing that another young boy was fixated with knights. I told him so, and he laugh good naturedly. “Yeah – but how come he sees knights everyday? I have never seen a knight.” said the little fellow. We then had an illuminating discussion on the lure of the knight in the olden days. How ubiquitous he seemed, and what enamored thousands of boys to sign up as knights. Could it have only been a means of livelihood or a quixotic quest for glory?
Back in the book, the story of Miguel Cervantes flowed along poetically.
The book is artfully written, and tastefully illustrated (Pen,ink and watercolor – sample below) . In short poems, titled Hunger, Imagination, Comfort, Daydreams; the story takes one through the life of Miguel Cervantes, the poor boy with an indifferent education, who made the world a richer place by imagining the modern day novel into existence. His flawed, grandiose, knight, Don Quixote lingers on in human imagination centuries later.
The poems really talk of the life of Miguel Cervantes, but are lucid enough to be relished on their own. Miguel Cervantes lived during the sixteenth century, and had a far from easy life. Born to a barber cum surgeon, his early life was in constant turmoil as his father was frequently in debt, and was arrested for it several times. They had to move often, went to school if he could, but throughout all his travails, his imagination was his best friend. At a time when books were rare, and imagination frowned upon, the young Cervantes managed to learn to read and write, and carefully hone his imagination: a gallant knight on a magnificent horse was ever ready to rescue him and the world.
My daydreamed knight
protects farmers and maidens
from ogres, goblins and trolls
The Ingenious Nobleman Sir Don Quixote of La Mancha was the original title of the book that was eventually published in Spanish.
He sees windmills as giants
with enormous, spinning arms
The first time I saw a windmill, I stood transfixed, even as an adult. It is no wonder that it appealed to the imagination of a young boy.
Beautiful poetry, mellow illustrations and the story behind Don Quixote is truly irresistible, and I have read the book several times already with joy.
Also read: The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind