CASILDA OF THE RISING MOON: a Tale of Magic and of Faith, of Knights and a Saint in Medieval Spain by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino

CASILDA OF THE RISING MOON: a Tale of Magic and of Faith, of Knights and a Saint in Medieval Spain

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Disregard the subtitle's suggestion of a thousand delights--the author of I. Juan de Pareja here presents a miracle play without metaphor: one cannot regard Casilda as a saintly soul motivated by kindness and compassion, one must acknowledge and revere her as a saint. The story is easily told. Casilda, best-beloved daughter of the Saracen ruler of Toledo, suffers from the recurrent illnesses of a troubled spirit; she has succored the Christian prisoners in her father's dungeons and feels drawn to their faith. Recognizing this, Ismael Ben Haddaj, a Moslem prince of Jewish ancestry who loves Casilda, procures and brings to her a holy relic which alleviates her sickness; but he is attracted to his ancient heritage, and departs for the Holy Land, to be lost at sea. Warned by a prisoner that Casilda can be cured only by certain springs in the North, her father arranges the journey; Casilda herself realizes that she will never return--""my life will be a penitence,"" she proclaims. Once in the Christian kingdom of Navarra, she undergoes a formal conversion and retires to a cave near the springs, where her ability to cure the afflicted and the intensity of her devotion cause her to be recognized as a saint. In another year, she is dead. Despite the panoply of medieval life, despite the appearance of a variety of incidental characters--despite even ""a sort of primitive ecumenism"" which the author justly claims, this is Casilda's story, and she is less a particular person than a singular spirit who sees visions and performs miracles. Outside a Catholic frame of reference, it is doubtful if girls will find her a convincing heroine; even within that tradition, her story holds less as fiction than as affirmation of faith.

Pub Date: March 15th, 1967
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux