EL CID by Geraldine McCaughrean


Email this review


A spirited retelling of the legends surrounding one of Spain's most revered national heroes, in a handsome new edition. Rodrigo (or Ruy) Diaz de Bivar, who was banished by King Alfonso of Castile in about 1089, alternately served and fought against both Moors and Christians but concluded his career by capturing Valencia from the Moors in 1094 and ruling it until his death five years later. The epic Poema de Cid appeared in 1140; subsequent versions include Corneille's drama and (despite the publisher's claim that this is the first children's version) Sherwood's The Tale of the Warrior Lord (1930, o.p.). Here, McCaughrean shows herself a grand storyteller; she presents this prototypical chivalric knight in a lively narrative sparked with humor, drama, and her hero's daring trickery. Ambrus' illustrations, splendidly designed and limned, capture all the story's gusto, with vigorous characterizations and horses galloping right off the page. There is much inherent in the story of a warrior who gloriously battled the hated infidel that might offend current sensibilities; McCaughrean meets the challenge of making the tale acceptable with partial success. Though there are careless descriptions of Moors, El Cid here respects his Islamic opponents and even their religion; he is not only a fierce warrior but a fair, generous, loving, and clever man; his wife is sturdily courageous. There is an incident with moneylenders (not actually termed Jews) that is offensively stereotypical. And yet the story itself is of historic and literary significance; ironically, to make it totally inoffensive to modern eyes would misrepresent it.

Pub Date: Oct. 26th, 1989
Page count: 128pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press