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"The Abencerraje" and "Ozmin and Daraja"

Two Sixteenth-Century Novellas from Spain

Edited and translated by Barbara Fuchs, Larissa Brewer-Garcia, and Aaron J. Ilika

Publication Year: 2014

Since its publication in 1561, an anonymous tale of love, friendship, and chivalry has captivated readers in Spain and across Europe. "The Abencerraje" tells of the Moorish knight Abindarráez, whose plans to wed are interrupted when he is taken prisoner by Christian knights. His captor, a Spanish governor, befriends and admires the Moorish knight, ultimately releasing him to marry his beloved. Their enormously popular tale was repeated or imitated in numerous ballads and novels; when the character Don Quixote is wounded in his first sortie, he imagines himself as Abindarráez on the field.

Several decades later, in the tense years leading up to the expulsion of the Moriscos from Spain, Mateo Alemán reprised themes from this romance in his novel Guzmán de Alfarache. In his version, the Moorish lady Daraja is captured by the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabel; she and her lover Ozmín are forced to engage in a variety of ruses to protect their union until they are converted to Christianity and married. Though "Ozmín and Daraja" is more elaborate in execution than "The Abencerraje," both tales show deep sympathy for their Moorish characters.

Faithfully translated into modern, accessible English, these finely wrought literary artifacts offer rich imaginings of life on the Christian-Muslim frontier. Contextualized with a detailed introduction, along with contemporary legal documents, polemics, and ballads, "The Abencerraje" and "Ozmín and Daraja" reveals early modern Spain's profound fascination with the Moorish culture that was officially denounced and persecuted. By recalling the intimate and sympathetic bonds that often connected Christians to the heritage of Al-Andalus, these tales of romance and companionship offer a nuanced view of relationships across a religious divide.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-x

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pp. 1-24

Widely read across Europe ever since their first publication, the anonymous “The Abencerraje” (1561) and “Ozmín and Daraja,” from Mateo Alemán’s Guzmán de Alfarache (1599), represent the epitome of Spain’s literary idealization of Muslims. Finely wrought literary artifacts, both novellas reflect the intense engagement of early modern Spain with the cultural inheritance of Al-Andalus and offer rich imaginings of...

Part I: The Novellas

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“The Abencerraje”

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pp. 27-46

This is a living portrait of virtue, generosity, valor, nobility, and loyalty, composed of Rodrigo de Narváez1 and the Abencerraje and Jarifa,2 as well as her father and the king of Granada. Although the two make up the body of this work, the others adorn the canvas and have left their own marks on it. And just as a precious diamond, whether set in gold or silver or lead, retains its fair value according to its carats and its luster, so too virtue shines and shows its qualities in any flawed subject, just like the seed that grows when it falls on fertile soil and in the barren soil is lost.3...

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Mateo Alemán, “Ozmín and Daraja”

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pp. 47-90

Guzmán de Alfarache recounts the story of the two lovers Ozmín and Daraja, as it was told to him.
As soon as they had finished praying, which was a very brief affair, they closed their prayer books and placed them in their satchels. Everyone paid close attention as the good priest began the promised story.1...

Part II: Contexts

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Moorish Ballads

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pp. 93-96

The long tradition of folk ballads about Christian-Moorish relations in Iberia was transformed in the late sixteenth century by the romancero morisco, a new generation of printed and authored ballads, penned by well-known writers, quickly anthologized, and hugely popular. Tremendously popular in its own right, “The Abencerraje” also contributed to this new form, providing material for a large number of ballads, ...

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From Ginés Pérez de Hita, Civil Wars of Granada

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pp. 97-110

Pérez de Hita was a master shoemaker and occasional writer of religious pageants in the city of Murcia, in southern Spain. His fictionalized account of the last days of the Nasrid court in Granada, full of jousts, combats, and love affairs, proved wildly popular in a Spain that craved stories of idealized Moors. As an early historical novel, the first part of the Civil Wars (1595) was also a hugely influential literary...

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Edicts and Official Documents Concerning the Moriscos

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pp. 111-129

The following documents trace the legal treatment of Muslims and Moriscos from the aftermath of the fall of Granada in 1492 to their expulsion in 1609 to 1614. They provide an important context for the novellas in this volume, as they suggest the strength of anti-Muslim and anti-Morisco animus, against which the texts offer their idealized protagonists...

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From Francisco Núñez Muley, “A Petition to the Court”

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pp. 130-132

The Granadan Morisco Francisco Núñez Muley was probably born soon after the fall of the city to the Christian forces in 1492. He lived through various official stances toward religious difference, from the brief initial tolerance of Islam, to the forced baptisms of the turn of the sixteenth century, to the severely repressive royal ordinances against Moorish cultural practices as the century progressed...


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pp. 133-138


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pp. 139-139

E-ISBN-13: 9780812206456
E-ISBN-10: 0812206452
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812246087

Page Count: 152
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 878130584
MUSE Marc Record: Download for "The Abencerraje" and "Ozmin and Daraja"

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Muslims -- Spain -- History -- Sources.
  • Romances, Spanish -- History and criticism.
  • Muslims in literature.
  • Abencerraje.
  • Novelle -- History and criticism.
  • Ozmín y Daraja.
  • Romances, Spanish -- Translations into English.
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