El Cantar del Mio Cid is the oldest preserved Spanish cantar de gesta. Formerly, it was transmitted only orally, but in 1142 it was written down by a certain Per Abbat. This copy is held as part of a 14th century codex in the Biblioteca Nacional de España (National Library) in Madrid. However, it is incomplete. The first page and two others in the middle are missing. It is written in medieval Spanish, the ancestor of modern Spanish. Its current title is a modern invention by Ramón Menéndez Pidal; its original title is unknown. Some call it El Poema del Cid on the grounds that it is not a cantar but a poem made up of three cantares. The title has been translated into English as The Lay of the Cid and The Song of the Cid. Some English translations include the verse translation of W.S. Merwin and prose translation of Rita Hamilton and Janet Perry.
Based on a true story, it tells of a Spanish hero El Cid or El Campeador, whose true name was Rodrigo (or Ruy) Díaz de Vivar, during the Reconquista, or reconquest of Spain from the Moors. El Cid married the cousin of King Alfonso VI, Doña Ximena, but for obscure reasons (according to the story, he made the king swear at Santa Gadea he had not ordered the fratricide of his own brother), he fell into the disfavor of the king and had to leave his home country Castile. To regain his honor, he participated in the battles against the Moorish armies and conquered Valencia. By these heroic acts he regained the confidence of the king and his honor was restored. His two daughters then married the infantes (princes) of Navarre and Aragon. Through the marriages of his daughters, the Cid began the unification of Spain. Unlike other European medieval epics, the tone is realist. There is no magic, even the apparition of archangel Gabriel (verses 404–410) happens in a dream. However it also departs from historic truth: for example, there is no mention of his son, his daughters were not named Elvira and Sol and they did not become...
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