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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547–1616)

The Attack on the Windmills

From “Don Quixote

THEY came in sight of thirty or forty windmills standing in the plain; and as soon as Don Quixote espied them, he said to his squire:

“Fortune disposes our affairs better than we ourselves could have desired. Look yonder, friend Sancho Panza, where thou mayest discover somewhat more than thirty monstrous giants, whom I intend to encounter and slay, and with their spoils we will begin to enrich ourselves; for it is lawful war, and doing God good service, to remove so wicked a generation from off the face of the earth.”

“What giants?” said Sancho Panza.

“Those thou seest yonder,” answered his master, “with their long arms; for some are wont to have them almost of the length of two leagues.”

“Look, sir,” answered Sancho, “those which appear yonder are not giants, but windmills, and what seem to be arms are the sails, which, whirled about by the wind, make the millstone go.”

“It is very evident,” answered Don Quixote, “that thou art not versed in the business of adventures. They are giants; and if thou art afraid, get thee aside and pray, while I engage with them in fierce and unequal combat.”

So saying, he clapped spurs to his steed, notwithstanding the cries his squire sent after him, assuring him that they were certainly windmills, and not giants. But he was so fully possessed that they were giants, that he neither heard the outcries of his squire Sancho, nor yet discerned what they were, though he was very near them, but went on, crying out aloud, “Fly not, ye cowards and vile caitiffs! It is a single knight who assaults you.”

The wind now rising a little, the great sails began to move, upon which Don Quixote called out:

“Although ye should have more arms than the giant Briareus, ye shall pay for it!”

Thus recommending himself devoutly to his lady Dulcinea, beseeching her to succor him in the present danger, being well covered with his buckler and setting his lance in the rest, he rushed on as fast as Rozinante could gallop and attacked the first mill before him, when, running his lance into the sail, the wind whirled it about with so much violence that it broke the lance to shivers, dragging horse and rider after it, and tumbling them over and over on the plain in very evil plight. Sancho Panza hastened to his assistance as fast as the ass could carry him; and when he came up to his master he found him unable to stir, so violent was the blow which he and Rozinante had received in their fall.

“God save me!” quoth Sancho, “did not I warn you to have a care of what you did, for that they were nothing but windmills? And nobody could mistake them but one that had the like in his head.”

“Peace, friend Sancho,” answered Don Quixote; “for matters of war are, of all others, most subject to continual change. Now I verily believe, and it is most certainly the fact, that the sage Freston, who stole away my chamber and books, has metamorphosed these giants into windmills, on purpose to deprive me of the glory of vanquishing them, so great is the enmity he bears me! But his wicked arts will finally avail but little against the goodness of my sword.”

“God grant it!” answered Sancho Panza. Then, helping him to rise, he mounted him again upon his steed, which was almost disjointed.