My Appreciation for Don Quixote

Despite being a classic and its enormous size, once I began reading Don Quixote, I realized that the intimidation I initially felt was silly. As I embarked on this adventure with Alonso Quijano, a simple man nearing his 50s, who decided to become a knight due to his obsession with chivalric romances, was that I was in for a hilarious treat. Alonso becomes Don Quixote. He then dedicates his new career change to Dulcinea del Toboso, a local peasant woman he has deemed a mythical woman of great beauty. He acquires a trusty but greedy sidekick Sancho Panza, and along with his horse Rocinante and Panza’s donkey, they embark on wacky adventures throughout the Spanish countryside.

With the original publication in 1605, Don Quixote gained monumental success and popularity. The story’s characters and setting were all seen as vibrant and comical. Ultimately leading Cervantes to write a sequel, which would become the second portion of the novel in 1615.

Typically, I’m not drawn to slapstick humor. In fact, knowing something bad will happen, even with a comedic lead-up, will raise my anxiety. However, this book did not do that. It kept me laughing and guessing what was going to happen next. I even mumbled, “oh, bless your heart,” a few times.

Spending time on the coast of South Carolina last week, I wanted to explore Huntington Beach State Park, the former home of Anna Hyatt Huntington and her husband, Archer Huntington. I’ve visited this location many times over the years; however, this time, I was on a mission!

While researching Don Quixote, I stumbled over an interesting fact that connected the fearless knight to South Carolina. Anna Hyatt Huntington and her husband Archer Huntington of Huntington Beach State Park had a great fondness for Don Quixote. According to The Hispanic Museum and Library, Archer had dedicated his life and family resources to procuring one of the world’s most significant collections of Hispanic art and literature. I also discovered that Anna Hyatt Huntington had made a sculpture of Don Quixote, which resides in Brookgreen Gardens, founded by Archer and Anna Huntington. Needless to say, I had to make a stop, spending the day walking the gardens.

Anna Hyatt Huntington envisioned Don Quixote as a pitiful character. She depicted him as dazed and confused after he lost his epic joust with the windmills.  His horse, Rocinante, was modeled in 1937 from a variety of local horses at Atalaya, the winter home of the Huntingtons. The sculpture is made from aluminum and was released into the wild in 1947.

In 1971, Sancho Panza was completed by Paul Jennewein after Anna Hyatt Huntington asked him to create a suitable companion for her, Don Quixote. According to the plaque at the bottom of Sancho Panza, Jennewein studied literary references to the character to accurately present the proper attitude and period costume.

I haven’t watched any film or television adaption; however, I would love to see Man of La Mancha starring Peter O’Tool and The Man Who Killed Don Quixote with José Luis Ferrer.

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