[F]or what I want of Dulcinea del Toboso she is as good as the greatest princess in the land. For not all those poets who praise ladies under names which they choose so freely, really have such mistresses. . . .I am quite satisfied. . . to imagine and believe that the good Aldonza Lorenzo is so lovely and virtuous. . . .
In this quotation from Chapter XXV of the First Part, Don Quixote explains to Sancho that the actual behavior of the farmer’s daughter, Aldonza Lorenzo, does not matter as long as he can imagine her perfectly as his princess, Dulcinea del Toboso. This idea of Dulcinea figures prominently in the novel, since we never actually meet Dulcinea, and she likely does not even know about Don Quixote’s patronage. Don Quixote’s imagination compensates for many holes in the novel’s narration, providing explanations for inexplicable phenomena and turning apparently mundane events into great adventures. Dulcinea gains renown through Don Quixote’s praise, and regardless of whether she is even real, she exists in fame and in the imaginations of all the characters who read about her. In this way, Don Quixote’s imaginings take on the force of reality and he becomes, effectively, the narrator of his own fate.