Don Quixote

by: Miguel de Cervantes

Rocinante

[A]ccordingly, after having chosen, rejected, amended, tortured and revolved a world of names, in his imagination, he fixed upon Rocinante, an appellation, in his opinion, lofty, sonorous and expressive, not only of his former, but likewise of his present situation, which entitled him to the preference over all other horses under the sun.

The narrator tells how Don Quixote settles on a name for his horse. Before setting out on his adventures, Don Quixote decides that as a knight-errant, he must choose and name a horse. He deliberates about the name for four days before settling on Rocinante for the old and rather sickly horse. Don Quixote picks a name that means “ranked before all other horses,” which shows Don Quixote believes this horse to be capable of great adventures.

[W]ith this view, he steered his course homeward; and Rocinante, as if he had guessed the knight’s intention, began to move with such alacrity and nimbleness, that his hooves scarcely seemed to touch the ground.

The narrator explains how, after Don Quixote first sets out, he decides to return home briefly to collect money and other necessities, as well as to obtain a squire. While doing so, he notices Rocinante’s eagerness as he steers towards his home town. Don Quixote seems to have a high opinion of Rocinante’s capabilities and strength throughout the novel, but here the horse seems excited to return home and rest.

See if your worship can make shift to rise, and then we will give some assistance to Rocinante, tho’ it be more than he deserves; for, he was the principal cause of all this nasty rib-roasting: never could I believe such a thing of Rocinante, who, I always thought, was as chaste and sober a person as myself: but, this verifies the common remark, that you must keep company a long time with a man, before you know him thoroughly[.]

Sancho tells of how Rocinante caused his and Don Quixote’s latest injuries. Rocinante tries to mate with a herd of mares, and the owners of the mares beat Rocinante, causing Don Quixote to fight them. Sancho expresses his surprise at Rocinante’s behavior, characterizing the horse as otherwise a “chaste and sober person.” Both Sancho and Don Quixote view Rocinante as much more than a mere animal.

Don Quixote finding him so mettlesome, conceived a good omen from his eagerness, believing it a certain presage of his success in the dreadful adventure he was about to achieve.

The narrator explains that after Don Quixote unbinds Rocinante as he and Sancho settle in the cave, he notices how Rocinante enjoys his freedom. Don Quixote plans to investigate a pounding noise he and Sancho have been hearing and takes Rocinante’s mood as an optimistic sign. Here, and other times throughout the novel, Don Quixote regards Rocinante as an oracle capable of foretelling the future.

Scarce had Sancho pronounced these last words, then their ears were saluted by the neighing of Rocinante, which Don Quixote considered as a most happy omen, and determined in three or four days, to set out on his third expedition[.]

The narrator explains how Don Quixote takes Rocinante’s behavior as an omen that the time has come to set out on his third journey. Rather than seeing Rocinante as a person, as Sancho described him earlier in the novel, Don Quixote seems to see the horse as more than human in some ways.