1.1 Conde Lucanor, Exemplo XXXV – Don Juan Manuel

10 min readjune 9, 2023


Alejandra Ramos

AP Spanish Literature 💃🏽

24 resources
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Welcome to El Conde Lucanor! El Conde Lucanor is a little confusing at first because it is a story within the story itself. You will have to read it a few times to understand it but has a very important message to share (:

Context Behind El Conde Lucanor

Being aware of the context of a story is super important because it allows you to establish the situation and give some sort of familiarization with the text in the introduction of the free-response questions (FRQs), which is how you gain points. Additionally, it lets you familiarize yourself with common patterns and trends during a certain literary time period.

Author Background

Don Juan Manuel is recognized as one of the most important writers in Spain. It is important to note that during this time, it was not very common for people to be well-educated and know how to read or write. However, Don Juan Manuel was from an affluent family; his grandfather was Ferdinand III, and his uncle was Alfonso X, both people of great knowledge and power. He was, as a result, very involved in what was going on in his society, both politically and socially.
Please remember that the person who wrote Conde Lucanor, Ejemplo XXXV, is DON Juan Manuel—it is not just Juan Manuel, Don Juan, or Don Manuel.

Excerpt from El Conde Lucanor, an anonymous manuscript reproduced in the 15th or 16th century. Image courtesy of Wikimedia.

🧑 The biggest context for the author is that he was affluent—he had the opportunity to be educated and learn arithmetic skills.

Time and Place

📜 Historical: The Middle Ages took place during a long historical stage that spans from the fall of the Roman Empire (in the year 476) and the conquest of Constantinople, in the fifteenth century. Some literary genres that came out at this time were epic, lyrical, narrative, and theater.
🗺️ Geographic: The medieval world revolved around 3 geographical areas, Western Europe (which gradually became Christian), Western European space (with Christian and Slavic bases), and the geographic space of the expansion of Islam.

Image courtesy of Nations Online.

Societal Context

👑 Political: At this time it was very common for one person (the king) to be the one who made most of the decisions, and not only that, but he had a group of people known as the nobility, which were composed of the monks, the priests, and the churches. Christianity was gaining large popularity amongst the people because of who they were being ruled by, so the church had large control politically, and often economically.
🧑🏽‍🤝‍🧑🏻 Socio-economic: In medieval times, the economic system was based on agriculture, under a feudal form. Royalty, nobility, and clergy owned land that the peasants, who represented 80% of the population, were in charge of cultivating and often had little to no power in economic choices—the royalty, nobility, and clergy were often the ones that taxed them and made the choices for them. One or more products could be grown in fields, depending on the place in which they were, but the policies usually stayed the same and it was the rich and the church that had control over other people.
🎭 Cultural: The medieval age was largely based on religion being the law of the land. The Catholic Church typically set the precedent for a lot of things and ultimately, was what had large control over the situations and decisions. Additionally, men were the ones that were the head of their family. Combining the societal norms with what the Catholic Church during this time ordered—men being perceived as more—there was the construction of gender roles and machismo. In machismo, men were (and are still, since machismo still exists) perceived to be better than women and they are the ones that have to be in charge of them.

Need to Know about El Conde Lucanor

Literary Devices and Quick Vocab

Knowing which literary devices and vocabulary are related to a text helps on the FRQs when you have to answer what the author used to convey his message. Knowing certain vocabulary, especially with Moraleja and Fabula in this story, help piece the literature piece together.
  • Meta: Greek preposition meaning "after", "beyond", "on"...
  • Moraleja [Moral]: A moraleja is a lesson or teaching that is drawn from a story or anecdote, whether real or fictional. The word is composed of the word moral and the suffix -eja.
  • Hyperbole: Exaggeration through the increase or decrease of a concept, fact, or feeling.
  • Fabula: Short, fictitious story, in prose or verse, with didactic intention, in which animals can intervene as characters, and also people. The fable contains a moral about human nature.


El Conde LucanorÉl está buscando a alguien que le dé un consejo; está inseguro de lo que va a pasar.
PatronioÉl es un consejero y contador de historias para aconsejar al conde Lucanor.
La mujer bravaEs brava y malhumorada. Está obligada a casarse con el mancebo- sus padres quieren que se vaya; es rica.
El manceboUn hombre joven, soltero, y buena persona. Él es el comprometido (y luego esposo) de la mujer brava. Le mete miedo a la mujer brava para controlar la relación. Está interesado en el dinero.
El padre de la mujerTrata de copiar a el mancebo con la estrategia que el mancebo usó con su hija, pero falla porque su mujer ya lo conoce desde hace años.
"If you don't show who you are at the beginning, you will never be able to later when you want.” This is the main message of this literary piece. Keep that in mind as you read and analyze the summary, as El Mancebo was only able to establish his dominance by doing so in the beginning.

Summary of El Conde Lucanor

A young man is going to marry a very "brava" (aggressive) woman. Later, "El Conde Lucanor" asks Patronio if he should marry that "brava" woman. Patronio then tells him the story of a similar situation, of a young man (who will be referred to as "El Mancebo" so that there is no confusion between "El Mancebo" and the young man that asked for advice) who was not born rich and wanted to marry a very powerful woman, which in the time of the Middle Ages, was impossible. The only reason that it was possible was because this woman was very “brava,” aggressive, and had a bad attitude. However, "El mancebo" had a plan for this. He said that he would also be “bravo” enough to change the "brava" woman, and during the dinner of their marriage, "el mancebo" makes various abnormal requests. 
It starts off when he asks the dog for water but the dog cannot bring him water, as he is just a dog. To seem "bravo," "El Mancebo" killed the dog because he didn't listen to his orders of bringing water. He then asked the cat for water, and just like the dog, he can't give water, so he also murdered the cat, but in a more grotesque way. "El mancebo" then moves onto the horse—his only horse—and he asked for water. The horse did not follow the order, and "El Mancebo," furious, cut off its head. The woman, who was speechless because of the fear she felt, thinks that if she doesn't listen and does what she is asked by “El Mancebo,” she will be next. 
Right after, the husband, "El mancebo," turns his attention to la mujer brava and says, “Give me water in my hands.” Knowing that she would suffer the same fate as the other animals, she went and brought him water. And that's how the brave woman that everyone feared, suddenly became submissive. The next morning, the husband tells his wife that he is going to take a nap and to make sure no one made any noise or he would punish her. The mujer brava’s parents had always been aware of her attitude and how aggressive she was; they were excited to get her out of the house. After she got married, they were worried about the well-being of the man she married, but they were not aware of El Mancebo’s plan. When la mujer brava's parents visited them the same day, El Mancebo was going to take a nap, they heard complete silence, and they were worried that the mujer brava had done something to “El Mancebo.” When they knock, la mujer brava yells at them because "El Mancebo" was sleeping and she was worried El Mancebo would do something to her. The mujer brava’s father then tries what El Mancebo did (convert la mujer brava into someone submissive) on his wife. However, it does not work, as she has known him and knows his true character. This circles back to the quote, "If you don't show who you are at the beginning, you will never be able to later when you want.”
Super important note: This is a story within a story. "El Conde Lucanor" tells Patronio this story.

    Themes in El Conde Lucanor

    Direct Themes from AP Spanish Lit

    📖 The direct themes from the course are:
    • Las relaciones interpersonales
      • The plot and moral lesson of Don Juan Manuel's 14th-century book "El Conde Lucanor" are both heavily dependent on las relactiones interpersonales. Loyalty, deceit, and knowledge are just a few of the topics that are explored via the characters and their interactions. These interactions demonstrate the complexity of interpersonal relationships and teach us important lessons about human nature and effective social interaction.
    • La construcción de género.
      • La construcción de género in 'El Conde Lucanor' can be seen in how traditional societal roles for men and women are portrayed. The female characters, like El Mancebo's wife, exemplify the expected submission and obedience of women to men during medieval times. Nevertheless, there are moments when women defy these established roles, displaying their actions in shaping the decisions and outcomes of men.

    Sub-Themes in AP Spanish Lit

    📚 Different Organizers and Sub-themes are:
    • Las relaciones de poder 
      • The interaction between "la mujer brava" and "el mancebo" in "El Conde Lucanor" serves as a lens through which power dynamics are examined. The "mujer brava," in spite of her inferior status, opposes masculine dominance and demonstrates her strength and independence. By appreciating the boldness and skills of the courageous woman, the young guy, for his part, undergoes a transformation in his own sense of power.
    • Las relaciones familiares
      • In El Conde Lucanor, the relation between El Mancebo and la mujer brava is an example of family relations because they show El Mancebo felt like he needed to control the mujer brava and that the mujer brava needed to be submissive. This is representative of what people believed families should be like at the time and what society believed was appropriate.
    • El Machismo
      • El machismo is very obviously present with el Mancebo trying to establish his dominance. He transformed his wife into someone that was super submissive through fear and violence.

    Analysis of El Conde Lucanor

    Don Juan Manuel wrote the story of "El Conde Lucanor, Example XXXV" during the Middle Ages, which was characterized as a feudal era based on religion and custom. During this literary era and those that followed, interpersonal relationships were used a lot. In this specific piece of literature, you can see how the author, Don Juan Manuel, used machismo, the patriarchal system, and family relationships. "El Conde Lucanor" tries to teach a moral lesson, to show who you are from the beginning, otherwise you will never be able to, in a dictated way.
    This story is about how the young man treats the woman to scare her. You can see this when it is mentioned that she, the woman the young man married, "cuida que la cabeza era cortada." The order that the young man gave her was an order that the woman did, not necessarily for the woman's satisfaction, but because the man told her to do it, and she was afraid of what would happen if she did not do it. She was simply afraid that the young man would be violent with her. The use of machismo helps the audience understand how machismo was one of the social norms that were very acceptable during the era in which this play was written. The young man was the one who had to be strong and "superior" in the relationship and the woman was not. This provides context to the culture during the Middle Ages.
    By introducing machismo, something that was also analyzed in "El Conde Lucanor, Example XXXV" was the patriarchal system during this time. This literary work was based on someone asking someone else for advice and listening to a story (with a moral) about it. In the story, the young man is planning how to be the one who puts order in the family that he was going to form with the woman who according to him was "brava". There was a problem with the woman being the brave one, but there was no problem with the man scaring the woman into being the brave one and the leader of the relationship. The man, in the fragments, gives the order and is grateful to God because the woman obeyed him and continued giving him orders. This is an example of the patriarchy and how relationships typically worked: the man gives the orders and the woman listens.
    Family relationships are one of the other topics that are discussed and can be analyzed in the context of the culture during this time. Family relationships depended a lot on money and the gender of the people. The reason the young man was getting married was because the woman he married had money. The amount you contributed to your family was entirely based on your gender. The reason for getting married shows a lot about the culture during that time and the social structure, especially since during this time people were divided into three categories based on their economic level.
    “El Conde Lucanor” manages to achieve what Don Juan Manuel wants the audience to understand by a variety of methods. The incorporation of machismo, the patriarchal system, and family relations helped Don Juan Manuel to situate the context of society when this work was written.

    Image Courtesy of GIPHY

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