The Windmills of Spain

Consuegra, Spain windmills

Windmill Day

May 11

Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day

Train Day
The Flying Scotsman
Windmill Day
The Windmills of Spain
Archery Day
The Archery Jig
Show More

Today's Musings, History & Folklore

“Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them.” ~ Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote, 1605

Immortalized in Miguel de Cervantes "The Ingenious Gentleman Sir Quixote of La Mancha," the windmills of Spain figure prominently in the story of the slightly mad and self-appointed knight-errant, Don Quixote, and his farmer friend, Sancho Panza (acting as his loyal squire) who wander the land in search of noble quests, courtly love, and chivalric romance. In his famous adventure, Don Quixote attacks windmills that he believes to be ferocious giants. The phrase "tilting at windmills" (with the word 'tilt' deriving from the thrust in the medieval joust) has entered the language as an idiom to describe attacking imaginary enemies or pursuing courses of action that are based on misinterpreted or misapplied heroic, romantic, or idealistic justifications. Cervantes set his story in Castile La Mancha, and today you can follow the Don Quixote trail there beginning in the town of Orgaz and view several hilltop windmills, including the most famous of these at Consuegra, where there are still eleven historic windmills standing.

The Windmills of Spain

This dance recalls Spains many windmills, some of the most famous of which, The Windmills Of Campo De Criptana, are immortalized in Cervantes' "Don Quixote."  This danceeven includes a non-standard "flamenco style" arm and an Olé figure!

From the original 20-30 windmills in Campo De Criptana from Cervantes' day, 10 windmills can still be seen, with much of their original structure and machinery preserved. 

The expression "tilting at windmills" (meaning to attack imaginary enemies) derives from Chapter VIII of Don Quixote Part 1 and is titled: "Of the valourous Don Quixote's success in the dreadful and never before imagined Adventure of the Windmills, with other events worthy of happy record."

At this point they came in sight of thirty forty windmills that there are on plain, and as soon as Don Quixote saw them he said to his squire, "Fortune is arranging matters for us better than we could have shaped our desires ourselves, for look there, friend Sancho Panza, where thirty or more monstrous giants present themselves, all of whom I mean to engage in battle and slay, and with whose spoils we shall begin to make our fortunes; for this is righteous warfare, and it is God's good service to sweep so evil a breed from off the face of the earth."

"What giants?" said Sancho Panza.

"Those thou seest there," answered his master, "with the long arms, and some have them nearly two leagues long."

"Look, your worship," said Sancho; "what we see there are not giants but windmills, and what seem to be their arms are the sails that turned by the wind make the millstone go."

"It is easy to see," replied Don Quixote, "that thou art not used to this business of adventures; those are giants; and if thou art afraid, away with thee out of this and betake thyself to prayer while I engage them in fierce and unequal combat."

So saying, he gave the spur to his steed Rocinante, heedless of the cries his squire Sancho sent after him, warning him that most certainly they were windmills and not giants he was going to attack. He, however, was so positive they were giants that he neither heard the cries of Sancho, nor perceived, near as he was, what they were, but made at them shouting, "Fly not, cowards and vile beings, for a single knight attacks you."

A slight breeze at this moment sprang up, and the great sails began to move, seeing which Don Quixote exclaimed, "Though ye flourish more arms than the giant Briareus, ye have to reckon with me."

For a better look at the painting "Don Quixote" by artist Scott Gustafson, known for including hidden pictures within his paintings, click Don Quixote and his faithful squire, Sancho Panza, with windmills looming in the background.  

And to see the original version of the dance (a set of instructions exists as well) Iberian Peninsula SCD Group, Valencia, 2017, see below!

The Windmills of Spain
The Windmills of Spain

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The majority of dance descriptions referenced on this site have been taken from the

 

Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary or the

Scottish Country Dancing Database 

 

Snapshots of dance descriptions are provided as an overview only.  As updates may have occurred, please click the dance description to be forwarded to a printable dance description or one of the official reference sources.

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