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THE STORY - SUMMARY AND NOTES
On their way to a roadside inn, the Don and Sancho meet a man driving a mule loaded with weapons. The man tells a strange story: Two aldermen from his village went looking for a lost jackass. Each of them brayed loudly, hoping to lure the ass in his direction. The two friends never recovered the ass (which was later found dead) but they brayed so well that they fooled each other. Soon the rest of the village, having heard of the friends' braying contest, started to make fun of them by braying every time the friends appeared in public. The joke got so out of control that people from other villages started to make fun of the jokesters. The village became known as the braying village. Now, to restore their reputation, the villagers are going out to fight those who mocked them.
You might think that the Don would rush to champion the cause of the braying village. Not at all. In Chapter 27 he intervenes as the fight is about to start. He lectures the villagers sternly, telling them that wars should be fought for important causes, not over silly quarrels. Sancho, however, can't resist showing off his own imitation of a jackass. When he starts braying, the villagers think he is making fun of them and beat him up. They didn't have adhesive bandages in Cervantes' time, but does it seem to you that his characters would have purchased them by the car load?
Inside the inn, the Don meets a traveling entertainer, Master Peter. Master
Peter has a pet ape who, for money, is supposed to be able to answer any
question put to it. This is an obvious fraud, since the ape only "whispers"
the answers in his master's ear. It is Peter who relays them to the audience.
Nevertheless, the ape seems to perform impressively. He recognizes Don
Quixote and Sancho and gives Sancho "news" of his wife Teresa.
Later, Master Peter gives a puppet show depicting a fight between Spanish knights and the Moors. Don Quixote is so carried away that he draws his sword and attacks the puppets, totally destroying them.
Still later, you learn that Peter the puppet master is really Gines de Pasamonte, the rogue whom Don Quixote freed in the episode of the galley slaves (Part I, Chapter 22). This is how Master Peter was able to recognize Quixote and Panza and answer their questions. Perhaps Don Quixote was not so mistaken after all in attacking the puppets. Gines, alias Master Peter, really was making fun of him.
This is one of the few times in the novel when Cervantes draws comparisons between art or theater and real life. Cervantes seems to be saying that all authors are, at least in part, swindlers. Writers manipulate their characters in order to deceive their readers into mistaking fiction for real life. In what way could the writing of fiction be a kind of lying? Are the readers of novels, like Sancho Panza, partners in their own deception? If not, why not? Notice that Cervantes goes to great lengths, even inventing the imaginary historian Cide Hamete, to convince you that Don Quixote is a true story. If someone said this is just carrying artistic lying to another level, what would he mean? Is there evidence that he is trying to set his book apart from the frivolous products of popular culture? Where do you find it?
At the end of this section, the Don and Sancho arrive at a flour mill, where a large waterwheel is being used to turn the grindstone. The Don mistakes the mill for an enchanted castle and tries to reach it by boat. His boat is about to be swept into the waterwheel and smashed when the millers run out to save him. Naturally, the Don mistakes the flour-covered workers for demons. He seems to be as crazy as he was in Part I.