January 28, 2023

Cide Hamete el Benengeli

Author: Cide Hamete el Benengeli is Cervantes’s hypothetical Moorish author of “Don Quixote.”

Hometown: Cide Hamete el Benengeli lives in La Mancha.

Don Quixote - Cide Hamete el Benengeli
Cide Hamete el Benengeli
Don Quixote Novel

Historian: Throughout “Don Quixote,” Cide Hamete el Benengeli is called “a careful and meticulous historian [that] all [people] who enjoy histories should really and truly be grateful [for since he is] meticulous in telling [readers] about all its most minute particulars, never neglecting to bring every little detail, however trivial, clearly to light.” Since Cide Hamete el Benengeli is a conscientious chronicler “who never strays one inch from the truth, [he] refuses to pass in silence over happenings related [in the story], even though they are petty and trivial.” This is why he “relates” everything, however insignificant, in Don Quixote’s “true history.” The Christian translator even tells readers that Cide Hamete Benengeli is a “wise and circumspect historian, a painstaking investigator of the most minute details of [Don Quixote’s] true history, who relates [the events of the story] in the most grave, grandiloquent, meticulous, delightful and imaginative [style imaginable].”

Narrator: As the fictious author of “Don Quixote,” Cide Hamete el Benengeli is an omniscient narrator since he “depicts characters’ thoughts, and reveals their fancies,” with stunning accuracy. Often, he steps in and out of the story, opining in the beginning of chapters. For example, he casts aspersions on the Duke and Duchess for toying with Don Quixote; he calls on the Gods to give him the wits to relate Sancho Panza’s governorship; he surmises why Sancho Panza loves his donkey Dapple so much; he speculates why Cervantes writes a series of break-away tales; he shows doubt for what happened in Montesinos’s cave; he encourages readers to interpret “Don Quixote” for themselves; he even talks to his pen at one point. In short, by opining intermittently, Cide Hamete el Benengeli never lets readers forget that they are reading a work of fiction.

Muslim Philosopher: Since Cide Benengeli is a Muslim Philosopher, “he answers unspoken questions, clears up doubts, brings arguments to their proper conclusion, and, in short, reveals every last atom of information that the most curious reader could ever want to know.” From talk about the nature of life and time to discourses about Christianity, Islam, and poverty, Cide Benengeli often waxes philosophic throughout the story.

Relation to Don Quixote’s Christian Translator: Though Cervantes credits Cide Benengeli for writing Don Quixote he insists that “a diligent man took care to have it translated from Arabic into Castilian vernacular, for the amusement and entertainment of all.” Accordingly, the Christian translator of “Don Quixote” comments on: Cide Benengeli’s glosses; why he begins certain chapters the way he does; and more.

Negative Comments: Twice in the story, Cide Benengeli is harshly criticized, to account for “Don Quixote’s” dubious authenticity. First, the Christian translator tells us that if “anything worthwhile is missing [from the story] it can only be because its author was an Arab and it’s a well-known feature of Arabs that they’re all liars.” Again the Christian translator attributes any apocryphal sections of “Don Quixote” to “the dog of an author who wrote it rather than any defect in the subject.”


Many speculations have been made about the meaning of Cide Hamete Benengeli’s name. The first element, “Cide,” as Don Quixote states, means “sir” in Arabic: it is a corruption of سيد sīd.

“Hamete” is also the Castilian form of a proper name of Hispanic Muslim origin. However, scholars do not agree on its exact equivalent in Arabic, as it could correspond to three very similar names. The Egyptian Hispanist Abd al-Aziz al-Ahwani makes it equivalent to حمادة Hamāda; Abd al-Rahman Badawi opts for حميد Hāmid, while Mahmud Ali Makki affirms that is أحمد Aḥmad, a more common name than the others.

The meaning of “Benengeli” is proposed to be a play on Cervantes’ name. The first to propose an interpretation was the Arabist José Antonio Conde, who interpreted it as a Spanish version of ابن الأيل Ibn al-ayyil, “son of the deer”. This was a subtle allusion to Cervantes’ own surname, as the word for deer in Spanish is “ciervo”. The scholars Diego Clemencín and Abd al-Rahman Badawi agreed.

The orientalist Leopoldo Eguílaz y Yanguas relates Benengeli to berenjena (“brinjal, aubergine, eggplant”), a relation mentioned by Sancho Panza in the novel.

The Cervantists Saadeddine Bencheneb and Charles Marcilly proposed as an etymology ابن الإنجيل Ibn al-Inŷīl, that is, “son of the Gospel.” This would be an ironic pun highlighting the difference between the supposedly Muslim author and the Christian character of the real author, himself.

For the Hispanicist Mahmud Ali Makki, none of the previous interpretations have consistency, and he is inclined to assume that the name is simply an invention, although he points out that it may be inspired by the surname of a well-known Andalusian family originally from Denia, the Beni Burungal or Berenguel (بني برنجل, last name of Catalan origin -Berenguer-, arabized and then again romanized as Berenguel).

The possible puns referenced above would rely on Cervantes’ knowledge of the Arabic language, which is a feasible presumption. Cervantes spent five years captive in Algiers, and he was allowed to move around the city and interact with its inhabitants. On the other hand, Américo Castro was the first to point out its possible Converso origin, a hypothesis that has been sustained to a greater or lesser degree by later authors. And La Mancha, finally, as well as a good part of the southern half of the Peninsula, was densely populated by Moriscos. In any case, the Arab and the Islamic were not alien to Cervantes.

Originally posted 2019-12-26 14:17:44.

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Originally posted 2020-02-19 20:03:29.