Don Juan Manuel: Five Quotes

July 24, 2019
Don Juan Manuel was an important figure in the Middle Ages. Today, we'll discover some of the phrases that this man left us.

Don Juan Manuel was a writer who lived during the Middle Ages. Many consider him the first representative of medieval prose fiction. Furthermore, in this article, we wanted to collect some of the most important quotes by Don Juan Manuel. That is the ones that most reveal his way of thinking.

However, before we get fully into this, it’s important to note that Don Juan Manuel was the tutor of King Alfonso XI. Also, he’s the author of several works and yet there’s one that stands out above all: Tales of Count Lucanor.

The quotes by Don Juan Manuel that we’re about to show you were written in old Spanish and are adapted to current English. However, they may still sound old.

1. Don Juan Manuel on the benefits of some friendships

“Don’t end your friendship with good men due to the gossip and actions of liars.”

This first of Don Juan Manuel’s phrases is a clear and direct criticism towards people who lie. Well, those who lie systematically because want to hurt someone. Or because they feel great envy towards others. For example, as this author calls them, towards good men.

The consequences of this are that, often, half-truths get around. Moreover, they could damage the reputation or the perspective that we may have of some people we regard as friends. For this reason, Don Juan Manuel warns us to be wary of gossip and lies.

A face with a large nose that's turning into a flock of birds.

2. Get away from fantasies

“In proven realities, you may trust. But you must run from fantasies.”

Something we tend to fall into frequently is the fantasies Don Juan Manuel refers to. One could also define it as daydreaming or by getting carried away by romantic notions. The result of it is usually a complete disconnection from reality.

However, you may wonder how to recognize true realities from fantasies. Well, this wasn’t explained by Don Juan Manuel. It would be impossible given that each one of us has a completely different perception of reality. Mainly because this is based on our experiences and all of them are valid.

3. Do what you want without fear

“Don’t stop doing what you think is more convenient in every situation out of fear of criticism, as long as you do no wrong.”

We could say that fear is one of the greatest evils of our current times. Obviously, this paralyzing emotion was already present in the 13th and 14th centuries. Fear of what others will say and the criticism that keeps us from doing what we want. This fear is maladaptive.

This third phrase by Don Juan Manuel is a reminder that we don’t have to look so much at what others say or point out in regard to us or our actions. If we’re convinced we’re not doing something wrong, then continue. Otherwise, we’ll end up regretting not being more assertive in a not so far future.

4. Don Juan Manuel on misusing alcohol

“Wine has many virtues but is harmful when misused.”

We’re well aware that wine isn’t harmful to our health when consumed in moderation. However, this is precisely what the writer is trying to warn us about: either misusing it or losing control over its intake.

Of course, we can extrapolate this very same concept to other areas of our life. Because anything in excess will end up causing us more harm than good. Following the example set forth in the phrase, wine isn’t exactly harmful, but our lack of control over it.

A man seemingly getting drunk.

5. Eulogies can hide deceptions

“Beware of those who praise you more than you deserve; they’re trying to deceive you.”

We finish with this phrase by Don Juan Manuel. It alerts us to pay attention to the excessive flattery we may receive, although we all like to hear nice things about ourselves. There are many instances in which the motives behind this are deceitful, as the author points out.

What Don Juan Manuel means by deception is that there may be ulterior motives behind other people’s praises. For example, they might want something in return or to manipulate us. So, pay attention, you know very well when certain compliments are true or not.

Did you ever hear about Don Juan Manuel before today? Have you read Tales of Count Lucanor? Did these phrases allow you to get closer to the values that were important back in the Middle Ages? Surely they’ve helped you reflect on some things. Which one did you like the most?

  • Casalduero, J. G. (1975). El Conde Lucanor: composición y significado. Nueva Revista de Filología Hispánica24(1), 101-112.
  • De Stefano, L. (1962). La sociedad estamental en las obras de Don Juan Manuel. Nueva revista de filología hispánica16(3/4), 329-354.
  • Gómez Redondo, F. (1992). Géneros literarios en don Juan Manuel. Cahiers d’Études Hispaniques Médiévales17(1), 87-125.