This manuscript copy of El Carnero (The Sheep) was made in 1784, presumably in Bogotá. The text, composed a century and a half earlier, is a chronicle of early colonial New Granada heavily embellished with tales—many based on antecedent literature—of deceit, intrigue, sorcery, and treasure seeking. The manuscript comes from the library of José Antonio Ricaurte Rigueiro (1748-1804) and presumably was copied for him.
El Carnero was completed in 1638 by Juan Rodríguez Freyle, a native of New Granada. The author was keen to give his native region proper historical treatment while at the same time exercising constant caustic commentary on early colonial life. The text was popular and circulated in manuscripts until its first appearance in print in 1859.
Innovative Prose with a Purpose
A blend of fact and fiction, Rodríguez Freyle's text records the names and roles of many colonial officials and notables of New Granada and especially of the city of Santa Fé de Bogotá, founded in 1538. It is one of modern history's most reliable sources concerning the lives of the indigenous Muisca of the region in the period of transition to Hapsburg Spanish colonial rule. The author is intent on displaying his erudition, which can be seen through his frequent allusions to the Bible and classical and medieval literature. His text reveals a strong sense of irony, and he often claims the moral high ground as he offers opinions on both humanity and the society of colonial New Granada.
La Celestina and Libro de Buen Amor as Inspiration
Many of Rodríguez Freyle's diversions from dry history are based on narratives found in Spanish medieval literature. His debt to Fernando de Rojas's La Celestina—a novel in the form of a dialogue of the late fifteenth century—extends to his having modeled a long digression about a flying sorceress/midwife on the plot of the earlier novel. Similarly, the author's many tales offering negative models of social behavior mimic the strategy of the fourteenth-century poetic Libro de Buen Amor.
Alternate Titles and Publication
Although known colloquially as El Carnero, the text was first published in the nineteenth century under a title that ran to nearly 150 words beginning Conquista i Descubrimiento del Nuevo Reino de Granada, de las Indias Occidentales del Mar Océano, i Fundación de la Ciudad de Santa Fé de Bogotá (Conquest and Discovery of the New Kingdom of Grenada, of the Western Indies of the Ocean Sea, and the Foundation of the City of Santa Fé de Bogotá). This title, even if first printed centuries after the author's death, emphasizes Rodíguez Freyle's genuine attempt—despite all his diversions into the legendary, the fictional, and the fantastic—to bring proper due to his native Bogotá.
We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "El Carnero (The Sheep)": El Carnero. Conquista y descubrimiento de el Nuevo Reino de Granada facsimile edition, published by Testimonio Compañía Editorial, 1994Request Info / Price