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Page 64. " didn't I tell you they were only windmills? "
Illustration by Gustave Doré, 1863
Public DomainIllustration by Gustave Doré, 1863

   One of Don Quixote's earliest and most iconic encounters, his disastrous tilt at the windmill has become the ultimate symbol of misguided, futile endeavour.  The hidalgo's unsuccessful charge at what he believes to be a ferocious many-armed giant has been read both as comical evidence of his lunacy, and a poignant representation of the doomed valour to which it drives him.

Windmills in Campo de Criptana
Creative Commons AttributionWindmills in Campo de Criptana - Credit: Lourdes Cardenal

   Those seeking real locations behind Cervantes' fiction have selected as this scene's likely setting the plains of Campo de Criptana, a municipality of La Mancha where numerous archaic windmills today stand preserved as agricultural museums.  This particular type represented innovative technology at the time, perhaps making Quixote's error more understandable and enabling some to interpret the hidalgo's charge as not only a humiliating proof of his insanity, but a poignant, hopeless ride against the tide of modern, industrial progress.