History, Identity, and the Hero in Terzakis’s Princess Ysabeau

In 1945 Athens, Angelos Terzakis, well-known author of theatrical plays, short stories, and novels, published the historical novel Princess Ysabeau (Ἡ Πριγκηπέσσα Ἰζαμπώ), a long and fascinating work that had already appeared in series in the newspaper Kathimerini from November 1937 to January 1938. [1] As literary critics have noted, the 1945 version of Princess Ysabeau “is a work of the Axis occupation of Greece” (Dimadis 1987 passim). [2] I submit that this integration of two phases of Greek history, the Frankish occupation of the Peloponnese and the Axis occupation of Greece, within the literary architecture of a historical novel, constitutes a compelling case of historical poetics. [3] To my mind, the transfer of the theme of resistance against foreign occupation from the thirteenth to the twentieth century is connected with the notions of class and ethnicity and the role they play in the character formation of the young hero and his coming of age. Further, I believe that the novel’s protagonist acquires a paradigmatic function, as he evolves into the unifying figure of a resistance leader who bridges the gap between nationalism and socialism. In 1945, this was no longer an option for the (former) Greek Resistance movement, as a bitter civil war divided the country between Loyalists and Communists, deeply scarring the Greek psyche (Mazower 1993:32–52; Clogg 1992:124–125). I suggest that Terzakis projects into Sgourós the image of the perfect revolutionary, a nobleman who joins the populace by conviction; enriched by his journey of self-discovery, and ready to lead his people against the oppressive yoke of northern invaders, this archetypal hero-warrior continues his pursuit of personal fulfillment without compromising his literary authenticity. He even evolves into a hero-savior, having redefined what it means to be Greek and noble; but most importantly for the purposes of my analysis, he fully assumes the heroic profile that the author had assigned to him at the preface. Ultimately, this constitutes the purpose of my discussion: to bring forth the power and beauty of Terzakis’s characters and to point out the stages in the hero’s growth. [4]

An Epic Novel?

In Princess Ysabeau the notions of history and identity are, I believe, the necessary (and worthy) companions of a good story—a story with formidable characters and original plot. In his 1933 essay on the modern Greek novel, Terzakis considers modern-day novel as “a newer form and continuation of the ancient epic” (Terzakis 1933a:244). Identifying the historical novel as the kind of novel that “preserves more faithfully the origin of the genre from ancient epic,” he goes on to complain that authors of historical novels in modern Greece, including Rangavis, limit their engagement with the genre to describing and reviving, to the best of their ability, a past era (Terzakis 1933a:251). “Nevertheless,” he continues, “it is not historical precision that gives a historical novel the ethereal hue of excellence, serving at the same time as the criterion between a mediocre work and a masterpiece. Even characterization has limited power in that respect, as it has to conform to common sense and the accounts regarding the historical personae involved in the narrative. The quintessence of a masterful historical novel is a breath of epic over all large scenes, either historical ones or invented by the author. It is also a sense of categorical necessity that appears in the background, steering events and characters with destiny’s steady hand.” In my opinion this is exactly what Terzakis achieved with his magnum opus twelve years later: an epic narrative inspired by the middle ages but relevant to his own time. I also believe that Terzakis’s own characterization of his novel as “heroic” (ἡρωικό μυθιστόρημα) holds the key to its interpretation. Terzakis successfully contextualizes his 1945 novel while adapting the characteristics of its genre to his narrative needs; the combination of these three elements, contextualization, adaptation, [5] and originality, makes Princess Ysabeau nothing short of a masterpiece that requires, in turn, an equally three-dimensional approach (Proussis 1966:1032, 1034). [6] Therefore, it would be a mistake to look at the novel exclusively through the lens of historical symbolism. Whether an escape from oppressive censorship or a deliberate attempt to articulate memory through historical analogy (Soethaert 2009a passim; 2004:121–129; Vitti 2000:288–290; Hatzivassiliou 1999:821, Kastrinaki 1999 passim; Beaton 1994:170), Princess Ysabeau abounds with merits of enargeia and pathos in both characterization and narrative, and should be viewed as a distinguished work of literature in its own right.
It has been suggested that Princess Ysabeau reflects the Greek literary tendency of the middle and late 1930s to explore distant historical frames in an effort to transfer current national issues into another moment in time (Beaton 1994:169–170, 248; 2008:87–94; Hatzis 2005:223–229; Dimadis 1991:86–107; Proussis 1966:1033–1034; Karantonis 1962:199–204). From this point of view Terzakis uses the historical novel as a medium of national discourse by attaching several layers of significance to a multitude of elements in Princess Ysabeau (Miké 2007:207–208; Soethaert 2004:127–128). Thus, an aura of symbolism envelops the protagonists and their relationships, thoughts, and feelings. Ysabeau, for example, can be viewed as embodying western power and European refinement: while her delicate beauty and distant melancholy foreshadow the inevitable demise of her once influential world, the foreign rule exercised in her name morphs into an iron fist that threatens (and awakens) the Hellenic spirit among her indigenous subjects; nevertheless, she does exercise a powerful attraction on Nikiphóros, who, as it happens, from the moment he first lays eyes on her, is in a constant struggle to find himself.
The action of the novel is situated in late thirteenth century Peloponnese, where the Frankish occupation still holds after the fall of Constantinople to the Crusaders in 1204 (Lock 1995:57–59, 95–96, 303–304). The two main characters, a Greek young man and a Frankish young woman, experience a powerful romantic love, but are prevented from consummating their passion because of their national, social, and family allegiances. This basic structure of reciprocated yet unfulfilled love, placed against a background of foreign occupation, class divide, and romantic triangle, also assimilates the theme of wartime love story, [7] offering exceptionally fertile ground for a historical novel. [8] I would even venture to suggest that, above all, Princess Ysabeau is a romance, and would like to emphasize that, in Terzakis’s own words, Princess Ysabeau is a “heroic novel” (ἡρωικό μυθιστόρημα). Although this characterization by its author does not affect Princess Ysabeau’s classification as a historical novel, we must not overlook Terzakis’s focus on the personal epic of his protagonist. According to the novel’s programmatic statement, Terzakis’s narrative agenda is genuinely epic:

I shall relate to you a chronicle of old, the amazing adventures of Nikiphóros Sgourós from Anápli, how he was persecuted out of his fatherland, how he wrestled with his destiny on land and sea, and how he declared war against a woman. [9]
Θὰ σᾶς ἀνιστορήσω ἕνα παμπάλαιο χρονικό, τὶς θαυμαστὲς περιπέτειες τοῦ εὐγενικόπουλου Νικηφόρου τοῦ Σγουροῦ ἀπὸ τ’ Ἀνάπλι, πῶς ξέκοψε κατατρεγμένο ἀπὸ τὴν πατρίδα του, πῶς πάλεψε μὲ τὸ ριζικό του σὲ στεριὲς καὶ θάλασσες, καὶ πῶς σήκωσε πόλεμο σὲ μιὰ γυναῖκα.
Interestingly, the tripartite announcement of Sgourós’s “amazing adventures” does not include romance; on the contrary, it is war against a woman that defines our hero. Notwithstanding any authorial conformity to the conventions of heroic poetry (Proussis 1966:1032), there is a great deal of accuracy in the novel’s troubadour preface: Nikiphóros declared war against a woman that he loved, and both internal and external audiences are invited to savor the pathos of his experience. The chronological distance between the narrator’s performance and the actual events he recounts, equal to the gap between life and death, makes his task particularly challenging:

Long gone are the times that I wish to revive, long silenced are the voices of those who sang them, and from the people who lived in them not even dust remains.
Εἶναι μακρυνοὶ οἱ καιροὶ ποὺ θέλω ν’ ἀναστήσω, σβύστηκαν οἱ φωνὲς ποὺ τοὺς τραγούδησαν,  κι’ ἀπὸ τὰ κόκκαλα τῶν ἀνθρώπων ποὺ τοὺς ἔζησαν δὲν ἔχει ἀπομείνει μηδὲ σκόνη.
Yet, despite all the adversity he is faced with, the narrator embarks on a journey of literary revival with his audience’s pleasure as sole destination and compass:

Yet I, though only a poor clerk, exiled in our savage times, shall do all I can to please you, giving a voice to things unspoken.
Ὅμως ἐγώ, κλέρης φτωχὸς κ’ ἐξόριστος σὲ τοῦτο τὸν ἀνήμερο αἰώνα, θὰ κάνω ὅ,τι μοῦ εἶναι βολετὸ γιὰ νὰ σᾶς εὐχαριστήσω, δίνοντας φωνὴ στ’ ἀμίλητα.
The preface closes with a (fairly conventional) captatio benevolentiae, in which the narrator apologizes in advance to his audience of noblemen (ἄρχοντες) for any infelicities. The performative context of this statement not only calls to mind medieval imagery of knightly tales presented as after-dinner entertainment to patrician listeners, but also constitutes a literary self-reference, as such a scene proves crucial for the development of the plot in Princess Ysabeau (251). Although Terzakis’s indebtedness to the Chronicle of Morea (Τὸ Χρονικὸν τοῦ Μορέως) and especially its Greek version is beyond the scope of this discussion, I would like to draw attention to his adoption of performative norms from oral poetry in the opening of his (prose) work (Nagy 1996:8–9). Moreover, Terzakis’s recollection of material handed over to him under the technical term of “chronicle” (χρονικό) connects Princess Ysabeau to an epic tradition characterized by marked multiformity-in-composition (Nagy 1996:7–38). Further, the (omniscient) narrator’s role acquires a significance that both confirms the trustworthiness of his account and revives the communicative circumstances of orality (Shawcross 2010:99–111 and passim, 2009:157–158). [10] In my opinion, Terzakis invokes in the prelude the narrative model of oral epic tradition with the intention of projecting the protagonist’s image through the prism of three basic heroic characteristics (Nagy 2006:171): excellence (in some areas, such as bravery and integrity), antagonism (with forces or persons that surpass him), and untimely death (the death of a hero who is immortalized in his youthful perfection). In Sgourós’s case it is a symbolic death, taking place through his final separation from Ysabeau and the onset of his “true” heroic career. From this point of view, the separation from Ysabeau is a narrative necessity, preparing the hero for a more substantial and fitting mission.

The Making of a Hero

Terzakis “effortlessly moves back and forth from the middle ages to his time,” [11] enriching the life of his main character with themes and motifs that point to his quality as a hero in the most basic sense of the word. Sgourós typifies the young hero who embarks on a journey of self-discovery only to encounter a series of trials designed to prove his merit. The author is “novelizing” the diachronic theme of the young man who, like Theseus, travels to meet his father or male guardian in order that he may be recognized as their legitimate and worthy heir. Nikiphóros is brought up with the hope that one day, when he comes of age, he will fulfill his mother’s dying wish: to find her cousin Leon Sgouromallis, the commander in chief of the neighboring Greek state of Mitzithras, and show him her ring (53, 95). He has no doubt that his uncle will immediately recognize him, assigning him some office suitable for his noble background and personal valor. Yet things turn out differently for our hero: his uncle, a traitor of Greek Mitzithras and collaborator with the Franks, proves to be a cruel man who despises Nikiphóros and refuses him an audition (87–89). Shortly afterwards, when Nikiphóros is brought before him accused for a murder he didn’t commit, the evil uncle presents him with a choice: either die in prison or become his messenger (97–100). The latter entails bringing his secret message to seneschal Saint-Omer in Andravida and staying forever out of Mitzithras. Needless to mention, the message with which Nikiphóros is entrusted confirms his uncle’s treason and, most importantly, includes explicit instructions to kill the messenger. Thus, the protagonist’s expectations are thwarted: the recognition never takes place, the token of recognition is useless (98), the male guardian and role model for the young hero turns out to be neither (155–156), and the high hopes for this encounter end up being a dangerous illusion (99). Everything is turned upside down. Nevertheless, the author uses Sgourós’s disappointment over Sgouromallis’s villainy to expedite his detachment from the boyish idealism that kept him from true action until then (96, 99, 199).
However, even after this detachment takes place, and especially following his unfair expatriation from Anapli, Sgourós continues to envision himself as the lead character in a fairytale; with his propensity to dream, he assumes the persona of a long-suffering young adventurer and idolizes Ysabeau in secret engagement (137) and in anticipation of his arrival at her door (139). Terzakis employs the folk-motifs of identification by ring (Thompson 1955:H194) and encounter with cruel uncle (Thompson 1955:S71) at the onset of what seems to be his hero’s quest for a faraway or hidden princess (Thompson 1995:H1301.1.2, H1381.3.7). She is sad-faced (Thompson 1955:F591.2), silent (Thompson 1955:F569.3.1), and was abducted by pirates at some point in the past (Thompson 1955:R10.1, R12.1). [12] Along the journey, the hero locates the (enchanted) princess in her distant castle (Thompson 1955:F771.4.7) and receives help from an animal to gain access to her (Thompson 1955:B582.2, B151. His letter of execution altered, the hero wins the princess’s heart and token of loyalty (Thompson 1955:K1355), passing the “suitor’s test” to make her fall in love with him (Thompson 1955:H315.1) despite their difference in social rank (Thompson 1955:L161, T55.1). Finally, the captive princess is rescued by the hero (Thompson 1955:R111.1.–1.4, 1.9–1.10), giving him the validation he had set out to obtain.
It must be noted that this is also the story in the 1937–1938 version of Princess Ysabeau, where the action culminates in the promise of the couple’s future union, secured through a ring given by Ysabeau to Nikiphóros before he leaves to fight de Lluria. Unlike its counterpart(s) of the 1945 version (98, 480, 483), this ring functions as a token of fulfilled love (Princess Ysabeau, series 83, Kathimerini, 1/30/1938), and successful recognition (series 84, 1/31/1938). In the 1945 version, Terzakis creatively combines elements from all of the above motifs to produce an unexpected ending: although the hero helps the princess discover true love, they don’t live happily ever after. It is evident that the difference between the two versions has serious consequences for the protagonist’s characterization and the concept of the heroic in the novel. It has been suggested that the happy ending of the 1937–1938 version is an allegory for Terzakis’s (and his contemporaries’) vision of a hellenicity with European orientation (Miké 2007:202, Soethaert 2004:143), just as the impossibility of Sgourós’s union with Ysabeau in the 1945 version bespeaks the disenchantment of post WWII Greece with Europe and the West. Still, the novel’s narrative structure and the depth of its characters account for the success of the 1945 version, which, despite its powerful symbolism (or covert didacticism), commands a synthesis of history and literature that transcends ideological boundaries.
As I mentioned above, the plot rests upon the parallel lives of a Greek young man and a Frankish young woman and the love that they secretly nurture for each other. They are not just any Greek young man and Frankish young woman, however: he is (or he thinks he is) the orphaned and impoverished descendant of the aristocratic Greek family Sgourós (Soethaert 2004:122–124), [13] and she is no other than the Princess Isabelle de Villehardouin, the “Mistress of Moreas” (“Ἡ Κυρά τοῦ Μορέως,” Χρονικὸν τοῦ Μορέως 8480), daughter of Guillaume II de Villehardouin and Anna Angelina Komnene. Born in 1261, she inherited part of the Peloponnese from her father and grandfather, who had conquered it after the fall of Constantinople to the Crusaders in 1204. [14] At the narrative time of the novel, Isabelle rules the Peloponnese with her second husband, Florent of Hainoult, who, according to historical accounts, embraced the cause of restoring feudalism in the Moreas and worked tirelessly towards it. [15] Nikiphóros Sgourós, a fictitious character with elements of truth, possesses the characteristics of the young and handsome hero-warrior: valor, (presumed) noble descent, and defiance against tyranny of any sort. However, all these powerful attributes are counterbalanced by two sets of inhibitors: personal and social. In the first category belong his short temper, youthful inexperience, and illusions of aristocratic descent, as well as a deep-seated anger for his community’s unwillingness to recognize him as a noble. In the second, poverty, loneliness, and the discouraging lack of opportunities for upward social mobility. Terzakis fashions Sgourós as an exceptional young person who wanders restlessly in search of self-discovery and social recognition. His quest remains undefined until the circumstances force him to choose a path fraught with peril yet full of promise; still, for a considerable part of the novel Nikiphóros is chasing the chimera of his rightful restoration to the Greek aristocracy of Moreas, a pursuit which, in some way, may substitute for the hero-warrior and hero-savior agenda that he adopts later on. Ysabeau functions throughout the plot as a transformational catalyst, first by giving the young protagonist something to dream about, and later, a cause to fight for. [16]
In Terzakis’s prose Isabelle becomes the ideal beloved, a divine beauty, sensitive soul, and long-suffering woman (107–112). [17] Uprooted from her motherland on account of a diplomatically motivated marriage when still a child, Ysabeau embraces exile stoically, opening her heart to grief and loneliness (113–116). [18] Terzakis turns Ysabeau’s nostalgia for the serene beauty of her native Greek landscape into a permanent character trait, a profound separation anxiety that envelops the princess in pronounced sadness (110, 115). Her longing for the emotional comfort of her childhood home, analogous to Nikiphóros’s aspiration for social recognition, dissolves into her eventual resignation to life-long entrapment by her title and lineage (506–507). Similarly, Sgourós’s quest for the restoration of his nobility turns out to be a misguided and puerile endeavor. Yet Nikiphóros and Ysabeau conclude their respective journeys as well-rounded characters, self-reliant and mature to the point of self-knowledge. This knowledge is partly the result of their brief relationship, with all its extraordinary power to bring forth their strengths, weaknesses, and potential for growth (Proussis 1966:1033).
When the two protagonists are brought together for the first time outside the walls of Nafplion, they neither meet nor speak there. Sgourós, hidden under a rampart, sees the princess accompanied by her guard of knights as they are going by in uncomfortable silence. He doesn’t know the circumstances of her journey or the reason for her clandestine passage from Nafplion. As he will come to discover, Isabelle has just been released by the Aragonese admiral Roger de Lluria, who captured her on her way to her native Kalamata and held her hostage for three days (22–26, 126, 231–233, 481–482). [19] Terzakis represents de Lluria as a dreaded pirate terrorizing the Mediterranean, and employs him as a transitional character with whom both Ysabeau and Nikiphóros associate at some point. De Lluria falls in love with Ysabeau, whose release he soon regrets; for the next two years he desperately tries to stay near her by sailing around the waters of the Peloponnese and by placing one of his agents in her castle in Kalamata (179–185, 200, 203–204, 249–252). Equally smitten is the young Nikiphóros, who experiences an unclear, dream-like attraction to the princess during the first few seconds of their tacit and one-sided encounter (22–26, 199–200, 232, 481–482). Ysabeau ignores his existence until they meet again, two years later, outside the castle of Kalamata (172–173). It is in this castle that Nikiphóros Sgourós is taken into custody, for his own protection and not against his will, in the presence (and at the orders) of Princess Isabelle (175).

Children of the Earth

Nikiphóros and Ysabeau may seem to have a lot in common or nothing at all, depending on the reader’s point of view. Apart from age and marital status, they are incompatible in terms of mindset, class, and ethnicity. However, according to the opposing view, they complement each other and are united by a powerful emotional bond that renders secondary all other characteristics, both innate and acquired. Their interpersonal attraction is further enhanced by their shared love for the land, as the narrator underlines their attachment to the Greek soil and their affection for their native Peloponnese. This affection also functions as a prerogative for both of them and especially Ysabeau, who can be considered Romiá (Ρωμιά, “of Eastern Roman ancestry, Greek”) only through her mother (107–108, 127, 129, 481). [20] As a matter of fact, Ysabeau’s dual heritage seems to be the origin of her unique beauty and peculiar psychology; combining her mother’s Mediterranean physiognomy and her father’s blue eyes, she also nurtures a sensitive soul and cold disposition (109–110, Miké 2007: 220–221). Her departure from Kalamata, decided by her father and lamented by her mother, turns out to be the cause of her life-long introversion and depression. [21] As a result, following her frigid marriage and early widowhood (112–118), Ysabeau suffers quietly for the death of her mother (120), while reacting coldly to the news of her father’s passing (119); she considers herself “different from other people, without friends, fatherland, parents, a creature uprooted and suspended mid-air in this society that silently conspired against her” (120).
While both protagonists learn to live with their fathers’ literal or metaphorical absence, they display significant affection for the mother figures in their lives. In addition to her fond recollection of Anna Angelina Komnene, Ysabeau exhibits surprising closeness to her nurse, who accompanies her as a well-crafted support character through most of her romance with Sgourós. She is also the only character, besides the innkeeper Zervocheris (327), to emphatically acknowledge Sgourós’s nobility (236).
Nikiphóros is represented as equally uprooted: he fails to find a substitute father in his uncle, but relies entirely on his elderly nurse and the distant memory of his deceased mother for family love: Sgourós “never knew a father” (16). Raised by a poor childless woman, he lives in a hut at the outskirts of the city, on the weather-beaten rock of Akronafplia, facing the sea (16), enveloped in a spatial marginality that applies both to his temperament and social status (Miké 2007:211). His townsmen call him Sgoúro (Σγοῦρο, 16–17), instead of Sgouró (Σγουρό, 17), refusing to associate him with the Sgourós family. I see in this practice of double naming an implicit discussion over the ethnonyms “Greek” and “Hellene” and their use in reference to the Greek state (Mackridge 1998:50, Politis 1998:9–10); it is also interesting that the Genovese banker Matteo Gaffore uses the ethnonym Graikós (Γραικός) in reference to Sgourós (14).
The narrator informs his audience of his protagonists’ childhood trauma and emotional deprivation, emphasizing at the same time their ties with their mothers and the land. Nevertheless, it also becomes clear that they both define themselves through their fathers, Ysabeau by her right to rule the Peloponnese, and Nikiphóros by his aspiration to be recognized by his uncle as a legitimate member of the Sgourós family. Thus matrilineage and love of the land enter a dialogue with patriotism and class identity (Miké 2007:218, 222); through the symbolism attached to them, the two lovers share the task of negotiating the polarities between Hellenism and the West. [22] Still, despite their unwieldy burden, they step out of their emblematic costumes to become unlikely partners in a plainly human drama.

On Greeks, Franks, and Romans

It has been suggested that Terzakis uses the two protagonists as vehicles of representation of their respective peoples and civilizations: the one, too refined and delicate, almost ready to set, and the other rough and inexperienced but full of vitality and on the rise (Politis 1980:315). [23] If the comparison were between the Byzantines and the Franks, this juxtaposition could be misleading or even unclear as to which people is which; Terzakis, however, hurries to emphasize that Nikiphóros Sgourós is Romiós, “Ρωμιός” (Beaton 2008:76–82), inspired with reverent loyalty to the Emperor of Constantinople (155), but cold and inimical to the class of foreign masters ruling his homeland (13). At his first close encounter with the Franks, Sgourós is torn between admiration and hatred (105–106):

Twenty, at least, Frankish knights in full armor stood in front of the inn. As they sat on their horses that neighed and stomped their hooves on the ground, they looked like masses of iron, impossible to move. Their helmets and suit of armor flashed in the moonlight, while at the tips of their erect spears green stars sparkled playfully.
He stood there confused. The race that had sprung forth such gigantic men, ghosts that walked heavily on the earth, was rightfully ruling this land. At the new light of the torch their faces, locked and distant, shone with a reddish reflection. Secret jealousy and restless envy pierced the youth’s heart making his eyes flash. He hated them and he admired them…
Τουλάχιστον εἴκοσι κατάφραχτοι Φράγκοι ἱππότες εἴτανε σταματημένοι μπροστὰ στὸ πανδοχεῖο. Καβάλα στ’ ἄλογά τους ποὺ χλιμίντριζαν ἀνάκατα καὶ βροντούσανε τὸ πέταλο στὴ γῆ, μοιάζανε ὄγκοι σιδερένιοι, ἀτράνταχτοι. Κάτω ἀπὸ τὸ φῶς τοῦ φεγγαριοῦ στραφτάλιζαν τὰ κράνη τους, οἱ ἀρματωσιές, καὶ πάνω στὶς λόγχες τους τὶς ὄρθιες ἀνάβανε παίζοντας θαμπωτικὰ πράσινα ἀστέρια.
Στάθηκε σαστισμένος. Ἡ γενιὰ ποὺ εἶχε ξεπετάξει τέτοιους ἄντρες πελώριους, τελώνια ποὺ πατούσανε στὸ χῶμα καὶ ρίζωναν, δίκαια δυνάστευε τούτη τὴ γῆ. Στὴ φεγγοβολὴ τοῦ δαυλοῦ ποὺ ξαναπρόβαλε, τὰ πρόσωπά τους τὰ κλειστὰ ἀντιφέγγισαν μὲ κοκκινωπὴν ἅψη. Ζήλεια κρυφὴ, φθόνος ἀνήσυχος κέντησε τὴν καρδιὰ τοῦ παιδάριου καὶ τοῦ ἄναψε τὰ μάτια. Τοὺς μισοῦσε καὶ τοὺς θαύμαζε …
Clearly our hero looks at the Franks as a complete outsider, before his prolonged exposure to their culture within the confines of the castle of Kalamata (Soethaert 2009a:4–5, 2004:141–142, Miké 2007:216–217, Kastrinaki 1999:813–815). [24] It is also evident that the implied comparison between himself and the knights disheartens him on account of their physical strength and technological superiority; the latter, in combination with his poverty, torments Sgourós, who early in the novel complains that the Franks have spurs made out of gold, while he can’t even afford iron ones (18). He can, however, afford a horse, [25] and dares to carry a dagger, [26] both privileges of the Franks (17, 14). His antagonism with the foreign occupants is indirectly connected to the property rights over the land he has inherited from his mother (17), not the estate of the long-gone Sgourós family, whose descendant is trying to prove himself to be (16). However, Anapli’s unclear administrative situation prevents him from legally pursuing his claim to land ownership (17), let alone his right to defend his property. [27] Thus, any struggle against the Franks, by definition unfair and unequal, hinges on our hero’s youthfulness and lack of material resources. Yet, the subtext promises to the “poor noble boy” (φτωχὸ ἀρχοντόπουλο, 22) a triumph of David-Goliath proportions to come. Similarly, concluding his Ἑλληνικὴ Ἐποποι·ί·α 1940–1941, the author points out: “The 1940–41 confrontation [between Greece and the Axis forces] is between frugality and pomp, love of country and imperialism. Technocracy, thanks to its iron mass, will manage, for a moment, to weaken the fighting spirit. The reversal, however, will come quickly, and the lesson will remain” (Terzakis 1964:223). Further, it is the knights’ association with (and easy access to) the princess that dazzles “the boy” (τὸ παιδάριο, 106). Thus love and power appear to him at first inextricably intertwined, tempting him to grasp and decipher them simultaneously, a task that he finds impossible. This happens perhaps because Sgourós’s heroic profile is far from crystallized: leaning towards western chivalry and nobility, he is more preoccupied with his own social status than with the common predicament of his religious and ethnic group. Although he thinks of himself as part of that group, he insists on constructing his identity based on property and lineage, of which he has none. Therefore, he decides to make himself worthy of the princess, the search for whom validates his potential for social promotion and constitutes a requirement  for any kind of distinction in the first place, at least in his fairytale version of a heroic world.
Terzakis uses decisive brushstrokes to paint his protagonist’s portrait; he emphasizes the personal struggles of the young man, his attraction to the princess, his loneliness, and his repeated shock at the true face of the world. From the beginning of the novel Sgourós displays remarkable courage and taste for adventure. However, he is often impeded by a juvenile effervescence that quickly gets him into trouble. For example, during his escape from the guard of Nafplion after a confusing sequence of events involving the Genovese pirate Andrea Gaffore (51, 64), Sgourós foolishly gives away his identity in a fit of anger (69). The excuse is that an inferior room was given to him at the inn where he was supposed to spend the night under cover of anonymity, and the reason that a better room was given to the Frankish knight Ioannis de Tournay (Ἰωάννης ντὲ Τουρναί). A secondary character combining chivalry, piety, and nobility of soul along with a deep, secret, and all-consuming adoration for Ysabeau, Ioannis de Tournay not only intervenes in Nikiphóros’s favor, but also acknowledges his worth as a fighter (71). [28] Before that, however, indignation defeats reason and Sgourós lets the innkeeper know who he is (69):

—No, I am not crazy! shouts Sgourós suddenly, unable to restrain himself any longer. You who are speaking know very well who I am, even though you pretend not to! I am the nobleman Nikiphóros Sgourós from Anapli!
—Ὄχι,δὲν εἶμαι τρελλὸς! ξεφωνίζει ξάφνου ὁ Σγουρὸς ἀνίκανος πιὰ νὰ κρατηθεῖ. Τὸ ξέρεις καλὰ ἐσὺ ποὺ μιλᾶς ποιὸς εἶμαι, κι ἂς κάνεις τὸν ἀνήξερο! Εἶμαι ὁ ἄρχοντας Νικηφόρος ὁ Σγουρὸς ἀπὸ τ’ Ἀνάπλι!
In a ring composition, Terzakis revisits this scene, when Sgourós denies his high birth to another innkeeper, his trusted friend Pantelis Zervocheris (327): [29]

—”Yes, yes, you are a nobleman”, says Zervocheris in a low voice, and with an ecstatic smile keeps staring at the family logo [an embroidery of Saint Theodore on Sgourós’s shirt], “you come from a great family …”
—No, Sgourós replies forcefully and gets up. No, I am nothing! I am Greek [Ρωμιός]. Just another Greek among you. And I am bringing you the Resurrection!
—Ναὶ, ναὶ, εἶσαι εὐγενικόπουλο, λέει σιγανὰ, μ’ ἐκστατικὸ χαμόγελο ὁ Ζερβοχέρης καρφώνοντας τὰ μάτια του εὑλαβικὰ στὸ οἰκογενειακὸ σημάδι, εἶσαι ἀπὸ μεγάλη γέννα …
—Ὄχι, κάνει ζωηρὰ ὁ Σγουρὸς καὶ σηκώθηκε πάνω. Ὄχι, δὲν εἶμαι τίποτα! Εἶμαι Ρωμιὸς. Ἕνας κ’ ἐγὼ ἀνάμεσό σας. Καὶ σᾶς φέρνω τὴν Ἀνάσταση!
The narrative time between the two scenes also brings forth the protagonist’s conclusive self-definition. Nikiphóros publicly forsakes his western identity by throwing away his expensive Venetian outfit (327), keeping only his old shirt with the embroidered image of Saint Theodore (328); still, even this piece of evidence in favor of his nobility leaves him now indifferent (328), unlike two years before, at the encounter with Isabelle (173).
As I mentioned above, Sgourós’s main preoccupation at the beginning of his journey is to prove and establish his birthright to the aristocratic Sgourós family. Despite his unwavering loyalty to the ideals of Orthodoxy and Ρωμιοσύνη, [30] class overrides ethnicity in his self-definition. Before his stay at the castle of Kalamata, Nikiphóros gives little thought to the fact that Greekness can be synonymous to servitude. It is true that with his behavior he challenges this assumption, but his conduct is a means of self-assertion rather than a political statement (14–17, Miké 2007:209). [31] To his mind, social rank is a matter of bloodline, birthright, and ancestry, each of which is an attribute the lower classes lack (16). Yet he is identified as one of them by Isabelle’s younger sister, the ruthless political pragmatist baroness Margarita, Lady of Acova, during their secret meeting at the castle of Kalamata (206): [32]

—Come closer, villein! said in Greek [ρωμέ·ι·κα] the baroness in a commanding voice. […]
—Are you Greek [Ρωμιὸς] or Frank [Φράγκος] ? she asked.
—Greek [Ρωμιὸς], my lady!
—Then villein! repeated sharply the Lady of Acova. His eyes got blurry, but his clenched teeth bridled his anger.
—I am from your mother’s race, madam! he says.
—Ἔλα κοντὰ, βιλάνε! εἶπε ρωμέ·ι·κα ἡ προσταχτικὴ φωνὴ τῆς βαρωνέσσας. […]
—Εἶσαι Ρωμιὸς ἢ Φράγκος; ρώτησε.
—Ρωμιός, κυρά μου!
—Τότε βιλάνος, ξανάπε ἡ κυρὰ τῆς Ἄκοβας κοφτά.
—Τὸ μάτι του θόλωσε, ὅμως τὰ δόντια του ποὺ σφίχτηκαν τοῦ χαλινώσανε τὴν ὀργή.
–Εἶμαι ἀπὸ τὸ γένος τῆς μάννας σου, κυρά! τῆς λέει.
The discourse on class and ethnicity that emerges from this scene reverberates throughout the novel. It is characteristic of the hero’s pre-Zoglo mindset that he refuses to admit to a lowly birth, even as a prisoner awaiting execution in Kalamata. To Nikiphóros, who has managed so far to be Ρωμιός and noble at the same time, villeiny is as abominable as his uncle’s collaboration with the Franks. Margarita’s deductive reasoning, however, deals a painful blow to his pride: the qualities of ἄρχοντας (nobleman) and Ρωμιός (Greek), she purports, are mutually exclusive. While Margarita’s ill-considered decision to interfere into her sister’s affairs is generated by her curiosity about the handsome captive (196–197), whom she wouldn’t mind seducing (207), Sgourós sees in the interview a distant connection to Ysabeau (208). Her sudden appearance, however, causes the audition to end abruptly, leaving Nikiphóros with “the pain of a wound that reopened” (209). It must be noted that this is not the first time that Sgourós is humiliated as a result of his association with Ysabeau; upon his arrival in Kalamata as Sgouromallis’s messenger, Sgourós naively asks the guards at the castle’s gate for an audition with the princess. They send him away as a beggar (150). The insult hurts the youth enormously, causing him to plunge into the darkest depression for days (152). His conflicting emotions of deep outrage for such a public humiliation and ardent desire to see Isabelle in Kalamata throw him into excruciating agony, until good fortune and his horse Astritis bring the Mistress of Moreas to him (173). Needless to mention, he hurries to identify himself to her as a nobleman (173), a claim subsequently corroborated by her trusted nurse (236). The author masterfully builds suspense around the encounter in which they speak to each other for the first time. Nikiphóros barely remembers to deliver Sgouromallis’s message to the princess, who, though not its intended recipient and well aware of the instructions it contains, keeps the letter and does not execute the messenger. Instead, impressed by his articulate and unpretentious dignity, she lies to her guard to protect him, and even takes him into her castle (175–178). As he capitulates the symptoms of love during his stay at Ysabeau’s castle, Nikiphóros Sgourós slowly undergoes a metamorphosis from boy to man. [33] While we see him waste away in love for the princess, waiting to be put to death or released, we also see him find the courage to confess his feelings to her, and ask her to kill him or let him go (227–230). Finally, one night, he leaves the castle to join a group of Frankish knights headed for Zoglo at the princess’s service (256, 320). Outside Zoglo, [34] as the Franks prepare to ambush de Lluria, [35] Nikiphóros becomes even more aware of the gap between himself and his fellow warriors. His disenchantment is primarily due to the fact that the Frankish soldiers under the command of Ioannis de Tournay can only interpret his presence among them as a technical necessity (260):

They took him for a local, hired to guide the Frankish ambush through hidden paths. The looks they gave him were not friendly. He could distinguish in them enmity and suspicion. The Franks were always suspicious towards a Greek. A couple of groups that he tried to approach casually, out of his spontaneous human need to socialize, immediately stopped talking. In the square part of their face that was not covered by their helmet and suit of armor, he saw their faces looking annoyed. That was it! They were another race, another world, another faith, he would never, ever become their brother.
Τὸν περνούσανε γιὰ ντόπιο, μισθωμένο νὰ ὁδηγήσει τὴ φράγκικη παγανιὰ ἀπὸ κρυφὰ μονοπάτια. Οἱ ματιὲς ποὺ τοῦ ρίχνανε δὲν εἴτανε φιλικές. Ξεχώριζε μέσα τους τὴν καχυποψία, τὴν ἔχθρα. Πάντα τους στέκονταν δύσπιστοι οἱ Φράγκοι μπροστά σὲ Ρωμιό. Μιὰ-δυὸ συντροφιὲς ποὺ ἔκανε κεῖνος, τάχα μου ἀδιάφορα, ἀπὸ ψυχόρμητη στὸν ἄνθρωπο κοινωνικότητα, νὰ τὶς ζυγώσει, σταμάτησαν τὴν κουβέντα τους ἀπότομα. Στὸ τετράγωνο ποὺ τ’ ἄφηνε γυμνὸ ἡ διχτάτη ἀρματωσιὰ μὲ τὸ κράνος πάνω στὸ πρόσωπο, εἶδε τὶς ὅψεις τους νὰ συννεφιάζουν. Τέλειωσε! εἴταν ἄλλη φυλὴ, ἄλλος κόσμος, ἄλλη πίστη, ποτὲ δὲ θ’ ἀδερφώνονταν ἐκεῖνοι κι’ αὐτὸς.
There is no doubt that Nikiphóros’s attitude towards the Franks has changed (Miké 2007:216–217, Soethaert 2004:141, Kastrinaki 1999:813–815). However, the Franks have changed too: no longer a model to emulate, they represent the foreign, the one that does not belong to the land. They reject him automatically on grounds of ethnicity, assuming that he is simply their guide to the area. This assumption, despite its connotations of subservience, validates Nikiphóros’s claim to the land: he is a local, and an equal to the Franks at that, even though Ioannis de Tournay’s soldiers think otherwise. His presence among them is the combined result of Nikiphóros’s desire for action (254), Ioannis’s sense of fairness (256), and their joint antagonism against de Lluria (254, 256); [36] evoking their first encounter at the inn in Messarea, Sgourós promises Ioannis a military performance of the same caliber (71, 256). The two men seal their brotherhood with a tacit acknowledgement of their shared “wish to die,” which, as we learn in the end, is the result of their passion for Ysabeau (482). The rest of the Franks, however, exhibit the suspicion and enmity expected from a group of foreign invaders; the author dwells on their exclusion of Nikiphóros, highlighting their isolation, both literal and metaphorical. Impenetrable in their suits of armor, they are the epitome of “the other”; Nikiphóros’s attitude towards them changes when he gets to know them, just as the author saw a different side of Europe during the war and the German occupation. This divorce from the Franks, [37] so to speak, foreshadows the dramatic change of direction in Sgourós’s life following the battle of Zoglo. One of the few lucky survivors, he chooses to stay with de Lluria, joining his minstrel friend Kokinotrichis (and agent of de Lluria) from his time at the castle in Kalamata (321–322). [38] Quite understandably, Terzakis does not dwell on the details of Sgourós’s time abroad, except to mention that his Venetian sojourn proved enriching and profitable (329). Nikiphóros returns to the Peloponnese a man of the world, with visible proof of his adulthood (beard, 296) and social success (member of a group of Venetian merchants, 294–295). To my mind, the purpose of Sgourós’s return from Venice is to reclaim the princess’s love; Nikiphóros is still hoping, perhaps more than ever, to win Ysabeau; it takes a serious shock to send him away from her, finally ending the fairytale and transforming Princess Ysabeau from romance to heroic novel.

An Unconquered Castle

In his (unpredictably bold) nocturnal visit to Isabelle’s bedroom, Sgourós is shocked to discover that Isabelle now has a new baby daughter (299). [39] Oddly enough, this new life turns him away from the palace, to visit the landscape of death, a domain he finds exceedingly hard to navigate. The emotional landscape of this flight is even harder to navigate, filling him with indignation and a strong resolution to act (306). The author’s personal experience from the dark years of the Axis occupation of Greece is clearly depicted in his description of the situation in Achaia following Sgourós’s escape from Zoglo. Death and famine harvest the Greek farmers, whose corpses lie unburied in the midst of utter chaos (Karantonis 1962:203–204). [40] Their villages, ruled by crime and lawlessness, present the sad picture of a society in a state of decomposition (290–306). This is what Sgourós sees, [41] when he returns to the Peloponnese after almost two years. His discovery of Moreas’s grim state of affairs follows his painful realization that there is no hope for him and Isabelle.
It is noteworthy that Sgourós’s emergence as a popular Greek leader follows his exposure to the western way of life and the fortune-hunting pursuits of his associates in de Lluria’s pirate armada. It has been pointed out that the representation of Sgourós as hero-savior has clear socialist connotations (Kastrinaki 1999:817), as his statement “Σας φέρνω την Ανάσταση” (“I am bringing you the Resurrection,” 327) contains an enthusiastic rhetoric of social and national liberation. Having internalized the amalgamation of the qualities of Ρωμιός and βιλάνος, Sgourós is ready to assume (and cherish) the identity of villein as part of his personal awakening; the first step towards this goal is to shed any upper class allegiances, actual or imaginary. Thus disconnect from nobility becomes a necessity for Sgourós (328), as he incites his fellow villeins to commit an act of rebellion, the occupation of the castle of Kalamata.
The protagonist finds his mission on both the collective and the personal level, two aspects of his heroic profile harder to separate than it seems (427):

Since he couldn’t conquer her, he conquered her castle.
Ἀφοῦ δὲν κατάφερε νὰ τὴν κυριέψει, κυρίεψε τὸ κάστρο της.
In this Freudian trade-off of the princess for her castle, the reader cannot help noticing the omniscient narrator’s intention to share his protagonist’s anxiety over his unconsummated passion for Ysabeau. Terzakis presents Sgourós’s attack on the castle as deflected sexual violence against “this unknown to him woman” (427), a fact the hero shares with Fedor, his Slav fellow leader of the attack, as well (380; Miké 2007:213). As the impossibility of their union sinks in, Nikiphóros realizes that “he was the stranger” (427, my emphasis); this fear of alienation and worthlessness had also seized him before, both in his imaginary antagonism against de Lluria and during his awkward participation in Isabelle’s retinue at the dinner-party before the battle in Zoglo (254, 243). Thus, on the personal level, his love for Ysabeau turns into resentment and rivalry, on the collective, it becomes enthusiasm for action. His emotional engagement with the tragedy of the villeins replaces his longing for Isabelle, [42] whom he was still hoping to win until the chance meeting with her new baby daughter Mahaut. His effort to become worthy of the princess transforms him into her equal, and, even more, it reveals to him his true identity, forever ending his youthful and foolish attempts to become an aristocrat.
Along with his identity Sgourós realizes his potential for leadership and strives to fulfill it. In this mindset of personal and collective assertiveness Sgourós proceeds to conquer Ysabeau’s castle, turning against his beloved in the company of her sworn enemies, Fedor and his family (143, 348, 402). They take the castle along with a crowd of about six hundred Romií and Slavs (403), who quickly turn into an uncontrollable mob, drunk with destruction (425). [43] They treat the castle as veritable loot, shocking their Greek leader with their fury and harshness (428). Despite the fact that his relationship with the princess has taken a direction dramatically different from his expectations, Sgourós feels her uninterrupted presence in his life (427); as he helplessly watches her property being destroyed and her name disgraced, Nikiphóros finds himself once again in her bedchamber, the very place from which he fled in pain before the rebellion started (299). In my opinion, Terzakis reaches his highest point as omniscient narrator in his account of Sgourós’s need to revisit the locus in quo. By likening the love-story to a message in a bottle thrown at sea and considered lost, he describes with compassion the young man’s struggle with his memories and his eventual inability to stop looking desperately for the bottle (426):

A sickly thing runs in his blood, something pathetic and cowardly.
Κάτι ἄρρωστο τρέχει στὸ αἷμα του, κάτι ἄβουλο και δειλό.
Instead of rejoicing in her ruin, Sgourós recalls his stay at the castle and relives their brief, unconsummated romance. Thus, he is greatly disturbed to see Fedor and his men emptying Ysabeau’s undergarment drawers and scattering their contents around the castle (427–429). It seems to me that this vulgar defilement of her private space sets the tone for Nikiphóros’s eventual alienation from Fedor, whose perception of their mission, it turns out, differs radically from Sgourós’s, also confirming their diverging views of the world (380, 402–403, 423, 428, 433–434). It can be said, however, that his strong protest against the insult to the princess’s femininity clashes with his devotion to the occupation of the castle. Further, the exquisiteness of Ysabeau’s undergarments has strong class connotations, as it bespeaks the amounts of labor and wealth she commands. Nikiphóros, however, can only see their beauty and fantasize about their proximity to their owner (427), as opposed to Fedor, according to whom “nothing should be left” (429). Therefore, it is no coincidence that the rebels emptying Ysabeau’s drawers are led by Fedor, a man of enormous capacity for hatred (403), sworn to punish the Franks for his brother’s death; the Franks executed him for the murder of the Frank aristocrat who raped and impregnated Varia, his eldest daughter (145).
Varia, a useful and sympathetic, albeit disposable, character, has been considered by critics as Isabelle’s competitor for Sgourós’s affections. [44] Her love for Sgourós can be traced to their initial encounter, when his overnight stay as a guest at the family farmstead is credited with her miraculous recovery from disturbed sleep in post-traumatic stress disorder (162). Not only does Sgourós act as the catalyst for Varia’s reintegration in society, he also foreshadows the retribution that will set right the wrongs done to her and her family. Yet, despite her true and tender passion for Nikiphóros (Miké 2007:225–226), she remains, I contend, an insignificant rival of (and a poor substitute for) Isabelle. First, her very presence in the plot is part of Terzakis’s plan to include the Slavs in the novel’s cast, a narrative choice resulting, in turn, from the author’s response to the role of the Soviet Union in the events contemporary to the novel’s rewriting. [45] Second, Varia is removed from the plot when she dies during the villeins’ tragic exodus from the besieged castle, revealing her deep and, until then, well-concealed love for the Greek leader of the uprising (438, 458–459). Her death also reveals the author’s increasing disenchantment with the socialist cause and the Greek left of his time (Soethaert 2004:139). Regardless of her functionality in the plot, [46] Varia is a complete and credible dramatis persona, cast in the unglamorous role of distracting Nikiphóros from Isabelle. A privilege that even Bianca, his flamboyant Genovese lover (Bista 1998:306–307, 456–458), has failed to secure (47, 399, 489–497), Nikophóros’s romantic reciprocity continues to elude Varia; after her passing, our hero misses her warmth and kindness, but never acknowledges any attraction to her (463). On the contrary, while she is still alive, he dismisses the sad suspicion that she may be in love with him by turning his thoughts to the pomegranate tree underneath his window (447), where he once confessed his love to Ysabeau (227–229). His heart blooms at the thought that, now that the end is near, he can see the tree one last time (447).
It can be said that Varia’s (and her family’s) regard for Sgourós represents the cultural and religious affinities between Byzantines and Slavs. Although their collaboration appears fruitful at first, they end up parting ways in defeat and uncertainty: Sgourós leaves for the mountains to lead the resistance against the Franks, while Fedor and his family die when the Franks retake the castle. Before that, their disagreement about the castle’s future casts a heavy shadow over their brotherhood, revealing the inner workings of an inadvertent otherness (423). According to the novel’s rhapsodic programmatic statement, the occupation of the castle by the rebels constitutes the unquestionable crux of the plot; it also functions as a rightful, yet short-lived punishment for the lawless abuse of the starving farmers by the Franks. The essence of the occupation, however, consists in the recognition of the cultural divide between Franks and rebels,  as declared by the latters’ rejection of Florent’s offer of ransom, in a manifesto read to the prince’s representatives by Sgourós himself (431):

The Greeks [Ρωμιοί] of Kalamata, Maini, the Slavs of Giannitsa and all the others from nearby places who decided, with God’s help, to take this castle, all brothers in slavery and persecution, though legitimate children of this land, inform the prince so that he may know that their goal was not to get paid. They didn’t steal a stranger’s property [ξένο], like thieves do, but rightly took what belongs to them. They are villeins, an inferior class of people, therefore they are not obliged to follow the customs of knighthood, customs that give to the winner the right to sell to the defeated his own weapons. Let the prince of Achaia know that in this place he is the stranger [ξένος] and that the rebels took the castle in the name of the king of the Greeks [τοῦ βασιλέα τῶν Ρωμαίων].
Οἱ Ρωμιοὶ τῆς Καλαμάτας, τῆς Μάινης, οἱ Σλαῦοι τῆς Γιάννιτσας καὶ ὅσοι ἄλλοι ἀπὸ γύρω τόπους ἀποφάσισαν μὲ τὴ βοήθεια τοῦ Θεοῦ νὰ πάρουν τὸ κάστρο τοῦτο, ὅλοι ἀδέρφια στὴ σκλαβιὰ καὶ στὸν κατατρεγμὸ, ἂν καὶ γνήσια παιδιὰ τῆς γῆς ἐτούτης, μηνᾶνε στὸν πρίγκηπα νὰ ξέρει πὼς ὁ σκοπὸς τους δὲν εἴτανε νὰ πληρωθοῦν. Δὲν κλέψανε πράμα ξένο καθὼς οἱ ληστὲς, μὰ πήρανε δικαιωματικὰ αὐτὸ ποὺ τοὺς ἀνήκει. Εἶναι βιλάνοι, τάξη κατώτερη, λοιπὸν δὲν ἔχουν χρέος ν’ ἀκολουθήσουν τὰ συνήθεια τῆς ἱπποσύνης ποὺ δίνουν δικαίωμα στὸ νικητὴ νὰ πουλάει στὸ νικημένο τὰ ἴδια του τ’ ἄρματα. Νὰ ξέρει ὁ πρίγκηπας τῆς Ἀχα·ί·ας πὼς στὸν τόπο τοῦτον ὁ ξένος εἶν’ αὐτὸς, καὶ πὼς οἱ ροβολατόροι πατήσανε τὸ κάστρο στ’ ὄνομα τοῦ βασιλέα τῶν Ρωμαίων.
Nikiphóros constructs his political discourse based on the notions of hierarchy and belonging. His passive-aggressive reference to class categorizes the rebels as an inferior social species, releasing them at the same time from any obligation to observe nobility’s senseless code of conduct. Nevertheless, the fact that the villeins are not bound by the rules of knighthood and therefore do not expect ransom from the prince appears to be of secondary significance: the castle was theirs to begin with, part of their land, whose (only) legitimate children they declare to be. In striking contrast with their autochthony comes their assessment of the prince’s affiliation with the Peloponnese: he [the prince] is the stranger in this land, exactly as, in Sgourós’s own words, “he [Sgourós] was the stranger” in Ysabeau’s bedroom the night he returned from Venice (427, my emphasis). The rhetoric of strangeness branches out to include the rebels’ alleged association with the Byzantine Emperor (“king of the Romií”), as well as an open declaration of war against Isabelle’s husband. Both statements will be materialized in the narrative (499–502), albeit after the rebels’ defeat and their loss of the castle of Kalamata.
Deeply embittered, Nikiphóros holds Isabelle personally responsible for the cruelty of her regime, accusing her of apathy before the pitiful plight of her subjects. [47] He attributes her indifference to the irremediable class divide between her and her people, one of whom he considers himself (480):

Listen madam! says Sgourós. You are one of the powerful, and I am one of the weak. You order gallows to be set up with your gloved hand. You rule from above, from the mountaintops, a country with heavy battlements and splendid castles, while I, a passing wanderer, see the populace starving to death in the gutter. Moan never reaches your ears, I am sure; your forehead, high above the clouds, is never clouded; your eyes, no doubt, have never been filled with tears. And we are far from each other, you and I, too far for our voices to meet; you can’t hear me when I am shouting and I can’t hear you when you sing.
Ἄκου κυρὰ! λέει ὁ Σγουρὸς. Εἶσαι ἀπὸ τοὺς δυνατοὺς ἐσὺ, κ’ ἐγὼ ἀπὸ τοὺς ἀδύναμους. Προστάζεις μὲ χὲρι γαντοφορεμὲνο νὰ στήνουν κρεμάλες. Ὁρίζεις ἀπὸ ψηλά, ἀπὸ τὶς βουνοκορφές, μὲ δυναμάρια καὶ καστέλλια ἀτράνταχτα μιὰ χώρα, κ’ ἐγώ, ὁ πεζολάτης, βλέπω περνώντας τ’ ἀνθρωπολό·ι· νὰ ξεψυχάει στὶς γράνες λιμασμένο. Στ’ αὐτιὰ τὰ δικά σου δὲ φτάνει ὁ βόγκος, τὸ ξέρω, τὸ μέτωπό σου στέκεται ψηλότερα ἀπὸ τὰ νέφελα καὶ δὲ συννεφιάζει, τὰ μάτια σου τὸ δίχως ἄλλο δὲ δακρύσανε ποτές. Κ’ εἴμαστε μακρυὰ ὁ ἕνας ἀπὸ τὸν ἄλλον, ἐσὺ κ’ ἐγὼ, γιὰ νὰ συντύχουν οἱ φωνὲς μας· δὲ μ’ ἀκοῦς ὅταν φωνάζω καὶ δὲ σ’ ἀκούω ποὺ τραγουδᾶς.
Nikiphóros’s insistence on class divisions is part of an effort to fortify the barriers between himself and Ysabeau. This is their last encounter, we must remember, taking place only on account of the hero’s obligation to grant Ioannis de Tournay’s deathbed wishes. The knight requested that his ring be delivered to the princess, who, in turn, should wear it for a moment and then give it to the man she loved the most in her life (468). As he admits after the fact, Sgourós undertakes this awkward task with bitter hatred towards the princess (484); also after the fact, the omniscient narrator reveals to us a renewal of his protagonist’s resentment against his beloved (485), regardless of his decision to protect her from the wrath of the Franks by killing the spy who overheard their conversation (486). As for his own wrath, it is primarily directed against her refusal to abandon the Franks and run away with him (484); [48] in his eyes, this is an act of cowardice, leaving him, once more, with the bitter aftertaste of rejection. He also thinks of all the pain she caused him, the heartache, the embarrassment, and the lives of his friends, especially Varia’s, “for whose loss he should never accept any consolation” (484). [49] Further, in a (rather forced) revisionist account, the hero thanks God for letting him put her to the test by inviting her to elope with him (484), thus proving her to be “a weak and destitute soul, unworthy of anything great” (485). I would classify the above thinking process under “narrative necessity” to finalize the separation between the two almost lovers; of course a closure is needed, and there is nothing implausible about a hurt lover who opts for a negative reconstruction of the farewell scene.
This scene, however, pregnant with poetry and pathos, proves rather hard to deconstruct; as we saw in the previous passage (480), the (only surviving) leader of the failed revolution, approaches the princess with outright hostility; yet it only takes Isabelle’s single sob of pain to turn Nikiphóros’s lecture on social history into an intimate embrace and invitation to elope (481):

Let’s run away together, says the voice. My life down here is finished, tomorrow at dawn I am leaving for the mountains. Come with me! You are not a daughter of the Franks, you were born here, your mother was Greek [Ρωμιά]. And if you want a palace, I will give it to you, we will win it together. And you will be a queen, you will oversee a sunlit, happy country. Let’s run away together …
—Ἔλα νὰ φύγουμε, λέει ἡ φωνὴ. Τὴ ζωὴ μου ἐδῶ-κάτω ἐγὼ τὴν ξόφλησα, αὔριο χαράματα ξεκόβω γιὰ τά βουνά. Ἔλα μαζί μου! Δὲν εἶσαι κόρη τῶν Φράγκων ἐσὺ, γεννήθηκες στὸν τόπο τοῦτο, ἡ μάννα σου εἴτανε Ρωμιά. Κι ἄν θὲς παλάτι, ἐγὼ θα σοῦ τὸ δώσω, θὰ τὸ κερδίσουμε μαζί. Καὶ θἄσαι βασίλισσα, θα σκέπεις μιὰ χώρα λιόκαλη, εὐτυχισμένη. Ἔλα νὰ φύγουμε …
Remarkably, the voice antiphonally responds to the main points of Sgourós’s rhetoric from the previous passage: Isabelle is no longer a heartless monarch untouched by sorrow; she is a child of the land, born to a Greek mother. She and Nikiphóros have a future together, ruling a happy country, bathed in sunlight, unlike her current dominion that is overcast with misery and riddled with turrets (Miké 2007:222). [50] Everything seems possible to Sgourós in the company of his beloved, even breaking the spell cast by (her presumably deadly to her lovers) birthmark (482). An indispensable part of his heroic profile, the hero’s relationship with death is an antagonistic one, and for the moment Sgourós seems to be winning—even death is afraid of his determination and sense of purpose (482). Is Sgourós’s outpouring of affection for Ysabeau a sign of the deep emotional connection between them? Should we interpret this change of heart as Hellenism’s unbreakable ties with Europe? Leaving with de Tournay’s ring in his finger (483), the hero continues his struggle against rejection (484–486), until the author mitigates the letdown of the farewell scene with a compensatory abundance of closures: the rebels’ departure from Kalamata, (486–487), the funeral procession of Ioannis de Tournay (487–488), and Bianca’s heartbroken repatriation (489–497). A sudden encounter with the traitor uncle, now a beggar (502), proves liberating (503), while Florent d’ Hainoult’ s death inevitably brings all military action to a halt (504–505); we are also told of princess Mahaut’s untimely wedding (506) and de Lluria’s disappearance from the waters of the Peloponnese (507). And where does Isabelle fit in all this? Wearing the token of her love in his finger, Nikiphóros admits that “she, first, gave him unwittingly the yearning for everything great and lofty” (502). He even recalls her with calm and gratitude, relieved that her image doesn’t anymore conjure in him the pain of longing (506). And she leaves exactly as she came (124, 126): a vision in the morning light, caressing with her glance the land of the Peloponnese (507).

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[ back ] 1. All textual references are to the 1945 edition unless otherwise indicated. I am grateful to Bart Soethaert who read an early draft of this paper and offered valuable comments.
[ back ] 2. It has been established that the 1945 version reflects the historical events experienced by the author during the Axis occupation of Greece and especially the famine of 1941–1942. See also Soethaert 2009a passim, 2004:119–121 with bibliography, Miké 2007:213, Vitti 2000:288–290, Kastrinaki 1999 passim, Afroudakis 2003 passim, Beaton 1994:170, Dimadis 1987 passim and 1991:86–129, Argyriou 1987 passim, Pikramenou-Varfi 1987 passim, Vitti 1987 passim. It should be noted that Terzakis fought in the Greek army against the Axis invasion of Greece and wrote extensively about his experience, including his books Ἑλληνική Ἐποποιία 1940–41 and Ἀπρίλης, and in many of his essays.
[ back ] 3. Cf. also Introduction. I define historical poetics as the creative interaction between literature and history; in Terzakis’s case, the historical novel as a literary genre proves fertile ground for the fusion of historical discourse and creative writing, a poiesis of literature meant to mediate between different historical frames. As Karantonis 1962:199–200 notes, a creative literary spirit like Terzakis’s can easily “both remain faithful to the meaning of life’s basic laws, both individual and collective, and show his imagination’s creative force, breathing new life to past décors,” especially when such décors preserve unique moments of human history.
[ back ] 4. On the novel’s reception by literary critics of its time see Bista 1998:214–223 with bibliography. On the novel as part of Terzakis’s work see Proussis 1966:1032–1034.
[ back ] 5. On Princess Ysabeau’s relationship with potential models see Vitti 2000:288–290, Hatzivassiliou 1999:825–826, with bibliography. I find particularly interesting Terzakis’s criticism of Rangavis’s Ὁ Αὐθέντης τοῦ Μορέως (Terzakis 1933a:250–251); through his stern disapproval of Rangavis’s superficial and deficient imitation of his literary model, Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe, and his equally unsuccessful use of his historical source, Τὸ Χρονικὸν τοῦ Μορέως, Terzakis crafts a lasting definition of (and sets the standards for) the historical novel. Commenting on Rangavis’s contempt for the short story and his lack of interest in creating a “serious literary genre” out of the historical novel, he writes: “One notes the absence of that fine sensor that enables the true author to identify the main points as well as the requirements of his myth.” I agree with Sachinis 1957:151 that “Terzakis absolutely and uncontestably authenticated the revival of Morea’s Frankish occupation with his careful study of all elements from that era and especially the narrative translation of those elements into images and figures of a true and believable life.” Cf. also Proussis 1966:1033.
[ back ] 6. I find Karantonis’s view (1962:200) that Terzakis “successfully fused the elements of adventure and humanity, the individual with the collective, Nikiphóros Sgourós with Hellenism” accurate in that Terzakis crafts his main character as both an impetuous youth and a self-controlled adult.
[ back ] 7. Terzakis speaks for his (war)time by creating characters that give in to colossal social pressures, leaving the reader with the lingering impression that nation-building comes at a great cost, presupposes surrender of individuality, and calls for personal sacrifices of life-changing proportions. Although Princess Isabelle cannot elope with Sgourós for many reasons, including her daughter, it is the war he raises against her that seals their separation. Cf. also Soethaert 2009:5–6, 2004:143–144.
[ back ] 8. Given the great chronological distance between the historical frame of the novel’s action and its actual publication date, there is no doubt that Princess Ysabeau is a historical novel. On Princess Ysabeau as a historical novel and its place in the literature of the time see also Sachinis 1957:149–153, Beaton 1994:169–170, Miké 2007:24–27, 195–235, Roilos 2004:16n1. I agree with Karantonis 1962:199 that Terzakis “created the most complete, classical, and representative historical novel in modern Greek prose.”
[ back ] 9. All translations are my own.
[ back ] 10. Terzakis’s narrative choice to recall times and events long gone is also echoed in his 1967 essay “Τό καντήλι πού ἀγρυπνᾶ” (Terzakis 1980:168), where he ponders the necessity of remembering the fall of Constantinople: “Should we remember or shouldn’t we? […] Because to exist or not to exist differs very little from to remember or not to remember.” (“Νά θυμόμαστε, λοιπόν, ἢ νὰ μὴ θυμόμαστε; […] Γιατὶ τὸ νὰ ὑπάρχεις ἢ νὰ μὴν ὑπάρχεις ἐλάχιστα διαφέρει ἀπὸ τὸ νὰ θυμᾶσαι ἢ νὰ μὴ θυμᾶσαι.”)
[ back ] 11. Interview with G.Perastikos for the journal Νεοελληνικὰ Γράμματα, 15/1/1938:12.
[ back ] 12. The theme of abduction features also in Sgourós’s inquiries after his first encounter with Ysabeau under the ramparts of Anapli (25).
[ back ] 13. On the historical Leo Sgourós and the family of Sgouroi see Ilieva 1991:102, 108–126, Savidis 1992:47–48, 289–294, 1988 passim, Ἱστορία τοῦ Ἑλληνικοῦ Ἔθνους 1979:IX.248–249, 263, Χρονικὸν τοῦ Μορέως 1468, 1488, 1528 (all references to the Χρονικὸν τοῦ Μορέως are from Apostolidis-Kalonaros 1990). On the historical Sgouromallis, see Ἱστορία τοῦ Ἑλληνικοῦ Ἔθνους 1979:IX.254, Paparigopoulos 1887:V.152ff.
[ back ] 14. The Franks had established their presence in the Peloponnese so securely, that the ascent of the Palaeologian dynasty to the throne of Constantinople did not affect their sovereignty. Terzakis constructs the literary persona of Princess Ysabeau based on actual historical data. For Isabelle de Villehardouin’s genealogy see Lock 1995:362–363.
[ back ] 15. Florent d’ Hainoult (c.1255–1297) employed diplomacy to address the decline of the Angevins in Achaea. In 1290, he negotiated the Treaty of Glarentsa with the Byzantine Empire and protested to Andronikos II Palaeologos, when the Greeks of Moreas re-occupied Kalamata in 1293. Andronikos returned Kalamata to the Franks but Florent’s confrontation with the local Greek population continued, when they took the castle of Saint-George in Arcadia in 1296. Florent attempted to retrieve it but failed, as he died in January 1297. See also Paparrigopoulos 1887:V.148–149.
[ back ] 16. As Liontakis 1999:80 observes, “from the beginning of the novel Sgourós’s love is bidirectional; his ideals are Ysabeau and the resurrection of the villeins. When the female vision disappears, he devotes himself, undistracted, to his social mission.”
[ back ] 17. On Ysabeau as a female character in the greater context of Terzakis’s prose see Bista 1998:167–176, 268–273, 333–339, 491–495. According to Karantonis 1962:201 Ysabeau is an “overly erotic desire” (πόθος ὑπερερωτικός), an idol of youth that osculates with Nikiphóros only through the poetry of the farewell scene.
[ back ] 18. In 1271 Isabelle (c.1261–1313) married Philip of Sicily (1256–1277), son of Charles I of Sicily, who had suzerain rights over Achaea. In 1289 she married Florent d’ Hainoult (c.1255–1297) and in 1301 Philippe de Savoie (1278–1334). On account of Philippe’s unsuccessful rule, Charles removed the Principate of Achaea from Isabelle and Philippe in 1306, and assigned it to his son Philip I of Taranto; after his death in 1313, Mahaut (1293–1331), Isabelle’s daughter by Florent d’ Hainoult, became the Princess of Achaea, but remained in possession of her title (and territory, over which she barely ever gained control) only until 1318.
[ back ] 19. Roger de Lluria (1245–1305) was the commander of the Aragonese fleet and a brilliant admiral, active in the Mediterranean at the same time (1283–1302) as Ysabeau’s reign in the Moreas (1289–1306); see also Quintana 1879:49–97.
[ back ] 20. On the ethnonym Romiós and its meaning(s) see Beaton 2008 passim and n30 below.
[ back ] 21. As Sachinis 1979:66–67 observes, Terzakis’s early novels (Δεσμῶτες, 1932, Παρακμὴ τῶν Σκληρῶν, 1933, Μενεξεδένια Πολιτεία, 1937) are characterized by a general ambiance of depression, sadness, and pessimism; this grim outlook on life is manifested by the lack of sunlight, the voluntary confinement to darkness, and the resignation to a painfully meaningless passage of time. These elements can also been seen in Ysabeau’s loneliness, withdrawal, and reluctance to become engaged with life. The princess delegates her right to rule to her husband or others less out of convention or necessity and more out of lack of interest (126–127, 507). As Meraklis 1979:43 notes, Sgourós exemplifies the aspiration of Terzakis’s male characters to escape their social confinements, and therefore typifies the contradistinction between male fighting spirit and female withdrawal from life in Terzakis’s work. Cf. also n17, 48 and Liontakis 1979:79: “[Isabeau] is a typical heroine of Terzakis.”
[ back ] 22. In his 1972 interview (Terzakis 1972:1304) Terzakis expresses his support for Greece joining the “United Europe”: “In a United Europe, I would wish that we, Greeks, can preserve our language, our national tradition, as well as the main elements of our moral physiognomy. I believe that only a unified Europe can guarantee them to us. Outside of it, alienation of all sorts is lurking. Europe wishes us to be its partner, not its colony.” Although it reflects the spirit of the times, with Greece’s entry into the European Union forthcoming in 1981 and greatly wished for, I would argue that the above excerpt epitomizes Terzakis’s perception of Greece’s ideal relationship with Europe: a partnership that ensures Hellenism’s cultural survival. Almost 40 years earlier, in a dialogue with K. T. Dimaras, Terzakis (Terzakis 1933b:1171) identified in Greek history two parallel, yet competing ideologies, Hellenic-Roman and Christian-Medieval (ἑλληνορωμα·ι·σμός, χριστιανομεσαιωνισμός); further, he advocated for an in-depth neoclassicism, concluding that “faith in the Greek spirit can never be a limited aesthetic outlook. It must be seen as a deep and complete trust in the eternal character of its principles, the ideas that gave birth to the European civilization” (1172). See also Soethaert 2012:2n15, 2004:141–143, Tziovas 2011:256. Terzakis’s viewpoint regarding the origins of European civilization, is, I believe, well represented in Princess Ysabeau, where Hellenism is passed on to both lovers by their Greek mothers, while the internal competition between Roman Hellenism and Christian Medievalism pronounces the former an uncontestable winner. Also, Terzakis presents the unfeasibility of the couple’s union as a sacrifice in transition, compensatory for (and incompatible with) his protagonist’s newly found mission.
[ back ] 23. Isabelle’s father also sees her as a “living symbol, sent from God, of his family’s decline, already on its way…” (110). Cf. also Karantonis 1962:201, Miké 2007:221.
[ back ] 24. On Byzantines and Franks in 13th century Peloponnese, see Sansaridou-Hendrickx 2007:141–147, Ilieva 1991:171–190, Zakynthinos 1975:27–77, Jacoby 1963:873–906, Kazantzakis 1963 passim. Cf. also Soethaert 2012:5–6 and passim on Kazantzakis 1963 passim. As Kastrinaki 1999:814 notes, Sgourós’s attitude towards the Frankish knights changes from admiration to hostility from the 1937–1938 to the 1945 version.
[ back ] 25. Thanks to his elderly nurse’s savings; she, along with Bianca, provides him also with get-away money (51, 54, 147, 163), on which Sgourós lives while waiting for an audition with the princess in Kalamata. Having never before earned his daily bread, our hero does not develop a realistic concept of wealth until he generates his own in Venice (294–296, 322–323, 329). This experience also signals the onset of adulthood, especially as it coincides with the large loan Nikiphóros is trying to secure on behalf of the rebels from no other than Bianca’s father, Matteo Gaffore himself (369–376).
[ back ] 26. Illegally, as the Genovese banker Matteo Gaffore hurries to point out at their fateful encounter outside the city walls (14).
[ back ] 27. At the end of his pointed exchange with Gaffore on the topic of his contested property rights, Sgourós quickly retorts that he lacks the resources that would enable him to secure a favorable decision from the notary public through bribery, as others do, adding: “Nevertheless I hope one day to prove both to him and to them who I am.” (16).
[ back ] 28. Jean de Tournay was son of Geoffrey and grandson of Othe de Tournay, barons of Kalavryta (Χρονικὸν τοῦ Μορέως 1921, 1939–1940). It is noteworthy that Sgourós appears to be initially attracted to the code of knighthood that Ἰωάννης ντὲ Τουρναί embodies; at their first encounter, Sgourós denies to Ioannis the rumors that he is a rebel associated with de Lluria (94), attributes that will eventually define his identity. Their relationship culminates in a bloody duel that proves Nikiphóros Sgourós a noble winner, free of debilitating passions and able to operate based on the moral code of knighthood better than the knight himself (459–473). Moreover, Ioannis de Tournay seems to function as a foil for Nikiphóros Sgourós; although they both go through a phase of incapacitating devotion to Ysabeau, only Sgourós manages to grow as a person and develop the ability to move on, while Ioannis remains a prisoner of his unfulfilled love and eventually dies because of it.
[ back ] 29. Zervocheris proves to be more than Nikiphóros’s surrogate relative and future comrade (147, 438–439); he restores Sgourós’s faith in a humanity beyond class divisions, providing him with physical and emotional shelter at a moment of crisis and self-doubt (167–168). Although at first the youth hesitates to confide in his plebeian benefactor (146), he opens his heart to him twice (167, 320) keeping from him only his love for the princess (322). The scene I discuss here takes place at the workshop of his brother, the ironsmith Timotheos, since, at this point, Zervocheris has lost his inn as a result of the poverty that befell the land. A gathering place for fellow villeins, this workshop also witnesses the violent abuse of Timotheos by an attendant of prince Florent (310–311); see also Soethaert 2004:129, 2009a:3ff.
[ back ] 30. On the concept of Romiosíni (Ρωμιοσύνη, “Romanity”) and its place in Hellenic tradition see Beaton 2008:87–94 and passim, Hatzis 2005:115–121, Kaldellis 2007:42, 73, 386, Koliopoulos and Veremis 2002:242–248, Mackridge 1998 passim, Politis 1998 passim.
[ back ] 31. Cf. also Kastrinaki 1999:812, Miké 2007:213–214. Sgourós had been laboring under the misapprehension that a Romiós would not be treated like a villein in the “free” land of Mitzithras (87). It is also noteworthy how later, at the scene in Timotheos’s workshop (329), Nikiphóros articulates the difference between a villein and a slave: “a slave is whoever sold himself” and “you can be a villein, but you shouldn’t be a slave.” However, in the same workshop he identifies himself as a nobleman of unspecified ethnicity to De Liedekerke (312).
[ back ] 32. Margarita seems to have pursued a similar course in real life; cf. Lock 1995:302, 304. As Bista 1998:271, 338–339, 421–422 observes, Margarita and Ysabeau constitute two polar opposites despite their shared upbringing (albeit for a short time) at the court of Kalamata (190). Ysabeau has no affection for her sister, who undertakes the unlikely mission to spy on the princess, assigned to her by no other than the princess’s husband himself (193, 236). Moreover, it seems to me that the character of Margarita also serves to Terzakis as a means of discrediting female involvement with life; her vivaciousness, based on her egocentric materialism and continued antagonism with her graciously quiet sister, fails to win her the readers’ sympathy. Thus, the model of femininity typified by Ysabeau remains the only valid proposition for female characterization in the novel.
[ back ] 33. His physical growth is later measured against Bianca, who is shorter than him after two years (393).
[ back ] 34. As Soethaert 2004:125 notes, the toponym Zoglo has a strong symbolism: it is another name for Navarino, where the Great Powers (Great Britain, France, and Russia) defeated an Ottoman armada in the naval battle of October 8/20 1827 as part of the Greek War of Independence (1821–1832). I would like to also emphasize that the battle of Navarino signifies both European support for Greek liberation from Ottoman rule and Greek inability to accomplish it without international assistance.
[ back ] 35. Adamantiou 1906:364–371, 634–635.
[ back ] 36. Following Kokinotrichis’s revelation about the princess’s alleged attraction to de Lluria, Nikiphóros embarks on a revisionist (and rather childish) analysis of Isabelle’s feelings towards him (254): “A multitude of conflicting emotions tormented his soul. His lips were pursed in deep bitterness. Ah, and he, he had found the courage yesterday to get near the bench under the pomegranate tree [where he confessed his love to Ysabeau]. And he, for a moment, had had the crazy hope that he would envelop the princess in his blazing passion! Her mind travelled elsewhere; it was because she forgot all about him that she didn’t put him to death; it was because she felt sorry for him that she sent her attendants to take care of him during his illness. Her mind is travelling elsewhere. Out there, beyond the open sea, the pirate is nodding at her, a man of great valor and glory. He is the one who deserves her, she feels. That Romiós is a pitiful villein, a domestic animal.” Clearly, Nikiphóros’s wish to win and monopolize Ysabeau’s affections turns into a major source of anxiety. Terzakis confirms Kokinotrichis’s account of the attraction between the pirate and the princess (232–233), or, at least, de Lluria’s love for Isabelle, but also describes the end of the affair, so to speak (274–278), followed by the final remark that de Lluria stays away from the Peloponnese (507)—another way to remind us that, albeit needlessly, all competitors for Ysabeau’s love have been eliminated.
[ back ] 37. Dimitris Terzakis (1999:925–926) mentions in his memoir his father’s warm-hearted reception of his new German daughter-in-law: “And to think that I had sworn an oath during the German occupation never to shake hands with a German again… And now I have a new daughter-in-law who is German, and I love her too.” The spontaneity of this statement reminds me of the wealth of healthy emotions that Terzakis’s protagonist displays towards the Franks, including Ioannis de Tournay and Isabelle.
[ back ] 38. Interestingly, the fact that Nikiphóros is not Frankish releases him from the obligation to go back to Kalamata after the survivors have been ransomed (“thank God I wasn’t a Frank, so nobody would ask about me,” “after all, nobody was waiting for me” 322).
[ back ] 39. Terzakis notes that Mahaut de Villehardouin (1293–1331) turned out to be the most unhappy of the women of her family (285).
[ back ] 40. Sachinis 1957:150 points out that events like the famine that strikes the villeins and their resorting to resistance “bring directly to mind recent events of the German occupation, validating the view that history repeats itself.” Cf. also Soethaert 2004:127–128.
[ back ] 41. Comparable to what Terzakis saw in 1941–1942 Athens; see also Mazower 1993:32–52, Clogg 1992:124–125.
[ back ] 42. “That journey, through the ravaged land, had ended up here, today, at the castle of the Villehardouins” (427). Karantonis 1962:202 sees in Sgourós’s mission the discovery of usefulness (χρησιμότητα) as middle ground between the pursuit of perfection and the experience of reality. As Miké 2007:213 points out, “An exemplary identity is formed following the [protagonist’s] adventurous and painful journey to conquer masculinity and develop a strong national consciousness. Sgourós comes of age, quits mood swings, obstinacy and passion, harnesses his imagination, and, no longer referred to as “παιδάριο” (boy) by the author, acquires the identity of a modern Greek man and emerges as a leader.”
[ back ] 43. Soethaert 2004:130–132, 136 with bibliography. Sgourós’s protest against the looting is directly connected with the rift between himself and Fedor, reflecting, in turn, Terzakis’s uneasiness with the Greek left and the role of the Soviet Union in WWII. Fedor had equated Nikiphóros’s love for Ysabeau with treason, but forgave his comrade on the grounds that Sgourós had loved her “more than his own hatred” (380).
[ back ] 44. Kastrinaki 1999:815–819, Soethaert 2004:132–133.
[ back ] 45. For a thorough examination of the role that the Slavs play in Princess Ysabeau see Soethaert 2009b passim, 2004:128–141.
[ back ] 46. Varia’s symbolism is also manifested in her task of knitting the rope ladder that the rebels use to climb up the castle of Kalamata (402).
[ back ] 47. As Terzakis (1970:2) writes in his prologue to F. Dimitriadis’s collection of drawings about the German occupation, “written history memorializes political acts and military movements, and for this reason it appears to exonerate crime: it shows it without a face.” In addition to the grim description of the famine (300–306), the symbolism of Axis crimes in Princess Ysabeau, present in the execution of Sergios (141–143), borrows also the face of Flemish knight De Liedekerke, who attacks and blinds the Greek ironsmith Timótheos in a fit of anger over his delayed order for a new suit of armor (310–311).
[ back ] 48. From this point of view, Nikiphóros’s frustration with Ysabeau’s decision underscores the fact that she simply cannot find the courage to run away. As Bista 1998:411 writes, “Ysabeau, like Terzakis’s other heroines, didn’t manage to get over herself and claim her happiness. She remained a prisoner not as much of her role as of her personal impasse.”
[ back ] 49. I find Varia’s mention here rather unexpected, given that Sgourós refers to his other dead companions namelessly (484). With her self-sacrificial devotion to Nikiphóros, Varia serves as the moral antidote to Isabelle, who refuses to follow him by unconvincingly claiming that she does so to protect him from her ill fortune (482, 501).
[ back ] 50. Karantonis 1962:202–203 identifies a social pyramid, with the villains at its base, the populace that remains at the background of historical narrative; in its middle, he places both Frankish and Greek nobility, and at its top the castle of the Franks, “a generator of violence and oppression, a source of wealth and power, and a guardian of beauty that Ysabeau symbolizes with her pale figure, the utmost point of Sgourós’s hatred and desire.”