Galdós as Disability Observer: The Mendicant and Militant Leg- and Foot-Afflicted
Retrato de Benito Pérez Galdós, Joaquim Sorolla y Bastida, 1894
Like his European contemporaries and his Spanish predecessors during the Romantic movement in Spain, Galdós described and utilized many lame and crippled characters in his works. Some aspects of this creativity have been studied. First, we have the case of the eponymous protagonist in Tristana, which has attracted critical attention since the time of the novel’s publication in 1891. Also, with the publication in 1975 of Concha-Ruth Morell’s letters to Don Benito—which makes clear that she is the prototype for the protagonist—critical interest has taken a new turn; and, an attempt has been made to answer the question of why Galdós should choose to amputate the leg of the character, who is clearly a stand-in for his beautiful young mistress. Most recently, attention has been called to the relationship between certain lame characters and the devil—one of whose hallmarks is lameness—in Fortunata y Jacinta, Miau, and Ángel Guerra.
However, there remains yet to be studied other lame and crippled characters who appear throughout Galdós’s fiction, from the first of his novels to the very last of his Episodios nacionales. The aim of the present essay is to show the breadth and accuracy of Galdós’s observation, as well as the role of these remaining foot- and leg-afflicted in the works, ranging from minor costumbrista types to the protagonist of an entire series of the Episodios nacionales. To facilitate this presentation, we are categorizing these characters broadly as mendicant and militant cojos, with the latter rubric including diplomatic service to end or prevent a war.