An odd thing that I found while staying with family in the area, I felt I should report. My half-nephew is more interested in my field than most kids of his age would be, and dragged out for my inspection a book, which transpired to be a cartoon history of Catalonia’s founder figure, Count Guifré the Hairy (so called, intones the 12th-century Gesta Comitum Barcinonensium, because “he had hair in places which other men did not”1). I foolishly didn’t take down details at the time, but it wouldn’t have helped me much because the web seems almost empty of what it was, which I’m fairly sure is A. Jofré Battlorí, Històries i Llegendes de Catalunya, 7: Guifré el Pelós, Col·lecció Ayax (Barcelona s. d), one of a series of several which included, sadly, Comte Arnau (who was not real!) but also plenty that was solidly historical.
Now of course as the above image may suggest Guifré is quite deep in the Catalan national consciousness, but as I read I was quite spun by this book. Partly because it was weird to see people I’ve visualised in someone else’s versions. For example, I never think of Radulf, Guifré’s son who is oblated as a monk, rebels and leaves to be a priest instead and eventually becomes Bishop of Urgell, as blond,2 but I never would have realised that without someone else picturing him so. And I had never really stopped to think about what Cardona would have been like to come to as a traveller in Guifré’s time, mainly because I’d kind of forgotten it was on roads that were still in use then even when it was supposedly depopulated. Various things like this that make me wonder how much use such attempts to represent our imaginings are in actually getting us closer to the missing reality… Though I personally imagine even the poorest Catalans wearing at least one colour other than brown, which Batllorí seemingly did not.
But also, the history was pretty solid, and this was because the artist had as advisor no less a figure than Josep María Salrach, who is currently I suppose the leading man of the field and was probably so whenever this was written (my half-nephew’s copy was shiny and new, but Batllorí died in 1999, so it must have been a reprint or a very nice remainder). The effective result of this was that you got various properly cartoon action (I wish I could have scanned some of it for you) interspersed with travel sequences basically set up so that Salrach could dump exposition into them (“King Odo is a long way away, son, and cares nothing for his forgotten frontier” and so on). Lots of political thought on horseback therefore. But still, it’s an astonishing thing for a real historian to be involved with. It’s as if, in England, someone wrote a cartoon history of Alfred the Great and got Simon Keynes to advise. I mean, that would probably work; I wonder if it has actually happened?
1. L. Barrau Dihigo & J. Massó Torrents (edd.), Gesta Comitum Barcinonensium: textos llatí i català, Cróniques Catalanes 2 (Barcelona 1925). For work on Guifré in English one is basically limited to Roger Collins, “Charles the Bald and Wifred the Hairy”, in Janet Nelson & Margaret Gibson (edd.), Charles the Bald: Court and Kingdom, 2nd edn. (Aldershot 1990), pp. 169-188. In Catalan, the most recent thing I have seen is R. d’Abadal i de Vinyals, El Temps i el Regiment de Guifré el Pilós (Barcelona 1989), but there is also Jordí Mascarella i Rovira & Miquel Sitjar (edd.), Guifré el Pelós: documentació i identitat (Ripoll 1997). The Collins article is fun mind you.
2. On Radulf see Manuel Rovira, “Un Bisbe d’Urgell del segle X: Radulf” in Urgellia Vol. 3 (Montserrat 1980), pp. 167–84.