Lazarillo de Tormes
A Famous Spanish Literary Character

One of the most famous characters from Spanish literature is a boy called Lazarillo.  The story of Lazarillo de Tormes was written around 1554 but nobody knows the author's identity.  It is an anonymous work. 

Below is a picture of the book's cover when it was first published in 1554.


When the book first appeared, it was banned for being scandalous because the story criticises society and the church of that time.  The book belongs to the Spanish Golden Age of literature
(El Siglo de Oro).  This was an important cultural period between the 15th and 17th centuries when great Spanish art and literature was created.

The book is written in the 'first person', as if the adult Lazarillo is telling the story of his childhood.   It is divided into an introduction - prólogo - and seven chapters called 'tratados.'

There are many famous, funny and cruel scenes throughout the story.  In one scene, Lazarillo claims that mice are eating the bread stored in a chest.  Instead, it is Lazarillo who is stealing the bread and even the cheese from the mouse-trap!  


 In another famous scene, Lazarillo steals a sausage that is being grilled on a skewer and replaces it with a turnip.

In this painting by Francisco de Goya, Lazarillo's first master is searching for evidence of the stolen sausage.

The Story -
Lazarillo was born in city of Salamanca on the banks of the river Tormes - el río Tormes.  That is why he is called Lazarillo of Tormes.  He lived in poverty so he left his family to go to work.

He found work as a servant for the following masters:
1.  un ciego - a blind beggar
2.   un clérigo - a mean priest
3.  un escudero -  a poor nobleman
4.  un fraile -  a friar
5.  un buldero - a pardoner
6.  un capellán - a chaplain
7.  un alguacil - a constable

Each time that he chose a new master, Lazarillo found himself guessing if he would be happy and well-fed with that person, or not.  It soon became clear that it is impossible to judge someone by their appearance.  A kind-looking person could in reality be cruel and a wealthy-looking person could in reality be poor and starving.

Lazarillo ran away from all his masters except for the nobleman.  The surprising thing about this master is that he appeared to be a wealthy man of the upper-class.  He lived in a large house, dressed well and walked around the town with pride.  But, in reality, he was very poor and had no money, furniture or food. 

The nobleman's existence was based on how he appeared to other people.  He was too proud to beg so he used Lazarillo to beg for him.  He was kind to Lazarillo, but as he lived in hunger it meant that Lazarillo had to suffer from terrible hunger too.  In the end, the nobleman - el escudero - abandoned Lazarillo.  One day he just did not return home.

The story ends with Lazarillo finding a permanent job as a town-crier, calling out the price of wine and selling it.  He eventually marries a servant-girl.

In the town of Salamanca (the boy's home-town), there is a statue of Lazarillo with his first master - the blind beggar, (below.)


A pícaro like Lazarillo, is as follows -

1.   He is young.
2.   He is poor.
3.   He is good at stealing.
4.   He has many different masters, one after the other.
5.  He is practical and clever.
6.  He is tough - in order to cope with such a hard life.
7.  He makes the most of any good luck whilst it lasts - because it will be for a very short time.

El Lazarillo de Tormes is a really great story!

Famous Spanish People

Spanish Zone

Literature Zone


Lazarillo de Tormes is rather like the story of Oliver Twist.  It is the tale of a young boy who works for a series of masters and it tells of his adventures and mishaps.  In fact, Lazarillo de Tormes was the first story published of this kind.  It is known as una novela picaresca - a picaresque novel - and the boy is known as un pícaro, travelling between masters from one existence to another.