The Role of God in the Story "The Travels of John Mandeville"

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Having a goal and a desire to achieve something worthwhile in life is quite remarkable. Regardless of how challenging it might be to achieve it, one is ever focused, determined and ready to do whatever it takes to get what he wants. With much perseverance, persistence and maintaining the right attitude, most people succeed to get what they were pursuing in the long run. This scenario applies to John Mandeville in the story “The Travels of Sir John Mandeville” and Hernan Cortes in the article “Hernan Cortes’ Letter to Charles.” Sir John Mandeville is on a mission to urge people to live an upright morally life so that they can enter in the Holy Land. It is a hard and challenging task for him, but he is prepared for it. On the other hand, Cortes wanted to be made the new emperor in the new region that was to be created and works hard towards that (Mandeville, John).

Based on the story, “The Travels of Sir John Mandeville,” it is apparent that God was the most important motivation for this exploration. Sir John sought to have Jerusalem established as the center of the world. It would help people focus more on God and do that which He desires to see them doing so that they can qualify to enter the Holy Land. It emphasizes the supreme importance to the entire community of Christians. The Holy Land is pure, and no sin is entertained, there were a specific behavior and lifestyle that people were supposed to adopt so that they can be allowed in that Land. Its geographic centrality is described clearly in the story.

According to the author, Christendom is the owner of the Holy Land and the Muslims, as well as people from other religion, are usurpers. The narrator argues that to be true Christians, all the men in the Christendom should be ready and willing to fight to defend the city of God. The author continues to say that most Christians have committed too much sin, which has made it impossible to reclaim the Holy Land. The Christians audience, who are the target in the story are therefore continuously reminded of their rightful claims to the Levant. However, they should be upright morally since any form of wrongdoing will keep them away from reclamation. They were supposed always to check their way and renounce any form of sin they commit. Anyone who would not take not of such requirement was not worthy to enter the Holy Land.

In this regard, it is clear that the author motive was to seek God by helping people and showing them the manner in which they should spend their life to qualify for entry in the Holy Land. He practically demonstrated the behavior and practice they should adopt for holy living. The author understands that God is holy and He cannot work with people who are not holy and full of immoral behavior. Engaging in such noble task has been quite challenging for the John Mandeville, however, out of his reverence, respect, and honor that he has for God; he is ready to sacrifice and do whatever it takes to prepare Christians to enter in the Holy Land. In all his effort, the author is quite selfless. He does not seek to enrich himself or benefit in any other way; he is just after glorifying God.  He spent his entire life in doing the will of God because he believes it is the right and most beneficial way for every person on earth.

On the other hand, Cortes in his letter acts like a hypocrite, he wants to convince people that he glorify God with his action but in the real sense, he wants to benefit himself.  He wrote a letter to Charles V, and its primary objective was justifying his actions for the attack of Aztec’s against his order. The content of this letter provided great details relating to the culture as well as the lifestyle of Aztec’s and the manner in which he worshipped the pagan gods. This letter is one of the many letters that Hernan Cortes used to write and emphasized on his experienced in what he was doing. It provides the readers with an opportunity to understand the culture, which Aztec was living at the time of Cortes’ conquest in Mexico. In this regard, there is a bias against Aztecs based on the content of the letter; it happened mainly because Cortes was very religious. The letter was met for the Emperor; however, Cortes decides to explain about Aztec’s power, which makes the letter to be used in presenting the achievement as well as the success that Cortes had gained (De Gayangos, Don).

Based on the article, the primary reason for Cortes’ letter was to justify his decision of traveling to Mexico against the will of the Cuban governor, Diego Velazquez. The authority of Velazquez was extended to Mexico, which was a threat to Cortes and his power that was majored on Mexico. Therefore, the essence of Cortes’ writing to Charles V was to justify his action of conquering Mexico. In this letter, he presents himself as perfect of the emperor in this new region. For instance, he explains why the chapel had to be purified because it was polluted by the human blood and establish the image of Our Lady and the Saints. Such action of putting the image of the Saints in the region where there was full of pagan idol portrayed Cortes as the good representation of the Emperor. Cortes went ahead to explain why the Aztec Culture, religions believe as well as all the other pagans had to be done away with and support Christianization.

Therefore, as much as Cortes supported Christianity and wanted to destroy all the idols and convince people from other religion to believe in Christianity, his actions were not genuine. He was selfish in his action; he was doing all this to be seen as the best choice for the emperor in the new region. Therefore, his motive was not to glorify God but achieve his selfish desire.  His actions were not based on love or motivated by the need to help other people in their faith but sought to acquire a position of authority that would help him advance his selfish agenda among the people he wanted to serve.

There is a lot of similarity in the two texts, one of the main one is the religious aspect. Religious principles are what Cortes borrowed mainly from Mandeville and had helped him in a great way to win the king’s favor. Mandeville was too concerned with helping people prepared to enter the Holy Land. He did everything possible to convince people about the importance of living a morally upright life because it was the only condition to be met by any individual who wanted to enter in that land. He also helped people prepare to defend the city of God in whatever way possible, which included fighting and even losing one’s life to ensure that the city is intact (Mandeville, John).

Similarly, Cortes letter had a religious aspect although, it was not genuine. Aztec has various neighbors who were practicing different religious belief. Besides, Aztecs traditions had some elements that disagreed with the Christian faith. In this regard, Cortes disliked the practices of people from other religions because they were causing harm and pain to human race. Therefore, he suggested that some practices such as human sacrifice have to be stopped because they serve no purpose. Since the temple was full of blood from people who had been sacrificed, it had to be purified completely. Such sacrifices had to be replaced by the image of Our Lady and the Saints, which was to be put on the chapel. Such action of brought much happiness to Montezuma as well as all the inhabitants of this region. It is therefore quite apparent that there was much similarity in religious aspect borrowed from Mandeville. Most people from the two regions based on these articles believed that Christianity was the true religion and therefore wanted everyone to adopt it. It was such a religious aspect that caused Cortes to be favored by the king; he found Cortes with the brilliant idea that would enhance his kingdom by turning many people to Christianity (De Gayangos, Don).

Work cited

Mandeville, John. The Travels of Sir John Mandeville. Penguin UK, 2005.

 De Gayangos, Don Pascual. The fifth letter of Hernan Cortes to the Emperor Charles V,             containing an account of his expedition to Honduras. Hakluyt society, 2017.

November 13, 2023


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