The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes

Horns Symbol Icon

At the time of this book’s publication it was a common practice to depict a cuckolded man (a man whose wife has been unfaithful to him) with horns coming out of his head. Experts have not been able to agree on a single explanation for why horns began to be used as the symbol for a man with an unfaithful wife, but, in keeping with this convention, animal horns appear several times throughout the text of Lazarillo de Tormes, always as a symbolic foreshadowing that Lazaro’s fate is to become a cuckolded husband. Although it is painfully clear, based on his own account, that Lazaro’s wife is also the archpriest’s mistress and that Lazaro therefore suffers from what is seen by others as the ultimate social disgrace, he is nevertheless determined by the end of the book not to admit to the reality of his circumstance. Instead, Lazaro is content to benefit from the arrangement with the archpriest, who gives both Lazaro and Lazaro’s wife money, even though it has cost Lazaro his dignity and sense of morality. Lazaro’s evident satisfaction with his own state of disgrace is representative of the hardened, cynical perspective on life that he has developed over the course of the book. Moreover, his willingness to feign ignorance of the ways in which he is being deceived by a religious figure of such high office (i.e., the archpriest) demonstrate his moral indifference toward the hypocrisy of the church.

Horns Quotes in The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes

The The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes quotes below all refer to the symbol of Horns. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Truth, Deception, and Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the NYRB Classics edition of The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes published in 2004.
Chapter 1 Quotes

It seemed to me that at that moment I awoke out of the simplicity in which I had remained like a sleeping child. And I said to myself, “He’s right. I’d better keep my eyes open and my wits about me, for I’m on my own, and I’ll have to figure out how to manage for myself.”

Related Characters: Lazaro de Tormes (speaker), The blind man
Related Symbols: Horns
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:
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“Oh wicked object, the fruit of worse behavior! How many there are who would like to see you on their neighbors’ heads, and yet how few want to have you for themselves, or even want to hear you mentioned in connection with them! … It’s a bad dinner and supper I’ve got in my hand here, but I’ll give it to you one of these days… What I’ve said is true. You’ll see, if you live long enough.”

Related Characters: The blind man (speaker), Lazaro de Tormes
Related Symbols: Horns
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:
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Horns Symbol Timeline in The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes

The timeline below shows where the symbol Horns appears in The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Truth, Deception, and Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Poverty, Crime, and Violence Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...soon as Lazaro has done this, the blind man knocks Lazaro’s head against the stone horns, hurting him badly. The blind man remarks that anyone who wants to be his servant... (full context)
Truth, Deception, and Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Poverty, Crime, and Violence Theme Icon
...inn, the blind man is feeling his way along the exterior of the building, where horns have been mounted for mule drivers to tie up their animals. When the blind man’s... (full context)
Chapter 7
Truth, Deception, and Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Social and Religious Hypocrisy Theme Icon
...haunted by what the blind man said to him long ago in Escalona about the horns on the wall of the inn. (full context)