Orson Welles' Sketchbook
I think I have a right to speak about bullfighting, if because I was, for a while, I don't quite know why, but I was, an aspiring bullfighter. And I spent a good deal of time around the ranches where fighting bulls are raised. I'm going to tell you a story about a bullfighter, about a fighting bull. But don't be worried, you don't have to approve of bullfights, I don't ask you to, and I certainly wouldn't dream of defending the spectacle. In this story the bull is the hero. So no matter what your attitude may be toward the art or whatever you want to call it, it's certainly not a sport you know, it's not a contest between the man and the animal. Whatever you attitude may be, remember that you can plug for the bull and there'll be no hard feelings about it.
The institution of bullfighting, you know, somebody once described as being indefensible... and irresistible. As for the bull, the bull himself, well of all creatures in the world, there's certainly nothing more magnificent than a fighting bull. And nothing which lives is quite so dangerous. The fighting bull is a very ancient beast indeed; his line goes back at least 2000 years. The Egyptians bred fighting bulls, so did the Arabs; nobody knows where the Spanish fighting bull really began, except the great ganaderia of Mura (??), is an African breed. I do know that that began with the Berbers, from Africa.
The beast, the bull, the fighting bull himself, is easily the most dangerous animal on earth. He is literally a fighting animal. He doesn't fight to defend anything, but fights from pleasure having been bred to do exactly that. There have been savage spectacles in which the bulls have been pitted against tigers and lions and wild elephants from Africa. And in these spectacles on each occasion, every recorded instance, shows us that the bull is the victor. He can kill anything else in the world, and indeed, will attempt to kill anything on sight. I've seen young bulls of six and seven weeks old, in the ranches where bulls are bred, attack a locomotive, a moving locomotive, and die of course, the bull that I saw attack the locomotive, rammed straight in, head on, and killed himself.
You can approach fighting bulls out in the country, if they're in herd, if there are many of them together. But if they're separated, you'd better be very careful, and you'd better be mounted on a good, fast horse or you're in trouble. However, it is possible to make pets of fighting bulls. And there is a famous, and very interesting story about one of the bravest of all bulls, who ironically enough was made into a pet by a little boy on a bull ranch. A ganaderia, as they're called.
The name of this bull was Bonito. And he was a brave bull indeed, he was from a very fine strain. These ranches are rather like the places that, the stables where racehorses are raised. When a bull enters the arena, you know, he carries the colors of the ranch on his back. And the price for a fighting bull can be very high and the ranch takes a great deal of pride in the success of various bulls, and the names of very noble bulls are preserved in bullfighting history and remembered by people who are interested in this subject just as great racehorses are remembered and just as great bullfighters are remembered.
And this bull, raised on a great ranch, down in the south of Spain, in Andalusia, was named Bonito. The cow died when the bull was born, and the little boy on the ranch, whose name was Juan, Juanito, befriended the little bull, finding him almost dying out on the ranch, and fed him, took care of him, really saved his life at the beginning. It's a sentimental story I'm afraid, but a true one.
They became great chums, the little boy and the bull. Growing up together, playing games. When others were running from these fighting bulls, the little boy was playing the sort of game that you would play with a big dog, or with a horse. Then it was discovered that they were friends and it was a great scandal. Because if a fighting bull is tamed, his usefulness is obviously over. Ferdinand, the bull in the fairy story who preferred to sniff the flowers and didn't want to fight is just exactly the sort of bull nobody wants in a bullring. Because the purpose of a bullfight is exactly that - the bull must fight. And the more brave he is, and the better he fights, the more wonderful things the bullfighter can do with him. And the more beautiful will be the spectacle of his death. The least cruelty is associated with those bulls who are the bravest.
And when a bull becomes tame, of course, it will not, on form, charge the horse and (eat the peak)[???] or face the bullfighter as he ought to, and therefore there was a great deal of unhappiness, and I'm afraid the little boy was made to suffer a good bit for having made a pet of the fighting bull, Bonito. But he kept running out anyway, at moonlight, on moonlit nights he'd jump over the fence and get out into the fields and whistle, a great dark shape would detach itself from the others in the herd and come moving toward the little boy, and they'd play together.
And as the years went by, of course, the bull got very much bigger, very much dangerous, but he always remembered the little boy. Then the time came for him to go to the bullring to fight. Of course, there had been the tienta, I mustn't leave that out, the tienta is the testing of the bulls. There are two testings. One is of the cow. And the other is of the young bull itself. When the cows are tested, and those cows which are brave, are allowed to breed, and those which are not become beefsteaks. Then there is the second testing, which is of the young bulls. And in the south of Spain, this is done for the most part on horseback. And this testing, in this testing our friend Bonito, the fighting bull, was seen to be extremely brave, in spite of having been made a pet. So there were great hopes for him, because he was a magnificent specimen.
As I say, we come to the moment where the bull is going to be moved. In these days, this is many years ago, not by truck, but in wagons drawn by horses. The bulls chosen for a certain bullfight are detached from the herd, a difficult and expert process, and then moved into a special corral, and now into trucks, and I say before, into wagons. Bonito was put into a wagon, and the procession started for Madrid.
On the way, the little boy had, by the way, joined the procession, I've forgotten whether he climbed onto the back of the wagon, or rode a horse, or what, but anyway, he was riding with his friend toward Madrid, up the long roads, that lead across the steppes of Spain. And on the way, the bull got out, and there is a version of the story that the little boy had opened up this wagon in which the bull was kept, and at a time when the whole procession has stopped, in the hope of releasing his pet and giving him his freedom. And indeed, that succeeded, because at any rate, the bull did get out, and ran through the town, breaking down, everything, and when I say everything...if you could see one of these beasts, on the loose, I've seen it, I've seen it in Mexico, as a matter of fact, not in Spain, They can go directly through earth walls, they will pick out a certain, any one person, no one knows why, arbitrarily pick out one person in a crowd, go for him, follow him up the stairs onto the second floor of a building, and there, murder the person. As I say go right through walls, all the rest of it, anyway, there's a tremendous riot, many people injured, and injured seriously, before Bonito was captured, put back in his wagon, and taken to Spain. I mean to Madrid.
So now he's there, and he is put in his corral, it's Saturday. On Sunday at five o'clock in the afternoon, he will meet the great torrero, and fifteen minutes after he is let out into the arena, Bonito will die. And you can imagine that our little Juanito, the boy, is very miserable indeed, to lose his dear friend. So we see him Sunday morning in the great cathedral, in front of the altar on his knees, praying for his pet. And if we look carefully we can see also in the cathedral, and also on his knees...the bullfighter, praying for his life.
Now it's time for the bullfight. I won't describe that, because you either have to know a lot about bullfights, and like them, or you don't know about them, and you don't like them, it's not really important for this story that you have any opinion about this curious, and extraordinary, and in many ways admirable spectacle. You must just understand, in order to appreciate this tale, that the bull is a tremendous success, and that the bullfighter is likewise a success. That the things that happen during the course of fifteen minutes in the arena are such as have not been seen in the Plaza del Toros of Madrid in a decade. Tears are streaming down the faces of those who are watching this (??bullfighting term in Spanish). Oh, I don't know what it was, eighteen linked passes, and heaven knows what extraordinary and wonderful sort of things...the time comes for the kill. Now this is accomplished with a sword, of course, a special sword which has a bent point, and it's a very difficult process. The bull must be killed by entering over the horns.
Now there are three ways of killing a bull, but in all of them you must go over the horns of the bull, and in all, the sword must enter, a place called the cross, in Spanish, about the size of a man's hand, very small...and this is called the moment of truth. This particular climax of the tragedy called a bullfight...and here we're just on the verge of the moment of truth, on a great afternoon, one which will remains always in the history of bullfighting, because Bonito has been at all moments, noble; he's been a great tragic hero. The public, all 20,000 of them, are literally in tears, and this is literally the truth, the little boy, you can imagine what tears he's shedding, because this is his beloved friend, who's facing death. The bullfighter sights down his sword, and at this moment, the air is suddenly filled with 20,000 waving handkerchiefs; now what does this mean? Ordinarily, when handkerchiefs are brought out by the public and waved, it's because they want to indicate that they are pleased with the bullfighter, and wish him to have an ear of the bull as a sign of his success, and this happens after the death of the bull.
But when the handkerchiefs are shown before the death of the bull, and this happens only once in ten years, or less than that, it means that the public wishes the bull's life to be spared. And this is what happened, this very extraordinary and unique thing. The president, that is the authority of the bullring, stands up, and in this instance he did indeed stand up, and makes a speech, it goes something like this: "Bonito, because of your nobility, because of what you have accomplished for the fiesta brava, your life is pardoned. And you are enjoined to go back to the place of your birth, and to beget more of your kind."
Well, the bull of course, doesn't understand this very eloquent and beautiful address, and Bonito is furious. He wanted to kill all the bullfighters in Spain. They sent in the steers, to try and lure Bonito out of the ring, nothing doing, he was furious, he wanted to fight and fight and fight, and there didn't seem to be any way of dealing with him, until little Juanito the boy jumped over the fence, and whistled, "Hi, Bonito." Bull turns, saw him, came toward him, trotted out of the ring with him, like an obedient little puppy dog, away they went to the country together, lived happily every after.