Orlando Furioso Cast of Characters: Ferrau

Cantos I (Rinaldo and Argalia), XII (Magical Villa), XIV (Paris Muster), XVI (Paris Battle), XVIII (Paris Retreat), XXVII (Counter-Attack, Tournament Second), XXXV (Bradamante), XXXVI (Bradamante)

Nephew of King Marsilius of Spain, Slayer of Argalia

Classical Type Green Knight

Coat of Arms ?

TL;DR Ferocious Saracen of Questionable Character Provides Excellent Action Scenes


When Furioso opens, Ferrau has just stopped to rest and drink at a river after the fight outside of Paris.  There he accidentally drops his helmet, taken from Angelica’s brother Argalia in the previous poem, into the river.  Mail-clad and not fancying a deep swim, Ferrau is fishing for the helmet in vain with a tree branch when suddenly Angelica stumbles upon him.

When Rinaldo bursts into the scene right behind her, Ferrau instantly engages him in fierce combat while Angelica runs off.  Ferrau agrees to a truce with the Christian knight and the two ride off together in pursuit of Angelica.  When the trail forks they split up and pursue the damsel separately.

Ferrau wanders his way back to the river where he lost the helmet and decides he’d rather recover that than continue in pursuit of Angelica.  Before he can retrieve the helmet, the ghost of Argalia arises and curses him for his oath-breaking: he can wear no helmet whatsoever unless he win a greater one from a great knight like Rinaldo or Orlando.  Chastened for his perfidy, Ferrau sets off to find Orlando and take his helmet.

At some point in his quest Ferrau is captured by the magical villa of Atlantes, where he wanders in pursuit of his true love (whether this is Angelica or the helmet is never clearly stated!).  After some time being trapped there, he stumbles upon the real Angelica attempting to enlist Sacripant’s help in escaping back to Catay.

Ferrau, along with Orlando and Sacripant, none of whom recognize each other because of the magic of the place, chase after Angelica.  When she uses the ring to disappear from sight, the three begin to bicker.  Ferrau, not realizing to whom he speaks, boasts that he can defeat, even has defeated, the mighty Orlando with ease.

Orlando angrily reveals his identity and the two invincible knights clash in battle.  When the two realize that Angelica has run off, Sacripant is nowhere to be seen, and Orlando’s helmet is missing, they agree to a temporary truce to recover the items they are fighting over.  Chance leads Ferrau to the glen where Angelica has hidden herself, and he claims Orlando’s helmet as his own without further fight.

After a fruitless search for Angelica, Ferrau returns to Agramant’s war camp outside of Paris.  He leads into battle his father’s household guards as well as the men of Saragossa.  When Rinaldo and Zerbino threaten to break the Muslims to rout, Ferrau counter-attacks with his men and stabilizes their ranks.  When later the battle turns against them, Ferrau rallies his Saracen fellows to prevent a total rout.

When much later Agramant’s champions return, Ferrau joins the battle and helps drive Charlemagne’s forces back to Paris.  He then serves as second to Rodomonte in the subsequent tournament of grievances.  Ferrau breaks up a pre-duel fight between Rodomonte and Sacripant for the rights to the horse Frontino.

Ferrau’s final role in the poem comes at Arles, when black-knight Bradamante arrives to challenge Rogero to a fight to the death.  When the unknown challenger mocks the knights who come out to face her, Ferrau tries his luck.  Unknown to either of them, Bradamante wields the same magical lance that Argalia once used to defeat Ferrau at the very beginning of Innamorato.  After he returns to the war camp and tells everyone that this challenger on the field is Bradamante, he disappears from the poem.


Ferrau makes quite an impression despite not having a lot of ink devoted to him in this poem.  His brash demeanor counter-balances his weak moral character and willingness to win unfairly.  A great heel, although perhaps a little too much Rodomonte-lite.

His presence at the beginning of the poem and his ironic, ongoing ties to the arms of Argalia make him a great tribute to Boiardo’s work in Orlando Innamorato.


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