Misfortune and good luck frequently cross paths in Lázaro's life, and out of naive innocence, over time he develops a strong sense of survival. A goring by a stone bull awakens him to life's cruelty, because his blind master rids him of his foolishness with a sly trick. Lázaro roams about with the blind man competing to see who can outwit the other. They have experiences we've all heard of, like the grape vine or the jug of wine. He finally gets his revenge for the goring by the stone bull and plays another trick on the blind man leaving him unconscious in the middle of a plaza after hitting him on the head with a stone column.
Lázaro runs away aimlessly with a rat. They flee from the town crier and rat catcher, who hates little urchins like Lázaro.
They end up in the service of a stingy priest Maqueda, who lets him starve. But, Lázaro won't let it stop him and he steals everything he can from a box of food that is locked with a huge padlock. He's got his rat as a sidekick when stealing the food because, like Lázaro, he's always hungry.