French: La Chanson deRolandis an heroic poembased on the Battle ofRoncesvalles in 778,during the reign of
There are nine extantmanuscripts ofthe Song ofRoland in Old French.The oldest of thesemanuscripts is held atthe BodleianLibraryat Oxford. This
Some favor an earlier dating,because it allows one to say that thepoem was inspired by theCastilian campaigns of the 1030s,and that the poem went on to be amajor influence in the First Crusade.Those who prefer a later dating do soon grounds of the brief referencesmade in the poem to events ofthe First Crusade. In one
Scholars estimate that thepoem waswritten, possibly by a poetnamed Turold, betweenapproximately 1040 and1115, and most of thealterations were
In the mid 12th century, part of thisgreat retelling of heroic deeds wasThe Song of Roland, the earliestsurviving work of Old French andone which shows a chivalric,knightly society in full flower. It is acelebration of heroism, offeudalism and of the Franks and
Roland, most valiant of knights, is incommand when the Saracensattack, directed by the traitor Ganelon.Although Roland‟s friend Oliver begshim to blow his olifant and recall themain part of the army, Roland refuses.A small force of Franks makes a laststand against 400,000Saracens, and, one by one, the brave
Characters• Baligant, emir of Babylon; Marsile enlists his help against Charlemagne.• Blancandrin, wise pagan; suggests bribing Charlemagne out of Spain with hostages and gifts, and then suggests dishonouring a promise to allow Marsiles baptism• Bramimonde, Queen of Saragossa; captured and converted by Charlemagne after the city falls• Charlemagne, Holy Roman Emperor; his
• Ganelon, treacherous lord and Rolands stepfather who encourages Marsile to attack the French• King Marsile, Saracen king of Spain; Roland wounds him and he dies of his wound later.• Naimon, Charlemagnes trusted adviser
• Olivier, Rolands friend; mortally wounded by Margarice. He represents wisdom.• Roland, the hero of the Song; nephew of Charlemagne; leads the rear guard of the French forces; bursts his temples by blowing his oliphant- horn, wounds from which he eventually dies facing the enemys land.• Turpin, Archbishop of
Secondary Characters• Aude, the fiancée of Roland and Oliviers sister• Basan, French baron, murdered while serving as Ambassador of Marsile.• Bérengier, one of the twelve paladins killed by Marsile‟s troops; kills Estramarin; killed by Grandoyne.• Besgun, chief cook of Charlemagnes army; guards Ganelon after Ganelons treachery is discovered.• Geboin, guards the French dead; becomes
• Grandoyne, fighter on Marsile‟s side; son of the Cappadocian King Capuel; kills Gerin, Gerier, Berenger, Guy St. Antoine, and Duke Astorge; killed by Roland.• Hamon, joint Commander of Charlemagnes Eighth Division.• Lorant, French commander of one of the of first divisions against Baligant; killed by Baligant.
• Othon, guards the French dead while Charlemagne pursues the Saracen forces.• Pinabel, fights for Ganelon in the judicial combat.• Thierry, fights for Charlemagne in the judicial combat.
For seven years, the valiant Christianking Charlemagne has made war against theSaracens in Spain. Only one Moslemstronghold remains, the city ofSaragossa, under the rule of King Marsile andQueen Bramimonde. Marsile, certain thatdefeat is inevitable, hatches a plot to rid Spainof Charlemagne. He will promise to beCharlemagnes vassal and a Christian convertin exchange for Charlemagnes departure. Butonce Charlemagne is back in France, Marsilewill renege on his promises. Charlemagne and
Roland, a courageous knight andCharlemagnes right-hand man, nominates hisstepfather, Ganelon. Ganelon is enraged,thinking that Roland has nominated him forthis dangerous mission in an attempt to be ridof him for good. Ganelon has long beenjealous of Roland, and on his diplomaticmission he plots with the pagans, telling themthat they could ambush Charlemagnesrearguard as Charlemagne leaves Spain.Roland will undoubtedly lead the rearguard,
After Ganelon returns with assurances ofMarsiles good faith, Roland, as he predicted,ends up leading the rearguard. The twelve peers,Charlemagnes greatest and most belovedvassals, go with him. Among them is Oliver, awise and prudent man and Rolands best friend.Also in the rearguard is the fiery ArchbishopTurin, a clergymen who also is a great warrior. Atthe pass of Rencesvals, the twenty thousandChristians of the rearguard are ambushed by avastly superior force, numbering in the hundredsof thousands. Oliver counsels Roland to blow hisoliphant horn, to call back Charlemagnes main
Charlemagne arrives, and he andhis men are overwhelmed withgrief at the sight of the massacre.He pursues the pagan force, aidedby a miracle of God: the sun isheld in place in the sky, so that theenemy will not have cover of night.The Franks push the Saracensinto the river Ebro, where thosewho are not chopped to pieces are
Marsile has escaped and returned toSaragossa, where the remainingSaracens are plunged into despair bytheir losses. But Baligant, the incrediblypowerful emir of Babylon, has arrived tohelp his vassal. The emir goes toRencesvals, where the Franks aremourning and burying their dead. Thereis a terrible battle, climaxing with a one-on-one clash between Baligant and
With a touch of divine aid,Charlemagne slays Baligant, andthe Saracens retreat. The Frankstake Saragossa, where theydestroy all Jewish and Moslemreligious items and force theconversion of everyone in the city,with the exception of Queen
Ganelon is put on trial fortreason. Pinabel, Ganelons kinsmanand a gifted speaker, nearly sways thejury to let Ganelon go. But Thierry, abrave but physically unimposingknight, says that Ganelons revengeshould not have been taken against aman in Charlemagnes serve: thatconstitutes treason. To decide thematter, Pinabel and Thierry fight.Though Pinabel is by far the stronger
Charlemagne announces to all thatBramimonde has decided tobecome a Christian. Her baptism iscelebrated, and all seems well.But that night, the angel Gabrielcomes to Charlemagne in a dream,and tells him that he must departfor a new war against the pagans.
Themes Good and Evil The Song of Roland gives us Good vs. Evil, pure and simple, Star Wars style. The horror of war is not intensified by ambiguous moral justifications, as in Homers Iliad, nor are heroes deterred by compassion for the enemy, as in the Mahabharata. War is great, even glamorous. The cost is heavy, but only for the heroes. Villains deserve neither compassion nor grief. The Franks represent
Loyalty and VassalageHeroism in the poem is based on feudalideas. Even the pagans in the poem can beconsidered heroic, when they are evaluatedin terms of loyalty and vassalage. Thefeudal system linked lords and vassals witha series of obligations and loyalties. A vassalgave his total loyalty in exchange forprotection and vengeance should the vassalbe killed in service of his lord. In The Songof Roland, vassalage is depicted as parallel
The Benevolent GodGod is all-powerful. God is all-good. Thesetwo statements are assumptions for themedieval mind. Characters in The Song ofRoland assume that God will intervene inevents; it seems perfectly reasonable tobelieve, for example, that deciding theverdict at Ganelons trial should be done bycombat, because God will supposedly aidthe man in the right.
The Will of God and Mans PlaceGod commands, and Man acts. Althoughhumans sometimes need divine aid to carryout Gods plans, much of the hard work isleft to men like Charlemagne. Faith in an all-powerful and benevolent God does notmean that we can be complacent. Part ofGods plan is to have men carry out hiswishes for him. God provides help, but it isin fighting for good that man achieves new
DutyClosely connected to the themes ofvassalage and the will of God and mansplace, duty is one of the key values of thepoem. It is for duty, not love of war, thatCharlemagne continues to battle against theforces of Islam. It is out of a sense of dutythat Roland fights to the death atRencesvals. Duty causes Charlemagne toavenge Rolands death. In the poem, duty is
It is a national epic, with many references to France the Douce, or "sweet France." So here we see the transformation of the Frankish kingdom into the actual national union known as France.Roland is an epic hero, in the tradition of such larger than life figures as Achilles and Aeneas. Modern readers may be irritated by his excessive pride, but to the readers of the Middle Ages, he was an
Charlemagne is given a fictitious old age; his reputation is not based on his own deeds in this poem but on his mighty comitatus, or knightly retinue. There is a general absence of female characterization or any love interest, so this is not a part of the chivalric code that involved "courtly love," which we‟ll be looking at with the Arthurian legends below. The tradition from which this song arises is feudal and military.
Roland does not die from the blows of Saracen warriors; he wounds himself mortally in blowing the ivory oliphant to summon Charlemagne. Roland suffers from excessive pride, which we learned was called in Greek "hubris." He thinks he can handle the situation all by himself when it is actually overwhelming. The poem expresses the aggressive intolerance of medieval Christianity; the chivalrousness it does possess is directed
Are you ready?
1. In what century was The Song of Roland mostlikely composed?(A) Twelfth century (C) Eighthcentury(B) Eleventh century (D) Seventhcentury2. Who was Rolands closest companion?(A) Olivier (C) Marsilla(B) Turpin (D) Charlemagne3. Which of the following is worshipped by theMuslims of The Song of Roland?
4. What is Rolands last action before he dies?(A) He offers his glove to God. (C) Heblows his oliphant.(B) He kills one last pagan. (D) He carrieswater to Turpin.5. Ganelon is Rolands:(A) Step-father (C) Uncle(B) Father (D) Step-son6-10. Give the 5 themes of “The Song of Roland”.
Answer: 1. B 7. Loyalty and 2. A Vassalage 3. B 8. The 4. C Benevolent God 5. A 9. The Will of God and Mans Place 10. Duty 6. Good and Evil