The Song of Roland
The song of Roland is one of the oldest surviving French literatures today. It is a poem that was written in the 12th to 14th century and tells of the heroic deeds that occurred in earlier times. Throughout The Song of Roland an alternating following-pattern in augmented by parallel scenes and the doubling of time in order to underline the theomachia that generates the poem’sbasic structure. Charlemagne’s battle with Baligant takes up where the rearguard’s skirmish with Marsile left off. Repeatedly, alteration between the two sides culminates in the forging of both armies and warriors into single description. The first three following-units take up over one-third of the sequence and strictly respect the continuity of time. As the battle begins, however, thefollowing-units are systematically shortened. Throughout Muslim advance Christians in the northwest corner of Spain succeeded in resisting the general onslaught. Though Song of Roland appears to also be about religious difference, its second and third battles together offer a new interpretation. By matching adversaries marked by equivalent strength or similar nationality and religion to group orientation.The first battle repeatedly invokes the differences between the combatants’ religions, but it also stresses the surprise nature of the Saracen attack and the overwhelming superiority of Marsile’s forces.
The song of Roland has been viewed by many as a myth that was used in its early days to motivate soldiers going to war with some hint of truth due to the existence of historical evidenceascertaining the events mentioned in the song. The song of Roland was written at a time when a literary form called chansons de geste emerged. This type of writing was based on the events and deeds of the era and thus the songs were known as songs of deeds. However, the idea that the chansons de geste songs were mere songs of deeds leads many to miss out on the complexity and the deepness of the messageunderlying the Song of Roland. Focus should thus be given not only to the heroic deeds and characters but also to the message present in between the lines that tell the story. These lessons include the following:
First, as the story that ensues, Charlemagne is at war together with his army in Spain, fighting against the Muslims. The only city remaining is the city of Saragossa whose king isMarsilla. In the council as the King engages his men in deciding who will take the message to the King of Saragossa, a confrontation ensues between Roland and his step father who is clearly envious and hateful of his stepson. It is ironical that Roland, being so much younger in age is allowed to answer rudely to his Ganelon in the presence of the king, yet the king does not reprimand him. Rolandvolunteers Ganelon saying “…It shall be Ganelon, my step father” Pg 7. This overlook of the moral issues in this encounter are very demeaning not only to the elderly in the council but also to Christianity as a religion at a time when it considered itself superior to the rest of the world. It’s this overlook of morals that lead Ganelon to swear revenge leading to his betrayal of his men to Marsilla. “Anagreement is of no use unless…you will have to swear to me that you will betray Roland” Ganelon replied: “Let this be as you wish” Pg 13.
Second, when the Saracens ambush the rearguard of Charlemagne’s army overpowering them significantly. Oliver, a very good fighter and a friend to Roland asks him to call for help, but Roland due to his pride refuses. When Oliver points out that they areoutnumbered and that Roland should call for help, he replies “…I would rather die than be overtaken by dishonor. The better we strike, the more the emperor will love us” Pg 23. By the time he calls for help, it is far too late and the Saracens defeat them. This particular encounter brings out in great detail the magnitude of the incomprehensible pride that Roland possessed. It is this pride that led...
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