Main Ideas in “The Song of Roland”

In Song of Rowland, the author tells the story of Charlemagne’s attempted takeover of Saragossa, a land controlled by the Muslim king, Marsilla. The poem covers the feud in between Rowland and his stepfather Ganelon, along with the dreadful repercussions that come from that fight, including the betrayal of their lord and kinsman, Charlemagne. Through characterization and plot, the author is able to communicate the overall theme of the work– that of commitment.

Over the course of the poem, three characters are introduced to reveal differing degrees of commitment. Among those characters is Ganelon, a vassal to Emperor Charlemagne and stepfather to the title character, Roland. After being nominated by his stepson for a suicide objective as a messenger to Marsilla, Ganelon travels to Saragossa and, acting disloyally to Charlemagne, betrays Roland to Marsilla. He informs the Muslim leader that Roland is the factor that they continue to battle, and that they will not have peace while he still lives. Ganelon even provides Marsilla the area where Roland is most likely to be when they go back to France, stating “The king will reach the primary pass at Sizer, while having left his guard deployed behind him. His nephew will exist, the abundant Count Roland, and Olivier, whom he counts on so. They’ll have a force of twenty thousand Franks. Send a hundred thousand of your pagans …” (Roland, 583-588).

Marsilla then prepares to ambush Roland and his guys as they go back to France with the presents of the Muslims. Although it is arguable whether or not this relocation is disloyal, as Ganelon had released Defiance to Roland, there can be a strong case made that Ganelon was acting disloyally. Ganelon initially acted disloyally to his family. Roland was his stepson, so attempting to hurt or kill him would be viewed as a disloyal act, as they are kin, if only because Ganelon was wed to Roland’s mom. Nevertheless, Roland was carrying out Charlemagne’s orders, so not only did Ganelon betray Roland, however by default he likewise betrayed Charlemagne, a person that Ganelon swore an oath of commitment to. Ganelon’s very first responsibility was to his lord, not his feud with Roland. Also, Ganelon’s act of disloyalty impacted more than just Roland, as he was not the only individual to be eliminated as an outcome of it. Ganelon’s disloyalty caused the damage of nearly 20,000 guys. For that reason, Ganelon is the most obvious character to act disloyally, as he betrayed both his family and his lord.

Nevertheless, Ganelon was not the only one to act disloyal to Charlemagne. In the beginning glance, Roland seems the best example of a design vassal. In court, he speaks against sending out a messenger to work out a peace treaty, as the previous messengers have all been killed. He says “… some fifteen pagans he dispatched, each carrying an olive branch; they said the extremely same words to you then … you sent out 2 of your pass over to the pagans (Basan was one, the other one was Basil) who immediately took their heads near Haltilie.” (Roland 202-209) While he is being loyal to Charlemagne by having the very best interest of the Franks at heart, Roland is unintentionally disloyal to his fellow vassals, as he speaks out of turn. As Roland was a younger vassal, he must have waited to speak till greater ranking vassals had actually done so. He also proves disloyal while under attack by the Muslim forces at the pass at Sizer. After seeing the size of the Muslim army, Olivier asks Roland to blow the horn and require aid, as they are outnumbered seriously. However, Roland refuses to require assistance, saying “May God forbid … that it be stated by any guy alive I ever blew my horn due to the fact that of pagans! My household will never ever be reproved. When I remain in the midst of this great battle and strike a thousand blows, then seven hundred, you’ll see the blade of Durendal run blood.” (Roland 1073-1079)

Roland declines to surrender his honor, even if it implies the loss of his men and even his own life. This is clearly disloyal to Charlemagne, as a faithful vassal does not get 20,000 guys eliminated, simply due to the fact that he does not wish to lose honor. For that reason, while Roland was faithful for the many part, he enabled personal honor to disrupt that commitment. Likewise, the commitment to his family is called into question, as he nominated Ganelon to be the messenger back to Marsilla. As Ganelon was his stepfather, it was both ill-mannered and disloyal to his household for Roland to recommend that Ganelon travel to Saragossa. Ganelon acknowledges this disloyalty, saying “They understand rather well that I am your stepsire– yet you name me to go out to Marsilla. If God ought to deign that I return once again, then I shall stir up such a feud with you that it will last as long as you live.” (Roland 287-291) Roland, knowing that the messenger to Marsilla would most likely be going to his death, chooses Ganelon, acting disloyal to his family, as the death of Ganelon would be destructive to the whole household, not simply Ganelon himself.

The most loyal character in the poem is Olivier, Roland’s buddy and a vassal to Charlemagne. He reveals his loyalty to Charlemagne, offering to opt for Blancandrin back to Saragossa, saying “However if it pleases the king, I wish to go.” (Roland 258) Charlemagne, nevertheless, refuses, as Olivier is one of the twelve peers, and Charlemagne refuses to allow any of the twelve peers to function as the messenger. Nevertheless, Olivier is not only a loyal vassal. He is a loyal buddy as well. At the battle at the pass at Sizer, he recommends that Roland sound the horn and call for aid, as they are outnumbered. Having actually seen the number of pagan soldiers that they are up versus, Olivier encourages Roland, stating “There are lots of pagans, and, it appears to me, we Franks are few. Buddy Roland, you ought to sound your horn so Charles will hear and bring the army back.” (Roland 1049-1052) He was devoted to both Charlemagne and Roland, as he provided Roland recommendations in times of difficulty and recommended that Roland attempt to prevent the deaths of 20,000 guys. He also waits Roland, rather than leaving, although he understands it will ultimately result in his death. Roland, seeing that Olivier has actually died in the fight, acknowledges his commitment, saying “Olivier, fair comrade, you were the boy of rich Duke Renier, who ruled the frontier valley of Runners. To break a lance-shaft or to pierce a shield, to get rid of and terrify the proud, to counsel and sustain the valorous, to conquer and terrify the gluttons, no country ever had a much better knight.” (Roland 2207-2214) Olivier can be viewed as the model example of a devoted vassal not just since of his commitment to his lord, Charlemagne, however likewise due to the fact that of his never-failing loyalty to his pal, even up until death.

Loyalty is not confined to the Christian side, nevertheless. Blancandrin, the Muslim vassal of Marsilla, is described as “Among the wisest pagans … extremely heroic and devoted and able in the service of his lord.” (Roland 24-26) Blancandrin advises Marsilla to inform Charlemagne that he will accept the Christian faith, end up being a vassal of Charlemagne. He likewise encourages that they provide numerous presents, consisting of captives, in exchange for the Franks leaving Spain. He reaches to provide his own kid as a captive, stating “If he [Charlemagne] need to ask for hostages, then send them to acquire his self-confidence– some ten or twenty. We’ll send the kids of our own wives to him; though it will indicate his death, I’ll send my own. Better that they ought to lose their heads up there than we should lose our honor and our lands and let ourselves be brought to beggary.” (Roland 40-46) Blancandrin understands that his boy will be eliminated, as he does not really mean for Marsilla to convert to Christianity or end up being a vassal to Charlemagne, however simply promise to do so to get the Christian king out of Saragossa. That Blancandrin is willing to provide his own son as a sacrifice goes to reveal just how loyal he is to King Marsilla.

Commitment also enters into concern during the trial of Ganelon for treason against Charlemagne. Thirty of Ganelon’s kinsmen exist to show support for Ganelon. Among these kinsmen is Pinabel. Pinabel positions his commitment to his kinsman, Ganelon, above his loyalty to his lord, Charlemagne. In court, he persuades the barons who choose Ganelon’s fate to let him live. The barons then tell Charlemagne “Sire, we hope that you will call it stops with Ganelon– he’ll serve you then in commitment and love– and let him live, for he’s a well-born man. (Count Roland’s dead; you’ll not see him once again,) and death itself can not return that lord, nor will we ever get him back with wealth.” (Roland 3808-3813) Nevertheless, Charlemagne declares that they are all traitors. Thierry positions his loyalty to Charlemagne above any other commitment. Out of loyalty to his lord, he argues that Ganelon must be punished, stating “Your service ought to have ensured [Roland’s] security. Betraying him made Ganelon a felon; he broke his oath to you and did you incorrect. For this I judge that he should hang and die and that his corpse must be thrown [out to the canines] like that of any typical criminal.” (Roland 3828-3833)

The list below battle that occurs not just figures out the fate of Ganelon, but also which commitment must precede: commitment to kinsman or loyalty to lord. During the battle, each attempts to persuade the other to act disloyally. Pinabel asks Thierry to fix up the king to Ganelon, while Thierry tries to persuade Pinabel to forsake Ganelon and surrender without fighting. Nevertheless, both refuse. In the end Thierry beats Pinabel, leading to the death of Ganelon and all thirty loved ones who had appeared to support him. The thinking behind this was “A traitor kills himself in addition to others.” (Roland 3959) The triumph of Thierry over Pinabel did more than choose the fate of Ganelon. It can also be viewed as a sign that the task and loyalty to the lord constantly outranks the responsibility and commitment to the kin.

In the impressive poem Song of Roland, the style of loyalty is explored completely. Commitment and the absence of loyalty can be seen through several characters, consisting of Ganelon, Roland, Olivier, and Blancandrin. The poem also utilizes the trial of Ganelon to reveal that loyalty to lord always exceeds loyalty to kin. Characterization, plot, and sign served as ways through which to reveal the style of loyalty.

Works Cited:

Harrison, Robert L. “44.” The Song of Roland. New York City, NY: Signet Classic, 2002. 583-88. Print.

Harrison, Robert L. “14.” The Tune of Roland. New York, NY: Signet Classic, 2002. 202-09. Print.

Harrison, Robert L. “85.” The Song of Roland. New York, NY: Signet Classic, 2002. 1073-079. Print.

Harrison, Robert L. “20.” The Song of Roland. New York City, NY: Signet Classic, 2002. 287-91. Print.

Harrison, Robert L. “18.” The Tune of Roland. New York, NY: Signet Classic, 2002. 258. Print.

Harrison, Robert L. “82.” The Tune of Roland. New York City, NY: Signet Classic, 2002. 1049-052. Print.

Harrison, Robert L. “163.” The Tune of Roland. New York, NY: Signet Classic, 2002. 2207-014. Print.

Harrison, Robert L. “3.” The Song of Roland. New York City, NY: Signet Classic, 2002. 22-26. Print.

Harrison, Robert L. “3.” The Song of Roland. New York City, NY: Signet Classic, 2002. 40-46. Print.

Harrison, Robert L. “276.” The Tune of Roland. New York, NY: Signet Classic, 2002. 3808-813. Print.

Harrison, Robert L. “277.” The Tune of Roland. New York City, NY: Signet Classic, 2002. 3828-833. Print.

Harrison, Robert L. “288.” The Tune of Roland. New York, NY: Signet Classic, 2002. 3959. Print.