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The Song of Roland

David Tallan

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1989
Things have been really busy for me over the past half year or so, which has had a significant impact on my ability to keep up with the book club reading. But I have managed to read a couple of other Camino-related books, a few pages a day, over the period. These are somewhat older than the books we've been discussing so far. Okay, a lot older. They don't deal specifically with the Camino but closely relate to a number of the locations associated with it.

The first was The Song of Roland, which I read in the Dorothy L. Sayers translation published as part of the Penguin Classics series. For those who aren't aware, The Song of Roland is an epic tale in verse written almost a thousand years ago (11th century) and tells the story of the Battle of Roncevaux (Roncesvalles) Pass in 778 where the French hero, Roland, was ambushed and slain along with the rest of Charlemagne's rear guard. It is the oldest surviving major work of French literature and the earliest surviving of the chansons de geste (songs of heroic deeds).

There are plenty of spoilers in what follows, but, like the tales of King Arthur, this was really written for people who already knew the story, so I don't think it is really going to ruin it for anyone.

The story is based on a real historic incident, freely adapted for the purposes of the author and to appeal to the 11th century audience. The history behind the story is fairly straightforward. Charlemagne was invited into Spain by the Muslim governor of Barcelona and Girona, who promised him the allegiance of Husayn of Zaragoza and the easy surrender of that town in return for military aid against the Emir of Cordoba. As it turned out, Husayn managed himself to defeat and capture the Emir's general and withdrew his allegiance or Charlemagne (or claimed it had never been offered). There was a lengthy siege and eventually Charlemagne left without taking the city but after receiving a large sum in tribute. On the way home, Charlemagne destroyed the walls of Pamplona (and some sources say more, destroying the city and possibly also other towns in the region). In retaliation, the Basques ambushed the rearguard, killing them all and looting the baggage train, which presumably held the tribute. Roland was with the rearguard, along with a number of other French nobles.

In the literary treatment of the incident, a few centuries later, the bones of the story are still there. Charlemagne and his knights go on expedition into Spain where they receive a lot of tribute in return for not taking Zaragoza and then head home, where the rearguard with Roland is ambushed and, after much valiant heroics, succumb. But key elements are added or changed. Most obviously, they are not fighting Basques who are retaliating for poor treatment but treacherous Moors. And the Christian/Muslim nature of the conflict expands, from Roland vs the Moors of Zaragoza to Charlemagne and his army against the Emir of Babylon and his. It becomes, in essence, a battle between the Holy Roman Empire and the Islamic world.

At the same time as the grand elements are added, a more personal element is added as well, in Ganelon, Roland's stepfather (yes, in this story we have an evil stepfather, in contrast to the evil stepmothers we see time and time again in folktales). Ganelon and Roland have a history of not getting along, Roland being young, brave, hotheaded and Ganelon older and more cautious. When the story begins, they each seem to have a chip on the shoulder and when Roland suggests that Charlemagne send Ganelon to Zaragoza as his messenger, a mission that Ganelon feels is excessively dangerous, Ganelon has had enough. He decides to plot Roland's death. It is this very personal feud that grows and spreads, from Ganelon and Roland to Charlemagne and the Emir of Babylon.

The Song of Roland is a poem of about 4000 lines. Each line is ten syllables long with a strong caesura (break) in the middle. It is divided into stanzas of irregular length. There isn't a rhyme scheme. Rather, each line in the stanza will end with the same vowel sound. Sayers maintains this form in her translation.

This was one of the foundations of the chivalric literature of the middle ages. It shows the chivalric ideal both in terms of knightly behaviour, prowess on the field of battle, and the relationship between a knight and his liege lord.

And it takes place right on the Camino Frances. Roncesvalles, the location of the heroic last stand, is the first place one arrives after passing the Cize Pass from France. The Capilla de Sacti Spiritus there was long believed to be the site where Roland and the Twelve Paladins of France were buried. (Now it is believed to hold deceased pilgrims.) The monastery has also shown other relics of Roland, including Olifant (his ivory hunting horn, which features prominently in the poem) and as recently as the 1970s, his mace. Further along the Camino, one still sees references to Roland, most prominent perhaps being the column capital in Estella showing Roland fighting the giant Farragut, another story from the Roland cycle of tales.

I enjoyed reading the poem. It felt that, while it certainly wasn't an accurate depiction of the events of 778, or even of the situation in the 11th century, it does reflect the culture and values that went along with the establishment of the Camino. If anyone else has read it, what did you think?

The other book I read was the Poem of the Cid, but this post is long enough already so it will need to get its own (which will also let it have its own thread).
 
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Charlemagne has a window in Chartes Cathedral to tell his and his men's story including how St. James called him. Memory tells me that Roland is depicted there too.

Also the halfway certificate in Sahagún mentions one of the mythical incidents of his campaign in Spain. I refer you to a post I wrote sometime ago. It has links to the Chartes window but unfortunately they are dead now. A previous half-hearted attempt to find a good replacement for the links failed.

 

mspath

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To add to the history and legend

Charlemagne print.jpg


This 19th c. print depicts Charlemagne mounted finding Roland dead August 778
near Roncesvalles on what will be later known as the Valcarlos route. Similarly the village of Valcarlos/Luzaide would also be named in honor of Carlos ie. Charlemagne.

For a further description of this scene see this history page from the Roncesvalles monastery web site.
 

mspath

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Another priceless illustration is this from the medieval ms Codex Calixtinus.

ms Codex Calixtinus, Charlemagne.jpg

For various available facsimile copies of the Codex see this web.

For 'recent' history of the Santiago de Compostela cathedral copy see these Forum threads reporting in 2011 the Codex stolen and, fortuitously in 2012, the Codex recovered
 
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ranthr

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“Rolandskvadet” in Norwegian. was known to me long before I knew about the camino, Roncesvalles, Valcarlos and the rest. It was a part of the curriculum in school, and was also a song that several choires used to perform.
But as I am old, I do not know if this is still going on.
 
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JabbaPapa

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IIRC some earlier French chansons de geste survive in fragmentary form, but the Chanson de Roland is the oldest of those that we still have the full text of -- and none of the others has been so influential in the literary history. The older fragments that I've seen, and the other chansons de geste I've read in full or in extract have not the literary quality of the Song of Roland (and they're typically less lengthy as well) ; the aforementioned Spanish Cantar de Mio Cid excepted !!

The later Arthurian literature, particularly the French Lancelot and Perceval sprawling multi-volume novels (GRRM's A Song of Ice and Fire is shorter fiction by comparison), incorporated many elements from the Song of Roland, most obviously the character of Sir Ganelon, characterised as a felon knight and enemy of the Round Table, whereas the sword and horn of Roland were attributed with some magical qualities, the sword lesser than those of Excalibur, but the horn was conceived as being quite powerful, but those powers lost when Roland died, and it broke (I actually saw what's alleged to be the real one, as it was part of an exhibition at the Cathedral in Santiago in 1994), after Ganelon betrayed Roland and the very principles of Christian Chivalry to their core.

Roland's RL sword is alleged to survive intact, sans such wondrous properties, though the photo I've seen of the alleged blade is just a somewhat shapeless and corroded lump of iron.

Tolkien would re-use these elements of the sword and horn in his Lord of the Rings -- but he has the sword that was broken, Narsil becoming Andúril when reforged (with some extra Excalibur-type qualities), whereas Boromir carries the Horn of Gondor intact, which is cleft in twain (as Roland's was) (and it means properly either split into two pieces, or shivered lengthwise into two connected portions, though it's likely Tolkien had never seen the alleged original horn of Roland, and so understood it as "split into two pieces") except that Boromir is simultaneously the betrayer and the warrior who falls guarding others from the consequences of the betrayal, so that Tolkien wove elements from both Ganelon and Roland into his character of Boromir, and these and further elements from the Chanson de Roland into the characters of Boromir's brother and father, Faramir and Denethor, but also in the characters of Kings Elendil and Isildur who fought against Sauron at the end of the Second Age, and as background elements in the character of Strider/Aragorn/the Dúnadan/King Elessar.
 

Kathar1na

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“Rolandskvadet” in Norwegian. was known to me long before I knew about the camino, Roncesvalles, Valcarlos and the rest. It was a part of the curriculum in school, and was also a song that several choires used to perform.
Interesting. I found the Norwegian Rolandskvadet ballad on YouTube. Wikipedia says that is usually sung to a Faroese dance melody. Interesting again. Faroese dances and songs do sound medieval to me. Or even older.
 

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Was Charlemagne a pilgrim on the Camino de Santiago?

Eloísa Ramírez Vaquero
Professor of Medieval History, Public University of Navarra

Utilise Google Chrome for the translation.

Very weird. I always use the Chrome browser for reading the forum so I can get the translation but it didn't work this time (or really on several attempts). I did get it to translate though by using the menu on the top of the webpage to change from the US edition to the UK edition.
 

Kathar1na

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Further along the Camino, one still sees references to Roland, most prominent perhaps being the column capital in Estella showing Roland fighting the giant Farragut, another story from the Roland cycle of tales.

I enjoyed reading the poem. It felt that, while it certainly wasn't an accurate depiction of the events of 778, or even of the situation in the 11th century, it does reflect the culture and values that went along with the establishment of the Camino. If anyone else has read it, what did you think?
I've been aware of the existence of the figure of Roland and the Song of Roland for a long time, without ever having read the whole Song, and I doubt that I ever will, apart from short extracts with lines in some ancient French and modern French next to it. You are a brave man, @David Tallan ☺️. But thank you for this excellent summary and why you enjoyed it.

When I started to read about the stories of Roland and Charlemagne and Saint James in Camino guidebooks I got seriously puzzled because neither the timelines nor what I knew of the historical facts seemed to fit. The guidebooks present these stories as one single story but they are actually three separate stories: One is the military expedition to Spain with a hostile ambush on the way back and loss of life of highly ranked military officers, one is a separate fight between Roland and a Muslim warrior, and one is Charlemagne's dream. What is actually known about these events on the basis of reports from people who lived when Charlemagne and Hroudlandus (Roland) lived, consists of one paragraph. The course of the battle of Roncesvalles and the death of Roland is described in four lines. Wikipedia has a translation of the Latin original text:

.... the Franks were disadvantaged by the heaviness of their arms and the unevenness of the land. Eggihard, the Lord High Steward, Anselm, the Count Palatine, and Roland, the Margrave of the Breton Borderland, along with many others died in that skirmish. But this deed could not be avenged at that time, because the enemy had so dispersed after the attack that there was no indication as to where they could be found.​
That is all we really know about what happened - no traitor, no intrigue, no hunting horn, no sword. Not as time consuming to read and not as much fun as reading a famous work of medieval literature. 😇
 
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JabbaPapa

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no hunting horn, no sword.
That he had a sword is at least clear, just not necessarily the extra special one alleged. And anyway, the focus in the poem upon his sword is primarily a literary device to help give flavour to the hopelessness, and yet nobility, of that final struggle. The success of this literary device, in this well-crafted poem, can be seen in the very fact that for centuries thereafter, that likely very ordinary weapon in RL has been accorded with such prominence in later literary efforts.

And as for the horn, well, the late 19th and early 20th Century tendency to discount traditional claims as "not evidence" has been repeatedly debunked in recent decades, including as constituting bias or prejudice.

Notably, the archaeological discovery of Troy from following clues found in Homer's Iliad rang the death knell of an attitude that literary sources are "not evidence".

Indeed, the Rosetta Stone itself is precisely a literary source.

So that evidence from the Chanson de Roland that Roland had a horn that he was attached to and associated with is evidence thereto. But then much among what we attribute to Julius Caesar also only has one single textual source.

Uncorroborated from other textual or other historical sources though that horn may be ...

So that despite the evident poetic liberties taken towards the narrative of the political & military campaign itself, it would be over-hasty to simply dismiss such details of traditional description as Charlemagne's "flowery" beard or Roland's horn.
 
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David Tallan

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1989
I've been aware of the existence of the figure of Roland and the Song of Roland for a long time, without ever having read the whole Song, and I doubt that I ever will, apart from short extracts with lines in some ancient French and modern French next to it. You are a brave man, @David Tallan ☺️. But thank you for this excellent summary and why you enjoyed it.

When I started to read about the stories of Roland and Charlemagne and Saint James in Camino guidebooks I got seriously puzzled because neither the timelines nor what I knew of the historical facts seemed to fit. The guidebooks present these stories as one single story but they are actually three separate stories: One is the military expedition to Spain with a hostile ambush on the way back and loss of life of highly ranked military officers, one is a separate fight between Roland and a Muslim warrior, and one is Charlemagne's dream. What is actually known about these events on the basis of reports from people who lived when Charlemagne and Hroudlandus (Roland) lived, consists of one paragraph. The course of the battle of Roncesvalles and the death of Roland is described in four lines. Wikipedia has a translation of the Latin original text:

.... the Franks were disadvantaged by the heaviness of their arms and the unevenness of the land. Eggihard, the Lord High Steward, Anselm, the Count Palatine, and Roland, the Margrave of the Breton Borderland, along with many others died in that skirmish. But this deed could not be avenged at that time, because the enemy had so dispersed after the attack that there was no indication as to where they could be found.​
That is all we really know about what happened - no traitor, no intrigue, no hunting horn, no sword. Not as time consuming to read and not as much fun as reading a famous work of medieval literature. 😇
It doesn't take a lot of bravery. It isn't a long book, about 200 pages - 50 of introduction and about 150 pages for the poem itself. Compared to most of the books I read, it is a slight volume.

I understood there was a whole cycle of stories around Charlemagne, Roland and the paladins, as there were around Arthur and the knights of the Round Table. The three you mention are just three among many.
 

JabbaPapa

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It doesn't take a lot of bravery. It isn't a long book, about 200 pages - 50 of introduction and about 150 pages for the poem itself. Compared to most of the books I read, it is a slight volume.
It's a bit more of an effort in the original Old French. But overall yes, either in the original or in your translation, it's so well crafted narratively and with such deceptively simple language that it's an easier text to handle than some other chansons de geste.

Or than the Beowulf, by comparison.

I am BTW considering making another stab at the Cantar de Mio Cid, in the Old Spanish, but I made little headway in my previous two attempts, other than to realise how beautifully well-written it is !!
 
Hi, David, I'm delighted you started this thread and wrote such a rich essay about the Song of Roland. Yes, he is definitely important--and do your remember the Fountain of Roland on the trek over the Pyrenees, just before pilgrims cross the cattle guard between France and Spain? I want you to know that there is a scene at the fountain and a recounting of the Song of Roland story and pictures of both in my juvenile novel, WALK: Jamie Bacon's Secret Mission on the Camino de Santiago. I thought it was an important story to tell because both Charlemagne and Roland are important historic and literary figures. Plus one more thing--have you ever heard that Charlemagne may have been the father of Roland by incest with his sister? Which may explain Charlemagne's special relationship with his "nephew." That info showed up speculatively in my research along the way to writing my novel--and if my memory serves me, in the Chartes Cathedral in the crypt-area underneath the cathedral, there is a painting with reference to Charlemagne's great sin which he cannot confess and ask for forgiveness for...but the angels and God grant release him from it anyway. I'd be interested to hear if anyone else has ever seen/ heard this theory about Charles the Great and the noble Roland.
 

David Tallan

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1989
Hi, David, I'm delighted you started this thread and wrote such a rich essay about the Song of Roland. Yes, he is definitely important--and do your remember the Fountain of Roland on the trek over the Pyrenees, just before pilgrims cross the cattle guard between France and Spain? I want you to know that there is a scene at the fountain and a recounting of the Song of Roland story and pictures of both in my juvenile novel, WALK: Jamie Bacon's Secret Mission on the Camino de Santiago. I thought it was an important story to tell because both Charlemagne and Roland are important historic and literary figures. Plus one more thing--have you ever heard that Charlemagne may have been the father of Roland by incest with his sister? Which may explain Charlemagne's special relationship with his "nephew." That info showed up speculatively in my research along the way to writing my novel--and if my memory serves me, in the Chartes Cathedral in the crypt-area underneath the cathedral, there is a painting with reference to Charlemagne's great sin which he cannot confess and ask for forgiveness for...but the angels and God grant release him from it anyway. I'd be interested to hear if anyone else has ever seen/ heard this theory about Charles the Great and the noble Roland.
I have to admit that I have never heard that story of Roland's parentage, although I have certainly seen him identified as Charlemagne's nephew. I wonder if this is something that may have bled over from the Arthurian stories which were also prevalent in the same cultural environment. Arthur's similar sin was an important part of that cycle of tales.
 
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Kathar1na

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Plus one more thing--have you ever heard that Charlemagne may have been the father of Roland by incest with his sister? Which may explain Charlemagne's special relationship with his "nephew."
How so?

Charlemagne was born in 748. His sister was born in 757. The battle of Roncesvalles took place in 778.

At the time of the battle of Roncesvalles, Charlemagne was around 30 years old and his sister was around 20 years old.

If Roland was the son of Charlemagne and his sister, how old was Roland when he fought heroically and died at Roncesvalles? Four years old? Perhaps even five or six years old?
 
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“Rolandskvadet” in Norwegian. was known to me long before I knew about the camino, Roncesvalles, Valcarlos and the rest. It was a part of the curriculum in school, and was also a song that several choires used to perform.
But as I am old, I do not know if this is still going on.
It looks as if it is. I did a search on YouTube for "roland song" instead of "song of roland" and it seemed that half the results were “Rolandskvadet” in various languages and styles including heavy metal and parodies.
If Roland was the son of Charlemagne and his sister, how old was Roland when he fought heroically and died at Roncesvalles? Four years old? Perhaps even five or six years old?
They must have made a mythtake.
 

David Tallan

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How so?

Charlemagne was born in 748. His sister was born in 757. The battle of Roncesvalles took place in 778.

At the time of the battle of Roncesvalles, Charlemagne was around 30 years old and his sister was around 20 years old.

If Roland was the son of Charlemagne and his sister, how old was Roland when he fought heroically and died at Roncesvalles? Four years old? Perhaps even five or six years old?
I think you are confusing the Charlemagne of history with the Charlemagne of literature. The Charlemagne of the Song of Roland certainly comes across as older than 40.
 

Kathar1na

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I think you are confusing the Charlemagne of history with the Charlemagne of literature. The Charlemagne of the Song of Roland certainly comes across as older than 40.
There's only one Charlemagne of history but there a numerous Charlemagnes of medieval literature. That's where the confusion arises. People lump all these different literary figures together. I am quoting from a dissertation where the author is well aware of these differences: Mention of the legend of Roland's incestuous birth does not occur in Oxford, V4 or the Remaniements, the Carmen or the Turpin; but on the other hand, it is mentioned in Karolusmagnussage, Konrad, and the Kaiserkronik.

The underlined terms all denote medieval epic poems of the Charlemagne/Roland saga in various languages but there are even more. They are not all copies of each other. In some, Roland and Charlemagne are not related; in some, Roland is Charlemagne's nephew; in some, Roland is the incestuous son of Charlemagne; in some, Roland and Charlemagne are brothers-in-law. There are numerous other differences between all these versions.
 
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NorthernLight

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Einhard said Charlemagne had one sister, Gisla who became the Abbess of Chelles. Elsewhere, another sister is claimed, named Bertha, who is the mother of Roland; Roland’s father is claimed to be a knight named Milon.

Charlemagne had 10 wives and concubines and at least 23 children. He recognized all of those legitimate and illegitimate children. He was devout, within his branch of Christianity. What might he have considered to be his biggest sin? Incest might or might not have made that list. We can’t pick based on 21st Century views.

In my reading (almost all done in English, with some French), it seemed difficult to determine precise relations due to the common habit of not precisely naming them. A nephew might be a cousin or a sibling’s spouse’s sibling’s children. Or it could be an honorary name for a friend’s child. We need a time machine.
 
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Things have been really busy for me over the past half year or so, which has had a significant impact on my ability to keep up with the book club reading. But I have managed to read a couple of other Camino-related books, a few pages a day, over the period. These are somewhat older than the books we've been discussing so far. Okay, a lot older. They don't deal specifically with the Camino but closely relate to a number of the locations associated with it.

The first was The Song of Roland, which I read in the Dorothy L. Sayers translation published as part of the Penguin Classics series. For those who aren't aware, The Song of Roland is an epic tale in verse written almost a thousand years ago (11th century) and tells the story of the Battle of Roncevaux (Roncesvalles) Pass in 778 where the French hero, Roland, was ambushed and slain along with the rest of Charlemagne's rear guard. It is the oldest surviving major work of French literature and the earliest surviving of the chansons de geste (songs of heroic deeds).

There are plenty of spoilers in what follows, but, like the tales of King Arthur, this was really written for people who already knew the story, so I don't think it is really going to ruin it for anyone.

The story is based on a real historic incident, freely adapted for the purposes of the author and to appeal to the 11th century audience. The history behind the story is fairly straightforward. Charlemagne was invited into Spain by the Muslim governor of Barcelona and Girona, who promised him the allegiance of Husayn of Zaragoza and the easy surrender of that town in return for military aid against the Emir of Cordoba. As it turned out, Husayn managed himself to defeat and capture the Emir's general and withdrew his allegiance or Charlemagne (or claimed it had never been offered). There was a lengthy siege and eventually Charlemagne left without taking the city but after receiving a large sum in tribute. On the way home, Charlemagne destroyed the walls of Pamplona (and some sources say more, destroying the city and possibly also other towns in the region). In retaliation, the Basques ambushed the rearguard, killing them all and looting the baggage train, which presumably held the tribute. Roland was with the rearguard, along with a number of other French nobles.

In the literary treatment of the incident, a few centuries later, the bones of the story are still there. Charlemagne and his knights go on expedition into Spain where they receive a lot of tribute in return for not taking Zaragoza and then head home, where the rearguard with Roland is ambushed and, after much valiant heroics, succumb. But key elements are added or changed. Most obviously, they are not fighting Basques who are retaliating for poor treatment but treacherous Moors. And the Christian/Muslim nature of the conflict expands, from Roland vs the Moors of Zaragoza to Charlemagne and his army against the Emir of Babylon and his. It becomes, in essence, a battle between the Holy Roman Empire and the Islamic world.

At the same time as the grand elements are added, a more personal element is added as well, in Ganelon, Roland's stepfather (yes, in this story we have an evil stepfather, in contrast to the evil stepmothers we see time and time again in folktales). Ganelon and Roland have a history of not getting along, Roland being young, brave, hotheaded and Ganelon older and more cautious. When the story begins, they each seem to have a chip on the shoulder and when Roland suggests that Charlemagne send Ganelon to Zaragoza as his messenger, a mission that Ganelon feels is excessively dangerous, Ganelon has had enough. He decides to plot Roland's death. It is this very personal feud that grows and spreads, from Ganelon and Roland to Charlemagne and the Emir of Babylon.

The Song of Roland is a poem of about 4000 lines. Each line is ten syllables long with a strong caesura (break) in the middle. It is divided into stanzas of irregular length. There isn't a rhyme scheme. Rather, each line in the stanza will end with the same vowel sound. Sayers maintains this form in her translation.

This was one of the foundations of the chivalric literature of the middle ages. It shows the chivalric ideal both in terms of knightly behaviour, prowess on the field of battle, and the relationship between a knight and his liege lord.

And it takes place right on the Camino Frances. Roncesvalles, the location of the heroic last stand, is the first place one arrives after passing the Cize Pass from France. The Capilla de Sacti Spiritus there was long believed to be the site where Roland and the Twelve Paladins of France were buried. (Now it is believed to hold deceased pilgrims.) The monastery has also shown other relics of Roland, including Olifant (his ivory hunting horn, which features prominently in the poem) and as recently as the 1970s, his mace. Further along the Camino, one still sees references to Roland, most prominent perhaps being the column capital in Estella showing Roland fighting the giant Farragut, another story from the Roland cycle of tales.

I enjoyed reading the poem. It felt that, while it certainly wasn't an accurate depiction of the events of 778, or even of the situation in the 11th century, it does reflect the culture and values that went along with the establishment of the Camino. If anyone else has read it, what did you think?

The other book I read was the Poem of the Cid, but this post is long enough already so it will need to get its own (which will also let it have its own thread).
Is there a list somewhere of earlier books on your list? I've put two different translations of Song of Roland on hold from my library.
Thanks,
David
 

Kathar1na

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Einhard said Charlemagne had one sister, Gisla who became the Abbess of Chelles.
That refers to the historical Charlemagne. There are other contemporary documents than Einhard’s biography of Charlemagne who inform us about her existence and her life. She was the only one of his sisters who reached adulthood.
Elsewhere, another sister is claimed, named Bertha, who is the mother of Roland; Roland’s father is claimed to be a knight named Milon.
That refers again to the literary Rolands and the literary family members of Charlemagne from some of the various versions of the Roland saga. There are no documents about Roland, other than Einhard’s biography of Charlemagne. Nothing is known about him other than his name, his rank and position at the time of his death and that he died somewhere in the Pyrenees. There are one or two notary documents issued in the North of France that mention a name that could be Roland‘s and fit the timeline but that is all.

All these epic poems and other stories were penned in the 11th century and later, 300-500 years after the life and death of Roland and Charlemagne.
 
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Kathar1na

Member
Past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
An overview of Charlemagne's ("Karl der Große") 5 siblings, 10 women to whom he was married (different legal forms of marriage) and/or had children with, and 18 children. It's in German but you can easily figure out their names, dates of birth and death, and which of the women had which children with him. This was a Royal Family and records of births, deaths and marriages were made. In literature, names were mixed up or merged with the names of figures of local legends who morphed into new figures in new legends. Bertha is the name of one of his daughters (born after the battle of Roncesvalles) and Gisela is the name of another daughter as well as that of a sister.

(Click to enlarge)
Charlemagne.jpg
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
1989
Is there a list somewhere of earlier books on your list? I've put two different translations of Song of Roland on hold from my library.
Thanks,
David
I guess it depends on what you mean by the "earlier books on my list". If you mean the older books on my Camino de Santiago Bibliography, then I will admit that it is hard to pull out the medieval books. I do list the date of publication and sometimes the copyright date but neither of those will indicate a medieval book, because they will be the date attached to the modern edition. The three main medieval texts I associate with the Camino are the Song of Roland and the Poem of the Cid, which I've just discussed, and the Codex Calixtinus. I've just started re-reading the last, a few pages each day, in the modern English translation of William Melczer (The Pilgrim's Guide to Santiago de Compostela), published by Italica Press. But it will be a while before I finish and post about it.

Other books in my bibliography, like Georgiana Goddard King's books from 1917 or William Starkie's book from 1957, while certainly not medieval, can be considered "earlier" in that the predate the modern resurgence of the Camino by a goodly amount.

If you mean books I've posted about before I posted about the Song of Roland and the Poem of the Cid, I've participated in the first few rounds of "book club" discussions, and led round 2.

If you are also interested in multiple translations of the Cantar de Mio Cid, Wikipedia lists a bunch. I used the Merwin translation not because I believe it is the best, but because it was the one I own from my university days in the 80s. Other options include:
 

Bristle Boy

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
2022
I guess it depends on what you mean by the "earlier books on my list". If you mean the older books on my Camino de Santiago Bibliography, then I will admit that it is hard to pull out the medieval books. I do list the date of publication and sometimes the copyright date but neither of those will indicate a medieval book, because they will be the date attached to the modern edition. The three main medieval texts I associate with the Camino are the Song of Roland and the Poem of the Cid, which I've just discussed, and the Codex Calixtinus. I've just started re-reading the last, a few pages each day, in the modern English translation of William Melczer (The Pilgrim's Guide to Santiago de Compostela), published by Italica Press. But it will be a while before I finish and post about it.

Other books in my bibliography, like Georgiana Goddard King's books from 1917 or William Starkie's book from 1957, while certainly not medieval, can be considered "earlier" in that the predate the modern resurgence of the Camino by a goodly amount.

If you mean books I've posted about before I posted about the Song of Roland and the Poem of the Cid, I've participated in the first few rounds of "book club" discussions, and led round 2.

If you are also interested in multiple translations of the Cantar de Mio Cid, Wikipedia lists a bunch. I used the Merwin translation not because I believe it is the best, but because it was the one I own from my university days in the 80s. Other options include:
Great thread David....keep it up. 😃👍
I became aware of the Battle of Roncevalles reading "The history of the Basques of the world".
Very interesting reading your knowledge.
 
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Thanks to those who responded to my query about Charlemagne and his relationship to Roland (was Char father of Roland thru incest?) . I like being disabused of mistaken notions--esp appreciated Kathar1ina's point about birth dates, and David Tallan's info about the multiple Charlemagnes in literary history. Okay, I won't spread that rumor anymore. Oy, the damage of misinformation. Hurray for medieval scholars!
 

Lisa HS

Contributing Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances (SJPdP - Santiago) Spring (2016)
Portuguese (Porto - Santiago - Finisterre) Spring (2018)
Has anyone mentioned yet that Roland's sword, Durandal, is embedded in the walls at Rocamador? The story is that Roland threw it back into France, as a defiant last dying gesture. It flew the 400(?)km, stuck in the wall, and remains there to this day.

BTW, Rocamador is on a variant route off of the Chemin du Puy.
Rocamadour_57-full.jpg
 
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Past OR future Camino
Us:Camino Frances, 2015 Me:Catalan/Aragonese, 2019
What a powerful man with a magical sword can do. Excerpts from

Screenshot_20211127-121402-01.jpeg

According to one legend Roland's Breach was cut by Count Roland with his sword Durendal in an attempt to destroy the sword, after being defeated during the Battle of Roncesvalles in 778. In a variant of one of the legends associated with Salto de Roldán, a rock formation about 25 km (16 mi) north of Huesca, Roland (Spanish: Roldán), the foremost of Charlemagne's paladins, was being hotly pursued by Saracens, the Muslim Arab occupiers of Spain. Cornered at Salto de Roldán, he escaped by leaping the chasm on horseback from one of the crags to the other; the horse died in the attempt. Roland continued northward on foot, and smote the Pyrenees with his sword to create Roland's Breach, so that he could see France one last time before he died.
 
Past OR future Camino
2022
I guess it depends on what you mean by the "earlier books on my list". If you mean the older books on my Camino de Santiago Bibliography, then I will admit that it is hard to pull out the medieval books. I do list the date of publication and sometimes the copyright date but neither of those will indicate a medieval book, because they will be the date attached to the modern edition. The three main medieval texts I associate with the Camino are the Song of Roland and the Poem of the Cid, which I've just discussed, and the Codex Calixtinus. I've just started re-reading the last, a few pages each day, in the modern English translation of William Melczer (The Pilgrim's Guide to Santiago de Compostela), published by Italica Press. But it will be a while before I finish and post about it.

Other books in my bibliography, like Georgiana Goddard King's books from 1917 or William Starkie's book from 1957, while certainly not medieval, can be considered "earlier" in that the predate the modern resurgence of the Camino by a goodly amount.

If you mean books I've posted about before I posted about the Song of Roland and the Poem of the Cid, I've participated in the first few rounds of "book club" discussions, and led round 2.

If you are also interested in multiple translations of the Cantar de Mio Cid, Wikipedia lists a bunch. I used the Merwin translation not because I believe it is the best, but because it was the one I own from my university days in the 80s. Other options include:
Sorry for not replying earlier. Thank you for your very thoughtful reply.

The full bibliography is perfect. I meant earlier in the sense of being posted earlier. Song of Roland caught my fancy, but is likely the exception as a medieval work for me to read.

I don't have a focus for the books I want to read. I'm walking the Camino for the first time with the goal of letting go of day-to-day things and the world that rushes around me. I'm not deeply religious, but this seems very much a pilgrimage. I don't know what this means yet, but I am very aware that many have walked this path before.

I have read widely, but the thoroughness and scholarship of your bibliography reminds me that here too I have a long way to walk where many have walked that path before.

Many thanks,
David
 
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TerryB

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Norte/Primitivo (April/May) 2009: Norte/Primitivo (parts) (April/May) 2010: Inglés (May) 2011: Primitivo (April/May) 2012: Norte / Camino de La Reina (April/May) 2013: Camino del Mar / Inglés (May/June) 2015
The full bibliography is perfect. I meant earlier in the sense of being posted earlier. Song of Roland caught my fancy, but is likely the exception as a medieval work for me to read.
I have read widely, but the thoroughness and scholarship of your bibliography reminds me that here too I have a long way to walk where many have walked that path before.

Many thanks,
David
Way back in 2009, Roland's Horn was on display in the museum under the Cathedral in Santiago. By 2011 it had been relegated to the storeroom! probably worth asking if you are in the Cathedral area. It was supposed to be the original! However there are numerous examples around europe so who knows?
Blessings on your walk!
Tio Tel Roland's Horn santiago Cathedral Museum.jpg
 
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