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The Song of Roland - Insight into Another World

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The Song of Roland - Insight into Another World

The Song of Roland:

Insight Into Another World

Historians have now been able to date the first manuscripts of The Song of Roland as far back as the 11th century CE (1060 CE)- to be more specific, 1130 CE. However, some historians have dated the poem itself back to 1060 CE, but the most widely accepted date has been 1098 CE. If you take a look into the historical events of this time, you will see that, by this time the First Crusade- which began in 1096 CE and ended in 1098 CE- was over but through this epic poem the ideals and the principles of that time lived on. Through this epic poem we are, until this day, able to bear witness to the values that were present in the life of the author. Although we have no concrete evidence that leads us to knowledge of who the author really was it is believed that, because of the reference to Turoldus in Stanza 298 ("Here ends the story that Turoldus relates), he is the author. Nevertheless, The Song of Roland can now be viewed as an amazing historical document that allows us much insight into what life was like for the author. We are able to grasp the many political, social, and cultural values that stood during that time.

There are many parallels that the author seems to have established between the ideals of those that were present in the late 8th century (the setting of the poem) and the ideals that were present in the 11th and 12th centuries (the time of the author's life). It seems as though the author purposely sets up those similarities so that the battle in The Song of Roland, and the story behind it, corresponds to that of the First Crusade (1096-1098) of the 11th century. In Stanza 278, Ganelon says that Oliver has "betrayed the twelve peers for money." This is just as Judas had betrayed Christ and the 12 apostles for 30 pieces of silver. If you go back to Stanza 111 you will also see that when Roland dies "at high noon, a great darkness gathers; there is light only when the sky is rent." This scene is uncomfortably similar to the scene of Christ is death. This obviously sets up the fact that Christian beliefs had a significant role in the life of the author. Throughout the book we continuously see evidence that leads us to believe that God and prayer are very important things. For example, when Charlemagne wakes up early in the morning, he listens to the prayers of the "mass and matins" (Stanza 11).

However, it is not only in the king's life that we see God's presence but we also see it in the lives of all the knights. In Stanza 293, we see the occurrence of the "trial by combat." The concept behind this "trial" is that the knight that wins the battle is innocent. He is believed to be innocent by all because God "has performed a miracle" (Stanza 293) and God has ordained him his victory. This also ties into the fact that we can see how active they believe God is in their lives. In more than one case we see that, not only commoners and vassals, but also Charlemagne himself seeks out God's help. In Stanza 289 Charlemagne asks God to "make justice shine forth." The importance of the belief in Christianity and its principles is also evident in the belief that everyone else, also known as the "pagans," are all wrong; that means their ways and their beliefs. In Stanza 79 Roland states that "the pagans are wrong and the Christians are right." This shows just how set Roland was on his belief that Christianity was the only way.

Throughout this poem, there is a significant emphasis that is strongly put on the importance of loyalty and honor in the relationships that lie in the social hierarchy of that time. It seems as though the author has a very strong belief in the notion that without loyalty between men, there will be no trust between them. More importantly, without that trust between men, peace will cease to exist. We are very conscious of this belief because, in one case, when Ganelon plots to get rid of Roland (in Stanzas 43 and 44) and he breaks the bond of loyalty and trust between them, Ganelon ends up being brutally beaten by commoners. It is not even that he is beaten by his fellow lords or vassals, but by the very people that hold a lesser rank than him. To, quite literally, add insult to injury the commoners "pluck out his beard and his moustache" (Stanza 137). By doing this they eradicate the very symbol of his title as a knight.

Just as the honor that comes from a vassal fulfilling his obligations is evident in The Song of Roland, the honor that lies in a warrior fulfilling his obligations, his life and his death are also continuously depicted in this epic poem. We continue to repeatedly

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