Chanson de Roland-A Review


Chanson de Roland-A Review

Chanson de Roland-A Review

Chanson de Roland-A Review

Chanson de Roland-A Review

‘Chanson de Roland,’ often referred to as ‘The Song of Roland,’ is a significant and enduring piece of medieval literature that holds a central place in the canon of chivalric and epic poetry. This Old French epic poem, composed around the end of the 11th century, provides a vivid portrayal of the Christian-Muslim conflict during the early medieval period. Let’s delve into a comprehensive review of this remarkable work:

Historical and Literary Context:

‘Chanson de Roland’ belongs to the genre of chansons de geste, a type of epic poetry that celebrates heroic deeds and often conveys moral or religious values. The poem’s composition was influenced by the historical context of the Reconquista, a series of campaigns by Christian kingdoms to recapture territories from Muslim rule in the Iberian Peninsula.

Plot Summary:

The poem recounts the legendary Battle of Roncevaux Pass, a historical event in 778 AD during Charlemagne’s campaign against the Basques in Spain. The central character is Roland, a loyal and valiant knight in Charlemagne’s army. The plot revolves around the betrayal of Roland by his stepfather, Ganelon, who conspires with the Saracen king, Marsile, to ambush Charlemagne’s rearguard. This treachery leads to a bloody battle where Roland and his companions face overwhelming odds.


Heroism and Loyalty: The theme of heroism is central, with Roland exemplifying chivalric virtues such as courage, loyalty, and self-sacrifice. His steadfastness in the face of adversity and his unwavering commitment to duty embody the essence of medieval knighthood.

Religious Conflict: The clash between Christianity and Islam is a prevalent theme. The poem portrays the Christian Franks as virtuous and noble, while the Muslim Saracens are depicted as pagans and enemies of the faith. The battle serves as a backdrop to illustrate the religious fervor of both sides.

Feudal Allegiance and Betrayal: The treachery of Ganelon highlights the complexities of feudal relationships and loyalty. Ganelon’s act of betrayal challenges the medieval ideal of fealty and raises questions about honor and loyalty in a world governed by political and personal motives.

Death and Glory: The poem places a significant emphasis on the glorification of death in battle. The characters aspire to achieve an honorable death, believing that dying valiantly on the battlefield will earn them a place in heaven.

Narrative Style and Structure:

‘Chanson de Roland’ is written in rhymed stanzas, known as laisses, with a distinct rhythm and rhyme scheme. The poem’s structure is episodic, featuring a series of interconnected vignettes that contribute to the overall narrative. The poetic style is characterized by repetition, formulaic expressions, and vivid descriptions of combat and scenery.

Influence and Legacy:

‘Chanson de Roland’ had a profound impact on subsequent literary works, contributing to the development of the chivalric romance genre. It influenced writers like Dante Alighieri and Geoffrey Chaucer, and its themes and motifs continued to resonate throughout European literature and culture.


While ‘Chanson de Roland’ is a masterpiece that offers insights into the medieval mindset and the values of its time, it should also be approached critically. Its portrayal of the Muslim Saracens is often one-sided and stereotypical, reflecting the bias of the era. Additionally, the poem’s episodic structure might be challenging for modern readers accustomed to more streamlined narratives.


Chanson de Roland’ stands as a significant literary achievement, capturing the spirit of the medieval age and its values. Its exploration of heroism, loyalty, and religious conflict provides a window into the mindset of that time, while its influence on subsequent literature showcases its enduring legacy. Approach this work with an appreciation for its historical context and a critical eye toward its cultural biases. 0 0 0.

Chanson de Roland-A Review

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N.B. The article ‘Chanson de Roland-A Review’originally belongs to the book entitled ‘Reviews of Epic Literature Around the World‘ by Menonim Menonimus.  Chanson de Roland-A Review

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I am Menonim Menonimus, a Philosopher & Writer.


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