La Chanson de Roland a Roncevaux | A Review


La Chanson de Roland a Roncevaux | A Review

La Chanson de Roland a Roncevaux  A Review

La Chanson de Roland a Roncevaux A Review

La Chanson de Roland a Roncevaux-A Review


‘La Chanson de Roland à Roncevaux’ is a remarkable epic poem that delves into the events leading up to the Battle of Roncevaux Pass and Charlemagne’s defeat by the Basques. This medieval masterpiece, known as ‘The Song of Roland’ in English, holds a significant place in literature due to its historical importance, thematic depth, and poetic prowess. The poem not only narrates a pivotal historical event but also explores themes of honor, loyalty, heroism, and the clash between Christianity and Islam.

Historical Context:

The epic poem is rooted in historical events, particularly the Battle of Roncevaux Pass in 778 AD. This battle, fought between Charlemagne’s Frankish forces and the Basques, marked a crucial moment in the Charlemagne’s military campaigns in Spain and France. While the poem does take some liberties with historical accuracy, it remains an invaluable source for understanding the societal values, political dynamics, and military strategies of the time.

Narrative Structure and Themes:

The poem’s narrative structure is organized into laisses, or stanzas, each containing varying numbers of lines. The story primarily centers around Roland, a noble knight and Charlemagne’s nephew, as he leads the rear guard of the Frankish army during their retreat from Spain. The betrayal of Roland’s stepfather, Ganelon, who orchestrates the attack by the Basques, sets the stage for the tragic clash that unfolds at Roncevaux Pass.

The poem explores several key themes:

Heroism and Honor: Roland embodies the chivalric ideals of bravery, loyalty, and honor. He valiantly defends his comrades and the Christian faith, refusing to call for reinforcements and blowing his horn, the Olifant, only as a last resort. This act showcases his commitment to upholding his honor even in the face of impending doom.

Loyalty and Betrayal: Ganelon’s treachery by arranging the ambush exposes the conflict between loyalty to one’s lord and personal gain. The tension between loyalty and betrayal serves as a central moral dilemma that drives the narrative forward.

Religious Conflict: The clash between Christianity and Islam is evident throughout the poem. The Basques, representing Islam, and the Franks, symbolizing Christianity, engage in a battle that reflects the larger religious struggles of the time.

National Identity: The poem highlights the sense of national identity and unity among the Franks. Charlemagne’s determination to avenge Roland’s death demonstrates the importance of collective identity and the significance of avenging fallen heroes.

Glorification of Martyrdom: The poem portrays Roland’s death as a glorious martyrdom. His steadfast commitment to his faith and his people, even in the face of certain death, elevates him to the status of a legendary hero.

Poetic Style and Literary Significance:

‘La Chanson de Roland’ is characterized by its poetic prowess, utilizing alliteration, repetition, and vivid imagery to captivate the reader’s imagination. The use of laisses provides a rhythmic and structured flow to the narrative. The poem’s historical and cultural significance lies in its reflection of the medieval mindset, societal values, and the development of chivalric ideals.


La Chanson de Roland à Roncevaux’ stands as a monumental piece of literature that transcends time, offering insights into the medieval world’s complex tapestry of history, culture, and values. Through its exploration of heroism, loyalty, and the clash of religions, the epic poem continues to captivate readers and scholars alike, serving as a poignant reminder of the enduring power of storytelling to convey timeless themes. 0 0 0.

La Chanson de Roland a Roncevaux A Review

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N.B. The article originally belongs to the book entitled ‘Reviews of Epic Literature Around the World‘ by Menonim Menonimus.

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I am Menonim Menonimus, a Philosopher & Writer.


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