The Song of Roland

Epic French poem attributed to Turold, a Norman poet and master of chanson de gueste. The song deals with the Battle of Roncesvalles, where it claims Charlesmange was betrayed by Saracens and tricked into leaving his vanguard captained by Roland to be slaughtered by the Moors.

The actual details of the battle were quite different, according to some archaelogical evidence. It appears that on his march in to Spain, Charlemagne's baggage porters (mostly unarmed boys) were slaughtered by Basque rebels who also destroyed most of his provisions. Charlesmagne was forced to cut short his Spanish campaign and return to France.

The Song of Roland details wave after wave of infidel onslaught, each beaten back by a dwindling cadre of Roland's loyal men. Finally as the dusk approaches, Roland realizes he cannot hold out any longer, and he sounds the call to Charlesmagne on his splendid horn, Oliphant. However he is too late, and the last wave of Saracens overwhelm his men. In an attempt to save the holy relic of the knuckle-bone of Joseph of Arimethea that is imbeded in the hilt of his sword from falling into muslim hands, he repeatedly pounds the blade against a rock but to no avail. His sword will not break. Roland finally succumbs to the wounds sustained to his temples from sounding the call to the Emperor.

Charlesmagne arrives just a moment too late, and sees the devastation wrought on his nephew. After much grief, he resumes his conquest of Spain, and either kills or baptises every last infidel.