Song of Roland

Themes in Song of Roland College

In Song of Rowland, the author tells the story of Charlemagne's attempted takeover of Saragossa, a land controlled by the Muslim king, Marsilla. The poem covers the feud between Rowland and his stepfather Ganelon, as well as the disastrous consequences that come from that feud, including the betrayal of their lord and kinsman, Charlemagne. Through characterization and plot, the author is able to convey the overall theme of the work—that of loyalty.

Over the course of the poem, three characters are introduced to show varying degrees of loyalty. One of those characters is Ganelon, a vassal to Emperor Charlemagne and stepfather to the title character, Roland. After being nominated by his stepson for a suicide mission as a messenger to Marsilla, Ganelon travels to Saragossa and, acting disloyally to Charlemagne, betrays Roland to Marsilla. He tells the Muslim leader that Roland is the reason that they continue to fight, and that they will not have peace while he still lives. Ganelon even gives Marsilla the location where Roland is likely to be when they return to France, saying “The king will reach the main pass at Sizer, while having left his guard deployed behind him. His nephew will be there, the rich Count Roland, and...

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