Song of Roland

Propaganda in The Song of Roland College

The First Crusade took place from the year 1096 to 1099. According to Robert the Monk’s retelling of Pope Urban II’s speech at the Council of Clermont, the Pope describes the enemy as, “…a race from the kingdom of the Persians, an accursed race, a race utterly alienated from God, a generation forsooth which has not directed its heart and has not entrusted its spirit to God…” This description is meant to set the Christians, whom Pope Urban was addressing, apart from the pagans. The Song of Roland served a similar purpose for the French people at the time of the Second Crusade, nearly fifty years later. By manipulating the details of the actual Battle of Roncevaux Pass, The Song of Roland reveals a nation caught up in the hatred of foreign and pagan cultures in the midst of the Second Crusade.

The Song of Roland is based on the Battle of Roncevaux Pass that took place in 778; however, the story’s author took many liberties in his retelling. The battle was originally between two Christian sides, the Franks and the Basques (source), and the Basque forces would not have equaled 400,000 men as is suggested in the fictionalized version. Charlemagne was also not 200 years old.

The distinctive difference between the factual account of...

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