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The Song of Roland

3.54  ·  Rating Details  ·  10,323 Ratings  ·  366 Reviews
A contemporary prose rendering of the great medieval French epic, The Song of Roland is as canonical and significant as the Anglo-Saxon Beowulf. It extols the chivalric ideals in the France of Charlemagne through the exploits of Charlemagne's nephew, the warrior Roland, who fights bravely to his death in a legendary battle. Against the bloody backdrop of the struggle betwe ...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published February 13th 2001 by Modern Library (first published 1070)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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J.G. Keely
It's not surprising that this work's greatest descendants are satires. It's often difficult to take the simplistic pro-crusade sentiment seriously. Each time one of the Knights yelled to some dead Muslim "We're right, you're wrong!" I laughed. When you're debate opponent is already slain, I guess you don't need to say anything else.

Ariosto drew on this tradition for his Orlando Furioso , but each time a knight yells at Muslims in that book, the Muslims yell the same thing back. Though the Furio
...more
David Sarkies
Nov 19, 2015 David Sarkies rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like medieval poetry
Recommended to David by: Nobody in particular
Shelves: poetry
Charlemagne's Rear Guard
17 September 2013

In her introduction Dorothy Sayers compared the Song of Roland with Homer but in my opinion that is like comparing a graffiti artist with Pablo Picasso. Yeah, they're both painters, but they simply exist on two completely different levels. Granted, the Song of Roland is an epic poem in the traditional sense in that it chronicles events that occurred four hundred years before the poem appeared in its final form and was no doubt handed down by word of mout
...more
Bruce
Oct 27, 2013 Bruce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a work of legend, events that actually happened during the Carolingian Era having been distorted and magnified so as to become myth. The epic, an example of the poetic form chanson de geste, is based on the Battle of Roncesvalles in the Pyrenees. After seven years of trying, Charles the Great (Charlemagne) had really not been very successful in his attempt to cross the Pyrenees and expel the Muslims from Spain. His beloved military leader Roland, the hero, is clearly impetuous, brave, ar ...more
Mark Adderley
Aug 26, 2009 Mark Adderley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's not much to say about The Song of Roland. It's a great epic, of course. Dorothy L. Sayers' translation is a little more poetic than accurate. She also disconcertingly changes the spellings of character names for metrical reasons or else for assonance. That's confusing. The introduction is excellent, though. And, once you've got used to the name thing, the translation is very readable. I prefer Glyn S. Burgess' translation that has essentially replaced Sayers'. Perhaps it's not as literar ...more
Trin
May 13, 2016 Trin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
"Pagans are wrong: Christians are right indeed."

Wow, thanks for that stunning piece of religious thinking, Roland!

If you like sophisticated metaphysical analysis such as that, as well as lavish descriptions of bowels and brains spilling out onto the ground, then boy howdy, is this the book for you! Man. Okay, some works are classics because they're really amazingly good—beautifully written, incisive, profound. Others are classics because they're super old. The Song of Roland, the oldest survivin
...more
Linette Soberay
Mar 25, 2012 Linette Soberay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an exemplary piece of epic literature that I really enjoyed reading. It was interesting to really see how flawed the European view of the Saracens of the Middle East was during the crusades. It really shows how not only were the views of the Europeans skewed, but it also relates to the views of many people today. When you ask a person about their view of Christianity, their answer will vary depending on where the person is from. We as people are often forced to make the same assumptions ...more
E.
Jan 27, 2016 E. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: epics-mythology
"The Song of Roland" is the most unintentionally hilarious epic I have ever read. I kept trying to imagine how its original audience would have received it--possibly the way we respond to testosterone-driven action movies today. The main difference, aside from the medium, seems to be that in modern action movies, directors have to vary the way people are killed, or the audience gets bored. In Roland, people are usually stabbed through the chest or split in half (entirely or partially) from the c ...more
Evan Leach
The oldest surviving major work of French literature, and an entertaining medieval classic. This epic poem tells a stylized version of the Battle of Roncevaux Pass (in 778), when Charlemagne's Christian forces fought the Muslims. If you enjoy epic poetry or medieval literature, this is not to be missed. 4 stars, recommended.
Kamil
Aug 31, 2014 Kamil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History buffs
Recommended to Kamil by: History of literature course
The Song of Roland, a French epic from the end of the 11th century, shows a war between the Saracen invaders of Spain, led by Marsilius and Baligant, and the French,led by Roland and Charlemagne.

In a ploy, Charlemagne retreats from Spain, when the last part of his army, led by Roland, anbushed by Marsilius in the Roncevaux valley.

The Song of Roland served as a background for various knightly epics, and it is said that even Tolkien drew from it. The book is written favoring the christians, with
...more
Sarah Gutierrez
The thing that this is, is perhaps not a very great sort of thing: after-dinner entertainment for people who--not unlike people of our own time--liked to hear how virtuous, right, and heroic their warriors were and how their enemies were devil-followers. (And also liked a hearty amount of gore, because let's be real, what's a superhero story without larger than life battles and deaths?) But as the thing that it was, it had some moments of high drama and pathos, and I enjoyed it.
Laura
Free download available at Project Gutenberg.

Free download available at Faded Page.
Tim
The Song of Roland, while about Charlemagne (800 AD) , is really a story of the Crusading era (ca. 1100 AD). Einhard, Charlemagne's biographer, notes in passing that the battle of Roncesvalles was fought against Basques, but in the Song, the enemy is the Saracen. And while some of the Saracens are depicted as evil, and many die being cleaved from head down to the spine of the horse they are riding, the real evils of this story are the treacherous Ganelon and Roland's own pride. Unwilling to blow ...more
Rachel Rueckert
After finishing The Song of Rolland, I am struck with how many arguments it raises for war and the justifications it seems to give for it. While there is much to point out from the text, I think the clearest examples of this process is found in the Christian symbols, defending the Franks position as “right,” and in dehumanizing the enemy.

It is difficult to leave Sunday school in our 21st century LDS paradigm and reasonably see how Rolland could be portrayed as a Christ figure. For me, the major
...more
Beth
Heroism. Blood and gore. Larger than life characters. Betrayal. Honor. Revenge. The blows of French axes against Saracen scimitars. All the elements of good epic poetry.

Dorothy Sayers’ translation is lyric and poetic, and capitalizes on the medieval feel of archaic language. I found her notes helpful, but also found it bit distracting when she slightly altered the characters names in order to make them fit better with the meter. The French translation that I read (by Léon Gautier) used much mor
...more
Desclian
May 28, 2008 Desclian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can't really tell if this was a hero's poem or a critique on hero's poems. Roland, the titular character, makes a huge blunder in being overbold, an act that gets him both chewed out by his best friend as well as killed. Besides the fact that he's Charlemagne's nephew, Roland doesn't DO anything that makes him a great knight BESIDES fight well. The interesting part is that warriors on the opposing side (all of whom are Muslims) can at times be described as good warriors but bad people. In the ...more
Dylan Grant
One of the best action stories that I have ever read. The entire poem is just invigorating. I love how the characters are established so quickly and so skillfully, and each of them are interesting in their own ways, from the valiant Roland, the zealous Archbishop and the treacherous Ganelon. In a lot of ways, this story is like a french Iliad - it involves a conflict between talented and honour-loving warriors and whenever a character dies there are long descriptions of how exactly their flesh i ...more
SamuraiKitty
Apr 05, 2016 SamuraiKitty rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, historical
I really, really liked this. It's not a biography, nor a non-fiction historical, or even a historical novel. I think it's more like a poem, but with the translation into modern English, it loses a lot of the flow of language and verse that it probably originally had. No matter. It's a window into what sort of stories were popular with early Medieval peoples. And that I find fascinating. It's also, a sort of an "Uncle Sam Wants You!" propaganda for the church to recruit Knights of Christendom (th ...more
Lada
Oct 29, 2014 Lada rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
J'ai sur les genoux l'edition de Chanson de Roland d'apres le manuscrit d'Oxford et traduite par Joseph de Bedier. Le texte d'Oxford s'y combine avec les autres textes, les autres versions. La chanson de geste, comme des epopees, devrait se maintenir tout au long des siecles, a partir d'un evenement local, en apparence insignifiant, telle embuche au detroit de Roncevaux en 778 par un groupe de vascons.
C'est la memoire longue des jongleurs qu'ils l'ont rafraichi en l'appliquant a leur present, au
...more
Charles Dee Mitchell
As other reader reviews make plain, this medieval celebration of holy war proves problematic for modern readers.

It's the late 8th century, and Charlemagne has spent a busy seven years clearing Spain of infidels. The campaign has been a success, but the stronghold of Saragossa remains under Muslim rule. Charlemagne, ready to go home, works a deal with King Marsile for a heavy pay off, but the deal is brokered by the traitor Ganelon. He arranges for Charlemagne's rearguard that is transporting all
...more
7jane
Apr 05, 2014 7jane rated it really liked it
This was an easy read; the book is slim and the chapter are very short.
Things I got from this book:

It's a fast-moving, dramatic French epic based on a true event during Charlemagne’s somewhat unsuccesful campaign of 778 in northern Moorish Spain, a 'minor' ambush of the rear guard as he returned home - at the Pyrenees (not by muslims as the story claims though); and a true man, Hruodland (Roland), Charlemagne's Breton warden, who perished in this battle (how noble and brave he actually was is no
...more
Amber Sweat
If reading Middle-Aged French-that-is-sort-of-almost-exclusively-Latin is your thing, this might be the book for you! Good story, very classic, epic, incredibly similar to the Iliad and Odyssey.
Suzannah
I have to admit, I wasn't a huge fan of this when I first read it nearly ten years ago. But this time round, I loved it. I'm not sure whether it's partly because I've read many more medieval and renaissance epics since then, and have acclimatised my taste to the grave and dignified courtesy of the story ("Fair sir, companion-") or whether it's because I've been force-feeding myself as much Crusader history as possible for the past twelve months, and therefore have a better idea of the poem's lar ...more
Karl Steel
Jan 13, 2008 Karl Steel rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: medievalists, nostalgics for greater France
Looked over a few of the other reviews. Look, folks, it's not a romance, and it has nothing to do with 'courtly love.' It's the chanson de geste. Not a romance. Nothing erotic going on here.

Given that the earliest ms is in Anglo-Norman, kept track this time round of Charlemagne's involvement in England.

I do wish, however, that I had assigned Burgess's trans. Curious to have a go with it. The use of 'race' in this one seems a bit off.
Benoit Turgeon
Dec 06, 2012 Benoit Turgeon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When read out of context, this might seem like a strange book, but remember, this was written sometime around the eleventh century about facts from the eighth century. This was at a time when hero's feats were GREATLY exaggerated as they were sung about. This is a translation so we lose the poetic rhythm of the original which had exactly ten syllables for each of the 4000 lines.
Elaine
Mar 06, 2010 Elaine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Elaine by: Proffesor Root
I had epiphanies all through this book! It was mainly a war story about French "Christians" taking over Arabic "Heathens," however it was the first book I was able to read in a foreign language in less than 10 days, and I was just excited to understand all of it, and enjoyed the story line and making up modern-ish alterations to it in my mind while and after reading it.
Védís
Franskt kappakvæði samið á 11. eða 12. öld en segir frá sögulegum atburðum sem áttu sér stað á 8. öld. Elsta varðveitta handrit er frá 12. öld. Kvæðið mögulega elsta franska kappakvæðið.

Kvæðið segir frá bardaganum við Roncevaux sem átti sér stað milli manna Karlamagnúsar og baska árið 778 en færir verulega í stílinn ef elsta sagnfræðilega samtímaheimild er skoðuð.

Baskarnir hafa breyst í múslima og illþýði frá Afríku, m.a. risa, og verður kvæðið fyrir vikið að baráttu milli góðs og ills, kristni
...more
Jan-Maat
Bloodthirsty.

Historical clash between Charlemagne's rear guard and rapacious Basques transformed into a medieval epic of betrayal, loyalty and duty against a backdrop of warfare between Muslim Spain and Christian France. Hugely influential - causing the name Ganelon, here associated with the blackest treachery, to drop out of documented usage as a given name!
Madeline
Wow, okay, so even by medieval European standards this story is appallingly racist and the characters are pretty dumb. Also, the Italian variations probably have more interesting plotlines and more female characters. But I really do like Sayers' translation, which has a definite medieval feel and that makes the entire experience much better.
Patrick Bates
Sep 24, 2014 Patrick Bates rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Song of Roland
By Unknown



The pivotal characters of this book include:
Roland, a nobleman in the Court of Charlemagne.

Charlemagne, the Holy Roman Emperor who has invaded Spain

King Marsile, the Saracen King of Spain

Ganelon, The father in law of Roland and nobleman of the Court of Charlemagne

Baligant, emir of Babylon who leads a battle against Charlemagne’s forces.

The Song of Roland is a medieval epic that tells the story of the Battle of Roncevaux in 778 AD. Both the author and the date of com
...more
Zelda
Oct 25, 2014 Zelda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
Very enjoyable companion to my history studies on the Carolingian era. That said, I felt more than usual the loss of not being able to read this in the original language. Just glancing at the Old French makes me understand how much I'm missing. This straight prose translation does not attempt to preserve any of the poetry of the original.

I will never really understand the fondness for cataloging weaponry but it seems to be a very compelling interest from Herodotus through Churchill and beyond.
...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Different edition, same ISBN 9 38 Jun 21, 2014 06:31AM  
Goodreads Librari...: can't combine two editions by anonymous 3 37 Aug 22, 2012 02:26PM  
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Books can be attributed to "Unknown" when the author or editor (as applicable) is not known and cannot be discovered. If at all possible, list at least one actual author or editor for a book instead of using "Unknown".

Books whose authorship is purposefully withheld should be attributed instead to Anonymous.
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