The Song of Roland was written around 1090 and is based on events that happened about 300 years earlier. The forward is filled with all the theories, what we know or more precisely what we don’t know. In my opinion, any story that is this old (nearly 1,000 years) and has to be translated is bound to lose something be it through the translation or just the fact that things have changed so much over such a long period of time. The version I read had a forward by W. S. Merwin.
I was drawn to this book because of Don Quixote, The Song of Roland would have been one of the books read by Quixote that drove him mad with chivalrous ideas. The Song of Roland shows many of the ways of the knights during medieval times, faithfulness to your lord, honor, to fight and die for your cause. To make a reputation, one that after your death, wouldn’t shame your family and one of honor, bravery, and loyalty was what was most important to knights.
I was not disappointed, this book was what I expected, violent, epic battles against overwhelming enemies, pride, loyalty, and bravery that defines the word quixotic. Good Christian knights against evildoer pagans (non-Christians), and the idea that God will make sure that good triumphs over evil. No matter how many evildoers one must cleave in two (and there is plenty of cleaving).
This was a fast and easy read that I would recommend to those who are interested in the subject of knights and chivalry.