Review: ‘The Song of Roland’


The Song of Roland

  • Date finished: Aug. 5, 2013
  • Genre: Epic poetry
  • Year: 12th century
  • Project: n/a
  • Reading List: Summer 2013
  • Grade: B
  • Thoughts upon finishing:

I’m not going to lie; I picked up The Song of Roland at my library’s book sale because I thought, for some reason, that it was related to Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came by Robert Browning. This it most definitely is not, but you know, it was a book on my shelf, I had not read it, and why the hell not? Epic poetry about French knights set in the time of Charlamagne? Sure!

It barely took me a day to make my way through The Song of Roland, a poem that is, after all, only about 100 pages. I didn’t have high expectations but you know what? It wasn’t that bad. In fact, the tale was fairly exciting, full of brave knights cleaving their enemies in twain and thankfully refraining from excessively long speeches! Not the worst epic poem I’ve read by far.

Unfortunately, there’s not much to say about The Song of Roland. So there’s this guy, Roland. And he’s like the biggest and baddest dude in the French army, which is currently wiping out walled towns across Spain. There’s some treachery, a big ol’ battle, lots of manly pride and heroic arrogance, blood gushing everywhere, and at the end, a fight to the death! Have I said enough? Aren’t you itching to read it now??

Probably not, and that’s too bad. It’s too bad these kinds of stories get stuck in college classrooms because epic poetry – particularly tales of daring and chivalry – were the pop songs and reality TV of its day. People ate this stuff up. And really, are these tales – whether it’s The Song of Roland or The Odyssey – all that different from the action movies of our time? The storytelling and adventure is still there; the settings have just changed. However, it’s only by reading where these kinds of tales got their start that you might start to appreciate them a little more.

On a side note, whenever Roland and his pals were riding around Spain, doing knightly things, all I could imagine them doing was:


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