The Song of Roland

The essay is a critical examination of good versus evil in The Song of Roland. This piece of literal work is one of the oldest arts from French literature. There are numerous versions which attest to how popular it was between 12th and 14th centauries. This poem has been seen to be a major example of chanson de geste, which celebrates the life of a hero.

Additionally the story is based on the conflict and the warfare between the Christians and the Muslims in Spain. In order to experience good and evil, there must be heroes and villains. War is seen to be a great thing and even glamorous. However the cost associated with it is usually heavy especially for the heroes. On the other hand, the villains deserve no grief or compassion.

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Good is usually thought to be the will of God and in this case the Franks are deemed to represent good since they are moved by the will of God while the Saracens are seen to be evil. Due to this when they die there souls are taken to hell by the devil.

For one to be evil can be as results of lack of knowledge making one to be deceived and to act against the will of God. In The Song of Roland, a proof that lack of knowledge leads to evil is summarized as follows “o est une gent ki unches ben ne volt. [This is a sort of which has never seen goodness]” (Haidu par. 7).

The Christians while fighting with the pagans were of the opinion that they were on the right while the later were in the wrong. To the French, the pagans are evil and criminal individuals who have rejected Christ from whom all those things deemed good come from. For that matter they are to be confronted translating to a war between individuals who were fighting for God and Satan (Dominik 21).

Similarly evil is depicted in several occasions in the poem. For instance we are told of the evil planned of King Marsile who intends to convert into Christianity then become Charlemagne vassal. This is with a clear intention that once the later goes back to France Marsile will break the promise he made. Additionally, the plans Roland’s step father had when he was sent for a diplomatic mission was in itself an evil strategy to get rid of Roland who the formers saw to be a threat in terms of leadership.

He thus planned with the Saracens that the rearguard of Charlemagne will be ambushed and this will be a perfect opportunity to get rid of Roland (Dominik 49). According to the poem, the reaction of King Charlemagne to drive the Saracens towards the river so that those who were not chopped would definitely be drowned although to them was good; it was an evil act in my humble opinion.

It is worth noting that all that are thought to be good will always thrive in the end. It is no doubt that the all powerful God will intervene in time to ensure that those fighting for the good emerge as victors in the end. This can be exemplified when Thierry who was less strong than Pinabel managed to fight him in order to decide the case in which Roland step father was to be put to death (Haidu par.5). In my opinion the concept of good versus bad has been clearly brought out in the French oldest literature The Song of Roland.

Works cited

Haidu, Peter. The Subject of Violence: The Song of Roland and the Birth of the State. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1993.Print.

Dominik, Mark. Holy War in The Song of Roland: The Mythification of History. Viewed on 31 July 2011


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