Who are the characters in The Song of Roland? What did they do? Find the answers here! This page prepared by Custom-Writing.org experts contains The Song of Roland character analysis, describes the character traits, and provides quotes by Emperor Charlemagne, Count Roland, King Marsilion, Ganelon, Oliver, and others. There is also The Song of Roland character map that presents the main characters and their connections.
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🗺️ The Song of Roland Character Map
Below you’ll find The Song of Roland character map. It contains all the key characters that appear in the poem.
🛡️ Count Roland
Count Roland, the main hero of the whole story, is Charlemayn’s nephew and right hand. He is also Ganelon’s stepson. The count is one of the best emperor’s knights. However, his bravery is mixed with recklessness. At the beginning of the poem, Roland makes a mistake that eventually leads to the battle in which he dies. If he did not nominate his stepfather for the envoy, all of that might have been avoided.
Moreover, his own pride becomes his main flaw. On the battlefield, Roland is too confident in their men’s strength that he refuses to call for help. Later, it appears to become yet another mistake.
It is ironic how Roland receives deadly wounds not from his enemies but from blowing his horn one last time. This character is one of the most devoted warriors in the whole army. After the Saracens leave the field, he spends his last strength on gathering the fallen warriors’ bodies. He even dies as a true Christian knight – with his sword in his hands. Everyone grieves over Roland, Charlemayn’s most loyal and best follower.
Roland’s Quotes from Song of Roland
Traitor in all his ways was Marsilies;The Song of Roland, laisse XIV
Of his pagans he sent you then fifteen,
Bearing in hand their olive-branches green:
Who, ev’n as now, these very words did speak.
There’s Guenes, my goodfather…The Song of Roland, laisse XX
For he can wisely manage;
So let him go, there’s none you should send rather.
I’ll wind this olifant,The Song of Roland, laisse CXXIX
If Charles hear, where in the pass he stands,
I pledge you now they will return, the Franks.
Very Father, in Whom no falsehood is,The Song of Roland, laisse CLXXVI
Saint Lazaron from death Thou didst remit,
And Daniel save from the lions’ pit;
My soul in me preserve from all perils
And from the sins I did in life commit!
🤴 Emperor Charlemagne (Charlemayn)
Emperor Charlemayn, the ruler of the French, is one of the main characters in Song of Roland. He is portrayed having distinctive white hair and a beard. All his enemies are afraid of his endless hunger for conquering. However, Charles usually does not act before speaking to his loyal advisors. Charlemayn’s figure is somewhat holy or divine since he is over 200 years old and gets visited by the angel. Human emotions are not strange for him, though. He is not worried about dropping a few tears while mourning over the fallen brothers.
The emperor is described as the ideal Christian ruler. He is tireless in his fight against the pagans, which seems to be ongoing even after the win over the Paynims. Charlemayn cannot refuse his help, but all the losses are the source of great grief for him. However, the death of his loyal right hand, Roland, did not affect his ability to lead the army, unlike the Paynims anticipated.
Charlemagne’s Quotes from Song of Roland
This night I saw, by an angel’s vision plain,The Song of Roland, laisse LXVII
Between my hands he brake my spear in twain;
Great fear I have, since Rollant must remain:
I’ve left him there, upon a border strange.
God! If he’s lost, I’ll not outlive that shame.
Where are you, nephew fair?The Song of Roland, laisse CLXXVII
Where’s the Archbishop and that count Oliviers?
Where is Gerins and his comrade Gerers?
Otes the Duke, and the count Berengiers
And Ivorie, and Ive, so dear they were?
What is become of Gascon Engelier,
Sansun the Duke and Anseis the fierce?
Where’s old Gerard of Russillun; oh, where
The dozen peers I left behind me here?
My lords, restrain your steps,The Song of Roland, laisse CCIV
Since I myself alone should go ahead,
For my nephew, whom I would find again.
🥷 Ganelon (Guenes)
Ganelon is Charlemayn’s brother-in-law and appears to be Roland’s stepfather. He is not the most favorable character in the story. It is obvious how jealous Guenes is of Roland’s success and power. In fact, Ganelon gets so angry at his stepson that plots to betray and even kill him. He only wants revenge, but it does not end well for him. Even teaming up with King Marsile is not a perfect plan. Charlemayn finds out about Ganelon’s treachery right when Roland is dying.
Even during the trial, Ganelon tries to blame his stepson. In the end, he pays the price for his deeds and gets executed.
Ganelon’s Quotes from Song of Roland
Could one achieve that Rollant’s life was lost,The Song of Roland, laisse XLV
Charle’s right arm were from his body torn;
Though there remained his marvellous great host,
He’ld not again assemble in such force;
Terra Major would languish in repose.
He’ll follow you to France, to your Empire,The Song of Roland, laisse LIV
He will accept the laws you hold and fear;
Joining his hands, will do you homage there,
Kingdom of Spain will hold as you declare.
In you my faith is fixed.The Song of Roland, laisse CCLXXIV
Save me this day from death, also from prison.
Oliver is Roland’s best friend and a great knight as well. He appears to be the wise one in their friendship, so whenever Roland is too reckless, Oliver is there to bring some sense. It almost seems like Oliver guards his friend against troubles. He often thinks that Roland’s behavior is too stubborn and foolish. On the other hand, even though Oliver often disagrees with his commander, he is devoted to him. He would follow Roland anywhere, and it makes him a worthy warrior. Despite being right about their nearing loss, Oliver stays with Roland and furiously fights, inspiring other French soldiers.
Oliver’s Quotes from Song of Roland
Companion, I believe,The Song of Roland, laisse LXXIX
Sarrazins now in battle must we meet.
Pagans in force abound,The Song of Roland, laisse LXXXIII
While of us Franks but very few I count;
Comrade Rollanz, your horn I pray you sound!
If Charles hear, he’ll turn his armies round.
Great shame would come of thatThe Song of Roland, laisse CXXIX
And a reproach on every one, your clan,
That shall endure while each lives in the land,
When I implored, you would not do this act
King Marsilion is a worrisome ruler of Saragossa, the only place not conquered by the emperor. Marsile keeps complaining about their fate, but since they do not possess enough power to resist, they need to come up with another plan. The council decides to arrange a trap and outnumber Roland’s part of the army. Here, the author also shows how cowardly Marsilion acts on the battlefield. Roland and the king meet face to face in the fight, but Marsile runs away as soon as he gets wounded. Then, he just hides with his wife leaving Blancandrin and the emir to do the dirty job. All non-Christians are shown as anti-heroes in the story, but King Marsilion is incredibly unlikable due to his weakness and cowardly behavior.
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Marsilion’s Quotes from Song of Roland
That Emperour, Charles of France the Douce,The Song of Roland, laisse II
Into this land is come, us to confuse.
I have no host in battle him to prove,
Nor have I strength his forces to undo.
No faith in words by oath unbound I lay;The Song of Roland, laisse XLVI
Swear me the death of Rollant on that day.
The Emperour, Charles the GreatThe Song of Roland, laisse CXCVIII
Hath slain my men and all my land laid waste,
My cities are broken and violate;
He lay this night upon the river Sebre;
I’ve counted well, ’tis seven leagues away.
📿 Archbishop Turpin
Archbishop Turpin is the embodiment of the idea of fighting for God. He is not like other Christians who prefer to stay in monasteries. Turpin can fight as well as Roland, and he does not want to waste this talent. During the battle, he keeps on inspiring the soldiers and raising their spirits up. At the same time, Archbishop does not forget about the religious part and promises every brave warrior salvation. Turnip represents Frankish Christianity, which is not based on the peaceful promotion of their god. He believes that conquering the lands where Christianity is not the main religion yet is his primary mission.
Baligant, the emir of Babylon, shows up on the scene a bit too late. Years after Marsilion asked for help, he gathers his army and goes to save everyone. However, he is eager to fight and kick Charlemayn out of Spain. At the same time, it should be noted that Baligant’s vies are less religious than the ones of the French. He simply sees it unfair that the emperor just came and took the lands of other people. It does not seem like the emir is part of the revenge cycle that the rest of the main characters follow. Baligant only follows his logic and political views.
🎭 Song of Roiland Minor Characters
Even though a minor character, Bramimonde, plays a vital role in the story. She appears to be the first and only Saracen who starts doubting their religion. When she sees a wounded king, it seems to her that something powerful protects the French. The woman realizes that it is due to their faith they are impossible to defeat. However, no one wants to listen to her as she is merely a woman. Bramimonde is probably the only one who converted to Christianity by free will.
Blancandrin is the one who comes up with the plan of how to save Saragossa. During their ride back, he tries everything possible to make Ganelon join them. His manipulation goes well since Blancandrin knows what buttons to push. It is even unclear if Ganelon would have decided to betray his stepson by himself. Blancandrin appears to be quite two-faced. On the one hand, he is very patriotic, trying to save Spain in the first place. However, it becomes more personal when the assassination of Roland comes up.
Out of all the French, only Charlemayn and Thierry are not convinced by Pinabel’s speech. All their national customs seem to find the reflection in the words of this speaker. Pinabel argues that Ganelon’s status should be taken into consideration. Even though no one denies the crime, he thinks the murderer should be forgiven.
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Judging from the quotes from Song of Roland, Naimon believes everything he hears and sees. He is one of Charlemayn’s advisors, even though he participated in the battle too. However, Naimon’s trust in evidence and facts is dangerous. He does not use intuition like Roland, so he cannot see the deceptive behavior of King Marsile.
Count Walter Hum
Roland chooses Count Walter Hum as one of the barons to stay with him and protect the mountain passage. When everyone from the French army is defeated, the count is amongst the three men left alive found by Charlemayn. He does not appear as the main character but is still treated as a valuable warrior by his friends.
Geoffrey d’Anjou is one of the barons that Charlemayn trusts. When Roland is found dead, the emperor gets consumed by grief. It is almost impossible to help him at the moment, but d’Anjou decides to make the first step. He suggests burying all the brothers fallen in that battle, which the emperor finds as a sensible and honorable idea.
Thierry is the one who decides to dispute Pinabel’s suggestion to spare the life of Ganelon. According to him, the murder of one of Charlemayn’s most trusted men cannot be forgiven. Such a crime is almost like going against the whole governing system. Therefore, Thierry challenges Pinabel and wins to everyone’s delight.
Alda is Roland’s beloved, who does not have the strength to live with it after hearing the bad news. When Charlemayn tells her that Roland is dead and offers her to marry his son, she simply says that it is a weird suggestion. Then Alda falls down to Charlemayn’s feet and dies.
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