What Leads to Roland’s Death in The Song of Roland?

Roland, as the central heroic character in the poem, dies as a true warrior. During their battle at the pass, the French army is outnumbered, and only a few bravest knights are left alive. Roland gets some injuries, but it appears that the leading cause of his death is his overly powerful blow in the Oliphant.

The Song of Roland describes the events surrounding the Battle of Roncevaux Pass. Charlemayn’s army has to go through the mountains to get back home, but someone needs to volunteer for the rear guard. Roland, the most loyal emperor’s knight and his nephew, offers his service. However, only later do they find out that Ganelon betrayed his country, religion, and stepson. Together with the Saracens, he aims to kill Roland and defeat that part of the army to weaken Charlemayn. The forces are not equal, and Oliver suggests calling for help. However, stubborn Roland decides that it would be shameful for the knights.

The Franks end up being outnumbered, and Roland is left with only two other warriors alive, one of whom is the Archbishop. When the Saracens leave the battlefield, Roland seems to be dying. Even though he manages to protect himself from some pagans, he falls on the ground holding his sword and starts praying. However, it is most likely not the wounds Roland received in the fight that caused his death. Previously, he overcame his pride and blew the horn to attract Charlemayn’s attention. He put so much strength into the blow that it damaged something inside his head. Roland’s ears started bleeding, and that internal injury might have led to his death.

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