Tag Archives: Crusades

El Cid

Chuck Heston as the Cid

The first piece of literature written in Spanish was Cantar de mio Cid (Song of my Lord), whose author may have been Per Abbat who wrote it in either 1207 or 1307 or maybe it was Abu I-Walid al Waqqashi in 1095 or maybe it was one of those pieces of folk literature that gets passed from generation to generation. El Cid, the Cid, al Sayyid means ‘the lord’ or ‘the master.’ Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar was El Cid—an actual person—and he fought against Moorish control of Spain. His army reconquered Valencia so that Christianity could be reestablished there. Like Chanson de Roland, Cantar de mio Cid is a poem about knights who perform mighty deeds and strive to live virtuous lives by sticking to a code of honor.

https://www.actualidadliteratura.com/en/el-cantar-del-mio-cid/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Cid
You can take a biking vacation along the route of El Cid’s exploits: https://en.caminodelcid.org/cid-history-legend/cid-history/
When Charlton Heston wasn’t being Moses or Henry VIII, he was El Cid—with Sophia Loren, the most fabulous woman who ever trod the Earth—https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0054847/?ref_=fn_al_tt_2
https://www.gutenberg.org/files/996/996-h/996-h.htm
https://www.britannica.com/art/Spanish-literature
https://historyofspain.es/en/video/the-history-of-spanish-literature/

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La Chanson de Roland

Roland a Roncevaux. It would be a stain on my escutcheon to poke fun at the war dead—even from 1300 years back—but I reckon it within bounds to lampoon a guy who didn’t call for help until all was clearly lost anyway.

The Song of Roland takes place during Charlemagne’s reign. Roland is Charles’ most trusted officer and the perfect embodiment of chivalry—pure in heart, doer of mighty deeds. In the story there’s a lot of diplomacy, intrigue, and military battles between Charles’ Franks and the wily Saracens in Spain (remember Spain and other big chunks of Europe were under Muslim control throughout the Middle Ages). Charles relies too heavily on his negotiator, the treacherous Ganelon. After a decisive battle a truce is reached and Charles agrees to withdraw his army with Roland commanding the rearguard. However, Ganelon has betrayed them and set a trap. Roland and his army must squeeze through a pass in the Pyrenees mountains between Spain and France. It’s there that the Saracens cut off the Frankish rearguard with their army that’s 20 times bigger. The Franks gallantly fight against hopeless odds. Roland has an elephant-tusk trumpet to summon help but he’s too proud to sound the alarm until the battle’s already lost. When he finally does, Roland bursts a blood vessel blowing that horn and dies. Charlemagne hears the call, rides to the rescue with more troops but when he arrives everybody is dead. Roland’s ghost is whisked up to Heaven by a bevy of angels.

The battle in the narrow mountain pass where Roland met his doom is ‘…loosely based on the Battle of Roncevaux Pass in 778. However, the combatants in that skirmish were the Franks and the Christian Basques of Spain…’ If history teaches us anything, it’s this: never put all your Basques in one exit.

https://www.supersummary.com/the-song-of-roland/summary/
https://www.google.com/maps/place/Roncevaux+Pass/@43.0242222,-2.0862763,9.31z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0xd50d1d246e7fedd:0x1f798a142f6d3012!8m2!3d43.0205556!4d-1.3247222
In Sicily, Roland’s story morphed into Orlando Furioso (Mad Roland) and is performed with rod puppets. They used to do this show in New York City’s Little Italy, too. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwtwFK9dHfs
Santé vache! There’s a Roland movie with young Klaus Kinski in the lead—https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0077317/

Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Reading & Writing.

Don’t forget: I wrote another Western Civ User’s Guide! Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Time & Space.