OF THE BABY NAME ROLAND
Sweetheart Roland is a German fairytale and one which was collected by the Brothers Grimm. In typical fairytale fashion, Sweetheart Roland tells the story of a witch who has two daughters – the ugly one was her real daughter and so she loved her most. The lovely one was her stepdaughter and so she treated her poorly. The ugly daughter envied the pretty one’s apron, and so the mother-witch promised to get it for her. A plan was devised that the daughter would sleep in the bed that night against the wall, with the stepdaughter sleeping on the edge. The witch would go into the room in the middle of the night and cut off her stepdaughter’s head with an axe. But the lovely stepdaughter overheard the plan and cleverly switched places with her stepsister in the bed. The witch unknowingly beheaded her own daughter and left the room. The pretty stepdaughter went to her “Sweetheart Roland” and revealed what she had done, urging him to flee with her before the stepmother discovered what she had done. Roland told the girl to go back and get the witch’s magic wand, and also spread three drops of the stepsister’s blood throughout the house. When the witch called out to her daughter, the blood answered, giving the lovers some time to escape. The witch eventually found her dead daughter and, in a rage, vowed revenge. She put on her “seven-league” boots and managed to overtake the girl and Roland. But the girl used the magic wand to turn Roland into a lake and herself into a duck. The evil witch approached but was unable to lure the duck toward her; dejected, she returned home. The next day the pursuit resumed. When the witch approached, the girl turned herself into a rose bush and Roland into a fiddler. The witch asked the fiddler if she could pluck the beautiful rose. “Of course” said Roland in disguise, “and I shall play for you.” As the witch emerged herself into the rose bush to reach the flower, Roland played the fiddle faster and faster, forcing the witch into a magical dance as the thorns from the bush ripped her apart into a bloody mess until she died. Now free from the witch, the two lovers decide to marry. Roland left for his father’s house to order the wedding while the girl used the magic wand and turned herself into a stone, waiting for Roland’s return. While gone, Roland became distracted by several women who made him forget about his one true love. As the girl waited and waited, Roland never returned. Brokenhearted she changed herself into a flower, hoping a passer-by would trend on her and take her out of her misery. Along came a shepherd who saw the pretty flower and picked it to take home (not realizing it was the girl). Back in the shepherd’s hut, suddenly all the housework and chores were finished before he awoke; and when he returned from his flock, supper was always prepared. The shepherd was perplexed and so he went to a wise woman for advice. She told him to watch carefully for anything out of place and to throw a white cloth over it to break the magic spell. When he threw the cloth over the flower, a lovely maiden stood before him and revealed it was she who had done the housekeeping. The shepherd asked her to marry him, but the girl declared her heart only belonged to Roland even if he had forsaken her. She agreed to remain and keep the shepherd’s house. It came to pass later that Roland’s wedding day approached and every maiden in the land was required to sing at the celebration. The girl did what she could to avoid her turn, but at last she was forced to sing. When her lovely voice fell upon the ears of Roland, he instantly cried out: “I know the voice! That is my true bride, I will have no other!” And so the lovely girl married her “Sweetheart Roland” and the two lived happily ever after. The End!
French: La Chanson de Roland is the oldest known French epic poem. The epic deals with Charlemagne’s campaign against the Saracens (Muslims) in Spain in the late 8th century, intended as a call-to-arms by Christians against the heathens. Based on true events (but with typical literary liberties), Roland and the rear guard under his command are betrayed by his step-father and sold out to the King of the Saracens. They are ambushed and outnumbered and left without reinforcements to defend against the oncoming Saracens. Fellow soldier and close comrade to Roland, Oliver, implores his best friend to blow his “olifant” (elephant) horn to summon back the main forces. Roland refuses (why, we’re not told exactly but perhaps meant to demonstrate the hero’s valiancy, bravery and hubris – qualities which were considered important on the battlefield). As the losses become staggering, Roland finally blows the horn so forcefully that he bursts his temples, dies on the battlefield, a martyr, while facing toward his enemy’s land. He is promptly whisked away to heaven by the angels Gabriel and Michael along with assorted cherubim. The good Oliver, we hope, also makes it into celestial territory, albeit without heavenly escorts. So goes “The Song of Roland”.
"The Song of Roland” is the oldest known French epic poem, dating from around the time of the First Crusade in the late 11th century, and most probably intended as a call to arms by Christians against the heathens. The Christian King Charlemagne is engaged in a conquest in Spain, with one recalcitrant city and king standing. Through a series of treacherous betrayals within the ranks, Charlemagne’s nephew Roland, the hero of the poem, is left without reinforcements to defend against the oncoming Saracens. His good friend, the sensible, prudent and upright Oliver, implores him to blow upon the Oliphant horn and summon Charlemagne back with help. Roland refuses, with the result that twenty thousand men lose their lives. When this disaster is made clear to him, Roland blows mightily upon his horn of elephant tusk in order to summon Charlemagne back for revenge. This last act bursts his lungs, and he dies on the battlefield, a martyr, to be escorted to heaven by angels. The good Oliver, we hope, also makes it into celestial territory, albeit without heavenly escorts.