The Song of Roland

by

Anonymous

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Song of Roland can help.

Count Ganelon (Guènes) Character Analysis

Count Ganelon is also called Guènes in the poem. He is married to Charlemayn’s sister and is therefore Roland’s stepfather. He also has a son named Baldwin. Ganelon is a treacherous and seemingly insecure figure who mistrusts and envies his powerful stepson. When Charlemayn sends Ganelon to Saragossa as a messenger on Roland’s suggestion, Ganelon angrily plots with Blancandrin to betray and kill Roland, claiming that the young knight is prideful and has it coming. In Saragossa, he further convinces King Marsilion to ambush the rear-guard of Charlemayn’s army, knowing this will mean Roland’s probable death. Ganelon’s treachery is proven when he tries to dissuade Charlemayn from riding to the rear-guard’s rescue. He is later brutally executed when the death of his friend and champion, Pinabel, is regarded as proof of his guilt.

Count Ganelon (Guènes) Quotes in The Song of Roland

The The Song of Roland quotes below are all either spoken by Count Ganelon (Guènes) or refer to Count Ganelon (Guènes). For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Christianity vs. Paganism Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of The Song of Roland published in 1957.
Laisses 16–31 Quotes

“There’s none,” quoth Guènes, “who merits such ill words,
Save only Roland, for whom ’twill be the worse.
But now, the Emperor in the cool shade conversed;
Up came his nephew all in his byrny girt,
Fresh with his booty from Carcassone returned.
Roland in hand a golden apple nursed
And showed his uncle, saying, ‘Take it, fair sir;
The crowns I give you of all the kings on earth.’
One day his pride will undo him for sure,
Danger of death day by day he incurs,
If one should slay him some peace might be preserved.”

Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:
Laisses 32–52 Quotes

The Paynim said: “I marvel in my mind
At Charlemayn whose head is old and white.
Two hundred years, I know, have passed him by.
In lands so many he’s conquered far and wide,
Lance-thrusts so many he’s taken in the strife,
Rich kings so many brought to a beggar’s plight—
When will he weary of going forth to fight?”
“Never”, said Guènes, “while Roland sees the light;
’Twixt east and west his valour has no like,
Oliver too, his friend, is a brave knight;
And the twelve Peers, in whom the King delights,
With twenty thousand Frenchmen to vanward ride:
Charles is secure, he fears no man alive.”

Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:
Laisses 128–137 Quotes

Quoth Charles: “I hear the horn of Roland cry!
He’d never sound it but in the thick of fight.”
“There is no battle”, Count Ganelon replies;
“You’re growing old, your hair is sere and white,
When you speak thus, you’re talking like a child.
Full well you know Roland’s o’erweening pride […]
Now to the Peers he’s showing-off in style. […]
Ride on, ride on! Why loiter here the while?”

Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Song of Roland LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Song of Roland PDF

Count Ganelon (Guènes) Character Timeline in The Song of Roland

The timeline below shows where the character Count Ganelon (Guènes) appears in The Song of Roland. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Laisses 1–15
The Ideal King Theme Icon
Treachery vs. Chivalry Theme Icon
Charlemayn, Roland, Oliver, and Ganelon, “that wrought the treachery,” are among those gathered beneath a pine tree. Charlemayn explains the... (full context)
Treachery vs. Chivalry Theme Icon
Charlemayn strokes his beard in silence. Then Guènes interjects, “full of pride.” He warns Charlemayn not to trust “a brawling fellow” and that... (full context)
Laisses 16–31
Treachery vs. Chivalry Theme Icon
At the council meeting, Naimon speaks up and agrees with Ganelon’s rejection of Roland’s view. Marsilion has been effectively vanquished, and it’s time to end the... (full context)
The Ideal King Theme Icon
Treachery vs. Chivalry Theme Icon
Ganelon fumes that Roland has spitefully singled him out, but that he will obey Charlemayn’s orders.... (full context)
Loyalty, Honor, and Chivalry Theme Icon
Treachery vs. Chivalry Theme Icon
Ganelon gathers his sword, Murgleys, his steed, and the rest of his things. Many knights weep... (full context)
Treachery vs. Chivalry Theme Icon
Ganelon and Blancandrin chat about Charlemayn and Roland. Ganelon tells a story about Roland, claiming that... (full context)
Treachery vs. Chivalry Theme Icon
Blancandrin agrees that Roland sounds like a villain who presumes to conquer and control others. Ganelon says that Roland holds power because he gives gifts of silver, gold, and lands to... (full context)
Laisses 32–52
Christianity vs. Paganism Theme Icon
Treachery vs. Chivalry Theme Icon
Blancandrin leads Ganelon before King Marsilion and greets the king in the name of “Mahound” and “Apollyon.” He... (full context)
Christianity vs. Paganism Theme Icon
Treachery vs. Chivalry Theme Icon
Ganelon, seeing Marsilion’s anger, grasps his sword, but “the wiser Paynims” persuade their king to sit... (full context)
The Ideal King Theme Icon
Marsilion and Ganelon discuss Charlemayn. Marsile wonders when the ancient king—who’s more than 200 years old—will tire of... (full context)
Treachery vs. Chivalry Theme Icon
Marsilion proposes going into battle against Charlemayn. Ganelon replies that the losses would be too great—he has a better idea. He suggests that... (full context)
Treachery vs. Chivalry Theme Icon
Ganelon explains that Marsilion must send 100,000 of his army to engage Charlemayn’s rear-guard at the... (full context)
Christianity vs. Paganism Theme Icon
Treachery vs. Chivalry Theme Icon
...law” be brought, and on this he swears to fight Roland. Then several pagans approach Ganelon with gifts—a sword and helm—in exchange for his help against Roland. Queen Bramimonda also gives... (full context)
Laisses 53–78
Christianity vs. Paganism Theme Icon
The Ideal King Theme Icon
Treachery vs. Chivalry Theme Icon
Meanwhile, Emperor Charlemayn waits for Ganelon’s return. After attending Mass, he stands with Roland, Oliver, and many dukes, while Ganelon addresses... (full context)
The Ideal King Theme Icon
Treachery vs. Chivalry Theme Icon
...the morning. Meanwhile, Charlemayn falls asleep and dreams. In his first dream, he dreams that Ganelon seizes and breaks his lance. Next, he dreams that wild animals threaten him at home... (full context)
Loyalty, Honor, and Chivalry Theme Icon
Treachery vs. Chivalry Theme Icon
...next morning, Charlemayn inquires who should compose the rearguard which will hold the mountain passes. Ganelon speaks up, nominating Roland for this task, which angers Charlemayn. But before Charlemayn can appoint... (full context)
The Ideal King Theme Icon
...at the pass. When Naimon asks why his lord weeps, Charlemayn explains his dream of Ganelon the night before, and dreads the thought of losing Roland. (full context)
Laisses 79–103
Christianity vs. Paganism Theme Icon
Loyalty, Honor, and Chivalry Theme Icon
...Christians are in the right!” When Oliver, spying the Saracen army from a distance, decries Ganelon’s treachery, Roland won’t let him speak ill of his stepfather. Oliver warns the French that... (full context)
Loyalty, Honor, and Chivalry Theme Icon
As the French prepare for battle, Roland admits that Oliver was right—Ganelon has betrayed them and must be avenged by Charlemayn. Roland rides through the Roncevaux Pass... (full context)
Laisses 104–127
Treachery vs. Chivalry Theme Icon
...the pagans, a grievous number of the French lie dead, also. The poet remarks that Ganelon served Charlemayn poorly by betraying him, but that, later, he justly lost his own life,... (full context)
Christianity vs. Paganism Theme Icon
Loyalty, Honor, and Chivalry Theme Icon
...The whole country fills with the mighty sound of their trumpets. Roland tells Oliver that Ganelon’s treason is plain, and it will be repaid by Charlemayn, but for now, they must... (full context)
Laisses 128–137
Loyalty, Honor, and Chivalry Theme Icon
Treachery vs. Chivalry Theme Icon
...and blood spurts out of his mouth. Charlemayn, hearing the horn, is immediately concerned. But Ganelon quickly tries to dissuade the emperor, saying that Charlemayn is growing old, and anyway, he... (full context)
Loyalty, Honor, and Chivalry Theme Icon
...to sound, Naimon observes its urgency and warns Charlemayn that there must indeed be a battle—Ganelon’s diversion is traitorous. Charlemayn agrees, and the French gird themselves and gallop back through the... (full context)
Treachery vs. Chivalry Theme Icon
...draws on, Charlemayn is wrathful: he orders his cooks to arrest and guard the traitor, Ganelon. The master-cook does so, and 100 “kitchen knaves” beat Ganelon and chain him on a... (full context)
Laisses 265–291
Christianity vs. Paganism Theme Icon
The Ideal King Theme Icon
...as he arrives, he sends letters to all the judges throughout his domains—it’s time for Ganelon to stand trial. (full context)
Treachery vs. Chivalry Theme Icon
Before the palace in Aix, Ganelon is tied to a stake and beaten. Meanwhile, all Charlemayn’s vassals gather for the solemn... (full context)
Treachery vs. Chivalry Theme Icon
Standing before Charlemayn, Ganelon looks strangely noble. He continues to insist that he has served the Emperor faithfully and... (full context)
Loyalty, Honor, and Chivalry Theme Icon
Treachery vs. Chivalry Theme Icon
...gathered vassals discuss the situation in soft voices. They decide that it’s best to let Ganelon go free, as long as he serves Charlemayn faithfully from now on. After all, Roland... (full context)
Loyalty, Honor, and Chivalry Theme Icon
Treachery vs. Chivalry Theme Icon
...over the judges’ cowardice, Thierry speaks up. He argues that even if Roland did treat Ganelon badly, betraying Roland was still an act of treachery, and Ganelon acted falsely toward the... (full context)
Treachery vs. Chivalry Theme Icon
...Thierry and wipes the blood from his face. They return to Aix with joy, while Ganelon’s death-sentence is prepared. Charlemayn asks his vassals what he should do with the 30 vassals... (full context)
Treachery vs. Chivalry Theme Icon
The French agree that Ganelon should die by torture. He is bound by hands and feet to four “high-mettled stallions”... (full context)