The Song of Roland

by

Anonymous

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

The Song of Roland: Laisses 16–31 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
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 war. The gathered barons concur. Naimon offers to go to Saragossa as envoy, but Charlemayn refuses to spare his wisest vassal. He also declines to send Roland, Oliver, or any of his Twelve Peers (his favored barons). Then Roland suggests sending Ganelon, who is his stepfather. Furious, Ganelon tells Roland that if he ever returns from this errand, he’ll never stop seeking vengeance on Roland. In the meantime, he will “vent [his] rage” in Marsile’s court. Hearing this, Roland just laughs.
At first, it looks as if Marsilion’s treacherous plan will prevail, as Charlemayn’s court decides to accept the offer of appeasement. However, Roland’s rashness complicates this. It’s not clear why his nomination of Ganelon angers his stepfather so much, but there is obviously bad blood between the two men, and it will have consequences for all of France—suggesting that a treacherous character like Ganelon will stop at nothing to get its own way.
Themes
Treachery vs. Chivalry Theme Icon
Ganelon fumes that Roland has spitefully singled him out, but that he will obey Charlemayn’s orders. Charlemayn duly bestows “the glove and wand” upon Ganelon, chiding his anger. But before Ganelon can accept the glove, it falls into the dust. The watching Franks are alarmed by this bad omen. Charlemayn makes the sign of the cross over Ganelon and dismisses him.
The handing over of a token—in this case, the glove and wand—to formalize an appointment to a task and signify one’s deputized authority was a medieval custom. In this scene, the dropped glove is a symbolic representation of Ganelon’s bad faith. Meanwhile, Charlemayn’s gesture of the cross shows that he embodies a kind of priestly authority over his people as emperor.
Themes
The Ideal King Theme Icon
Treachery vs. Chivalry Theme Icon
Ganelon gathers his sword, Murgleys, his steed, and the rest of his things. Many knights weep as they bid him farewell, blaming Roland for unfairly naming him for this task. Ganelon just tells them to greet his wife, his son Baldwin, and his friend Pinabel. Then he sets off, soon catching up with the pagan envoys.
Swords symbolized a warrior’s fighting prowess and reputation during the Middle Ages, and key characters in the poem name their weapons just as they name their horses.
Themes
Loyalty, Honor, and Chivalry Theme Icon
Treachery vs. Chivalry Theme Icon
Ganelon and Blancandrin chat about Charlemayn and Roland. Ganelon tells a story about Roland, claiming that his stepson returned from battle with a golden apple in hand, which he presented to Charlemayn as a symbol that he would give his uncle “the crowns […] of all the kings on earth.” He predicts that, one day, Roland’s pride will be his undoing, and that if someone would kill Roland, there might be peace.
Ganelon doesn’t waste any time dropping hints to the envoys from Saragossa. The “golden apple” story suggests that Roland is arrogant—but perhaps even more than that, it suggests that Ganelon envies his stepson’s intimacy and influence with the emperor.
Themes
Treachery vs. Chivalry Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Get the entire The Song of Roland LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Song of Roland PDF
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 the Franks and to Charlemayn, assuring their love for him. As Ganelon and Blancandrin journey, they mutually pledge to find a way to kill Roland. When they arrive in Saragossa, they find King Marsilion sitting on a throne under a pine, with 20,000 Saracens surrounding him, waiting for news.
Ganelon’s hints have their desired effect, as Blancandrin agrees with Ganelon about betraying Roland, whom Ganelon implies buys the loyalty of his peers. Ganelon’s readiness to betray Roland out of jealousy further shows the corruption of his character.
Themes
Treachery vs. Chivalry Theme Icon