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View Diary: Historical Fiction: The Song of Roland (54 comments)

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  •  intriguing that both this and the great (6+ / 0-)

    Anglo-Saxon poem Battle of Maldon have that countervailing note of the folly of great warriors. In Maldon the protagonist is said to be ofermod, over-proud, when he lets chivalric ideals yield an easy passage to the enemy.

    Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

    by Wee Mama on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 06:31:51 AM PDT

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    •  Didn't know that, interesting (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wee Mama, KenBee, 714day

      I wonder if the "chivalric ideals" were a literary excuse for the loss. A bit like Roland, except that almost all of the facts in The Song are wrong.

      •  A frien studying Beowulf maintains it is actually (2+ / 0-)
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        KenBee, 714day

        actually a slam on the heroic ideal.

        Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

        by Wee Mama on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 11:50:53 AM PDT

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        •  Beowulf and heroic ideal (2+ / 0-)
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          714day, Wee Mama

          There is an interesting work, The Condemnation of the Heroic in Beowulf by Fidel Fajardo-Acosta, and the first half is focused on this very point.  If you are really wonky, a dissertation called Heroic Destruction explores this question, also.

          One point that needs to be made about Maldon and Beowulf, and even Roland, is that they are pre-chivalric.  Yes, the version of Roland we have comes from the Chivalric era, but it comes from the oral tradition.  

      •  Battle of Maldon (1+ / 0-)
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        All I know about the Battle of Maldon is what J.R.R. Tolkien wrote about it in an essay reprinted in The Tolkien Reader which was a companion piece to a short drama he wrote inspired by the epic poem.

        From what I understand the battle involved the two armies on opposite sides of a strait connected by a narrow causeway.  The Saxon chieftain could have easily defeated the invaders by killing them as they crossed; instead he permitted the opposing army to come completely across before he attacked.  The result was that the invaders slaughtered the English.

        In his essay, Tolkien argued that the epic poem about the battle does not portray his action as Tragic Nobility as much as Prideful Folly.  Although that too is a simplification on my part.  I recommend reading Tokien's essay.

        "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

        by quarkstomper on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 12:29:21 PM PDT

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    •  Maldon (0+ / 0-)

      It is true that the poet does describe Byrtnoth as ofermod, but what choice did he have?  His forces were gathered, no other troop were coming to help him, and had he waited, some of the irregulars would have started to wander away.  He could not have simply left the Danes on the island, for they could have rowed away, and he would have had to have chased them down.  

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