Would a typical listener to The Song of Roland notice it’s discrepancies?

In the medieval epic The Song of Roland, there were multiple discrepancies, some of which change key premises in the poem. One of the most obvious discrepancies was the problem of the numbers of the two opposing armies: Charlemagne and the French and Marsilie and the Muslims in Spain. The Muslim king Marsilie is said to have 20,000 men at the beginning of the poem, and is also said to be greatly outnumbered by Charlemagne’s 120,000 Franks. Because he is outnumbered, he tricked him into leaving Spain. Then, 400,000 soldiers suddenly appear out of nowhere and attack the French rearguard under Oliver and Roland in two waves. All 20,000 in the rearguard died, reducing the French forces to 100,000. The question is, why did Marsilie keep these troops in reserve against Charlemagne for seven years during the war? There are also problems with the French numbers, which changed from 100,000 to 335,000 right before Charlemagne returned to avenge Roland and the rearguard. The problems with the numbers on both sides, especially that of the Muslims, would probably get the attention of a typical listener. It changed the entire situation of Marsilie, which was originally one of desperation and then one of complete confidence due to the number of troops in his army.

When the Muslims advanced toward the rearguard, they blew 1,000 trumpets, and Charlemagne and his troops didn’t hear them. When the second division blew 7,000 trumpets, they still could not hear them. But, when Roland blew his single trumpet, they could hear it on the other side of the Pyrenees. The poem claims that a living Frankish eyewitness saw all the events in the battle and then wrote them down in a chronicle. But, the poem also said that all of the Franks in the battle died. This one may not be as obvious to a listener, but could still be noticable.

The poem also had problems when talking about events on the Muslim side as well. When Baligant, the famous emir, came to help Marsilie after his defeat by Charlemagne, he left Saragossa in stanza 192, then arrived at Saragossa in stanza 194. It is not clear where he was arriving, and it is very possible that at least a few listeners in a room would have noticed it. In the poem, the Muslims spoke of themselves as the heathen, even though it is highly unlikely that they would do that. The Muslim forces are given the hierarchical terms that a European system would have; like the titles of “baron”, “count”, and “duke”. These instances would also raise suspicion as to the historical accuracy of the poem

Islamic theology was completely misrepresented in the poem. The poem claimed that the Muslims were polytheists worshiping three different gods: Muhammad, Apollo, and Tervagant. In reality, the Muslims worship Allah, not Muhammad. Muhammad is said to be a prophet of Allah, but not a god to be worshiped. Muslims are not polytheists, but rather strong monotheists. Although an uneducated person in the Middle Ages far from Islamic lands may not have noticed it, listeners today and Europeans who knew anything about Islam would find it strange.


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