The story of Roland was used to promote the importance of the Crusades. It was written around 1100 A.D, and followed the story of young Count Roland as he fought in Charlemagne’s army against the Muslims in France.
Roland and his friend, Oliver are picked to lead a small group of soldiers as the rear guard behind the main army. What they don’t know however, is that a traitor of Charlemagne has given away information to the Muslims. Unbeknownst to them, a surprise attack is planned on the army of Roland and Oliver.
Oliver and Roland both had extremely different military goals. This showed itself as the battle with the Muslims played out:
Oliver insisted that Roland blow the trumpet to warn King Charlemagne about the attack so that he could come and deliver them; because they were sorely out-numbered. Roland, however insisted that to do so would be detrimental to their military pride and glory. He finally won the argument, and the trumpet was not blown. Even when defeat seemed certain, Roland would not retreat. He didn’t want anyone to remember him as a coward, but as a hero.
The small rear guard that they were in charge of was severely outnumbered by the Muslim army. Roland knew that there wasn’t a chance of victory, but he still refused to blow the horn for help. Three times, Oliver asked Roland to sound the alarm:
“Comrade Roland, sound your horn; Charles will hear it and the army will return.” Roland replies: “I should act like a madman! I should lose my renown, in sweet France.”
– Roland is worried about ruining his reputation by blowing the horn. He does not want anyone to believe that he is a coward who needs help fighting off the enemy.
“Comrade Roland, sound you horn; Charles will hear it and turn the army back. The King with all his barons will come to our aid.” Roland replies: “May it not please God that my kinsfolk be blamed on my account, nor that sweet France fall in disrepute!”
– Roland also does not want his country of France to be shamed. He thinks that sounding the horn would be detrimental to France’s honor and pride. He doesn’t want people to believe France is full of cowards who are unable to win a battle.
“Comrade Roland, sound your horn; Charles will hear it as he crosses the passes and I warrant you the French will turn back.” “May it not please God,” replies Roland, “that is should be said by any living man that I ever sounded my horn on account of the heathen. Never shall my kinsfolk be reproached on this account.”
– He does not want to give the Muslims the satisfaction that he was scared and had to blow his horn for help. He doesn’t want that action to reflect badly on his country.
Oliver wants military victory; that is his goal. He feels that winning is the whole point of battle. That is what you look towards, and you try to achieve it any way possible. Even if that means blowing the horn to bring backup. Roland on the other hand, wants to preserve military honor and pride. He is not interested in just winning; to him, no matter the outcome of the battle he wants to maintain his good appearance. Roland knew that he would lose the battle if he did not call for help, but to him losing and dying was worth preserving his military figure as a courageous leader.