| Stories of Roland Told to the Children|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|Ten illustrated stories from the song of Roland, simply but effectively told, relating how Roland and Oliver died, of Charlemagne's vengeance on Marsil the Saracen and of the punishment of the traitor Ganelon. The treatment is romantic, the style picturesque. Ages 8-10 |
 As Ganelon and Blancandrin rode along together beneath the
olive-trees and through the fruitful vineyards of sunny
Spain, the heathen began to talk cunningly. "What a
wonderful knight is thy Emperor," he said. "He hath
conquered the world from sea to sea. But why cometh he
within our borders? Why left he us not in peace?"
"It was his will," replied Ganelon. "There is no man in all
the world so great as he. None may stand against him."
"You Franks are gallant men indeed," said Blancandrin, "but
your dukes and counts deserve blame when they counsel the
Emperor to fight with us now."
"There is none deserveth that blame save Roland," said
Ganelon. "Such pride as his
 ought to be punished. Oh, that
some one would slay him!" he cried fiercely. "Then should we
"This Roland is very cruel," said Blancandrin, "to wish to
conquer all the world as he does. But in whom does he trust
"In the Franks," said Ganelon. "They love him with such a
great love that they think he can do no wrong. He giveth
them gold and silver, jewels and armour, so they serve him.
Even to the Emperor himself he maketh rich presents. He will
not rest until he hath conquered all the world, from east to
The Saracen looked at Ganelon out of the corner of his eye.
He was a right noble knight, but now that his face was dark
with wrath and jealousy, he looked like a felon.
"Listen thou to me," said Blancandrin softly. "Dost wish to
be avenged upon Roland? Then by Mahomet deliver him into our
hands. King Marsil is very generous; for such a kindness he
 willingly give unto thee of his countless treasure."
Ganelon heard the tempter's voice, but he rode onward as if
unheeding, his chin sunken upon his breast, his eyes dark
But long ere the ride was ended and Saragossa reached, the
heathen lord and Christian knight had plotted together for
the ruin of Roland.
At length the journey was over, and Ganelon lighted down
before King Marsil, who awaited him beneath the shadow of
his orchard trees, seated upon a marble throne covered with
rich silken rugs. Around him crowded his nobles, silent and
eager to learn how Blancandrin had fared upon his errand.
Bowing low, Blancandrin approached the throne, leading
Ganelon by the hand. "Greeting," he said, "in the name of
Mahomet. Well, O Marsil, have I done thy behest to the
mighty Christian King. But save that he raised his hands to
heaven and gave thanks to his God, no answer did he render
 to me. But unto thee he sendeth one of his nobles, a very
powerful man in France. From him shalt thou learn if thou
shalt have peace or war."
"Let him speak," said King Marsil. "We will listen."
"Greeting," said Ganelon, "in the name of God—the God of
glory whom we ought all to adore. Listen ye to the command
of Charlemagne:—Thou, O king, shalt receive the Christian
faith, then half of Spain will he leave to thee to hold in
fief. The other half shall be given to Count Roland—a
haughty companion thou wilt have there. If thou wilt not
agree to this, Charlemagne will besiege Saragossa, and thou
shalt be led captive to Aix, there to die a vile and
King Marsil shook with anger and turned pale. In his hand he
held an arrow fledged with gold. Now, springing from his
throne, he raised his arm as if he would strike Ganelon. But
the knight laid his hand upon his sword and drew it half out
scab-  bard. "Sword," he cried, "thou art bright and
beautiful; oft have I carried thee at the court of my king.
It shall never be said of me that I died alone in a foreign
land, among fierce foes, ere thou wert dipped in the blood
of their bravest and best."
For a few moments the heathen king and the Christian knight
eyed each other in deep silence. Then the air was filled
with shouts. "Part them, part them," cried the Saracens.
The noblest of the Saracens rushed between their king and
Ganelon. "It was a foolish trick to raise thy hand against
the Christian knight," said Marsil's Calif, seating him once
more upon his throne. " 'Twere well to listen to what he hath
"Sir," said Ganelon proudly, "thinkest thou for all the
threats in the wide world I will be silent and not speak the
message which the mighty Charlemagne sendeth to his mortal
enemy? Nay, I would speak, if ye were all against me." And
keeping his right hand still upon the golden pommel of his
 sword, with his left he unclasped his cloak of fur and silk
and cast it upon the steps of the throne. There, in his
strength and splendour, he stood defying them all.
" 'Tis a noble knight!" cried the heathen in admiration.
Then once more turning to King Marsil, Ganelon gave him the
Emperor's letter. As he broke the seal and read, Marsil's
brow grew black with anger. "Listen, my lords," he cried;
"because I slew yonder insolent Christian knights, the
Emperor Charlemagne bids me beware his wrath. He commands
that I shall send unto him as hostage mine uncle the Calif."
"This is some madness of Ganelon!" cried a heathen knight.
"He is only worthy of death. Give him unto me, and I will
see that justice is done upon him." So saying, he laid his
hand upon his sword.
Like a flash of lightning Ganelon's good blade Murglies
sprang from its sheath, and with his back against a tree,
the Christian knight prepared to defend
him-  self to the last.
But once again the fight was stopped, and this time
Blancandrin led Ganelon away.
Then, walking alone with the king, Blancandrin told of all
that he had done, and of how even upon the way hither,
Ganelon had promised to betray Roland, who was Charlemagne's
greatest warrior. "And if he die," said Blancandrin, "then
is our peace sure."
"Bring hither the Christian knight to me," cried King
So Blancandrin went, and once more leading Ganelon by the
hand, brought him before the king.
"Fair Sir Ganelon," said the wily heathen, "I did a rash and
foolish thing when in anger I raised my hand to strike at
thee. As a token that thou wilt forget it, accept this cloak
of sable. It is worth five hundred pounds in gold." And
lifting a rich cloak, he clasped it about the neck of
"I may not refuse it," said the knight, looking down. "May
Heaven reward thee!"
 "Trust me, Sir Ganelon," said King Marsil, "I love thee
well. But keep thou our counsels secret. I would hear thee
talk of Charlemagne. He is very old, is he not?—more than
two hundred years old. He must be worn out and weary, for he
hath fought so many battles and humbled so many kings in the
dust. He ought to rest now from his labours in his city of
Ganelon shook his head. "Nay," he said, "such is not
Charlemagne. All those who have seen him know that our
Emperor is a true warrior. I know not how to praise him
enough before you, for there is nowhere a man so full of
valour and of goodness. I would rather die than leave his
"In truth," said Marsil, "I marvel greatly. I had thought
that Charlemagne had been old and worn. Then if it is not
so, when will he cease his wars?"
"Ah," said Ganelon, "that he will never do so long as his
nephew Roland lives. Under the arch of heaven there bides no
baron so splendid or so proud. Oliver, his friend,
 also is
full of prowess and of valour. With them and his peers
beside him, Charlemagne feareth no man."
"Fair Sir Ganelon," said King Marsil boldly, knowing his
hatred, "tell me, how shall I slay Roland?"
"That I can tell thee," said Ganelon. "Promise thou the
Emperor all that he asketh of thee. Send hostages and
presents to him. He will then return to France. His army
will pass through the valley of Roncesvalles. I will see to
it that Roland and his friend Oliver lead the rear-guard.
They will lag behind the rest of the army, then there shalt
thou fall upon them with all thy mighty men. I say not but
that thou shalt lose many a knight, for Roland and his Peers
will fight right manfully. But in the end, being so many
more than they, thou shalt conquer. Roland shall lie dead,
and slaying him thou wilt cut off the right arm of
Charlemagne. Then farewell to the wondrous army of France.
Never again shall Charlemagne gather such a company, and
 borders of Spain there shall be peace for
When Ganelon had finished speaking, the king threw his arms
about his neck and kissed him. Then turning to his slaves,
he commanded them to bring great treasure of gold, and
silver and precious stones, and lay it at the feet of the
"But swear to me," said Marsil, "that Roland shall be in the
rear-guard, and swear to me his death."
And Ganelon, laying his hand upon his sword Murglies, swore
by the holy relics therein, that he would bring Roland to
Then came a heathen knight who gave to Ganelon a sword, the
hilt of which glittered with gems so that the eyes were
dazzled in looking upon it. "Let but Roland be in the
rear-guard," he said, "and it is thine." Then he kissed
Ganelon on both cheeks.
Soon another heathen knight followed him, laughing joyfully.
"Here is my helmet," he cried.
"It is the richest and best
 beaten out of steel. It is thine so that thou truly
bring Roland to death and shame." And he, too, kissed
Next came Bramimonde, Marsil's queen. She was very
beautiful. Her dark hair was strung with pearls, and her
robes of silk and gold swept the ground. Her hands were full
of glittering gems. Bracelets and necklaces of gold, rubies
and sapphires fell from her white fingers. "Take these," she
said, "to thy fair lady. Tell her that Queen Bramimonde
sends them to her because of the great service thou hast
done." And bowing low, she poured the sparkling jewels into
Ganelon's hands. Thus did the heathen reward Ganelon for his
"Ho there!" called King Marsil to his treasurer, "are my
gifts for the Emperor ready?"
"Yea, Sire," answered the treasurer, "seven hundred camels'
load of silver and gold and twenty hostages, the noblest of
the land; all are ready."
Then King Marsil leant his hand on
 Ganelon's shoulder. "Wise
art thou and brave," he said, "but in the name of all thou
holdest sacred, forget not thy promise unto me. See, I give
thee ten mules laden with richest treasure, and every year I
will send to thee as much again. Now take the keys of my
city gates, take the treasure and the hostages made ready
for thine Emperor. Give them all to him, tell him that I
yield to him all that he asks, but forget not thy promise
that Roland shall ride in the rearguard."
Impatient to be gone, Ganelon shook the King's hand from his
shoulder. "Let me tarry no longer," he cried. Then springing
to horse he rode swiftly away.
Meanwhile Charlemagne lay encamped, awaiting Marsil's
answer. And as one morning he sat beside his tent, with his
lords and mighty men around him, a great cavalcade appeared
in the distance. And presently Ganelon, the traitor, drew
rein before him. Softly and smoothly he began his
treacherous tale. "God keep you," he
 cried; "here I bring
the keys of Saragossa, with treasure rich and rare, seven
hundred camels' load of silver and gold and twenty hostages
of the noblest of the heathen host. And King Marsil bids me
say, thou shalt not blame him that his uncle the Calif comes
not too, for he is dead. I myself saw him as he set forth
with three hundred thousand armed men upon the sea. Their
vessels sank ere they had gone far from the land, and he and
they were swallowed in the waves." Thus Ganelon told his
"Now praised be Heaven!" cried Charlemagne. "And thanks, my
trusty Ganelon, for well hast thou sped. At length my wars
are done, and home to gentle France we ride."
So the trumpets were sounded, and soon the great army, with
pennons waving and armour glittering in the sunshine, was
rolling onward through the land, like a gleaming mighty
But following the Christian army, through valleys deep and
dark, by pathways secret
 and unknown, crept the heathen
host. They were clad in shining steel from head to foot,
swords were by their sides, lances were in their hands, and
bitter hatred in their hearts. Four hundred thousand strong
they marched in stealthy silence. And, alas! the Franks knew
When night came the Franks encamped upon the plain. And high
upon the mountain sides, in a dark forest the heathen kept
watch upon them.
In the midst of his army King Charlemagne lay, and as he
slept he dreamed he stood alone in the valley of
Roncesvalles, spear in hand. There to him came Ganelon who
seized his spear and broke it in pieces before his eyes, and
the noise of the breaking was as the noise of thunder. In
his sleep Charlemagne stirred uneasily, but he did not wake.
The vision passed, and again he dreamed. It seemed to him
that he was now in his own city of Aix. Suddenly from out a
forest a leopard sprang upon him. But even as its fangs
 upon his arm, a faithful hound came bounding from his
hall and fell upon the savage beast with fury. Fiercely the
hound grappled with the leopard. Snarling and growling they
rolled over and over. Now the hound was uppermost, now the
leopard. " 'Tis a splendid fight," cried the Franks who
watched. But who should win the Emperor knew not, for the
vision faded, and still he slept.
Fiercely the hound grappled with the leopard
The night passed and dawn came. A thousand trumpets sounded,
the camp was all astir, and the Franks made ready once more
But Charlemagne was grave and thoughtful, musing on the
dream that he had dreamed. "My knights and barons," he said,
"mark well the country through which we pass. These valleys
are steep and straight. It would go ill with us did the
false Saracen forget his oath, and fall upon us as we pass.
To whom therefore shall I trust the rear-guard that we may
march in surety?"
"Give the command to my step-son,
 Roland, there is none so
brave as he," said Ganelon.
As Charlemagne listened he looked at Ganelon darkly. "Thou
art a very demon," he said. "What rage possesseth thee? And
if I give command of the rear to Roland, who, then, shall
lead the van?"
"There is Ogier the Dane," said Ganelon quickly, "who
Still Charlemagne looked darkly at him. He would not that
Roland should hear, for well he knew his adventurous spirit.
But already Roland had heard. "I ought to love thee well,
Sir Step-sire," he cried, "for this day hast thou named me
for honour. I will take good heed that our Emperor lose not
the least of his men, nor charger, palfrey, nor mule that is
not paid for by stroke of sword."
"That know I right well," replied Ganelon, "therefore have I
Then to Charlemagne Roland turned, "Give me the bow of
office, Sire, and let me take command," he said.
 But the Emperor sat with bowed head. In and out of his long
white beard he twisted his fingers. Tears stood in his eyes,
and he kept silence. Such was his love for Roland and fear
lest evil should befall him.
Then spoke Duke Naimes, "Give the command unto Roland, Sire;
there is none better."
So, silently, Charlemagne held out the bow of office, and
kneeling, Roland took it.
Then was Ganelon's wicked heart glad.
"Nephew," said Charlemagne, "half my host I leave with
"Nay, Sire," answered Roland proudly, "twenty thousand only
shall remain with me. The rest of ye may pass onward in all
surety, for while I live ye have naught to fear."
Then in his heart Ganelon laughed.
So the mighty army passed onward through the vale of
Roncesvalles without doubt or dread, for did not Roland the
brave guard the rear? With him remained Oliver his friend,
Turpin the bold Archbishop of
 Rheims, all the peers, and
twenty thousand more of the bravest knights of France.
As the great army wound along, the hearts of the men were
glad. For seven long years they had been far from home, and
now soon they would see their dear ones again. But the
Emperor rode among them sadly with bowed head. His fingers
again twined themselves in his long white beard, tears once
more stood in his eyes. Beside him rode Duke Naimes. "Tell
me, Sire," he said, "what grief oppresseth thee?"
"Alas," said Charlemagne, "by Ganelon France is betrayed.
This night I dreamed I saw him break my lance in twain. And
this same Ganelon it is that puts my nephew in the
rear-guard. And I, I have left him in a strange land. If he
die, where shall I find such another?"
It was in vain that Duke Naimes tried to comfort the
Emperor. He would not be comforted, and all the hearts of
that great company were filled with fearful, boding dread
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