Origin of the name ROLAND.
Etymology of the
Meaning of the baby name ROLAND.
From Rolandus (q.v.), a
Latinized form of Frank Hruodland
(q.v.), meaning "fame of the land; the country's glory."
Dutch Roeland. Italian Rotolando. Portuguese Rolando.
army of Charles the Great was marching back from Spain, the Gascons,
Navarrese, and Goths, who were afraid of being swallowed up by his
empire, if they exchanged his protection for that of the Arabs, plotted
together, fell on the rear of his columns as they were passing through
the defile of Roncesvalles, close to the little town of Fuente Arabia,
and slaughtered the whole division that were guarding the baggage.
"There was slain Rotlandus, prefect of the Armorican
So says Eginhard, the contemporary chronicler, and as
he mentions only two other nobles as having been killed, it is natural
to conclude that this Rotlandus was a man of mark. Who was
he? Certainly Warden of the Marches of Brittany, but was he a
(the country's glory), the repressor of the Kelts, or was he a Breton in
the Frankish service? The Cymry have laid claim to him; they say
that the rolling word is intended to render Tallwch,
a rolling or overwhelming torrent, the name of the father of Tristrem;
and in the later romances, this knight has actually been turned into Rowland,
which thus has become a favourite national Welsh name.
It is far more likely that "Rotlandus" was
Frank, but the next question is, what were the deeds that made his birth
worth contending for, and the war song of Rou be the chant of the
gallant minstrel Taillefer, to cheer the Normans on to their victory at
Eginhard is utterly silent. Turpin tells us that
was the emperor's nephew, the son of his sister Bertha, and of Milo de
Anglars. With Turpin, the expedition to Spain is the prominent
feature of the reign, and he gives us an account of a mingled battle and
controversy between Roland and Ferragus, a giant of the race of
Goliath, and only vulnerable in one point, where, however, Roland
managed to pierce him. Very soon after follows the ambush of
Roncevalles, the enemy being Saracens, not Christians, but conducted by
the traitor Ganelon. After a terrible battle, Roland,
sorely wounded, lay down under a tree, and apostrophizing his good sword
Durenda, in the most tender manner, thrice struck it upon a block of
marble, and shattered it in twain, lest it should fall into the Saracen
hands. Then he blew upon his horn, which had such wondrous tones
that all other horns split at the sound, and this blast was with such
effort that he burst all the veins in his neck, and the sound reached
the king, eight miles off! He then commended his soul to heaven,
and made a most pious and beautiful end.
That block of marble is magnified by popular fame
into the mountain itself, and la Brèche de Roland is supposed to be the
cleft made by his sword! The Northern Lights, too, are said to be
King Charles riding by, and Roland bearing the banner. The Spaniards, so far as they were Christians and Teutons, felt with the
Franks; so far as they were Celtiberians, against them, and the result
was a collection of admirable popular ballads, all prime authorities
with Don Quixote, in which il rey Carlos and his peers are
treated as national heroes. Nevertheless they are proud of his
defeat at Roncevalles, declare that the emperor broke his word to Don
Alfonso of Leon, and that the attack was therefore made in which Don
Alfonso's nephew, Bernardo de Carpio, was leader, and demolished the
invulnerable Conde Roldán, by squeezing him to death in his arms.
It is the Spaniards alone who have transferred to
Roldan the invulnerability of Achilles, Siegfried, and Diarmaid; the
French and Italians bestow it only on Ferragus, who is, as already
mentioned, an evident Keltic importation through the Breton poets, being
either the Irish Fergus, or the Welsh Vreichfras, though he has since
become a Moorish giant.
The English, having their own Arthur to engage their
attention, did little more than versify Turpin, but allowed Roland's
sword to be carried away by his friend Sir Baldwin, and took vengeance
for his death.
was the Italians who did the most for their Orlando.
Some floating Valkyr notion had attached itself in German fancy to his
mother, who was at first Bertha the goose-footed, and then the
large-footed, and romance further related that she was the emperor's
sister, who had secretly married the knight Milone di Anglante, and
therefore was driven out of the court, and forced to take refuge in a
cave, where the hero was born, and was called Rotolando, from his
rolling himself on the ground. His father went to the wars, and
Berta became the diligent spinner before alluded to, but she was still
so poor that his young companions each gave her boy a square of cloth to
cover him, two white, and two red, whence he always bore those colours
quartered on his shield. Afterwards he was taken into favour, and
became the chief Paladin.
Here Luigi Pulci took him up, and made him the hero
of a poem called the Morgante Maggiore, from a giant whom Orlando
converted, and who followed him faithfully about through all his
adventures. Orlando is here a high-spirited Christian knight,
brave, pious, and faithfully attached to his wife Alda. When slain
at Roncesvalles, he mentions her in his last and very beautiful prayer,
and his sorrow for his comrades, and parting with his horse and sword,
are very touching.
It was Bojardo who deprived Orlando of his old
traditional character of the high-minded champion, that crusading days
had dwelt upon. Led, perhaps, by the idea of the frenzy of Amadis
de Gaul, he made Orlando fall desperately in love with the fair and
false Angelica, princess of Catay, and leave the court and all his
duties just as the Saracen king Gradasso was invading France, to obtain
possession of Durindana, Orlando's sword. The action of the poem
is taken up with the adventures imposed upon Orlando by the mischievous
beauty, and the pursuit of him by the other Paladins, and finally it
leaves off with the whole chivalry of Charlemagne besieged in Paris by
Orlando was only innamorato according to
Bojardo; Ariosto took him up and made him furioso.
Continuing the poem where it had dropped from Bojardo's hands, Ariosto
made Angelica fall in love with an obscure youth, and marry him,
whereupon Orlando, after the example of Amadis de Gaul, went into the
state of frenzy that Don Quixote tried to imitate; and the Christians
suffered as much as the Greeks did without Achilles, till the champion's
senses were brought back from the moon; when he returned to his duty,
restored fortune to the Christians, and saved France from becoming
tributary to the infidel.
Charles VIII. of France, in his romantic youth, named
one of his short-lived children, Charles Roland, by the way of union of
the two heroes.
The derivation of the first syllable is the word hruod
in Frank, hrothr in the North, and in modern German ruhm,
meaning fame or glory. (History of Christian Names, Yonge, 1884).
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