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Origin of the name ROLAND.
Etymology of the name ROLAND.
Meaning of the baby name ROLAND.

  

ROLAND.  English.  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.  Spanish Roldán.

    When the 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 border."
    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 Frank Hruodland (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 Hastings?
    Eginhard is utterly silent.  Turpin tells us that Rolandus 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.
    But
it 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 the Saracens.
    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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