What Makes a Hero?
The characters Roland, Aeneas, and Gilgamesh are similar in that they possess the principal qualities of an epic hero. What makes an epic hero is an individual who is, righteous, gallant, impressive in war, an advocate for his society, and has impacted history in some way. In The Song of Roland, Roland transpires as a hero as his deeds are motivated by his gallantry and dedication to the ruler. He represents the good in the epic’s theme: good versus evil. The evil is embodied by Ganelon, Roland’s stepfather who is responsible for his death. Roland is one of the strongest warriors in King Charlemagne's military. He is a courageous and daring soldier who is unafraid to fulfill and carry out his obligations. Throughout the epic Roland is portrayed as fierce, “When Roland sees that there will be a battle, it makes him fiercer than a lion or leopard” (The Song of Roland, 1208, lines 812-813), a manner which highlights his bravery. He is a loyal friend and is merciful, especially when Oliver accidentally stabs him with a sword. Roland is quick to forgive his comrade when he says “I am not harmed, not harmed, I forgive you, Friend, here and before God” (1222, lines 1352-1354). The tale of Roland was produced as an advertisement for warfare. The character Roland was created to be an inspirational fighter and icon, as well as a model for how a warrior is supposed to act. His duty was to preserve the Christian faith and protect France and the French army. The purpose for his existence was to pass on the stories of battle against the Saracens, and report what actually took place. This is shown when Roland is almost at death’s door after his brain damage caused by blowing the horn to signal King Charlemagne. Roland uses the little time he has left to position the bodies of his dead soldiers so they are facing the enemy army. He does this so that Charlemagne will see that none of his men surrendered or walked away from battle. This is shown in The Song of Roland when Roland says “My noble lord, I beg you, give me leave: our companions, whom we have loved so dearly, are all dead now, we must not abandon them. I want to look for them, know them once more, and set them in ranks, side by side, before you.” “So Roland leaves him, walks the field all along, seeks in the valleys, and seeks in the mountains. He found Gerin, and Gerer his companion, and then he found Berenger and Otun, Anseis and Sansun, and on that field he found Gerard the Old of Roussillon; and carried them, brave man, all, one by one, came back to the Archbishop with these French dead, and set them down in ranks before his knees.” Death, to Roland, is a more honorable consequence than shame or indignity. His noble deeds and devotion to his Christian beliefs, earn him his entry into heaven and God’s protection. The story illustrates “Then he held out his right glove to his Lord: Saint Gabriel took the glove from his hand. He held his head bowed down upon his arm, he is gone, his two hands joined, to his end. Then God sent him his angel Cherubin and Saint Michael, angel of the sea’s Peril; and with these two there came Saint Gabriel: they bear Count Roland’s soul to Paradise” (The Song of Roland, 1231, lines: 1701-1708). Roland is dedicated to his duty as a warrior and is willing to sacrifice his life to preserve the faith of Christianity. The wellbeing of France is very important to him as he exhibits strong patriotism to his country. He demonstrates a selfless attitude in almost everything he does. In battle he fights until the end, even when he is the last French man standing. Roland dies a great hero having fulfilled his duty and staying true to his vow that “he would not die in a strange land before he’d passed beyond his men and peers, he’d turn his face toward the enemies’ land and so, brave man, would die a conqueror” (1234, lines 1826-1830). Roland is also epic because, even...
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