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As the song of Roland opens, the Spanish city of Saragossa has been resisting the

advances of the French army of Charlemagnme for seven years. Marsiliun, the
Moslem ruler of the city, devises a plan that he hopes will rid him of Charlemagne.
He offers Charlemagne great riches and promises to meet him in France to be
converted to Christianity. As surety, Marsiliun says he will send some of his best
men as hostages.
A messenger arrives at Charlemagnes camp bearing Marsiliuns offer.
Charlemagne decides to accept it, and, at Rolands suggestion, he names Ganelon,
Rolands stepfather, to ride back to Saragossa and accept the gifts. Ganelon, fearing
danger to his life, asks if someone else cannot be sent. Roland jeers at Ganelons
cowardice and offers to go in his place, but Charlemagne refuses and orders
Ganelon to obey.
Ganelon is furious. He hates and envies Roland, who has gained
Charlemagnes favor by his bravery in battle. Upon reaching Saragossa, he asks for
Marsiliuns help to betray Roland. The Moslem leader is so delighted with this
opportunity that he rewards Ganelon with many gifts.
The plot to kill Roland is this: Charlemagne is to be persuaded to leave
Roland in command of a small rear guard while he leads the rest of his army into
France. As soon as the troops have left, Marsiliun will attack the almost defenseless
Ganelon returns to the French camp with the riches Marsiliun has given him
and makes his proposal to Charlemagne. Roland, ever willing to serve his king,
agrees to command the rear guard, and Ganelons trap is set. That night,
Charlemagne dreams that the entire rear guard will be annihilated by the Moslem.
The next morning, he wakes troubled, but decides he can do nothing and goes on.
As soon as Charlemagne is out of the way, Marsiliun attacks. Roland
vanquishes many pagans with his mighty sword Durendal, but his men are
outnumbered. Finally, after a great many of his friends have been killed, he blows
his ivory horn as a signal to Charlemagne. The king, afar off, recognizes it and turns
back, but he is too late to save Roland.
Charlemagne now realizes that Ganelon is a traitor, has him tortured, and
then turns his attention to the Moslems. Marsiliun has been injured by Roland and
his army weakened, and he is relying on his African allies for help. There is a fierce
battle when they arrive, but Charlemagne takes Saragossa. Marsiliun dies, and his
wife Bramante is carried to France with Charlemagne to become a Christian.
Ganelon is put to trial and, although thirty members of his family attest to
his honesty, he is found guilty and sentenced to be drawn and quartered. The thirty
members of his family are hanged. When Charlemagne is petitioned by Saint
Gabriel to aid a neighboring king who has been besieged by pagans, he exclaims,
Oh, God, my life is a burden!