STORIES OF CHARLEMAGNE by Jennifer Westwood

STORIES OF CHARLEMAGNE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

From the Chanson de Roland and other 12th- and 13th-century chansons de geste, Westwood retells the major Carolingian legends in chronological order, beginning with one of Berthe, Charlemagne's mother, which is pure folklore, and ending with the romance of Huon of Bordeaux who encounters the magic-making Oberon, king of the fairies, when Charlemagne has become a petty old man. Modern readers of the stories will be struck by the barbarity of Christianity's great defender, who is represented as sacrificing whole populations, close associates, and even another man's horse from sheer pride, petulance, or power hunger--though elsewhere (as in the Roncesvalles episode) he is the noble King beloved of man and God. Westwood's brief introduction makes sense of the tales, explaining how the different views of the hero, as well as factual changes such as the substitution of Saracens for Charlemagne's Saxon enemies, were shaped by the prevailing issues and circumstances at the time of the songs' composition; in addition, appended notes sort out the traditional sources and historical background of each tale. Westwood's telling is readable, free of both pretentious archaisms and jarring colloquialisms, and her orienting context is exemplary.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1976
Publisher: Phillips