“Do you think the typical listener to a recitation of the poem Song of Roland would have spotted the discrepancies?”
Yes, I believe that any sane person listening to the poem Song of Roland as it was being recited would be able to recognize, realize, and understand that not all of the accounts in the poem were exactly true or consistent. Now, I hope you realized that I said “any sane person,” because if the person were a little tiny bit insane, or even just day dreaming they might not have connected the inconsistent facts, even I may not have connected the dots.
You may ask, what exactly were the inconsistencies in the poem? Well, one of the errors was that when the Muslim troops sounded 1000 trumpets to signal that they were beginning to battle, Charlemagne, the French king, could not hear them, but when Roland, Charlemagne’s nephew, blew just one trumpet the king was able to hear it and come to Roland’s aid. He was about the same distance away both times when the trumpets were sounded- if not farther when Roland sounded his one trumpet.
Another one of the inconsistencies was that the number of troops fighting was completely off on both sides according to the facts given. When Charlemagne came back to fight the Muslims it was said that he had 100,000 troops, and then later in the poem he had 335,000. That is a total of 235,000 more troops than before, what a substantially huge difference! If you thought that was a big inconsistency take a look at the other facts regarding the quantity of Muslim troops.
First off, the Muslim emir and more troops, 3.5 million of them, came by a fleet of 4,000 ships to fight Charlemagne and his 335,000 troops. Each Muslim ship could hold about 1,000 troops. Do the math. What does 4,000 ships multiplied by 1,000 men equal? It equals 4 million troops. So, 4 million troops came with the emir to fight. Wait a second; something doesn’t seem to add up… The poem said that the emir came with 3.5 million troops, not 4 million. Where did the 500,000 other troops go?
Could it be that the author of this poem, who by the way was an eye witness to Roland’s fighting even though no French were said to have survived the battle with Roland (yet another inconsistency), was trying to make the French look like they had accomplished the impossible by, if I did my math correctly, each 1 Frenchman fighting 104 Muslims? The French did win the battle, by the way. The author of the Song of Roland was most likely trying to boost the confidence of the crusaders and their families, which is a very nice thing to do but seriously, did he have to exaggerate the facts as he did? Oh well, maybe that was the way to do things back then.
These facts made me a bit irritated and confused as I wondered if I had read the poem correctly. What impact did this information have on you as I described it to you just now? I must say that I was definitely more intrigued by this poem than I have ever been by any poem that I’ve read recently; maybe it is because of all of the inconsistent facts….