Book: Bulfinch’s Mythology, Legends of Charlemagne
Author: Thomas Bulfinch

Bulfinch’s Mythology, Legends of Charlemagne By Thomas Bulfinch

Format: Global Grey free PDF, epub, Kindle ebook
Pages (PDF): 213
Publication Date: 1863

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This is the third and last part of Bulfinch's Mythology, the previous two being The Age of Fable, or Stories of Gods and Heroes, and The Age of Chivalry, or Legends of King Arthur. Chapters include: The Peers, Or Paladins; The Tournament; The Siege Of Albracca; Adventures Of Rinaldo And Orlando; The Invasion Of France; Bradamante And Rogero; Astolpho And The Enchantress; The Orc; Astolpho’s Adventures Continued, And Isabella’s Begun; Medoro; Orlando Mad; Zerbino And Isabella; Astolpho In Abyssinia; The War In Africa; Rogero And Bradamante; The Battle Of Roncesvalles; Rinaldo And Bayard; Death Of Rinaldo; Huon Of Bordeaux; and, Ogier, The Dane.

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THE twelve most illustrious knights of Charlemagne were called Peers, for the equality that reigned among them; while the name of Paladins, also conferred on them, implies that they were inmates of the palace and companions of the king. Their names are not always given alike by the romancers, yet we may enumerate the most distinguished of them as follows: Orlando or Poland (the former the Italian, the latter the French form of the name), favorite nephew of Charlemagne; Rinaldo of Montalban, cousin of Orlando; Namo, Duke of Bavaria; Salomon, King of Brittany; Turpin, the Archbishop; Astolpho, of England; Ogier, the Dane; Malagigi, the Enchanter; and Florismart, the friend of Orlando. There were others who are sometimes named as paladins, and the number cannot be strictly limited to twelve. Charlemagne himself must be counted one, and Ganelon, or Gano, of Mayence, the treacherous enemy of all the rest, was rated high on the list by his deluded sovereign, who was completely the victim of his arts.

We shall introduce more particularly to our readers a few of the principal peers, leaving the others to make their own introduction, as they appear in the course of our narrative. We begin with Orlando.


Milon, or Milone, a knight of great family, and distantly related to Charlemagne, having secretly married Bertha, the Emperor’s sister, was banished from France, and excommunicated by the Pope. After a long and miserable wandering on foot as mendicants, Milon and his wife arrived at Sutri, in Italy, where they took refuge in a cave, and in that cave Orlando was born. There his mother continued, deriving a scanty support from the compassion of the neighboring peasants; while Milon, in quest of honor and fortune, went into foreign lands. Orlando grew up among the children of the peasantry, surpassing them all in strength and manly graces. Among his companions in age, though in station far more elevated, was Oliver, son of the governor of the town. Between the two boys a feud arose, that led to a fight, in which Orlando thrashed his rival; but this did not prevent a friendship springing up between the two which lasted through life.

Orlando was so poor that he was sometimes half naked. As he was a favorite of the boys, one day four of them brought some cloth to make him clothes. Two brought white and two red; and from this circumstance Orlando took his coat-of-arms, or quarterings.

When Charlemagne was on his way to Rome to receive the imperial crown, he dined in public in Sutri. Orlando and his mother that day had nothing to eat, and Orlando, coming suddenly upon the royal party, and seeing abundance of provisions, seized from the attendants as much as he could carry off, and made good his retreat in spite of their resistance. The Emperor, being told of this incident, was reminded of an intimation he had received in a dream, and ordered the boy to be followed. This was done by three of the knights, whom Orlando would have encountered with a cudgel on their entering the grotto had not his mother restrained him. When they heard from her who she was, they threw themselves at her feet, and promised to obtain her pardon from the Emperor. This was easily effected. Orlando was received into favor by the Emperor, returned with him to France and so distinguished himself that he became the most powerful support of the throne and of Christianity.

Roland and Ferraugus.

Orlando, or Roland, particularly distinguished himself by his combat with Ferragus. Ferragus was a giant, and moreover, his skin was of such impenetrable stuff that no sword could make any impression upon it. The giant’s mode of fighting was to seize his adversary in his arms and carry him off, in spite of all the struggles he could make. Roland’s utmost skill only availed to keep him out of the giant’s clutches, but all his efforts to wound him with the sword were useless. After long fighting, Ferragus was so weary that he proposed a truce, and when it was agreed upon, he lay down and immediately fell asleep. He slept in perfect security, for it was against all the laws of chivalry to take advantage of an adversary under such circumstances. But Ferragus lay so uncomfortably for the want of a pillow, that Orlando took pity upon him, and brought a smooth stone and placed it under his head. When the giant woke up, after a refreshing nap, and perceived what Orlando had done, he seemed quite grateful, became sociable, and talked freely in the usual boastful style of such characters. Among other things, he told Orlando that he need not attempt to kill him with a sword, for that every part of his body was invulnerable, except this; and as he spoke, he put his hand to the vital part, just in the middle of his breast. Aided by this information, Orlando succeeded, when the fight was renewed, in piercing the giant in the very spot he had pointed out, and giving him a death-wound. Great was the rejoicing in the Christian camp, and many the praises showered upon the victorious paladin by the Emperor and all his host.

On another occasion, Orlando encountered a puissant Saracen warrior, and took from him, as the prize of victory, the sword Durindana. This famous weapon had once belonged to the illustrious prince Hector of Troy. It was of the finest workmanship, and of such strength and temper that no armor in the world could stand against it.