Posted by: Mark | July 30, 2017

The Poem of The Cid

I flew through the last sections of The Poem of the Cid (alternatively El Cid or My Cid).

I had just read The Song of Roland and the difference between them is immense.

Roland died around the beginning of the Moorish conquest of Spain and El Cid died as the Moorish Age was ending.

In Roland, the French epic, the Moors were depicted as subhuman, good for only killing or converting to Christianity.

In El Cid, Moors could be superior to Christians. A quick-thinking Moor’s actions ultimately led to the rescue of El Cid’s two daughters from two villainous Christians. In fact, the title “Cid” is Arabic in origin, given to him by Moorish allies.

Roland’s narrative is “decompressed,” covering a relatively short span of time. It works with Aristotle’s concepts of the Unities: unity of time, unity of place, and unity of action.

El Cid is more Shakespearean, in having a longer time span, multiple actions, and many locations.

Roland is far gorier than El Cid, gorier than most stories today. Like Homer’s Iliad, in Roland we get the exact spot where a spear enters a body and where it comes out. Several passages in El Cid are as detailed, such as in the final duels, but not so elaborately or as consistently.

Roland has a sad ending. Charlemagne defeats an army of half the Muslims in the world but still openly weeps over his dead nephew. El Cid (at least in this version) is rosier. El Cid avenged his daughters and began his reign.

I had expected to enjoy El Cid more than Roland but, despite everything, it was the other way around. I am very glad to have read both of them but Roland just seemed more vivid to me.

I thought about following these up with the German epic, The Nibelungenlied, but I feel a little burned out. The Nibelungenlied is the indirect basis of The Lord of the Rings and I definitely want to read it eventually. I flipped a coin and it came up tails so I’m holding off. I probably would have on heads too.


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