Please note: this article was written in 2001 and is part of my Master's thesis. It is here for archival purposes only. See the bottom of this page for licensing information.
-Vika Zafrin (email me with any questions)
In the various versions of the Song of Roland, Alde (Alda, Adein, etc.) is the sister of Oliver, Roland's faithful friend and fellow Peer at Charlemagne's court. She and Roland are betrothed when we read the French Song of Roland; she is, however (inconsistently with the original story), presented as Roland's wife in the Orlando Innamorato.
Alde's presence in the storyline is symbolic of that which makes Roland such an appealing epic hero, giving him dimension and showing the reader an emotional, human side to the superhero warrior who conquers all. Her presence will prove instrumentally conducive to the development of the Italian Roland canon, which will zero in more on matters of the heart than on Roland's various political conquests. The Italians will force our hero to fall prey to evil love spells and undergo adventures and trials of epic proportions driven, not by religious or political zeal, but rather by that which overpowers us all sooner or later, causing us to lose our senses as well.
By serving, directly (in the various incarnations of the Song of Roland) and indirectly (see above), as the link which conducts the reader past Roland's tough exterior to his soft middle, Alde therefore allows us the opportunity to relate to him on a personal level, essential to processing information about an epic character prone to be perceived as larger than life. This role is reaffirmed by the notable absence of Alde - or any woman as object of the hero's love - from the Welsh Cân Rolant, which tells the story with much more emphasis on the battle and on the qualities which make a good warrior, such as courage and fighting ability.
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