ISSN 2420-9767

‘Saracens’ in the Franco-Italian chansons de geste: humans not monsters

Marianne J. Ailes


The Franco-Italian "chansons de geste" the "Entrée d’Espagne" and the "Prise de Pampelune" have nuanced depictions of certain individual non-Christians. This paper reads the texts alongside particular intertexts which find echoes in the texts themselves, to explore first how the "Entrée d’Espagne" works with the material it takes from the Pseudo-Turpin, a text which is evoked at the beginning of the"Entrée", with particular reference to the treatment of the giant Feragu. It then compares the family grouping of Ysoré and his parents in the "Entrée", where the emotions of the Saracens are explicitly depicted, with the family dynamics of the Saracens of "Fierabras", another text with many parallels in the "Entrée". Finally, the "Prise de Pampelune" is analysed as a response to the "Entrée"; here the noble Saracen Ysoré is finally converted, but his father’s emotions are expressed as complex and very human, despite his refusal of conversion. The two Franco-Italian texts are closely related, but very different in the degree of tolerance towards the unconverted Saracen, yet both present the Saracen enemy in human, not demonised, terms.

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