The Age of Fable eBook

Thomas Bulfinch
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 1,207 pages of information about The Age of Fable.

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. [Footnote:  It is plain that Shakspeare borrowed from this source the similar incident in his “As you Like it.”  The names of characters in the play, Orlando, Oliver, Rowland indicate the same thing.]


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.

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The Age of Fable from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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