Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- For other uses of Paladin, see Paladin (disambiguation).
A paladin is the prototypical "knight in shining armour," a hero of sterling character and courage, who rights wrongs and defends the weak and oppressed. The word comes from the Latin word palatinus ("attached to the palace") - compare palatine. The original paladins of legend appeared as the heroes of the Chanson de Roland and of the other romances of chivalry which told of the legendary court of King Charlemagne. Legends originally tell of twelve paladins attached to Charlemagne's court. The best-known list comes from the Italian epics of Tasso and Ariosto and their successors; it includes:
- Astolpho , descended from Charles Martel and a cousin of Roland. Handsome and swaggering; he went to the moon to fetch back Roland's brains when he went mad, as told in Orlando Furioso
- Ferumbras the Saracen who became a Christian
- Florismart , friend of Orlando
- Ganelon the betrayer, who appears in the Inferno by Dante Alighieri
- Guy de Bourgogne
- Maugris the sorcerer
- Ogier the Dane (in more recent years the subject of a story by Poul Anderson)
- Oliver, rival to Roland
- Otuel , another converted Saracen
- Roland, Charlemagne’s nephew, called Orlando in Italian: the chief hero among the paladins
Tales of the paladins of Charlemagne once rivalled the stories of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table in popularity. Ludovico Ariosto and Torquato Tasso, whose works were once as widely read and respected as Shakespeare's, contributed most prominently to the literary/poetical reworking of the tales of the epic deeds of the paladins.
The tales told of the paladins took as their subject matter the wars between the Franks and the Moors during the Islamic conquests of Spain and their invasion of southern France. Their adventures became known as the "Matter of Charlemagne" or "Matter of France", even as the adventures of King Arthur and his knights classed as the "Matter of Britain."
The late nineteenth century Celtic revival benefitted the Arthurian material and encouraged its reworking and recirculation. No such aura of latter-day romance could assist the Charlemagne material, which remained strongly Christian and triumphalist in its presentation. As a result, twentieth-century readers know Arthur and his Camelot well while hearing little of the paladins of Charlemagne, who once enjoyed equal renown.
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