Charles the Great (Latin: Carolus or Karolus Magnus) or Charles I (Frankish: Karl), was King of the Franks. He united a large part of Europe during the early Middle Ages and laid the foundations for modern France, Germany and the Low Countries. He took the Frankish throne in 768 and became King of Italy in 774. From 800, he became the first Holy Roman Emperor—the first recognised emperor in Western Europe since the fall of the Western Roman Empire three centuries earlier.
FERRAGUS, WHO OWNED THE BRAZEN HEAD
Ferragut (also known as Ferragus, Ferracutus, Ferracute, Ferrakut, Ferraguto, Ferraù, Fernagu) was a character—a Saracen paladin, sometimes depicted as a giant—in texts dealing with the Matter of France, including the Historia Caroli Magni, and Italian romantic epics, such as Orlando innamorato by Matteo Maria Boiardo and Orlando furioso by Ludovico Ariosto. In the tales, he was portrayed as physically invulnerable except at his navel/stomach, and was eventually killed (or fated to be killed) by the paladin Roland.
From A book of giants
Charlemagne held his state in the city of
Pampeluna. This city of the Moors he had invested
for six months; and being unable to take it,
he prayed to St. James,—whereat the walls fell down
as did those of Jericho before the blast of the priests’
Great was the Emperor’s fame after his prodigious
conquests in Saxony, France, Germany, Lorraine, Burgundy,
Italy, and now in Spain; and his person befitted
“He was of a ruddy complexion,” says Turpin’s
Chronicle, “with brown hair; of a well-made handsome
form, but stern visage. His height was about
eight of his own feet which were very long. He was
of a strong, robust make; his legs and thighs very
stout, and his sinews firm. His face was thirteen
inches long; his beard a palm; his nose half a palm;
his forehead a foot over. His lion-like eyes flashed
fire like carbuncles; his eye-brows were half a palm
over. When he was angry it was a terror to look
upon him. He required eight span for his girdle besides
what hung loose. He ate sparingly of bread,
but a whole quarter of lamb, two fowls, it goose, or a
large portion of pork; a peacock, crane or a whole
hare. He drank moderately of wine and water. He
was so strong, that he could at a single blow cleave
asunder an armed soldier on horseback, from the head
to the waist, and the horse likewise. He easily vaulted
over four horses harnessed together; and could raise
an armed man from the ground to his head, as he
stood erect upon his hand.
*’He was liberal, just in his decrees, and fluent of
speech. Four days in the year, especially during his
residence in Spain, he held a solemn assembly at court,
adorning himself with his royal crown and sceptre:
namely on Christmas-day, at Easter, Whitsuntide,
and on the festival of St. James. A naked sword,
after the imperial fashion, was then borne before him.
A hundred and twenty devout knights watched nightly
around his couch, in three courses of forty each. A
drawn sword was laid at his right hand, and a lighted
candle at his left.
Yet the chief glory of this regal court was the band
of Paladins, (Palace knights), sworn to the Emperor
and to each other—Roland of Brittany, Oliver of
Genoa, Ogier the Dane, Richard of Normandy, Guy
of Burgundy, Rinaldo of the White Thorn, Terry of
Ardennes, old Neymes of Bavaria, and the rest. Save
perhaps at that Round Table of King Arthur, never
was there gathered together such a company of heroes
as these Douzepeers. All the world of Christendom
and paynimry resounded with their fame.
Amid one of these high festivals there arrived messengers
spurring hotly from Nager. White-faced, they told of the coming of a Moorish giant hight Ferragus.
He sent defiance to Charles and all his knights.
Men said no weapon might harm him, while he himself
was possessed of twenty men’s strength.
Also he was surrounded by a reputation of magic
art; for as Valentine and Orson later discovered, his
home was on an island far to the south. Here glittered
a strong castle of shining metal ; and in a chamber
therein stood on a pillar a marvellous brazen head,
**composed a long time ago by the necromancy of a
magician, which Head was of such an excellent composition,
that it gave Answer to anything that was
demanded.” In addition he had for servitor one Pacolet,
a dwarf, a very cunning wizard, who had made a
wooden horse that would carry him through the air
whithersoever he would. Natheless, be what he might,
the Saracen challenger must be met, for the honor
The Emperor therefore marched to
Nager and pitched his camp there.
When the giant appeared from the city next morning,
all were aghast at the sight. He was twelve cubits
high, and the fingers which gripped his huge brand
were three palms in length. From his loathly dark
face his eyebrows stuck out like stiff pig’s bristles.
A hideous and fell creature he looked, and when the
French knights beheld his monstrous thews they had
little desire to seek ‘1os” in that encounter.
Bold Ogier the Dane, however, demanded the honor
of the fight. Carefully he armed himself, chose the
heaviest lance he could find, and mounted his stoutest
Then he sped forth over the plain before the watching army.
When he approached the giant,
he set spurs to his horse and thundered down upon
him with a speed and force that seemed irresistible.
With utter indifference the monster received the
spear point on his shield, and the tough wood flew to
pieces. Ferragus was not even staggered by the onset.
He stepped forward, thrust a great arm about Ogier,
lifted him bodily from his horse, and, despite all the
struggles of this renowned warrior, carried him off
beneath his arm to the castle, no more disturbed than
a falcon is by the fluttering of the prey in his talons.
Next there came against him Rinaldo of the White
Thorn, but he fared no better, being seized and borne
away in the same manner.
Scornfully the giant taunted the French king:
**Ah, it was you who won Spain! And this is the
best you have? By the Prophet, ten such at a time
were no match for Ferragus alone.”
Chafing under this disgrace, Charlemagne despatched
two knights together. Sir Constantine of
Rome, and Earl Howel of Nantes—only to suffer the
humiliation of seeing the huge Saracen tuck one under
each arm and walk away with them as if they were
Abandoning all thought of equal combat, he bade
ten knights sally out and destroy this prodigy, whose
boasting grew ever more difficult to endure. To his
amazement, the issue was the same: Ferragus was
not so much as wounded, while these doughty knights
were borne off in triumph to the castle dungeon.
Ruin instead of renown seemed to lie at the end of this road, and the Emperor refused to risk any more
of his knights in conflict with this unearthly being.
Roland’s proud heart could not brook this. He
came before Charles and demanded the combat.
Dreading a similar fate for this best-loved of his
douzepeers, the Emperor urged him to forego the
adventure; yet when the Duke insisted that he must
undertake it, for his own honor and that of France,
Charles could no longer withhold his assent.
Armed cap-a-pie, the undefeated Paladin rode forth.
So confident and haughty was his mien that Ferragus
perceived this was no adversary to be despised. As
the knight drew near, the giant’s great hand shot out
and gripped him inexorably by the sword arm. That
vise-like grasp paralyzed the victim’s muscles, as the
crushing jaws of the lion are said to destroy effort
and feeling. Then he put forth all his superhuman
power, and lifted the knight from the saddle. Swinging
him in front of himself, he urged his huge charger
towards the castle, well assured of adding him too to
the growing band of captives.
But as he was bearing him to the city (says the
chronicler of nearly a thousand years ago), Roland
recovered his strength, and trusting in the Almighty,
seized the giant by the beard, and tumbled him from
his horse, so that both came to the ground together.
Roland then thinking to slay the infidel, drew his
sword Durandal and struck at him, but the blow fell
upon his steed and shore through it.
The giant, being thus on foot, drew his enormous
sword; but Roland, who had remounted his own charger, dealt him a sudden stroke on the sword arm.
Though Durandal was tempered so that the knight
could cut through a block of marble with it, yet could
the blade make no impression upon this creature’s
skin. Still, the sheer force of the blow struck the
brand from the giant’s grasp.
Greatly enraged at this mischance, Ferragus aimed
a blow at Roland with his fist, but, missing him, hit
his horse on the forehead and laid it dead on the spot.
Avoiding the monster’s grasp Roland laid on him
lustily with Durandal, but the unfailing weapon could
find no spot where the giant’s hide might be pierced.
For the rest of that day they battled with fists and
stones. The giant then demanded a truce till next
day, agreeing to meet Roland without horse or spear.
Each warrior then retired to his post.
Next morning they accordingly met once more.
Ferragus brought his sword, but Roland armed himself
only with a sturdy club to ward off the blows of
the giant, who wearied himself to no purpose.
They now began again to batter each other with
stones that lay scattered about the field, till at last
the giant begged a second truce. This being granted,
he presently fell fast asleep upon the ground. Roland,
taking a stone for a pillow, quietly laid himself down
also. For such was the law of honor between the
Christians and the Saracens at that time, that no one
on any pretence dared to take advantage of his adversary
before the truce was expired, as in that case his
own party would have slain him.
When Ferragus awoke, he found Roland awake also, marvelling at the prodigious snoring which came
from his huge adversary. He discovered, too, that
the knight had placed a block of stone beneath his head
for a pillow, and this courtesy caused him to inquire
the Frenchman’s name.
Roland told him, and inquired in his turn of that
matter which most bewildered him: how it was that
no wounds had resulted from all his swordplay with
his trusted Durandal.
“Because,’* said Ferragus proudly, “I am invulnerable
except in one point.”
“And where is that?”
“In the navel.”
Ferragus spoke in the Spanish language, which
Roland understanding tolerably well, a conversation
now followed between them.
“Of what race are you?” asked the giant.
“Of the race of the Franks.”
“What law do you follow?”
“The law of Christ, so far as his grace permits m^e.”
“Who is this Christ in whom you profess to believe?”
“The Son of God, born of a Virgin, who took upon
him our nature, was crucified for us, rose again from
the dead, and ascended into heaven, where he sitteth
on the right hand of the Father.”
“We believe,” said Ferragus, “that the Creator of
heaven and earth is one God, and that, as he was not
made himself, so cannot another God spring from him.
There is, therefore, only one God and not three, as
I understand you Christians profess.”
“You say well; there is but one God; but your
faith is imperfect; for as the Father is God, so likewise
is the Son, and so is the Holy Ghost. Three
persons, but one God.”
**Nay, if each of these three persons be God, there
must be three Gods.”
“By no means,” replied Roland. “He is both three
and one. Abraham saw three but worshipped one.
Let us recur to natural things. When the harp sounds,
there is the art, the strings and the hand, yet but one
harp. In the almond there is the shell, the coat and
the kernel. In the sun, the body, the beams and the
heat. In the wheel, the hub, the spokes, and the nave.
In you likewise, there is the body, the members and
the soul. In like manner may Trinity in Unity be
ascribed to God.”
They discoursed at length upon these mysteries, the
giant listening with great interest to the knight’s
explanation of the resurrection from the dead. To
Roland’s surprise, however, Ferragus presently remarked:
“Well, to end our arguments, I will fight you on
these terms: if the faith you profess be the true faith,
you shall conquer ; otherwise the victory shall be mine.
And let the issue be eternal honor to the conqueror,
but dishonor to the vanquished.”
“Be it so !” said Roland.
Whereupon they immediately fell to blows. The
very first which the giant aimed at him would have
certainly been fatal, if Roland had not nimbly leaped
aside, and caught it on his club, which was, however, cut in twain. Ferragus, seeing his advantage, rushed
in upon him, and both came to the ground together.
Then Roland, finding it impossible to escape, implored
the divine assistance; and, feeling himself invigorated,
he sprung upon his feet, seized the giant’s
sword and thrust it into his navel.
Finding himself mortally wounded, Ferragus called
aloud with a mighty voice upon Mahomet; which the
Saracens hearing, sallied from the city, and bore him
off in their arms.
Roland returned safe to the camp, to the great joy
of Charlemagne and his fellows. Then the French
boldly attacked the city, and carried it by storm. The
giant and his people were slain, his castle taken, and
all the Christian warriors liberated.