La Chanson de Roland (the Song of Roland) remains one of the most studied medieval epic poems. This is the story of Roland, nephew to Charlemagne, King of France. The army is dispatched to Spain to fight invading Moors in a quasi-crusade. As the victorious French army heads home, Roland, bringing up the rear, is attacked. He had been given a horn to sound in time of desperation, but he blows this horn too late for help to arrive. While the poem is far from historical truth, this tale remains one of the great examples of early French literature.
One of the greatest works in all of literature was penned in Italy during the Middle Ages. Dante Alighieri finished his La Divina Commedia (the Divine Comedy) in 1321. The first of the three volumes, the Inferno, is probably the best known and describes the afterlife for the wicked, where hell is comprised of nine descending circles and there is no forgiveness. The Ninth and lowest circle was reserved for Satan and betrayers of benefactors, kin, and country. Purgatorio and Paradiso, the remaining volumes of La Divina Commedia, continue Dante's journey through more of the afterlife.
Medieval England thrilled to the adventures of King Arthur and his knights. This king, who supposedly grew up near Cornwall, led his armies in battles against the Angles and Saxons. He called his warriors knights, hundreds of years before codes of chivalry would make this word commonplace. The first stories about Arthur were actually penned in French in a work called "La Morte d'Arthur" (the Death of Arthur).