The legend of Charlemagne is one of Italo Calvino’s most intense and interesting stories. This wonderful writer was born in Cuba, of Italian fathers. He left an impressive testimony of his immense sensitivity and his clear intelligence in this micro-narrative.
Calvino has always struggled between radical realism and limitless imagination. The legend of Charlemagne is a good example of this. Starting from a fantastic and almost implausible story, he has managed to set up a deep and analytical vision relating to passionate love.
Much of Calvino’s work has an air of a fairy tale. The legend of Charlemagne could be classified in this group. On the other hand, in this case the subject goes beyond a moral. The tale makes an impressive revelation about the love within the couple. In this theme, Italo Calvino’s place is very close to contemporary psychoanalysis.
The legend of Charlemagne and love as a passion
The legend of Charlemagne begins as follows: “ The emperor Charlemagne falls in love, when he is already old, with a German woman. The nobles of the Court were very concerned because the sovereign, seized with a love ardor which made him forget the true dignity, began to neglect the affairs of the Empire. “
It is very interesting that Italo Calvino took an elderly and powerful man as his main character. Apparently, this is the antithesis of the adolescent in whom love is more than anything else. Without being a problem being an emperor, love actually closes its eyes to everyone else.
For this, the nobles are concerned. Power and love are not two compatible realities although sometimes they are linked. In this case, love is imposed on power, which endangers an entire Empire. It is only the beginning of the surprising facts which will unfold next.
Love, a deception, a spell
After falling in love so intensely, the unthinkable happens. The young woman dies suddenly. The legend of Charlemagne says that love did not die with her. The emperor, blind with pain, had the embalmed body brought to his own room. And he did not want to separate for a moment from the inert body.
The tale goes on to point out that “Archbishop Turpin, frightened by this macabre passion, suspected an enchantment and wanted to examine the remains. Hidden under the tongue of the corpse, he found a ring with a precious stone ”.
It was then discovered that such love actually hid a spell. Finally, Charlemagne was not so in love with the young German. What had happened was more the result of magic than a real feeling.
Italo Calvino thus began to reveal the true nature of love. There is something the loved one wears but which is not part of them. The lover falls in love with what the other is wearing and not with the other. In psychic terms, we could say that love is the activation of a magical element; not in the poetic sense but in the literal sense. By loving, we give in to the rules of logic and we begin to tickle the impossible, with the illusion of making it come true.
Love: a ring with a gemstone
The end of the legend of Charlemagne could not be more surprising and gripping. What happened after the discovery of the ring by the Archbishop was this: “As soon as the ring was in Turpin’s hands, Charlemagne hastened to bury the corpse and overturned his love in the person of the Archbishop. . To escape this embarrassing situation, Turpin threw the ring into Lake Constance. Charlemagne then fell in love with Lake Constance and never wanted to separate from its border again. “
In this last part, the true nature of love is revealed and we discover that it left no room for reason. Ultimately, the object of his love does not matter Charlemagne. For this he first falls in love with the archbishop and then with a lake that he will love forever. The secret to it all lay in the magic ring.
The ring is a figure in which there is an edge, but in which the center includes only void. It is a circle which delimits the void. But she has a precious stone, something that shines, that attracts, that dazzles. Ultimately, this is how love is or is characterized by some. An attempt to set up limits to the void, to nothing. Despite this, it has a real existence in people and it manages to determine their lives. Passionate love is born, created and dies in the imagination.