Many of the same archetypical symbols in the play Riders
to The Sea and mythology related to the play, particularly in reference to Celtic and Norse mythology, are also found
in The Song of Roland. Here are a few examples:
mules then ordered Marsilie, / Gifts of a king..." (89) The white horse was a symbolic animal presented as a sacrifice.
"Give me therefore the wand, also the
glove ./ Answers the King: Old man of wisdom pruff; / By this white beard..." (248-249) The wand, as stick symbol, is now
associated with magicians. It was used in the ritual White Horse Ceremony and rebirthing of the king. The white beard of age
suggests a figure such as Merlin or Odin, both associated with magic.
"Answers the King: Be silent both on bench;
/ Your feet nor his..." (259-260) The feet are usually symbolic in every culture. They were found in superstition about the
wind blowing over the feet of a corpse in Celtic legend.
"There will I work a little trickery,"
(300) Odin is the most obvious symbol of trickery, but the archetype of the trickster or coyote is found in most cultures,
sometimes as a comic figure, but sometimes venerated because of its cunning. At other times the trickster is a villain.
"You must receive the holy Christian
faith." (431) A theme of opposites, Christianity versus the old Religion, where there is no choice but to become Christian.
The pagan says:
"You make me marvel sore / At Charlemagne, who is so old and hoar;" (537-538) The old man with a white beard symbolizes the
old ways as does Odin.
"My wonder yet is grand / At Charlemagne, who hoary is and blanched. / Two hundred years and more, I understand,
/ He has gone forth and conquered many a land," (550-553) These lines are not exact, but symbolic since he has not been
in battle for two hundred years. The implication is that the tradition is old.
"They followed him,
right to the sea they'll fare;" (685) In Riders
to The Sea, the last brother rides his horse down to the sea where the ferries are docking at the shore.
"Brake from the North tempest and storm in the
air; Then were they drowned, they will no more appear." (690) In Riders to The Sea, all of Maura's menfolk are drowned
in the sea.
"Charles sleeps on
nor wakens from his dream." (724) The dream is a device in literature that allows for the supernatural to intrude into the
real, providing an way for the spiritual or prophetic to enter into the story. In Riders to The Sea, Maurya
seems to be in a dream or hypnotic state as she discusses the dead. She also speaks of the long rest in the nights of Samhain,
a Celtic festival honoring the dead.
"Oger is here, of Denmark;"
answers Guenes," (749) The name is similar to the word ogre. The Danes may have been some of the ravaging
forces on the coast of Ireland that Maurya is remembering in Riders to The Sea. To their victims, the Vikings were
merciless monsters or ogres.