Legend of Saladin in Western Literature and Historiography

Author: Jubb, Margaret
This is the first modern study of the image and legend of Saladin in Western sources from the 12th to the 20th century. It examines the gradual transformation in the portrayal of the Muslim enemy from demonized villain into adoptive hero. The extraordinary variety of stories which coalesced about his person, detailing inter alia his entirely fictional journeys to the West and his amorous adventures, frequently bear very little relation to historical reality, yet are shown to be of undeniable historical interest. Their significance lies in what they reveal about political, cultural and ideological climates in different countries and in different ages, for Western writers marked their appropriation of Saladin by constantly recreating him as hero in their own image to point a message for their own age glorifying values which they themselves espoused.


“…comprehensive account of the various aspects of ‘the Saladin legend’, and conveniently collects together, and often summarizes, those texts in which this legend is conveyed…. The strength of this study lies in the detailed analysis of literary sources; these range across a variety of languages, and extend from the twelfth to the twentieth centuries. For anyone wishing to pursue aspects of the admittedly reasonably well-known Saladin myth, the book thus constitutes an admirable starting point….. The second achievement of the book, namely the highlighting of difficulties of differentiation between legend and history, is possibly an unintended dimension of this volume…. A wide-ranging work of comparative literary history, and a competent contribution to the literature on someone who is patently as much a creature of legend as of history.” – Medium AEvum

“. . . a wide-ranging and painstakingly researched contribution to the field, which covers ten languages and nine centuries, though with the focus firmly on the Middle Ages… a persuasive and well argued analysis of these developments…. The book demonstrates again and again both how and why these stories accumulate around Saladin as he assumes an ever more legendary status in the popular imagination, and with its very impressive and useful Bibliography, it gives us compendious knowledge welded into a coherent and very readable synthesis on which Dr Jubb is to be warmly congratulated.” – Glynn Hesketh

“… brings together an impressively wide range of materials, gives a clear exposition of the elements in the legend and image of Saladin as they developed over time and space, and shows why he was adopted as a Western hero, the focus of so many and such enduring stories. In its breadth and detail it will be an invaluable aid to the appreciation of the various mediaeval and other literatures to which it refers. It is clearly and cogently written, and has a substantial bibliography.” – A. E. Cobby

Table of Contents

Table of contents (main headings):
Preface; Introduction
1. Hostile accounts of Saladin’s rise to power
2. The emergence of a more positive view
3. Largesse and courtoisie
4. Saladin’s noble Christian pedigree
5. Saladin as Christian knight
6. Saladin’s inclination toward Christianity: Saladin as the enemy of Christendom; emergence of a new inclination (The Parable of the Three Rings; the debate of the three religions and Saladin’s auto-baptism); Saladin as a vehicle of satire against the Christian church)
7. Saladin’s journeys to the West
8. Saladin’s amorous adventures
9. Semi-historical legends: the Pas Saladin; gift horse(s); single combat between Richard and Saladin
10. Different national perspectives: English, Scottish, Middle Dutch, French, Italian, and Spanish texts
11. History transformed: the epic and romance tradition (Estoires d’Outremer; Récits d’un ménestrel de Reims; The First and Second Cycles of Crusade epics)
12. Saladin in more recent literature and historiography
Conclusion, bibliography; index of manuscripts cited; general index