The origin of the sword received various accounts - the sword is given various provenances in the Matter of France. Several of the works of the Matter of France agree that the sword was forged by Wayland the Smith, who is commonly cited as a maker of romantic weapons.
According to the Song of Roland, the sword is brought by an angel to Charlemagne, who gives it to Roland. According to Ludovico Ariosto's Orlando Furioso it once belonged to Hector of Troy, and was given to Roland by Malagigi (Maugris). This is questionable, given that the swords of Hector's time were made of bronze.
In The Song of Roland, the sword is said to contain within its golden hilt one tooth of Saint Peter, blood of Saint Basil, hair of Saint Denis, and a piece of the raiment of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and to be the sharpest sword in all existence. In the poem, Roland uses the sword to hold off a hundred-thousand-strong Muslim army long enough for Charlemagne's army to retreat into France.
Roland attempted to destroy the sword to prevent it from being captured by the attacking Saracens and created La Brèche de Roland in the Pyrenees in the process. But Durandal proved indestructible, so he hid it beneath his body along with the oliphant, the horn used to alert Charlemagne.
Local folklore claims Durandal still exists, preserved in Rocamadour, France, embedded in a cliff wall. In the twelfth century, the monks of Rocamadour claimed that Roland threw the sword rather than hid it beneath himself. However, the local tourist office calls the sword a replica of Durandal.
- Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia, p. 65
- Brault, p. 443
- Auty, p. 126
- Caro, p. 106
- Walsh, p. 264
- Cox, p. 340
- Caro, pp. 106–107
- Auty, Robert (1980). Traditions of Heroic and Epic Poetry. London: Modern Humanities Research Association. ISBN 0-900547-72-3.
- Brault, Gerard J. (1996). The Song of Roland: An Analytical Introduction and Commentary. University Park: Pennsylvania State Univ. ISBN 0-271-02455-0.
- Caro, Ina (1996). The Road From the Past: Traveling Through History in France. San Diego: Harcourt Brace & Co. ISBN 0-15-600363-5.
- Cox, George William (1871). Popular Romances of the Middle Ages. London: Longmans, Green, and Co.
- Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia (1902). Proceedings of the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia. Philadelphia: Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia.
- Walsh, William Shepard (1914). Heroes and Heroines of Fiction. London: J. B. Lippincott Co.