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Rollo, First Duke of Normandy

Notes from various sources courtesy of Robin Young

The good fortune of the Northmen began with Rollo in Normandy itself. It was long believed that Rollo came by sea into the valley of the Seine in 876, but the date is rather 886. He destroyed Bayeux, pillaged Lisieux, besieged Paris, and reached Lorraine, finally establishing himself at Rouen, where a truce was concluded. His installation was considered so definitive that in the beginning of the tenth century Witto, Archbishop of Rouen, consulted the Archbishop of Reims as to the means of converting the Northmen.

Rollo's settlement in Normandy was ratified by the treaty of St. Clair-sur-Epte (911), properly speaking only a verbal agreement between Rollo and Charles the Simple. As Duke of Normandy Rollo remained faithful to the Carlovingian dynasty in its struggles with the ancestors of the future Capetians. These cordial relations between the ducal family of Normandy and French royalty provoked under Rollo's successor William Long-sword (931-42) a revolt of the pagan Northmen settled in Cotentin and Bessin. One of their lords (jarls), Riulf by name was the leader of the movement. The rebels reproached the duke with being no longer a true Scandinavian and "treating the French as his kinsmen". Triumphant for a time, they were finally muted and the aristocratic spirit of the jarls had to bow before the monarchical principles which William Long-sword infused into his government.

Although they had become Christian, all traces of Scandinavian paganism did not disappear under the first dukes of Normandy.

Rollo walked barefoot before the reliquary of St. Oueu, but he caused many relics to be sold in England, and on his death-bed, according to Adémar de Chabannes, simultaneously caused prisoners to be sacrificed to the Scandinavian gods and gave much gold to the churches.

Richard I [Rollo's grandson] was a great builder of churches, among them St. Ouen and the primitive cathedral of Rouen, St. Michel du Mont, and the Trinity at Fécamp.

Richard II [Rollo's great grandson], zealous for monastic reform, brought from Burgundy Guillaume de St.-Bénigne; the Abbey of Fécamp, reformed by him, became a model monastery and a much frequented school.

"Robert I" [Rollo] was the Viking who established the Norse men in France and thus created "Normandy." It's said he was called Marching Rolf because he was too large to be carried by a horse, and so marched everywhere. (With that, I picture the small Icelandic horses; but don't know what mount was common in those days in Norway and Denmark.) His descendants include many of William the Conqueror's companions who were to become major landholders in England. Thus the families here are anchored on both sides of the Channel.

The account Jean Mabire gives of Rolf runs like this: Rolf, son of jarl Ragnwald of Alesund in Norway (whom Harald had sent to hold the Orkney and Shetland islands) led the life of a roaming Viking, raiding the French coast with his band. Problem was that at home he carried on the same way, still pillaging; he was stormy and battle-prone; and got himself banned from Norway. Seems everyone else who had a problem with authority joined his fleet, spent a winter in England, went on to Zeeland and finally wandered on into the Seine. The people of Rouen negotiated with him to be their protector. There had already been Norwegian and Danish settlers in the area.

King Charles "the Simple" of France made an effort to chase away the Vikings, but Rolf's men triumphed at Pont-de-l'Arche, then went on to raid Melun, where the French again tried to beat them off and lost. So the Vikings ruled the area from their seat at Rouen, and mostly turned to colonization instead of pillaging. But Rolf looked beyond the Seine valley; he extended his holdings across the Risle, then the Orne, then took Bayeux in 900, killing Count Béreanger who had held it; Rolf married the count's daughter Popa. And, finally, in 911, Charles "the Simple" recognized Rolf's holdings.

History of our Rolv Ganger

THE HISTORY of Scandinavians till the Norman conquest of England is breath-taking reading. Icelandic sagas tell of a Viking hulk called Rolv Ganger, aka Rollon, referred to as "Robert I" above. He was too huge for horses to carry him. Rolv killed a lot of people and became an ancestors of the British monarchy.

The famous Chronicle of the Kings of Norway contain sagas teeming with suggestive mentions on how to survive and accommodate in barbarian settings. Interesting, vikings show up as robbers, fiends and forefathers of much royalty and noblesse around in central Europe and Great Britain.

The sagas may be right more often than not. The evolved moral they inculcate, is barbarian, gruesome and not heart-melting - and some historical datings are not correct. Not all details in the lineage descending from the possibly Norwegian Rolv Ganger (Rollon) is completely correct either, but most of it, modern historians can assure, is.

ONCE in his career King Harald Harfager moved out with his army from Trondheim and went southwards to More, a nearby district. It's nearer to Trondheim than to Bergen, but about midway between these modern towns. Hunthiof was the king who ruled over the district of More. Solve Klove was his son, and both were great warriors. There was a great battle. King Harald won (AD 867).

Solve escaped by flight; and King Harald laid both districts under his power. Ragnvald Earl of More, a son of Eystein Glumra, had the summer before become one of Harald's men; and the king set him as chief over these two districts, North More and Raumsdal. Ragnvald was propped up with men of might and bondes and called Ragnvald the Mighty, or the Wise; and people said both names suited him well. This was the father of Rollon/Hrolf/Rolf according to the Icelander Snorre who flourished in the first half of the 1200s. He wrote a lot.

The following spring (AD 868) King Harald raised a great force and gave out that he would proceed to South More. Solve Klove had passed the winter in his ships of war, plundering in North More, and had killed many of King Harald's men; pillaging some places, burning others, and making great ravage. But sometimes during the winter Solve had been with his friend King Arnvid in South More. Now he gathered people, and was strong in men-at-arms; for many thought they had to take vengeance of King Harald. Solve said:
"It's now clear that we all have to rise against King Harald, for we have strength enough; for becoming his servants, that is no condition for us, who are not less noble than Harald."

King Harald won, but Solve escaped. Solve became afterwards a great sea-king. He often did great damage in King Harald's dominions. They were many around the northern sea.

Harald subdued South More; but Vemund, King Audbjorn's brother, still had Firdafylke. It was now late in harvest, and King Harald's men gave him the counsel not to proceed south-wards round Stad. the weather-beaten West Cape of Norway. Then King Harald set Earl Ragnvald over South and North More and also Raumsdal, and he had many people about him. The same winter (AD 869) Ragnvald went over Eid, and southwards to the Fjord district. There he heard news of King Vemund, and came by night to a place called Naustdal, where King Vemund was living in guest-quarters.

Earl Ragnvald surrounded the house in which they were quartered, and burnt the king in it, together with ninety men. The berserk Berdlukare came to Earl Ragnvald with a complete armed long-ship and joined forces, and they both returned to More. The earl took all the ships Vemund had, and all the goods he could get hold of.

(1) The war-ships of the fierce Vikings were called dragons, from being decorated with the head of a dragon, serpent, or other wild animal; and the word "draco" was adopted in the Latin of the Middle Ages to denote a ship of war of the larger class. The snekke was the cutter or smaller war-ship.
(2) The shields were hung over the side-rails of the ships.
(3) The wolf-skin pelts were nearly as good as armour against the sword.

AFTER many harsh battles King Harald's greatest enemies were cut off. But a great multitude fled out of the country, and by that great districts were peopled. Jemtaland and Helsingjaland (now: vast parts of Western Sweden) were peopled then.

Very severe discontent with the Norse "satan", King Harald, seized a lot of good families. They didn't want the tyranny, and settled elsewhere - not only in distant parts of Norway, but also the out-countries of Iceland and the Farey Isles. They were discovered and peopled.

The Northmen had also a great resort to Hjaltland (Shetland Isles) and many men left Norway, flying the country on account of King Harald, and went on viking cruises into the West sea. In winter they were in the Orkney Islands and Hebrides; but marauded in summer in Norway, and did great damage.

Many were also the mighty men who took service under King Harald and became his flock in the land with him.

COMMENT: Someone once said: "The best left the country." It can be debated, though.

KING HARALD heard that the Vikings who were in the West sea in winter, plundered far and wide in the middle part of Norway; and therefore every summer he made an expedition to search the isles and out-skerries on the coast. (Skerries are uninhabited dry or halt-tide rocks of a coast.) Later he sailed with his fleet right out into the West sea. He came to Hjaltland (Shetland), and he slew all the Vikings who could not save themselves by flight. Then to the Orkney Islands, and cleared them all of vikings. After that he proceeded to the Sudreys (Hebrides). Many a battle was fought, and King Harald was always victorious. He then plundered far and wide in Scotland itself, and had a battle there. When he was come westward as far as the Isle of Man, the report of his exploits on the land had gone before him; for all the inhabitants had fled over to Scotland, and the island was left entirely bare.

In this war fell Ivar, a son of Ragnvald, Earl of More; and King Harald gave Ragnvald, as a compensation for the loss, the Orkney and Shetland isles.

Ragnvald immediately gave both these countries to his brother Sigurd, he got the earldom of them. Thorstein the Red, a son of Olav the White and of Aud the Wealthy, entered into partnership with him; and after plundering in Scotland, they subdued Caithness and Sutherland, as far as Ekkjalsbakke. Earl Sigurd killed Melbridge Tooth, a Scotch earl. Many vikings set themselves down then in those countries.

After King Harald had subdued the whole land, he was one day at a feast in More. Then King Harald went into a bath, and had his hair dressed. Earl Ragnvald now cut his hair. They were best friends. Earl Ragnvald gave him the distinguishing name - Harald Harfager (i.e., fair hair); and all who saw him agreed he had the most beautiful and abundant head of hair.

The viking ancestor Rollon appears

EARL RAGNVALD was King Harald's dearest friend, and the king had the greatest regard for him. He was married to Hild, a daughter of Rolf Nefia, and their sons were Rolf and Thorer. Earl Ragnvald had also three sons by concubines, - the one called Hallad, the second Einar, the third Hrollaug; and all three were grown men when their brothers born in marriage were still children. Rolf became a great viking, and was of so stout a growth that no horse could carry him. Wherever he went he must go on foot; and therefore he was called Rolf Ganger. (Later Rollon)

He plundered much in the East sea. One summer, as he was coming from the eastward on a viking's expedition to the coast of Viken, he landed there and made a cattle foray. As King Harald happened, just at that time, to be in Viken, he heard of it, and was in a great rage; for he had now forbidden the plundering within the bounds of the country. The king assembled a Thing, and had Rolf declared an outlaw over all Norway.

When Rolf's mother heard of it she hastened to the king, and entreated peace for Rolf; but the king was so enraged that here entreaty was of no avail. Then she spoke up:

"Do you think, King Harald, in your anger,
To drive away my brave Rolf Ganger
Like a mad wolf, from out the land?
Why is your cruelty so fell?
Think twice, king, it's ill
With such a wolf at wolf to play,
Who, driven to the wild woods away
May make the king's best deer his prey."

Rolf Ganger went afterwards over sea to the West to the Hebrides, or Sudreys; and at last farther west to Valland, where he plundered and subdued for himself a great earldom, which he peopled with Northmen, from which that land is called Normandy.

Rolf Ganger's son was William, father to Richard, and grandfather to another Richard, who was the father of Robert Longspear, and grandfather of William the Bastard, from whom all the following English kings are descended.

From Rolf Ganger also are descended the earls in Normandy.

Maybe you like this version better:

French version

In 820 peasants ...along the Seine saw in the distance ten or so curious war ships called-Drakkar because of the animal sculpted into the prow or the stern, which was actually a dragon - the men from the North didn't travel with their women as they could easily find them on the spot!

Swearing by the names of Thor and Odin-Vikings plundered, pillaged, raped and slaughtered up until 911 when the famous treaty of Saint Clair sur Epte was signed between the Frank king Charles the Simple and Rollon or Rolf, chief of the men from the North.

On the whole our invaders calmed down, adopting a somewhat bourgeois attitude to life in this beautiful region which was to become Normandy.

Soon it was the time for William the Conqueror who, on October 14th, 1066 won the battle of Hastings along with a kingdom - William's heirs were known as the Plantagenets, and they reigned over Normandy and England. In 1189, Richard the Lionheart divided the double crown.

Ruling the Orkneys

EARL RAGNVALD in More heard of the death of his brother Earl Sigurd, and that the vikings were in possession of the country. He sent his son Hallad westward, who took the title of earl to begin with, and had many men-at-arms with him. But the vikings cruised about the isles plundering the headlands, and committing depredations on the coast. Then Earl Hallad grew tired of the business, resigned his earldom, and afterwards returned eastward into Norway.

When Earl Ragnvald heard of this he was ill pleased, and said his Hallad was very unlike their ancestors. Then said his other son, Einar, one more brother of Rolf Ganger, "I have enjoyed but little honour among you, I'll go west to the islands. You'll never see me again."

Earl Ragnvald replied he would be glad if he never came back; "For there's little hope," he said, "that you'll ever be an honour to your friends."

Einar got a vessel and sailed into the West sea at autumn. When he came to the Orkney Isles, two vikings were in his way with two vessels. He attacked them instantly and slew the vikings and their boatmen. He was called Torfeinar, he cut peat for fuel where there was no firewood, as in Orkneys. He afterwards was earl over the islands, a mighty man, very sharp-sighted.

Wicked boys could still be kings

WHEN King Harald was forty, many of his sons were well advanced in "American" ways. Two of them set off one spring with a great force, and came suddenly on Earl Ragnvald, earl of More, and surrounded the house in which he was, and burnt him and sixty men in it.

When King Harald heard this he set out with a great force against one son, who had no other way left but to surrender, and he was sent to Agder. Uha.

King Harald then set Earl Ragnvald's son Thorer over More, and gave him his daughter Alof, called Arbot, in marriage. Earl Thorer, called the Silent, got the same territory his father Earl Ragnvald had possessed.

HALFDAN, the other son who had murdered Earl Ragnvald, came unexpectedly to Orkney where Rolf Ganger's brother, Earl Einar, was in charge. Einar fled at once; but came back soon after about autumn, unnoticed. They met and after a short battle Halfdan fled the same night. As soon as it was light, Einar and his men searched the whole island and killed every man they could lay hold of.

Then Einar said, "What is that I see on the isle of Rinansey? A man or a bird? Sometimes it raises itself up, and sometimes lies down again." They went to it, and found it was Halfdan Haleg, and took him prisoner. Earl Einar sang this verse the evening before he went into this battle:

"Einar won't spare revenge
against his father's murderers."

After that Earl Einar went up to Halfdan and struck his sword through his back into his belly, dividing his ribs from the backbone down to his loins, and tearing out his lungs. Yes, Halfdan died from that one. Einar then sang:

"For Ragnvald's death my sword is red:
Now, brave boys, let's raise a mound."

NOTE: And interestingly, burial customs of our forefathers were much similar to those that Homer sings of in the Iliad.

Then Earl Einar took possession of the Orkney Isles as before. Now when these tidings came to Norway, Halfdan's brothers took it much to heart, and Einar heard of it. He sang:

"Ere they lay Earl Einar low,
Ere this stout heart betrays its cause."

KING HARALD now ordered a levy, and gathered a great force. He proceeded westward to Orkney with it; and when Earl Einar heard that he was come, he fled over to Caithness. He made the following verses:

`Do your worst! - I defy you, king! -"

But men and messages passed between the king and the earl, and at last it came to a conference; and when they met the earl submitted the case altogether to the king's decision, and the king condemned the earl Einar, and the Orkney people to pay a fine of sixty marks of gold. Earl Einar paid the whole fine to the king, who returned to Norway. The earls for a long time afterwards possessed all the udal lands in Orkney.

Introduction to the marauders

From the saga of Harald Hardrada: Part I:

HARALD, son of Sigurd Syr (Syr means pig) and brother of the saint and king Olav, was born in the year AD 1015, and left Norway AD 1030. He was called Hardrada, that is, the severe tyrant. The Norwegians gave him that name. He ruled too harshly, even for a viking.

Harald returned to Norway in AD 1046 to become sole king in AD 1047. Before that he had stayed in what is now called Istanbul and won a fortune and great fame for his viking skills. Luckily he died - it was in AD 1066.
Myths and legends surround his brother, and tall stories circulated about himself. In the gentle enough American book "2500 anecdotes" we find king Harald besieging a certain town. Biographers say he looted 80 African cities or towns of gold and silver also.


YEARS before Harald Hardrada lost his life in the battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066, he fought eminently for some time under the banner of the Byzantine emperors.

On one of his expeditions to affluent Sicily he came with his army to a populous town. He laid siege to it. But the walls were so strong that he began to doubt whether it would be possible to make a breach in them. Besides the burghers appeared to have plenty of provisions and all they needed for their defence.

Then Harald got one of his great ideas, and ordered his fowlers to catch the small birds that nested in the town and flew to the forest during the day in quest of food. He ordered his men to fasten splinters of inflammable wood, smeared with wax and sulphur, to the backs of the birds and set fire to them. Next the birds were set free. They flew straight away to the town to their young and their nests on the roofs of the houses, and those houses were thatched with reeds and straw. Fire dropped from the birds, and the birds were so many that the whole town soon was on fire.

The inhabitants then came out and begged for mercy. In this merciless way King Harald took over the town, at least for the time being. He looted there. Some people are like that.

Edward, Ethelred's son, was king of England after his brother Hardacanute. He was called Edward the Good; and so he was. King Edward's mother was Queen Emma, daughter of Richard, earl of Rouen.
Be astonished to see descendants of able Morings and many others - ruling over England before William the Conqueror who sailed ashore and conquered enough in 1066, all according to Snorre and history. This is hardly legend.

Emma's brother was Earl Robert, whose son was William the Bastard, who at that time was earl at Rouen in Normandy. King Edward's queen was Gyda, a daughter of Earl Godwin, the son of Ulfnad. Gyda's brothers ... the fifth was Harald, who was the youngest, and he was brought up at King Edward's court, and was his foster-son. The king loved him very much, and kept him as his own son.

Edward was king over England for twenty-three years and died on a bed of sickness in London on the 5th of January, and was buried in Paul's church. Englishmen call him a saint.

ONE SUMMER it happened that Harald, the son of Godwin, made an expedition to Bretland with his ships, but when they got to sea they met a contrary wind, and were driven off into the ocean. They landed west in Normandy, after suffering from a dangerous storm. They brought up at Rouen, where they met Earl William, who received Harald and his company gladly.

Harald remained there late in harvest, and was hospitably entertained; for the stormy weather continued, and there was no getting to sea, and this continued until winter set in; so the earl and Harald agreed that he should remain there all winter. Harald sat on the high-seat on one side of the earl; and on the other side sat the earl's wife, one of the most beautiful women that could be seen. They often talked together for amusement at the drinking-table; and the earl went generally to bed, but Harald and the earl's wife sat long in the evenings talking together, and so it went on for a great part of the winter. In one of their conversations she said to Harald, "The earl has asked me what it is we have to talk about so much, for he's angry at it."

Harald replies, "We shall then at once let him know all our conversation."

The following day, Harald asked the earl to a conference, and they went together into the conference-chamber; where also the queen was, and some of the councillors. Then Harald began thus:

"I have to inform you, earl, that there lies more in my visit here than I have let you know. I would ask your daughter in marriage, and have often spoke over this matter with her mother, and she has promised to support my suit with you."

As soon as Harald had made known this proposal of his, it was well received by all who were present. They explained the case to the earl; and at last it came so far that the daughter of the earl was contracted to Harald. But, as she was very young, it was resolved that the wedding should be deferred for some years.

WHEN SPRING came Harald rigged his ships and set off; and he and the earl parted with great friendship. Harald sailed over to England to King Edward, but didn't return to Valland to fulfil the marriage agreement.

HARALD GODWINSON was made king of England after a quick manouevre where he said at the side of a deathbed:

"I take you all to witness that the king has now given me the kingdom, and all the realm of England."

Then the former king was taken dead out of the bed. ...

All the chiefs and all the people submitted to that foster-son Harald. When his big brother Toste heard of that coup d'etat he resented it. "I want," said he, "that the principal men of the country choose the one they think is best fitted." Harald said he wouldn't give up his kingly dignity as anointed and consecrated a king. He was bolstered up with having the king's whole treasure. That had to be reckoned with, it was on his side.

WHEN King Harald perceived that his brother Toste wanted to have him deprived of the kingdom he didn't trust him; for Toste was a clever man and a great warrior, and also in friendship with the principal men of the country. He therefore took the command of the army from Toste, and Earl Toste, again, went with his people over the sea to Flanders, and stayed there awhile, then went to Friesland, and from there to Denmark to his relation King Svein. The earl now asked King Svein for support and help of men; and King Svein invited him to stay.
Svein: "I'm a much smaller man than Canute. I can with difficulty defend my own Danish dominions against the Northmen. King Canute, on the other hand, got the Danish kingdom in heritage, took England by slash and blow, and Norway without. Now it suits me much better not to imitate my relation, King Canute's, lucky hits."

Then Earl Toste said, "The result of my errand here is less fortunate than I expected. It may be that I'll seek friendly help, that I may find a chief who is less afraid ..."

The king and the earl parted, not just the best friends.

EARL TOSTE went to Norway. There he presented himself to King Harald Hardrada, who was at that time in Viken. That's the region where Oslo is.

The king replied that the Northmen had no great desire for a campaign in England, and the earl replied, "Is it true that your relative, King Magnus, sent men to King Edward with the message that King Magnus had right to England and also Denmark, due to a regular agreement?"

The king replied, "How came it that he didn't get it, if he had a right to it?"

"Why," replied the earl, "haven't you got Denmark, as your predecessor, king Magnus, had it?"

The king said, "Well, many a place in Denmark have we Northmen laid in ashes."

Then the earl said, "I'll tell you: Magnus subdued Denmark, for all the chiefs of the country helped him; and you haven't done it, because all the people of the country were against you. King Magnus didn't strive for England, for all the nation would have Edward for king. Will you take England now? All men allow that there was never such a warrior in the northern lands as you are. How come you've been fighting for Denmark and won't take England open to you?"

King Harald weighed carefully the earl's words, they kindled his desire to acquire dominions. At last he determined to go for England in summer and conquer the country. But England was full of men-at-arms, others said and tried to warn him.

With this Earl Toste had got the helper he had striven hard for. He sailed in spring west to Flanders to meet the people who had left England with him, and others besides who had gathered to him both out of England and Flanders.

KING HARALD'S fleet assembled at the Solunds. When King Harald was ready to leave Nidaros (Trondheim) he went to King Olav's shrine, unlocked it, clipped the miraculously still growing hair and nails of the dead brother's body for the last time, and threw the keys into the Nid River there, some say. Since then the shrine of Saint Olav, the king, has never been opened. The church is still standing.

A great fleet was collected; so that King Harald had nearly 200 ships beside provision-ships and small craft. While they lay at the Solunds a man on the king's ship had a nasty dream. He thought he was standing in the king's ship and saw a great witch-wife standing on the island, with a fork in one hand and a trough in the other. The witch-wife sang a song.

KING HARALD also dreamt one night that he was in Nidaros, and met his brother, King Olav, who sang to him these verses:

In many a fight
my name was bright;
Men weep and tell
how Olav fell.
Your death is near."

Many other dreams and forebodings were then told of, most of them gloomy.

CLEAR FOR SEA King Harald sailed out into the ocean; and landed in Shetland, but a part of his fleet in the Orkney Islands. King Harald stopped but a short time in Shetland before sailing to Orkney, from whence he took with him a great armed force, and the earls Paul and Erlend. Then, leaving Scotland and England westward of him, he landed at a place called Klifland. There he went on shore and plundered. In town after town the savage Northmen killed many people and took booty.

There was nothing left for the Englishmen now, if they would preserve their lives, but to submit to King Harald. He subdued the country wherever he came. He had many a large battle, and gained the victory.

IN ONE PLACE there was also a morass, deep, broad, and full of water. There was a great loss among the Englishmen right there, and they soon broke into flight, and the most leaping into the ditch, which was so filled with dead that the Norsemen could go dry-foot over the fen. The people who escaped, fled up to the castle of York; and there the greatest loss of men had been.

EARL TOSTE had come from Flanders to King Harald as soon as he arrived in England, and the earl was present at all these battles. A lot of Englishmen submitted to Harald. Then the king advanced to take the castle of York, and laid his army at Stamford Bridge. The people were dismayed. A Thing was appointed within the castle early on Monday morning, and the city dwellers gave up without fight. King Harald was to name officers to rule over the town, to give out laws, and bestow fiefs.

Yet the same evening, after sunset, King Harald Godwinson came from the south to the castle with a numerous army. The Northmen didn't thank for it when they found out. They camped outside the city and knew nothing of what was about to happen.

ON MONDAY, when King Harald Hardrada had taken breakfast, he ordered the trumpets to sound for going on shore and take over the city as arranged. The army accordingly got ready. The weather was uncommonly fine, and it was hot sunshine. The men therefore laid aside their armour, contrary to Odin's tactful counsel against it in the Norse poem Havamal. There are shreds of great barbarian counsel in it. And once piece of advice is here:

A wayfarer should not walk unarmed,
But have his weapons to hand:
He knows not when he may need a spear
Or what menace meet on the road.

Merry Norsemen went on the land only with their shields, helmets and spears ... not much prepared and organised, not fully equipped. So the historian Snorre says. As they came near the castle a great army showed up and marched against them with shining shields and bright armour. The nearer this force came the greater it appeared. The English Harald Godwinson had arrived with a vast army. King Harald Hardrada arranged his army as best he could, but it was too late. The horse stumbled under him, he fell off and got up in haste.
The English king Harald said to the Northmen who were with him, "Do you know the stout man who fell from his horse, with the blue kirtle and the beautiful helmet?"

"That's the king himself." said they.

The English king said, "A man of stately appearance he is, but I think his luck has left him."

TWENTY HORSEMEN rode forward and said to Earl Toste in the Northmen's army, and one uncommonly well dressed horseman said: "Your brother salutes you with the message that you shall have the whole of Northumberland; not submit to him, he'll give you the third part of his kingdom to rule over along with himself."
The earl: "It's much too late for that offer here and now. I should have got that offer before waging war. Go now, get ready for battle; never shall the Northmen say I deserted the king of Norway."

King Harald Hardrada said to the earl, "Who was the man who spoke so well?"

The earl, "Harald Godwinson, my brother."
Harald also made this significant line:
"Advance! advance!"
Another Northman sang:
"And should our king in battle fall,
a fate that God may give to all,
his sons will revenge it."

NOW THE battle began. The earls' bard:

"Where battle-storm was ringing,
Where arrow-cloud was singing,
Harald stood there,
Of armour bare,
His deadly sword still swinging."

KING HARALD Hardrada was hit by an arrow in the windpipe, and that was his death-wound. He fell. Then Thiodolf sang:

"The army stands in hushed dismay;
We say this business was not wise."

THE NORTHMEN lost the hard battle. Styrkar, King Harald Hardrada's marshal, a gallant man, escaped on a horse. Later he began to feel cold. A wagoner met him in a lined skin-coat. Gallant Styrkar: "If I were a Northman, what would you do?"

"I'd kill you," replied the peasant."

Then Styrkar said, "I'll try if I can't kill you." And with that he swung his sword. He then took the skin-coat, sprang on his horse, and rode down to the strand.

THE BIG HULK Rolv Ganger from More is known as Rollon or Rollo these days. He took over Normandy and built it, much aided by friends from the North. They emigrated there and peopled it in no small way. Later the viking descendants spread to Sicily, the south of Italy, even to Jerusalem, a big part of Syria (Antioch) and so on, and learnt to govern as best they could. They were very good at it, is the verdict of most historians.

In 1066 one of the hulk's descendants, the Earl of Rouen, William the Bastard, heard that his relation King Edward had died, and also that Harald Godwinson was chosen, crowned, and consecrated king of England. It appeared to the descendant of Rollon that he had a better right to the kingdom of England than Harald, by reason of the relationship between him and King Edward. He also thought that he had grounds for avenging the affront that Harald had put on him with respect to his daughter. His family had been grossly offended. From all these grounds William gathered together a great army in Normandy, and had many men, and enough transport-shipping.

The day that he rode out of the castle to his ships, and had mounted his horse, his wife came to him, and wanted to speak with him. But when he saw her he struck at her with his heel, and set his spurs so deep into her breast that she fell down dead; and the earl rode on to his ships, and went with his ships over to England. His brother, Archbishop Otto, was with him.

When the earl came to England he began to plunder, and take possession of the land as he came along. Earl William was stouter and stronger than other men; a great horseman and warrior, but somewhat stern; and a very sensible man, but not considered a man to be relied on.

William had tried to be tactful to his loss, and had been greatly offended.

KING HARALD Godwinson gave King Harald Hardrada's son Olav leave to go away, but he himself turned round with his army to go south, for he had heard that William the Bastard was overwhelming the south of England with a vast army, and was subduing the country for himself.

NOTE: The British historian Dr. Woodward estimates that William took all of England of estimated 1.5 million people, with no more than six or seven thousand men.

King Harald and Earl William met each other south in England at Hastings. There was a great battle. King Harald and his brother Earl Gyrd and a great part of his men fell. This was the nineteenth day after the fall of King Harald Hardrada. Harald Godwinson's other brother, Earl Valthiof, escaped by flight.

William's descendants have been kings of England ever after, Snorre retells

WILLIAM was proclaimed king of England. He sent a message to Earl Valthiof that they should be reconciled, and gave him assurance of safety to come to the place of meeting. The earl set out with a few men; but when he came to a heath north of Kastala-bryggia, two officers of King William met him, with many followers. They took him prisoner, put him in fetters, and afterwards he was beheaded. The English call him a saint.

After this William was a severe king of England for twenty-one years, and his descendants have been so ever since, says Snorre. What's said to be safety is not always safe anyhow. Any man had better reckon with that.
By the way, here is no small reason why King William remained in power: it's gist taken from Laws of William the Conqueror:

EVERY freeman shall affirm by oath and compact that he will be loyal to king William both within and without England, ...and defend him against his enemies.

ALL shall have and hold the law of the king Edward in respect of their lands and all their posession ...
I also forbid that anyone shall be slain or hanged for any fault, but let his eyes be put out and let him be castrated.

Summing up somewhat

Rollo/Rolf/Hrolf was the son of Earl Ragnvald of More, according to one Icelandic Saga. Two brothers were Ivar and Tore. Three more were Hallad, Einar and Rollaug. Hallad and Einar in due time became earls of the Orkneys, each in his turn.

After being made an outcast by the tyrant king Harald Harfager, Rolf voyaged to the western isles. Obviously he could count on support from relatives. The earl of the Orkneys was paternal uncle, then the son of that one, his cousin, and later his own brothers Hallad and Einar.

The old sources hold that Rolv took his residence in certain tracts of what today is the domain of Scotland. The Landnamaboka mentions Rolv got a daughter, Kathleen, and she married the Scotch king Bjolan. Rolv of the Sagas travelled from Scotland and the isles near it, to Valland, near the English Channel. The vikings' Valland consisted of the southern Netherlands, Belgium and parts of Normandy, roughly said. He took over Normandy in three steps. The Sagas identify him with the Rollo that the Frank king Charles the Simple bestowed it on.

However, the chronicler of the Norman dukes, Dudo, tells (abt. 1020) that Rollo was the son of an uncertain king in "Dacia" - which seems to be out of place. This is the presentation of Dacia in Dudo's big work:

Spread over the plentiful space from the Danube to the neighborhood of the Scythian Black Sea, do there inhabit fierce and barbarous nations, which are said to have burst forth in manifold variety like a swarm of bees from a honeycomb or a sword from a sheath, as is the barbarian custom, from the island of Scania, surrounded in different directions by the ocean. For indeed there is there a tract for the very many people of Alania, and the extremely well-supplied region of Dacia, and the very extensive passage of Greece. Dacia is the middle-most of these. Protected by very high alps in the manner of a crown and after the fashion of a city. - [From chapter 2, second paragraph in Gesta Normannorum by the chronicler Dudo abt. 1015]

Now, at least three things stand out. They are:

1. If what's called Dacia is surrounded by very high alps, it isn't lovely Denmark, for Denmark is flat as a pancake for most part, and so are many of its surrounding tracts.

2. Scandia (Scandinavia) isn't an island, but a very large peninsula. We should bear in mind that cartography wasn't much to speak of in the times before Columbus, not even then.

3. From Dudo's blurred description, Dacia looks in part like very fertile, southern Alp country, but also one that is closely tied in with sailing and ships, as seen from other passages in Dudo. Well, there are high alps in Norway too, but not very much lush support from mother nature apart from the rich fishing. It's hard to survive up north, at times unreasonably hard, and maybe impossible. Luckily there is the temperate ocean current that comes all the way from the Mexican Gulf and sweeps along the Norwegian coast after caressing Scotland.
I just mention it. And it's fair to say that Dudo gathered irrelevant material.

Now, there are differences of opinion, and we have to judge much to reach a balanced outlook, preferably one that is not pestered with patriotism askew. The Danish scholar Johannes Steenstrup wrote in favour of Dudo's version back in 1876. The overlooked point is that it is not much clear what that version is or implies.

Later also some Swedish and German historians "agreed". What they eventually agreed on is difficult to decide on, however. I trust the sample above gives the evidence for it.

The Dacians are called by their own people Greeks or Danes, and they boast that they are descended from Antenor. He entered with his followers the Illyrian borders, having slipped away from the midst of the Achaeans who pillaged Troy.) [See Gesta Normannorum, Chapter 2, paragraph 5]

Steenstrup held that Dudo's chronicles were not made in a hurry.] And he thought (as I like to think as well) that duke Richard and his wife Gunnor - both of them lovers of "art and science" - helped Dudo to collect materials from the Norman tradition and sources. Dudo also made some travels in Normandy

However, Dudo's Dacia is not Denmark according to the description of the terrain itself and the geographic position of it. It can't be Norway either - the winters are too tough up north, for one thing.

Most historians have taken up other historical documents. They have settled on the presentation of the Icelandic sagas. That position is held by many Icelandic, French, British and Norwegian historians - closer to these matters than most others, perhaps. They have supported the Sagas of Icelandic or half-Norwegian origin - for Iceland was largely inhabitated by Norwegians that fled from the gruesome tyrant that made the strong Rolf Gangar (presumably Rollo) a lawless man. And besides, Iceland united with Norway somewhere in the latter half of the 1200s. The Icelandic language was Norse. And Norse was called "Danish tongue" at that time. It's quite common knowledge.

For all that, there could be some warm-hearted Danes that would love to think that Rollo was Danish. Well, let them. But there's no mention of him in the classical Danish sources, not a single one, and it's often pointed out that a huge, vastly successful marauder from Scandinavia at that time, would not go unmentioned in the country he came from - such a prominent man. The only and therefore foremost Danish historian, Saxo Grammaticus from about 1200, has no mention of any Danish Rollo in The Danish History. You can see for yourself.

Rollo and his warriors take over Normandy

The meticulous R. Allen Brown has written extensively about Normans and the Norman conquest. We may render him:

"NORMANDY was created by the three consecutive grants of 911, 924 and 933". Especially in Lower Normandy the Scandinavian influences and custom remained rather strong. Normandy was in part colonised. Rollo and his successors, as rulers of Normandy, obtained the title of count and valuable rights from before, along with widespread domains.

Their buildings seem to document remarkable strength or solidity. The churches were much like bastions. But the duke of Rouen controlled the whole church and his bishops owed him military service for their lands -
"From (their) Scandinavian inheritance the Normans derived their sea-faring, much of their trade and commercial prosperity which they shared with the Nordic world, their love of adventure, their wanderlust which led to the great period of Norman emigration in the eleventh century, their dynamic energy, and above all perhaps, their powers of assimilation, of adoption and [strategic] adaptation ... "

In (AD 911) Charles the Simple, king of the west Franks, granted to a band of Vikings, operating in the Seine valley under Rollo their leader, territory corresponding to Upper or Easter Normandy. To this was subsequently added by two further grants, first the district of Bayeux, and the districts of Exmes and Seez in 924, and second the districts of Coutances and Avranches in 933 in the time of William Longsword, son and successor of Rollo.

And from the French Histoire de la Normandie (1862) we find, in the fourth chapter, how Rollo, son of the Norwegian Rognevald, was made an outlaw by the Norwegian tyrant king Harald Harfager. He arrived at Rouen with his companions. The inhabitants spontaneously submitted to the giant. King Charles at first wanted to fight the viking, but dropped it. Instead they bargained - Rollo won, he got land and permanent welcome.
The historian R. Brown puts the matter into relief: "Normans were pagans when they came (and they continued to come long after 911)." But their leader, the viking Rollo, said yes to getting baptised, and many others followed. More surprisingly, "Rollo ... is (also - later) said to have wanted to become a monk (at Jumieges). That could have been due to a genuine flame deep inside.

In short time the Normans got the back-up of their astute castles and strongholds, helped themselves to most of it - often they were served by ditches and stockades too.

Their treaty at St. Claire-sur-Epte became a fact, and Rollo got baptised and married Gisele. He ruled and died, and his son Guillame Longue-Epee (William Longsword) succeeded him.The third duke was Richard sans Peur (the Fearless), and there were many intrigues and hard fights. This Richard died and was succeeded by Richard 2 who massacred Saxons in England at war. The French king Robert became the ally of Richard 2. After his death, Richard 3 succeeded him and died prematurely. Robert le Diable succeeded him and, before he died in Terre-Sainte, became the father of Guillame le Conquerant: William the Conqueror.

WE FIND the family tree of William the Conqueror in the book of the astute historian R. Brown. It looks like this:

Richard 1 (ruled: 942-96)

Richard 2 the Good (ruled: 996-1026)

Richard 3 (ruled: 1026-27)

Robert 1 the Magnificent (ruled: 1027-35)

William the Bastard or the Conqueror (ruled: 1035-87).

A few more dukes of Normandy should be added for the sake of survey of that dynasty line that ruled over Normandy and its English (British) domain:

Robert 2 (ruled from 1087)

Henry 1 (ruled from 1106, King of the English (1100-35)

Henry II, 1135, King of the English (1135-)

"It was a direct result of the Viking onslaught upon Western Europe ... tidy and precise."

"The Norman monasteries were, by and large, distinguished ... new ... vibrant with ... careless rapture of spiritual endeavour". The (Normans) became great spirituals - intensely aristocratic.

Master builders in a very short time, (Normans) restored and built on monasticism in outstanding degrees.
Normans from the next century left grand architectural monuments, and some are still there, more or less intact. The Tower of London is a very Norman building, for example. King William had much of it built
"The tower at Rouen was built by Richard 1 (943-96) and is glimpsed from time to time in the reign of his successor and thereafter .... It may have been the prototype for the great Norman towers at Colchester and London.

Normans went on and built very monastic churches at such places as Jumieges [one still stands there] and lots of other places. "They added their cathedrals at Rouen, Bayeux [etc.] Many of these major works of Norman Romanesque architecture survive in whole or part".
Formerly hostile Scandinavians ... became converted [in that way].

Attacking Rollo

IN a small park in Aalesund downtown there's a statue of Rollo - a copy of the statue in Rouen. The viking Rolv said yes to king Charles the Simple, to bulwark his country against robber attacks from other vikings. Rolv stuck to the deal, true to his gentleman's word. And Rolv died a Christian. ROLV Ganger converted and wed according to Frank fashion and settled in Rouen. Next he granted many of his viking companions ample landed property. They built fortresses on very strategic places, and many rustic castles were to come along with them in a very short time. All able men had to serve in the Norman military forces. They were good and helped to make the formerly ruined, marauded region one of the foremost. Rouen became the second greatest city in France.

IT'S likely that Rolv stemmed from More. After Rollo and his companions settled in Normandy, they kept the ties with their kin, it's much suggested. It was much feasible to go north and fetch one's females and children and kin to the new land, for the soil was fit, there was much fish, and as the ruling class they were much safer or free than those who submitted to the tyranny after Harald Harfager and his family.

Many rash and foolhardy vikings lost their lives in France in those centuries. For example, a vast viking army attacked Paris in 885. It was a huge army equipped for bombarding and breaking down huge walls - the king came to the aid and bought Paris back. It's held that Rollo as well was at "work" in the same basin or region before the treaty.

Rolv is the ancestor of the Norman duchy. Where did he come from?

The Norwegian historians have not swerved from the view that the viking Rollo was Rolv, the son of Earl Ragnvald of More in Norway. But Danes changed their views according to the scholar recipe "trim the sails to the wild":

First they stuck to the presented views of the Norse sagas, but after Norway and Denmark were split in 1814, the Danish historians stubbornly said Rollo stemmed from the Danes.

Swedes supported the Norwegians till the union between Norway and Sweden broke in 1905 -

After that, the Sweden launched their own candidate, but without much success.

Neither do Neanderthals succeed a lot outside the pales of the horny artistic - This is to hint at that there can be political interests behind a story and version. Better be gently aware.

International scholars or researchers stick to the Icelander Snorre Sturla


Earl Ragnvald was King Harald's dearest friend, and the king had the greatest regard for him. He was married to Hild, a daughter of Rolf Nefia, and their sons were Rolf and Thorer. Earl Ragnvald had also three sons by concubines, -- the one called Hallad, the second Einar, the third Hrollaug; and all three were grown men when their brothers born in marriage were still children Rolf became a great viking, and was of so stout a growth
that no horse could carry him, and wheresoever he went he must go on foot; and therefore he was called Rolf Ganger. He plundered much in the East sea. One summer, as he was coming from the eastward on a viking's expedition to the coast of Viken, he landed there and made a cattle foray. As King Harald happened, just at that time, to be in Viken, he heard of it, and was in a great rage; for he had forbid, by the greatest punishment, the plundering within the bounds of the country. The king assembled a Thing, and had Rolf declared an outlaw over all Norway. When Rolf's mother, Hild heard of it she hastened to the king, and entreated peace for Rolf; but the king was so enraged that here entreaty was of no avail. Then Hild spake these lines: --

"Think'st thou, King Harald, in thy anger,
To drive away my brave Rolf Ganger
Like a mad wolf, from out the land?
Why, Harald, raise thy mighty hand?
Why banish Nefia's gallant name-son,
The brother of brave udal-men?
Why is thy cruelty so fell?
Bethink thee, monarch, it is ill
With such a wolf at wolf to play,
Who, driven to the wild woods away
May make the king's best deer his prey."

Rolf Ganger went afterwards over sea to the West to the Hebrides, or Sudreys; and at last farther west to Valland, where he plundered and subdued for himself a great earldom, which he peopled with Northmen, from which that land is called Normandy.

Rolf Ganger's son was William, father to Richard, and grandfather to another Richard, who was the father of Robert Longspear, and grandfather of William the Bastard, from whom all the following English kings are descended. From Rolf Ganger also are descended the earls in Normandy. Queen Ragnhild the Mighty lived three years after she came to Norway; and, after her death, her son and King Harald's was taken to the herse Thorer Hroaldson, and Eirik was fostered by him.

See also Rollo "of Normandy" for an argument against Rognvald being Rollo's father.

Also Rollo of Normandy contains links to several web sites about Rollo

Linked toRollo, 1st Duke of Normandy

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