Bend or Stand?


Today’s post takes you back to Normandy with a funny, but true tale of humor and diplomacy a la Viking style.


Thanks to History Channel’s Vikings, most people know Ragnar Lothbrok and his Viking raiders pillaged Paris to the bone. He and his massive army camped out on the Seine River, conducting raids from 845-846. Yes, that’s right. He gave monasteries, villages, and the citadel of Paris a year’s worth of raid, rinse, and repeat.



The Franks were virtually helpless to stop the havoc he wreaked on Paris and all the places big and small. 


The rest of Vikingdom wanted in on the action. In fact, they kept up their raids for decades (with some breaks and losses spread out in between). No one equaled Ragnar’s** fame until Rollo the Walker.* 


Like his predecessor, Rollo and his Viking warriors camped out on the Seine, planning to take silver and gold then leave. But, Charles the Simple, King of the Franks (as France was then known) was struck with an idea: Why not ask the raiders to be his neighbors? 



Charles would gain a “defensive buffer” between him and sea invaders, and what a beautiful buffer the king offered. Charles had another ulterior motive: Vikings would gain more productive uses of their time — like protecting and developing land instead of raiding Frankish lands.


Rollo took the offer.  Maybe land is worth more than silver and gold?


To seal the deal, Charles offered his daughter in marriage to Rollo, requested Rollo’s conversion to Christianity, and by the way, change your name to Robert. Rollo agreed. During a celebratory event, the bishops decided Rollo should kiss the foot of Charles.  Meant as a sign of submission, some postulate the Franks wanted payback — they wanted the Vikings humiliated.


No kiss to the foot, no land. Rollo, ever adaptable in politics, offered up one of his men to kiss the kingly foot. 


The warrior approached Charles but failed to bend.  Instead, the foot rose to meet the Viking.  The Norseman grabbed the foot, brought it to his mouth, and knocked Charles off his “rocker.” The hall erupted with laughter. The Franks quit messing with the Vikings, and Rollo took leadership of his vast domain AD 911.


Under Rollo’s rule, the region prospered. 


Vikings eventually intermarried. They took on the language of the region (mixed with their own). And, Rollo made Rouen his city center. His presence made the oft-attacked area peaceful. 


From raiders to businessmen and landowners, Vikings settled in, adapting to their new home. The Norse leader ran a prosperous town emporium and marketplace.  Normandy even boasted a coin mint as Europe moved toward a system of currency. 




Maybe you can put the fox in charge of the chicken coop?


Thanks for stopping by!




*Gaange Hrolfr is the Nordic spelling (also Gongu-Hrolfr). Rollo is his Latinized name. The “Walker” part came because he was so big, supposedly no horse could hold him. Thus, he had to walk everywhere.

**Sorry History Channel Vikings fans! (I count myself in that number). Rollo and Ragnar were not brothers.