Rollo was a courageous leader and a brave hero. His techniques for conquest allowed him and his Norsemen followers to gain a secure position on Frankish soil. This enabled him to become the first leader of Normandy, France.
Many of the historical details about Rollo are difficult to accurately establish as his birth occurred in the 9th century, which was over a thousand years ago. Rollo which means “renowned wolf” was believed to be born in the Kingdom Of Möre (Norway) as Gånge-Rolf however speculations point to Denmark as his birth place. His day of birth is believed to have been in 846. While the details of heritage remain somewhat shrouded, it was clear that he came from a noble family of Scandinavian Vikings. Some sources report that he was the son of Rögnvald, who was the Earl of Möre.
As a young man, he left behind the Norwegian king, Harald Fairhair, and took to the seas as a Viking leader. Together with his crew of Norsemen, they raided almost every coastal area that they could reach by the sea in their wooden vessels. They were renowned for their ruthless and violent nature. Rollo was such a giant of a man, that he was called Rollo the Walker by his men as it was impossible to find a horse that was able to carry him. Legend has it he was such a powerful warrior that he was able to accomplish on foot what few other men were able to do while on horseback! This must have made him quite intimating to his foes.
In the year 885, Rollo’s ship was among the seven hundred ships that started out on a voyage up the Seine River. Their intention was to invade Paris. Close to the mouth of the Seine was a town called Rouen and Rollo stopped his fleet there. As can be imagined the townsfolk were terrified when they saw the ominous fleet of ships on the river. They had also heard the stories and rumors about this giant man and did not know how to react. The bishop of the town, however, did not panic, he had been told that this particular Viking chief could be honorable. Acting on this information he told the people of the Rouen to open their gates. Thankfully the bishop had been correct and when Rollo took possession of the town, he treated the people kindly and without menace.
Soon after this it started to become clear to the Parisians that the Vikings were a real threat to their city. Their boats could now be seen for miles along the Seine and they seemed intent on taking Paris. In an attempt to protect themselves, they built two massive walls to fortify their city. Rollo and his men built a tower, which they managed to roll up against the wall to try and gain entry, but the top of the wall was full of men who shot at them with arrows and poured barrels of boiling oil onto them. The Vikings were determined and trapped the Parisians inside their own walls for 13 months until the Count of Paris rode to Rollo one night and pleaded for help for his starving people. The Vikings released Paris from their mighty grip, choosing not to go to battle.
Not much appears to be known about what happened to Rollo and his Vikings then, but sometime after 910, he and his men sailed up the Seine once more, again with hundreds of vessels. As they had done in the past, they raided and raided towns up and down the river until Charles the Simple realized that the disorder had to come to an end and requested a meeting with Rollo. The two leaders met, both flanked by their men, on opposite sides of a river. Messages were sent to them and Charles asked Rollo what it was that he wanted. Rollo told Charles that if he was given Rouen and the land around it, then he would cease to raid other towns. He added that he and his men would become a vassal of the king. This meant that if the King decided to go to war Rollo would be honor bound to join his army and bring a certain amount of his Viking warriors with him to fight.
The lands that were ceded to Rollo in this way were called feuds and these lands were governed by the Feudal system, which was adopted in every country of Europe in the Middle Ages. Even though he was previously a pirate, Rollo seemed intent on ridding his lands of violent robberies and murders. He wrote strong laws that were imposed on his people. Those who were caught stealing were hung and his lands soon became some of the safest in Europe. He and his men gradually took on the religion of the Franks which was Christianity, abandoning their pagan beliefs in the Norse Gods, although some people believed that this was only done to gain the trust of the King. Rollo married the Poppa, the daughter of a count who gave birth to William Longsword. William would go on to rule after Rollo resigned to him in 927. Rollo is believed to have passed away sometime after this which would have made him approximately ninety years old at the time of his demise.
Rollo was the great-great-great-grandfather of William I of England. William was also known as William the Conqueror. He played a massive role in making England one of the most powerful countries in Europe. He went on to have ten children, among them Henry I and William II.
Rollo started out his young life with the intent on pillaging and laying waste to towns, but his courage and determination lead him to claim the land that he wanted. His son became the first king of England, a land that itself went on to conquer many nations all around the world. We have to wonder how our world would have looked if Rollo had not been so brave and determined.