by Jean-Jacques COURTEY, Doctor in Economic Geography, Ph. D,
translated and adapted from French by himself
Very recently, we have spent short holidays in Normandy (France). And when walking along the boats, we saw a fiery animal : it was an impressive black beast, looking like a wolf. Some people thought it was a domesticated one, yet moving free. We crossed this animal who was very peaceful, and watching us kindly. We thought about "Hrolfr", "the renown wolf", which was the Norvegian name of Rollo, first Duke of Normandy. And this gave us the idea to translate and adapt in English one of our first articles written for "Politikè", a blog of Journal "Le Monde" ("Ciel Vert sur le monde : l'indicible puissance Viking !", July 2nd, 2009). Here it is as following.
Thorstein Bunde Veblen (1857 - 1929), the great economist at the origin of the School of Chicago, could see nowadays the triumph of his ideas. As a matter of fact, his economic theories are finding an overwhelming enforcement over the world. He underlined notably the exploitation of Masses by the "economic villain barons" of the "Leisure class". For him, the human society was basically savage.
One can wander where he found his scouring inspirations ? Perhaps, the key of his provocative writings is coming from his Norvegian, and then Viking origins ("Theory of leisure class",
1899 ; "Theory of enterprise", 1904). This economist who was the only one to have a "fun club", "the Veblen girls", declared : "It's a topic through which I am free to develop my theories, without any risk to be contradicted by facts".
Veblen, as a descendant of Norvegian immigrants, was very proud of his further ancestor Göngu Hrolfr, more famous in France under the name of "Rollon" (Rollo).
Hrolfr (c. 845 - c. 927) was the son of Rogneval, "Jarl" ("Prince") of More og Romsdal, in the Center-West of Norway ... and as it seems the nephew of the King of Norway, "Harald Beautiful Hair".
As he thought his uncle wasn't the right King for his people, he made a "coup d'Etat". But his coup failed.
Princes were not killed at that time, because it was carrying unhappiness. And the Vikings who were very superstitious didn't want to trigger off the anger of God Odin, by offending him. Hrolfr was thus sentenced to life exile, most likely a bit before 876.
So, he had to leave definitively Norway at dawn. The sky was of an extraordinary green colour, greenish to be more precise. This boreal dawn of exile was equalilly the one of a new time, bringing a great change to the history of mankind. Hence, the Viking epic whom he is indissociable, really changed the history of Europe and the world !
Leaving on his drakkar, he hugged the coasts of Denmark and found men to embark with him. He went first to the Orkney islands, in the North of Scotland, to visit his uncle Sigurd ; and then, he took refuge near the King of England, Alfred the Great (c. 849 - 899), who gave him men. After that, with his Anglo-Viking troop, he went to ravage Frise, and the mouth of Rhine and Escaut.
Over there, the kingdom of Franks was reputed to be rich. So then, he got interested in it very quickly. He knew it was weak and badly defended. Paris was effectively known for the strong reputation of flabbiness of its timid soldiers. It wouldn't be so difficult to frighten everybody and to "tax" them after successful "raids". And this would give an occupation to his men in need of new adventures, conquests and amusements.
His companions were already tall, but him he was reaching 2.05 meters for 140 kg.
And as his horse couldn't carry him because of his weight - there was no slimming regime in that so natural epoch - he was walking beside. That's why, he had been nicknamed "Hrolfr the Walker" ("Göngu Hrolfr") : his name of Hrolfr meant itself "the renown wolf" in old Norse.
He was fearless, and persuaded that one day he would take his revenge on destiny, because Thor (the God of War) and Frigg (the Goddess of Love and Beauty) were opening him the path to glory, fortune and conquered love.
And one day, he would find once again love, and on that very day, he would take his time to make himself beautiful for his promised. As a matter of fact, it must be known that Vikings were both brutal at fight and strongly coquettish in matter of masculine seduction.
And often, it's the girlfriend who had to wait one or two hours for them to be ready to get out !
In general, they took ablutions followed by a sauna session, before giving some final little touches to their virile beauty.
According to Dudo of Saint Quentin, Rollo participated the siege of Paris from 885 to 886, where its most fierce defenders died : a commemorative tablet is recalling the names of the most famous of those dead people, along the stairs leading to a crypt in the front of Notre-Dame of Paris.
Around 890, Rollo had become the leader of all the Scandinavians officiating in Neustria, and he had conquered Rouen. Him and his men had their basis on an island of Low Seine, where they were withdrawing after their victorious raids.
It seems that the Franks were able to bribe one of his men : he gave them all the necessary explanations to attack his strategic stronghold by surprise, at night. The latter had to make all the warriors drunk to render them harmless. As planned, Franks surroundered at night the camp of Rollo, while his companions drank too much beer. They were watching those terrible men falling on the floor one after the other, dead drunk. Then the signal of the perfidious and deadly attack was given. And what had to happen...didn't occur !
At the call of Rollo, yet almost dead drunk himself, who blew in his horn, his men stood up over suddenly, and torned to pieces the Parisian forces. The Parisians' trap failed piteously, because they were ignoring the fearsome and hidden power of the "berserker" warrior and the secret of "önd" (a Viking word which gave "onde" in French - "wave").
That's this last and smarting failure convinced the King Charles III the Simple (879 - 929), a Carolingian, to make peace with him through negociation. He was called like that because he was uncomplicated and knew to be loyal, which was very rare in that epoch. This subtle King understood nevertheless all the advantages he could draw from the presence of Northmen, in order to reaffirm his authority and his power upon the Frank lords.
The treaty of Saint Clair-sur-Epte (911), was giving to Rollo all the Low Seine, which he occupied already de facto. Himself was recognizing the authority of the King of France, and becoming Count of Rouen and Duke of Normandy after an un-orthodox homage, but he respected it far better than most Frank lords thereafter.
Negociations came up against the granted territory, because Rollo had ravaged all. And there wasn't even an alive cow remaining. As well, Charles the Simple granted him the right to ransack the North of Brittany, which behave so independantly towards him, between the Risle and the Sea. And Rollo became master of this portion of territory without meeting strong resistance. But this time he preserved cattle, pastures, and peasants. From there is coming the distinction between High and Low Normandy.
He had in France a "frilla" (legal concubine), the daughter of the Count Béranger de Bayeux - a Frank-, who had the nice name of Popa, and could be the origin of the word "poupée" ("puppet") in French.
He spared the life of this fair and slender girl, touched by her gracious and innocent beauty, during the attack and the sacking of Bayeux. She was the only one to have been saved, her father having been less lucky. And several years after, he took Popa who was ravishing him litteraly with her mischievous sweetness as his official wife more danico (according to the Viking customs) : that means he could have several wives.
He was baptized in 912, and took at this occasion the name of his godfather, Robert - the ancestor of the ones who would later succeed the Carolingians, under the name of Capetian Kings.
And in conformity with the treaty of 911, the King gave him his last daughter, Gisela, as an official wife. But as she was only a child, he just looked after her as if she was his own daughter, putting her under the care of the kind Popa.
People took the habit to name Rollo, the "Jarl Robert Ist, the Rich", and not Duke Robert. In fact, he preferred the Viking title of "Prince" ("Jarl") of Northmen to the one of Duke of Normandy, more prosaic. From him, it is also known he punished unpoliteness towards him by sword, and that it was particularly badly advised to come roaming on his territory without any authorization.
Small history retained the sad end on the Old Market Square of Rouen of two jeering Frank knights, who were too free and easy. Everything went swiftly : they lost their head, and never saw again the court of Paris.
From Rollo and the very beautiful Popa, his beloved wife, descended in France the Brion family, which gave a minister of Justice to Saint Louis - who thereafter became also Pope under the name of Martin IV (1281 - 1285) -, and of course William the Conqueror (c. 1028 - 1087).
Great history is showing that the biggest chaos is concealing in itself a powerful hidden order, and that among the possible futures, that's often the less foreseeable which is occurring.
Winning competitions as artificial as useless, never made human creatures champions of cleverness and never gave them any mastery on events. Vikings were at the origin of great empires, like the ex-British empire with its separated American extension - the USA having become more powerful -, or in a forgotten and not enough known way, the Russian empire as well.
Again, it must me known that the word "Rus" (the "Red-haired people", or according to another version, the "oarsmen") was a nickname given to the Vikings, the famous Varangians in the territories which became thereafter "Russia".
Varangians (litteraly "Wolves"), were mainly Swedish, but there was also among them Danish : it was difficult to distinguish them, as they were using a language, which was common to all the Vikings, the old Norse, and were practising the same cults.
On a geopolitical point of view, it is rather amazing to realize that through the Viking inheritage, a map of the balance of our planet between East and West has been finally established. But this balance is changing now and a new equilibrium is still to find.
To this respect, we could quote a Chinese proverb (having its Viking equivalent) : "It is very difficult to find a black cat in a dark room, especially when it has already left it."
The new order of things will settle by itself, proprio motu.
The secret of the World History is not only a research, it is also the rediscovery of an hidden and forgotten face, and the French-Carolingian parable which preceded it, is there to remind it.
"To small shores and small waves, men of weak caliber. Because all men are far to be so wise. Generous and bold, you will live the best, and rarely feel anxiety !" (Havamal, "the sayings of the very high", viatic of wiseness for Vikings).