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The wild life of the Vikings..........

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Normandy
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The Normans were the masters of the lower reaches of the Seine and its coastal regions. They had haunted this area so often and so thoroughly that the Christians had given up all defence. This was where the mighty and renowned Viking Empire – the “Normans’ Land” – Normandy  - came into being. The historians are in doubt as to the origins of its new masters – did they come from Denmark or from Norway? Norman tradition points to Denmark and makes Rollo, the chieftain of the Vikings, a Danish royal heir, but a Norwegian legend calls him Ganger Rolf, who was an earl’s son from Møre. However, it seems most likely that the mighty armies that for generations plundered, depopulated and finally subjugated this part of northern France emanated from Denmark and Viken. There were several chieftains who were a match for each other, each with his own long ships, and by joining forces they established a great army.

Dudo, the Norman history writer, tells the following tale: When Rollo had landed on the Seine, the Franks sent out some knights to negotiate with the Vikings. When they reached the river’s edge, they stopped and shouted, ”We knights sent out by the King of the Franks demand that you tell us who you are, from where you come, and what you seek.” The answer was,  ”We are Danes, we come from Denmark, and we want to conquer France.” Again the Franks asked,” What is your Lord’s name?” The answer was, ”No name, for we are all equal.” Again the knights asked,” Will you subject yourselves to Charles, the King of the Franks, serve him, and be well paid by him?” They answered, “ We shall never submit to any master, nor serve, nor take pay from anyone. The pay we like best we earn by deeds and arms.” “What will you then do?” the Franks shouted. The answer was, ”Hurry off as soon as possible, and tarry no longer, we do not like your long talk, nor shall we tell you what we intend to do.”

The Norman army had really been masters of the country around the Seine for many years, and as a matter of fact the Frankish King Charles the Simple ceded  territory to them in 912. Rollo and the other chieftains of the army divided the country amongst themselves as equal partners, but as time went on Rollo was given more and more precedence because of his reputation and power. He and his descendants ruled as almost independent dukes of Normandy, the Frankish king was their feudal overlord, but really had not much authority over them. At the peace negotiations in 912 they had become Christians, and it was not long before they picked up the language of the Franks, and in time forgot their own. The Danish language lasted for a long time in Bayeux. Traces of the Scandinavian languages can be found even today in the names of Norman people and places.

This Norman integration into the culture of the Franks was seen especially in  fresh and frank initiatives in trade, political life and poetry. The old Viking spirit did not pass away with its mother tongue. Around the years 1020-30 a number of Norman knights went to the south of Italy, partook of the eternal fights there between the Christians and the Saracens, established themselves in the country and won a huge kingdom called the “Two Sicilies” which remained   independent until 1860. 

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Bayeux-Tapestry


A generation later William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, sailed to England with his men in 1066, conquered this country and founded the best organized state of its day. In memory of this conquest his brother commanded that a 70-metre long, embroidered tapestry with 70 pictures from the war and the story behind it be made. This “Bayeux-Tapestry” gives us very much information about the art of war, the time, and the way of life then. A faithful copy of this tapestry can be found at the Museum of Frederiksborg.

The most important polity of the Viking Age was the creation of the Norwegian realms in Ireland and Scotland, the large Danish kingdom in England, and the Scandinavian Duchy at the Seine in Western Europe. But in the scantily inhabited islands in the Norwegian Sea different Nordic communities arose at this time, first of all the free state of Iceland. They were not colonial realms, which for  many centuries maintained a Scandinavian national character before  integration with foreigners. They became the long lasting extensions of the area of the Scandinavians, and their history today is still part of Scandinavia.  

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