Sunday, October 20, 2013

Who Was Gange Rolf?

Rollo statue in Rouen, France
At Viking, we're lucky to have so many engaged and knowledgeable readers. We recently received information from Joe Skodje of Clearwater, Fla. about Gange Rolf, the Viking leader credited for settling French Normandy. How much do you know about this important historical figure?

As legend has it, Rolf was so tall that his feet dragged the ground when he rode a horse, earning him the name Gange Rolf or "Walking Rolf."

During the 9th century, Vikings repeatedly sailed up the Seine, raiding and plundering. To put an end to these raids, King Charles the Simple made a treaty with Rolf, who became known as Rollo (or Rollon) in that area, granting him an area of land around Rouen. Rolf's people from the North (the Normans) settled in such high numbers in this area that it became known as Normandy. Gange Rolf went on to become the forefather of William the Conquerer, the first Norman king of England.

A statue of Rollo stands in a churchyard near the center of Rouen where Joan of Arc was buried. It was erected there in 1911 at the Normandy millennial celebration.

A second statue statue was given to the city of Fargo, N.D. from the city of Rouen. Commissioned in 1912, "it originally stood in a large grassy area next to the old Viking Hotel, just south of the Great Northern Depot on the north side of town," writes Skodje. On July 12, 1912, the Sons of Norway's Supreme Lodge Convention was recessed to give officers and delegates the opportunity to take part in the parade and dedication of the Gange Rolf statue. The statue now stands about a block north of Kringen Lodge in Fargo.

A third statue stands in the city of Ålesund, Norway. The statue commemorates the birthplace of Gange Rolf on the nearby island of Giske.

"All members of Sons of Norway should know the history of the man whose statue stands on these pedestals in Rouen, in Ålesund and in Fargo," Skodje writes. I fully agree. Thanks, Joe, for the history lesson!

Amy Boxrud is editor of Viking magazine. She lives with her family in Northfield, Minn., where she’s a member of Nordmarka 1-585.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Cross Duck.

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