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III


Perhaps after a time Rollo and his Vikings went home; but we do not know what he did for about twenty-five years. We do know that he abandoned his old home in Norway in 911. Then he and his people sailed from the icy shore of Norway and again went up the Seine in hundreds of Viking vessels.


Of course, on arriving in the land of the Franks, Rollo at once began to plunder towns and farms.


Charles, then king of the Franks, although his people called him the Simple, or Senseless, had sense enough to see that this must be stopped.


So he sent a message to Rollo and proposed that they should have a talk about peace. Rollo agreed and accordingly they met. The king and his troops stood on one side of a little river, and Rollo with his Vikings stood on the other. Messages passed between them. The king asked Rollo what he wanted.


"Let me and my people live in the land of the Franks; let us make ourselves home here, and I and my Vikings will become your vassals, " answered Rollo. He asked for Rouen and the neighboring land. So the king gave him that part of Francia; and ever since it has been called Normandy , the land of the Northmen.


When it was decided that the Vikings should settle in Francia and be subjects of the Frankish king, Rollo was told that he must kiss the foot of Charles in token that he would be the king's vassal. The haughty Viking refused. "Never, " said he, "will I bend my knee before any man, and no man's foot will I kiss." After some persuasion, however, he ordered one of his men to perform the act of homage for him. The king was on horseback and the Norseman, standing by the side of the horse, suddenly seized the king's foot and drew it up to his lips. This almost made the king fall from his horse, to the great amusement of the Norsemen.


Becoming a vassal to the king meant that if the king went to war Rollo would be obliged to join his army and bring a certain number of armed men — one thousand or more.


Rollo now granted parts of Normandy to his leading men on condition that they would bring soldiers to his army and fight under him. They became his vassals, as he was the king's vassal.


The lands granted to vassals in this way were called feuds, and this plan of holding lands was called the Feudal System.


It was established in every country of Europe during the Middle Ages.


The poorest people were called serfs. They were almost slaves and were never permitted to leave the estate to which they belonged. They did all the work. They worked chiefly for the landlords, but partly for themselves.


Having been a robber himself, Rollo knew what a shocking thing it was to ravage and plunder, and he determined to change his people's habits. He made strict laws and hanged robbers. His duchy thus became one of the safest parts of Europe .


The Northmen learned the language of the Franks and adopted their religion.


The story of Rollo is especially interesting to us, because Rollo was the forefather of that famous Duke of Normandy who, less than a hundred and fifty years later, conquered England and brought into that country the Norman nobles with their French language and customs.


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