Vikings attached more attention on training their people the sense of war, which was also a common characteristic of primitive peoples in the early times. Under appalling living conditions, Vikings learnt to make a living by means of war, and became very proud of killing. Supported by this faith, Vikings were almost invincible when they were plundering on the European continent.
France became Vikings’ next target
In 885, Vikings plundered Rouen, a harbor city in northwestern France. In the mind of pirates, Europeans were very civilized and courteous. They had a variety of food; their clothes were impractical despite being exquisite; weapons were sophisticated but not so lethal, especially those gorgeous but vulnerable warships. The pirates easily gained an outright victory in Rouen. After plundering all the wealth in the city, they confidently sailed along the Seine River to their next stop – Paris.
Had learnt the lesson of Rouen, all the Parisians participated in the preparation for war when they heard the pirates were coming. In the early November, the Vikings had arrived at the gate of Paris. Despite that the Parisians were psychologically prepared for a tough battle, but they were still shocked by the large Viking formation. When looking at the Seine River from the city walls, they could find that the Nordic style ships bestrewed the river. This time, Vikings brought seven hundred warships and nearly thirty thousand soldiers. Led by their leader Siegfried the Sinric, these Vikings wearing hides and horned helmets approached Paris while shouting battle slogans in chorus, making the Parisians very frightened.
The governor of Paris Count Odo knew very well that this was a war impossible to win, because there were only several hundreds of soldiers in Paris. At this time, Abbot Joselin from Paris was voluntary to go suing for peace. He walked out of the city alone, and got aboard Siegfried’s flagship under the Vikings’ fierce glare. He said: “If you put down weapons, you would be welcomed to our city as guests and provided with food.” Siegfried’s response was very simple: “We want more than Paris!”. As the pirate leader said, their target was not just Paris. They wanted to settle down in the upper Seine region where there was warm climate, fertile lands and a variety of food. For Vikings, Paris was just one stop along the road. But Paris guarded the Seine River, and they could not go deeper inland before they captured this city. Abbot Joselin passed Siegfried’s word back to the city. Parisians were enraged by the arrogant pirates. The most citizens participated in strengthening the defense, and everybody was trying to make the last effort. The whole city was sleepless at that night, as Vikings would attack in the next morning.
Pirates were belligerent and bloodthirsty, but not reckless. They first fired arrows and catapults at a long distance, and soon they breached the outer city walls. The pirate army approached the city of Paris: Siegfried led the charge while the other pirates were singing the marches of attacking which were only understandable to themselves. The pirates set up rope ladders on the city walls and were going to climb into the city, but the Parisian soldiers would not give them any chance. When the pirates were about to reach the top of rope ladders, the Parisian soldiers cut the ropes and let the enemies fall to death. Siegfried ordered his men to stop climbing the walls. He knew the defense of Paris was weak, so he ordered his men to continue the attack, fire arrows and project stones into the city. Vikings had good archers. Soon many Parisian soldiers were shot, but replacements joined in the line soon, leaving no gap to the enemies. It was a fierce battle, and Parisian soldiers became less and less.
Seeing the city walls were about to be breached, Count Odo ordered the Parisian soldiers to poured boiling oil down from the walls. It worked. As Vikings often went to war nakedly, the boiling oil gave them a fatal hit and effectively slowed them down. Many Parisian women also joined the battle. They donated oil and firewood, and helped boiling the oil. Vikings could not resist the boiling oil, so they had to retreat out of the range of boiling oil. But in this case, they could not continue powerful attacks. The Parisians won the first battle. Although the pirates were defeated, but compared to their huge army, their number of casualties was just a drop in the bucket.
The seesaw battle lasted a very long time, but Vikings still could not capture the city. All Parisians participated in the battle. They were willing to defend their faith and territory with all the manpower and material resources. The pirates had no choice but to continue besieging Paris. When the winter fell, it was difficult to steer ships, and the war came into a stalemate. In the spring of 886, the flood in Seine River washed a bridge away, providing pirates a great opportunity.
At that night, Siegfried steered a warship himself and approached the Paris. This time he brought only twenty elite soldiers. To cover up the secret raid, the pirates held a huge party in the name of “offering up a sacrifice to the goddess of ocean”. They guzzled liquor, danced all night, and even fired the canons, making it a noisy night outside the city of Paris. The acts of Vikings slightly eased Parisians’ months-long tension. But in fact, these pirates were nervously waiting for Siegfried’s signal. It was the chance of make or break for the siege of Paris.
Known as the “ferocious shark”, Siegfried was not only cruel and sinister, but also of excellent strategic mind. He led his elite soldiers to climb into the city, sneaked to the city gate, killed the guards and opened the gate which stopped Vikings for a whole winter. The dancing Vikings instantly became mad warriors. They broke into the city from land and river, and soon wiped out the garrison soldiers. Without the city walls, the Parisians could not resist the brutal pirates any longer. While leaving a part of soldiers in Paris, Siegfried led the rest men to go upstream along the Seine River. They wanted to continue their original plan and set their feet on the most fertile land.
At this time, Paris was in chaos and mess. The pirates plundered all the wealth, and killed any soldier or civilian who dared to resist. Paris was occupied and under plague. The city was dying. Count Odo took huge risks to flee out of Paris, and reported the fall of Paris back to his king, Charles III of France. Charles III was so absorbed in pleasure that he had become very fat and inept, and therefore he was also called “Charlie the Fat”. He did not want to directly confront Vikings, but under the pressure of his ministers and people, he had to lead his army to Paris. After arriving in Paris, he only had a few symbolic battles with Vikings. He did not even get out his carriage, never to mention visiting the battlefield.
At last, as Charlie III could not adapt to the cold weather in Paris, he offered a condition to the Viking leader: he gave Vikings seven hundred pounds of gold as a farewell gift while Vikings left France for home. The pirates were so arrogant that they further put forward their territorial claim. If the king refused, they would occupy the king’s palace. The cowardly Charlie III quickly agreed with the pirates’ demand. He gave Normandy to the pirates in exchange for his own peace. Had achieved the expected goal, the pirates left Paris with a great amount of wealth and gold.
What Charlie III did enraged the Parisians, and the rage soon spread all over the country. Charlie III was deprived of the throne by his angry people, and Count Odo, who had shared the suffering with Parisians, became the new king. The Danish pirates settled down near Normandy, and quickly changed their previous way of life. They intermarried with local people, and many of them converted to Christianity. A pirate leader name Rollo founded the Dukedom of Normandy. The Normans did not consider themselves to be pirates any longer, but they still had the aggression and belligerence in their blood. In 1066, the Britain Island was occupied by William I (William the Conqueror) from Normandy, who was a descendant of Vikings.