Rollo the Viking Statue
The Rollo statue north of the Sons of Norway lodge in central Fargo is a century old. It was one of five Norwegian monuments erected in Fargo in the decade following Norway's independence from Sweden in 1905, part of a resurgence in ethnic pride led locally by Dr. Herman O. Fjelde of Wahpeton.
The story of Rollo
Rollo was a Norse conqueror originally known as Gange Hrolf. After plundering various northern European kingdoms for thirty years, Hrolf agreed to Frankish King Charles the Fat's offer of a duchy northwest of Paris and the king's daughter's hand in marriage in return for defending Charles's kingdom against further Norse attacks. Hrolf also agreed, at least nominally, to accept Christianity, and he was baptized under the name of Rollon (later anglicized to Rollo).
The Rollo Statue arrives in Fargo
The Fargo statue is one of three replicas of an 1865 work by the world-renowned artist Arsene Letellier. In response to requests from the Sons of Norway, officials from the French city of Rouen agreed to task the Norwegian Society of America with finding a suitable location for the statue. Fargo was selected over its chief rivals Eau Claire, Minneapolis, and Moorhead, Minnesota, and so some 15,000 spectators gathered outside the Great Northern Railway depot in downtown Fargo to witness the unveiling of the statue on July 12, 1912.
The event was marred by a minor diplomatic incident when a University of Wisconsin professor made offensive remarks about Catholicism, incensing the French dignitaries present and souring relations between Rouen and Fargo.
Rollo the Viking today
Today, Rollo stands in full view from the entrance to the Sons of Norway Kringen Lodge, in the company of those whose ancestors brought him to Fargo. It is there, near a thriving stronghold of Norwegian identity, where Rollo can most effectively memorialize the city's Scandinavian heritage.