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RAGNAR Lodbrok

RAGNAR Lodbrok Siguardsson. (Ragnar 'Hairy-Breeches', Old Norse: Ragnarr Loðbrók). King of Sweden and Denmark who reigned sometime in the eighth or ninth centuries. He appears in Snorri's Edda, the Völsunga saga and the saga of Ragnar Lodbrok.

Born about 750; son of SIGUARD Randversson and ALFHILD Gandalfsdottir.

According to the Danish chronicler Saxo Grammaticus, the pagan Ragnar got on to the Swedish Yngling Dynasty but didn't belong there, since his father were Danish, claiming to be a direct descendant of the god Odin. Both Saxo and Icelandic sources describe him as the son of Sigurd Ring, a Danish king of Gotland who conquered Zealand, Ragnar mainly resided in Danish Skaneland and Zealand.

The historic Ragnar Lodbrok was an Earl at the court of the Danish king Hårek who participated in the Viking plunderings of Paris in 845. The warriors belonging to the army of Charles the Bald, were placed to guard the monastery in St Denis, but fled when the Danish Vikings executed their prisoners ferociously in front of their eyes. After the "danegeld" which contained 7000 pounds of silver, Ragnar went back to Denmark. By mysterious circumstances, many men in Ragnar´s army died during the journey and Ragnar died soon after his arrival in Denmark. In later traditions, Ragnar is the king of Denmark and he meets with fabulous adventures all around the world. Among others, he met the wonderful Kraka in Norway, who became Ragnar´s wife and the mother of his four sons.

Although he is something of a hero in his native Scandinavia, reliable accounts of his life are very sketchy and heavily based on ancient Viking sagas. Even the dating of his reign is not certain; there are sources that date it from 750–794, and others from 860–865. Neither really matches with what we know of him, though he may perhaps have held power as a warlord from approximately 835 to his death in 865, perhaps only being recognized as king in the last five years of his life.

He married Aslaug Sigurdsdottir.

Ragnar apparently spent most of his life as a pirate and raider, invading one country after another. One of his favorite strategies was to attack Christian cities on holy feast days, knowing that many soldiers would be in church. He would generally accept a huge payment to leave his victims alone, only to come back later and demand more riches in exchange for leaving. But as the extent of his supposed realm shows, he was also a gifted military leader. By 845, he was a powerful man and most likely a contemporary of the first ruler of Russia, the Viking Rurik. It is said he was always seeking new adventures because he was worried that his freebooting sons would do things that outshone his own achievements.

During this period Viking invasions were usually led by men of high rank whose leaders held equal powers. King Horik wanted all Viking raids to be under his authority. In 845 he sent several hundred vessels up the Elbe to Hamburg, and at the same time sent Ragnar Lodbrok with a smaller fleet up the Seine to take Paris. {S1}.


It was in 845 that he is said to have sailed southward, looking for new worlds to conquer. With 120 ships and 5,000 Viking warriors, he landed in modern France, probably at the Seine estuary, and ravaged West Francia, as the westernmost part of the Frankish empire as it was then known. Paris was also captured in this year and held ransom by a Viking raider, whom the sagas say was Ragnar Lodbrok. The traditional date for this is March 28, which is today referred to as Ragnar Lodbrok Day by certain followers of the Asatru religion. The King of West Francia, Charlemagne's grandson Charles the Bald, paid him a fantastic amount of money not to destroy the city. Ragnar Lodbrok, according to Viking sources, was satisfied with no less than 7,000 pounds of silver in exchange for sparing the city. However, that did not stop Ragnar from attacking other parts of France, and it took a long time for the Franks to drive him out. Later Ragnar's sons were to return for more booty. Among their feats was destroying the city of Rouen several times. Ultimately, many of them settled there permanently, in a land that became known as Normandy (for "Northmen", as the Franks called the Scandinavians). {S2}.

In 851, Olaf the White re-conquered Dublin from the Danes, restoring Norway’s supremacy. He eventually chased all the Danes out of Ireland. For the next 20 years he ruled in Dublin, and his brother Ivar, The Boneless, ruled in Limerick. In 870 Olaf the White was recalled to Norway, and Ivar took over Dublin.

About 860, under the leadership of Bjorn and Hastings, sixty-two vessels were launched against Brittany. This time, however, they were only able to attack Algiers, just inside the Straits of Gibraltar. From there they crossed to Nekor in Morrocco. Eight days later they sailed past the Balearic Islands and landed on the island of La Camargue, off the coast of France in the Rhone Delta.


After he was done with France, he turned his attention to England. In 865, he landed in Northumbria on the north-east coast of England. It is claimed that here he was defeated in battle for the only time, by King Aelle II of Northumbria. Aelle's men captured Ragnar, and the King ordered him thrown into a pit filled with poisonous snakes. As he was slowly being bitten to death, he was alleged to have exclaimed "How the little pigs would grunt if they knew the situation of the old boar!" Alternative versions of the story say that he landed by accident in East Anglia and there befriended King Edmund before being killed by a jealous courtier. The murderer escaped to Denmark and blamed Edmund for Lodbrok's demise. {S2}.

In 865 raids were launched into England. Based in East Anglia, a united army led by the sons of Ragnar Lodbrok (Ivar, Ubbi, and Halfdan) captured York on 1 NOV 866. {S1}.

Ragnar Lodbrok died in 794.

One Viking saga states that when his four sons heard the manner of his death, they all reacted in great sorrow. Hvitserk, who was playing tafl, gripped the piece so hard that he bled from his fingernails. Björn Ironside grabbed a spear so tightly that he left an impression in it, and Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, who was trimming his nails, cut straight through to the bone. {S2}.

Although these stories may not be accurate, like virtually all tales concerning Ragnar Lodbrok, his death had serious consequences. His other sons, Ivar the Boneless (alias Hingwar) and Ubbe soon learned the details of their father's death and swore that they would avenge his killing, in time-honoured Viking tradition. In 866, Ivar and Ubbe crossed the North Sea with a large army, sacked York, met King Aelle in battle, and captured him. He sentenced him to die according to the custom of Rista Blodörn, an exceedingly painful death. They then moved south to East Anglia, on the way attacking the monasteries of Bardney, Croyland and Medeshampstede where, according to tradition, their army slew 80 monks. Eventually they captured King Edmund and had him shot by archers and beheaded. These wars were a prelude to the long struggle of the Saxons of Alfred the Great against the Danes a generation later. {S2}.

ASLAUG Sigurdsdottir. (Aslang, Aslaug, Aslög, Kraka, Kráka or Randalin)
Born about 755; daughter of SIGURD Wolsung and the shieldmaiden Brynhildr. (Old Norse: Sigurðr, German: Siegfried).

She was raised by Brynhild's fosterfather Heimer. At the death of Sigurd and Brynhild, Heimer was concerned about Aslaug's security, so he made a harp large enough to hide the girl. He then travelled as a poor harpplayer carrying the harp containing the girl.

Once they arrived at Spangereid at Lindesnes in Norway, where they could stay for the night in the house of Åke and Grima. Åke believed that he saw precious items stick out from the harp, which he told his wife Grima. Grima then convinced him of murdering Heimer as he was sleeping. However, when they broke the harp, they discovered a little girl, who they raised as their own, calling her Kraka (Crow). In order to hide her noble origins, they forced the girl always to be dirty and to walk in dirty clothes.

However, once as she was bathing, she was discovered by some of Ragnar Lodbrok's men, who had been sent ashore to bake bread. Confused by Kraka's beauty, they allowed the bread to be burnt, and when Ragnar enquired about this mishap, they told him about the girl. Ragnar then sent for her, but in order to test her wits, he commanded her neither to arrive dressed nor undressed, neither hungry nor full and neither alone nor in company. Kraka arrived dressed in a net, biting an onion and with only the dog as a companion. Impressed, Ragnar married her and she gave him the sons, Ivar the Boneless, Björn Ironside, Hvitserk and Ragnvald.

Once Ragnar visited viceroy Östen Beli of Sweden and Östen convinced Ragnar of marrying the Swedish princess Ingeborg and of rejecting Kraka. At his return home, three birds had already informed Kraka of Ragnar's plans, and so she reproached him and told him of her true noble origins. In order to prove that she was the daughter of Sigurd who had slain Fafnir, she said that she would bear a child whose eye would bear the image of a serpent. This happened and she bore the son Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye. When Östen learnt of Ragnar's change of mind, he rebelled against Ragnar, but was slain by Ragnar's sons at Kraka's behest.

When Ragnar was about to undertake his fated expedition to England, his failure was due to his not heeding Kraka's warnings about the bad condition of the fleet. When Ragnar had been thrown into the snake pit by king Ella, he was protected by an enchanted shirt that Kraka had made. It was only when this shirt had been removed that the snakes could bite Ragnar and kill him.

  1. SIGURD Snodoye (Snake-in-the-Eye) Ragnarsson. Born about 780. Son of Ragnar Lodbrok and Kraka. {S2}. Born with the image of the ouroborous, a snake or dragon biting its own tail, encircling the pupil of his left eye. {S2}. He married Blaeja, the daughter of king Aelle II of Northumbria and they had the children Harthacanute and Aslaug (who was named after her grand-mother). When his father died, he inherited Zealand, Scania, Halland, the Danish islands, and Viken. He died in 830.
  2. Ivar, the Boneless, Ragnarsson. Died in 873.
  3. Halfdan, White Shirt, Ragnarsson. Died in 877.
  4. Bjorn, Ironside, Ragnarsson.
  5. Ragnhildir Ragnarsdottir.
  6. Alof/Olof, the White, Ragnarsson. Married Hunda-Steinar of England.
  7. Ubbe/Ubbi Ragnarsson. Died in 878 in Devon, England.