The Tale of Ragnar Lodbrok
The Strange Story of Ragnar Hairy-Pants
The great hero of the Vikings, Ragnar was an absolute nightmare for France and England.
In the 9th century his raiders attacked France many times, using the rivers to make their bloody way inland, and sacked Paris in 845. He then turned his attention to England, where his luck ran out.
Ragnar can be compared to Arthur of Britain, a hero of his people, one man who became a legend or possibly many men who contributed their fame to be merged into one larger than life figure.
Whoever Ragnar was, we still talk about him. Like Arthur, his name lives on today.
The Sons of Ragnar Lodbrok
While the real identity of Ragnar is in some doubt, there's no denying the existence of his sons. At least, of the men who were said to be the sons of Ragnar.
There seem to have been a number of them, but the ones we know from history are Ivar the Boneless, Bjorn Ironside, Halfdan Ragnarsson, Sigurd Snake-Eye and Ubba Ragnarsson.
The most well known is Ivar, known as 'The Boneless', who was said to be a berserker (believe me, you don't want to get on the wrong side of one of those). He took a large army to Britain, terrified everybody, and finally retired to Ireland.
Ernest Borgnine as Ragnar
Ragnar is remembered by his Death
After ravaging Paris, Ragnar took his band of men to England but was captured in Northumbria. There Aella, the king, executed him in an exotic manner -Ragnar was hurled into a pit of poisonous snakes. In an Icelandic saga, the Viking leader killed a good half dozen of the snakes by biting their heads off before succumbing to the poison.
It's a good story, and well worth the telling.
Legend tells us that Ragnar could be heard from below the castle walls roaring songs of death and glory and prophesying a reign of terror that would come to the Northumbrians when his sons avenge his death.- How the little pigs would grunt if they knew how the old boar suffers!
His sons were inflamed by the death of their father and, under the command of Ragnar's son, Ivar the Boneless, The Great Heathen Army captured York and killed Aella in revenge.
Ragnar's Death in The Vikings, 1958
In the 1958 film the pit of snakes was replaced with a more dramatic component. The pit was full of wolves!
In this scene Ragnar appeals to Tony Curtis while King Aella, played to perfection by Frank Thring, looks on.
Oh those Viking Movies!
Best Viking Movies
You'll find plenty of blood, sweat and beers in a Viking movie. Of course there would be, this is about Vikings isn't it? Yes, there was plenty of farming going on. And trading. Lots of trading. But who wants a movie about Magnus the Merchant or...
Ragnar in 12th century Verse
A 12th century Scottish poem, Krakumal, is written in the style of a monologue spoken by Ragnar while he is in the snake pit. It's a bloodthirsty chant of raids, rapine and revenge with chilling lines such as "All the sea was swollen, a raven waded in the blood of the slain". This poem did much to establish the modern stereotype of Vikings
You can see the first stanza (no gore) at The Lay of Kraka - wikipedia.
Ragnar in Contemporary Literature
Harry Harrison - The Hammer and the Cross
A rousing adventure beginning with the death of Ragnar and featuring a fictitious character, Shef Sigvarthsson.
The story tells of the advance of the Great Heathen Army across England and we meet Harrison's interpretation of the historical Viking leader, Ivar Ragnarsson, known as The Boneless
A tale of swords and axes, pride, power and revenge ...
Bernard Cornwell - The Saxon Chronicles
In Cornwell's novel of 9th century England, the young hero, Uhtred, travels on a battle-strewn journey to manhood.
We meet Ivar the Boneless and other sons of Ragnar Lodbrok in a series of action adventures detailing the historical merging of the four early English kingdoms
Masters of the Seas
Ragnar and other Vikings were able to shape history by their superb skills at ship-building. Their sailing skills were magnificent and the ships were the cutting edge in the technology of the times
The design was elegant in its simplicity, a long open boat with a single square sail and a row of oars on each side. These clinker-built ships, decorated with fearsome prows and stern posts resembling dragons, were works of art as well as scientific wonders of their day.
In the longboats and knarrs, the Vikings sailed through the known world, leaving their heritage from Constantinople to America.
A furore Normannorum libera nos, Domine
From the fury of the Northmen deliver us, O Lord.
The Oseberg Ship
An example of a superb Viking ship
A Serious look at the Vikings
A faultless and compelling historical background to the Vikings.
They're all in here, Ragnar included, and it's not all blood and guts. Far from it. The Vikings were farmers turned traders, and the men who raided, plundered and pillaged were in the minority.
An essential background to an understanding of the Viking Age
Song of the Vikings
To Snorri, Ragnarr was famous as the first Norwegian king to keep a court poet, or skald. He was "the conqueror who established the definitive boundaries of the Scandinavian kingdoms and the symbol of ancient heroism "
I love this book! Of course, I'm fascinated with Iceland, the sagas, the history, the landscape and the people but this just has to be best of books.
Nancy Marie Brown brings Snorri and his wonderful tales to amazing life
Also available for KIndle
Legacy of the Vikings
It was with the attack on Lindisfarne in 793 that the Viking Age began and, in less than 300 years, they had reshaped the world
The heritage of the Vikings is not just conquest, but a love for words and a passion for memory
You and Ragnar - a quick poll
Have you heard of Ragnar (Hairy-Breeches) Lodbrok?
© 2013 Susanna Duffy