Tag Archive | Ivar the Boneless

Horik and Ragnar, part of the oldest monarchy in Europe!

 

Horik and Ragnar their paths to ruling a dynasty

Previous related post: https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/15/i-am-king-really-why-and-how/

In our previous discussion of Kings, I said that I would look at each King and group in more detail in relationship to their path and claims to Kingship. In this discussion, we will look at Horik, Ragnar and the history of monarchy in Denmark. We will not bother with Erlandeur because besides being fictional, his chance for the crown of Denmark has already pretty much been usurped and destroyed by Ragnar Lothbrok. We will however look at Bjorn Ironside, some of his history and his eventual rule in Sweden. The more southern portions of Sweden were long fought over and often controlled by Denmark, so Bjorn Ironside ruling there would make sense in some ways.

Before we look at how and where Horik and Ragnar fit in the dynasty of Denmark’s rulers, let us first look briefly at the history of Denmark and it’s monarchy in general. I say briefly because Denmark’s history and that of it’s monarchy is lengthy and complex!

The history of Denmark as a unified kingdom, first begun in the 10th century, but historic documents describes the geographic area and the people living there – the Danes -, as early as 500 AD. These early documents include the writings of Jordanes and Procopius. With the Christianization of the Danes c. 960 AD, it is clear that there existed a kingship in Scandinavia which controlled roughly the current Danish territory. Queen Margrethe II can trace her lineage back to the Viking kings Gorm the Old and Harald Bluetooth from this time, thus making the Monarchy of Denmark the oldest in Europe. The area we now know as Denmark, has a rich prehistory, having been populated by several prehistoric cultures and people for about 12,000 years, since the end of the last ice age.

 Agricultural settlers arrived around 3000 BC. Many dolmens and rock tombs date from this period. The Nordic Bronze Age period in Denmark from about 1500BC featured a culture which buried its dead, with their worldly goods, beneath burial mounds. The many finds of bronze from this era include beautiful religious artifacts and musical instruments, and provide the earliest evidence of social classes and stratification.

In a previous article I wrote about Lindholm Hoje, where a massive burial site of stone ships from pre-Viking and Viking eras is located.  Some of these grave mounds date back as early as the 6th century and continuing on up through the 11th century. You can read more about this site and these ancient grave here:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/01/09/our-viking-adventure-begins/

Lindholm-Hoje_web Lindholm hoje near Aalborg Denmark

 

The Roman provinces, whose frontiers stopped short of Denmark, nevertheless maintained trade-routes and relations with Danish or proto-Danish peoples, as attested by finds of Roman coins. The earliest-known runic inscription dates back to ca. 200 — literacy as well probably came from the south. Depletion of cultivated land in the last century BC seems to have contributed to increasing migrations in northern Europe and increasing conflict between Teutonic tribes and Roman settlements in Gaul. Roman artifacts are especially common in finds from the 1st century. It seems clear that some part of the Danish warrior-aristocracy served in the Roman army.

The Chronicon Lethrense explains how the Roman Emperor Augustus battled Denmark in the time of David,  Denmark consisted of seven territories Jutland, Funen, Zealand, Møn, Falster, Lolland and Skåne which were governed by King Ypper of Uppsala. He had three sons, Nori, Østen and Dan. Dan was sent to govern Zealand, Møn, Falster, and Lolland, which became known jointly as Videslev. When the Jutes were fighting Emperor Augustus they called upon Dan to help them. Upon victory, they made him king of Jutland, Funen, Videslev and Skåne. A council decided to call this new united land Danmark (Dania) after their new king, Dan. Saxo relates that it is the legendary Danish King Dan, son of Humbli, who gave the name to the Danish people, though he does not expressly state that he is also the origin of the word “Denmark”. Rather he tells that England ultimately derives its name from Dan’s brother Angel. Going by this early description of the area that Denmark, or Danmark encompassed, in those earlier years, Skane (Sweden) was a part of the earliest Danish empire and did not come into it’s own entity and identity until much later in history. Swedish Kings or rulers would have been considered as a sort of sub-king under the control of the Danish empire.

The earliest mention of a territory called “Denmark” is found in King Alfred the Great‘s modified translation into Old English of Paulus Orosius’ Seven Books of History Against The Pagans (“Historiarum adversum Paganos Libri Septem”), written by Alfred when king of Wessex in the years 871–899. In a passage introduced to the text by Alfred, we read about Ohthere of Hålogaland’s travels in the Nordic region, during which ‘Denmark [Denamearc] was on his port side… And then for two days he had on his (port side) the islands which belong to Denmark’.

In the Treaty of Heiligen, which was signed at Heiligen in 811 between Denmark and the Frankish empire, it mentions King Hemming and Charlemagne. Based on the terms of the accord, the southern boundary of Denmark was established at the Eider River. Moreover, the treaty confirmed the peace established by both signatories in 810.

The first recorded use of the word “Denmark” within Denmark itself is found on the two Jelling stones, which are rune stones believed to have been erected by Gorm the Old (c. 955) and Harald Bluetooth (c. 965). The larger stone of the two is popularly cited as Denmark’s baptismal certificate (dåbsattest), though both use the word “Denmark”, in the form of accusative ᛏᛅᚾᛘᛅᚢᚱᚴ “tanmaurk” ([danmɒrk]) on the large stone, and genitive “tanmarkar” (pronounced [danmarkaɽ]) on the small stone. The inhabitants of Denmark are there called “tani” ([danɪ]), or “Danes”, in the accusative.   In the Song of Roland, estimated to have been written between 1040 and 1115, the first mention of the legendary Danish hero Holger Danske appears; he is mentioned several times as “Holger of Denmark” (Ogier de Denemarche).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Etymology_of_Denmark

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scania

Some of the earliest literary sources back as far as the 6th century mention the Danes or the Dani.  In his description of Scandza, the ancient writer Jordanes says that the Dani were of the same stock as the Suetidi (Swedes, Suithiod?)  expelled the Heruli and took their lands.  The Old English poems Widsith and Beowulf, as well as works by later Scandinavian writers — notably by Saxo Grammaticus (c. 1200) — provide some of the earliest references to Danes. This early Roman map shows the land of the Herull which was taken over by the Dani. It also shows the land of Angill, Saxone and the isle of Brittania. As the Dani took over land, the Angells and the Saxones would eventually migrate to Britannia.

early roman map showing Danmark and Britannia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Denmark

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scandza

This is an early map of the area named Scandza which shows the place of Danen and interestingly, it also shows an area named Ranaricii which could be the place of the earliest accounted King Randver/Ragnar who appeared in the line of Kings around 756.

Scandza

early map of the area called Scandza

The history of Danish rulers goes almost as far back as the general history of the area. It’s earliest beginnings can be traced back to before the 5th century. Some of the ruling history is linked to the early lands and history of the Angells or Angeln, whose lands they took over or merged with the people so well that it became part of Danmark as Angeln made migration to Brittania. Important and interesting to note is that as part of this merging, many Danes would probably have made the migration along with the Angles. This would have set up the earliest migrations of Danes into Britannia, long before the Viking era!

A Danish kingdom seems to have been established by the late fifth century, but the earliest records of its kings is fragmentary and sometimes allusive. However, some data can be built up from those records, especially from the Old English poems, Beowulf and Widsith, and the fragment commonly known as The Fight at Finnesburg. Many of the notes regarding fifth and early sixth century Danes are taken from the Alan Bliss/JRR Tolkein examination of the latter. A distinctly separate Danish ‘province’ existed in Jutland between the sixth and ninth centuries, perhaps initially wholly or semi-independently as one of the early rival states.

I am not going to list the entire length of succession here, which dates all the way back to the early 4th  century with a Ruler shared in common with the Angles. The earliest known ruler was Skiold.  Skiold or Scyld, first of the Scyldings, is the founding father of the Danes in southern Sweden, but is also a highly important figure in the list of kings of Angeln.   The earliest rulers seem to have been common between the Angles and the Danes with the first true and separate Danish ruler being listed as Dan mikilláti / Dan the Magnificent in the early 4th century. From then on the Danish rule became separate, well established and generally followed along right to rule principles for succession. Each successive ruler had some blood connection to the previous one.

Dan mikilláti / Dan the Magnificent

Son of Danp , who was the brother-in-law of Domar.

 

Dan is the legendary founder of the (ancient) Danish kingdom. He is mentioned in several medieval Scandinavian texts, which establish that he is either the son of Danp or one of the sons of King Ypper of Uppsala (the other two being Nori, who later rules Norway, and Østen, who later rules the Swedes (possibly the Östen of the late sixth century)). Whatever Dan’s reality in history, his coming suggests that a new dynasty is founded, or at least that a sideshoot of the same dynasty of ancient rulers of the Dene takes over.

For a detailed look at these earliest lines and the right to rule principle, you can find more detailed information in the following links.

History Files, Kingdoms of Scandinavia and Demmark

http://www.historyfiles.co.uk/KingListsEurope/ScandinaviaDenmark.htm

Dacians in Denmark:

http://romanianhistoryandculture.webs.com/daciansindenmark.htm

For our purposes, we are most interested in the later time periods in which Horik and Ragnar Lodbrok would have shown up.  As I mentioned in the previous discussion of Kings, we are going to look at these men from a historical perspective first and foremost and then see what bearing the historical information has on our fictional representations of these men.  To do this, we need to jump ahead to Denmark in it’s more present context… if you call the year 756 current!  For us, it simply means that from about that period on, their history was better documented to a certain extent.

In 756, the first account of a Ragnar shows up on the ruler timeline… This account of a Ragnar seems similar to later accounts of Ragnar Lodbrok, so it could be a case of errors in recounting history or mixing of the legends. None the less, it is listed so has to be taken into some account. It is also mentioned in later accounts of another ruler/relative, Sigurd Hring so for that reason too, it bears mentioning now as the origin of Ragnar.

756 – 794

Randver / (Ragnar?) / (Ongendus?)

Generally believed to be the first king of Denmark (& Sweden).

794

Jarl Eystein of Sweden defeats an attack by Eric and Agnar, two of Randver’s sons, but falls during a subsequent attack by Randver’s wife and two remaining sons, one of which is Björn Järnsida, Once Randver himself passes away, Björn becomes king of the Swedes.

horik tells floki I am not interested in deals  Ragnar will come to the right conclusion and make the right decision

Let’s deal with King Horik before we attempt to place Ragnar on the timeline and into the dynasty.  In order to better understand Horik’s story, we need to look at the history of his Father’s rule. Horik’s Father was Gudfred or Godfred. King Godfred (ruled from 804 or earlier until 810) was a Danish king before Viking era. Gudfred was the younger son of King Sigfred. The interesting part of Gudfred’s reign is two-fold… First of all, he chose not one of his many sons as his successor, but his nephew, Hemming. There is no real explanation or reason for this other than possibly he didn’t trust any of his sons to rule? This set off a chain of events that would cause a long period of civil wars in the Kingdom with fighting over the succession. It resulted in his own death by one of his sons…and then much dispute and fighting between sons, with Horik being the sole survivor to take over the throne.

In 809, King Godfred and emissaries of Charlemagne failed to negotiate peace. In 810, Gudfrid led 200 ships to plunder the Frisian coast, and forced the merchants and peasant to pay 100 pounds of silver and claimed Northern Frisia as Danish territory. To protect the northern coast of the Frankish Empire, Charlemagne began paying Viking chieftains to protect sections of the coast from the Schlei west to the Weser River. That same summer King Godfred was killed by one of his housecarls. According to Notker of St Gall, the bodyguard who murdered King Gudfred was one of his own sons.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gudfred

Of course, there is no mention of which son was actually responsible for the murder… and all of the sons eventually banded together to depose Hemming of his rule. A series of battles and ovethrows ensued with Horik being the sole surviving son left to rule.

Hemming did not last long. Horik and another of Gudfred’s sons took power in 811, later expelling a rival named Harald Klak, who took refuge at the court of Charlemagne’s son and successor, Louis the Pious. In 819, Louis forced Gudfred’s sons to accept Harald as co-ruler. Harald converted to Christianity in 826, with Louis standing as his godfather, but Harald was driven out of Denmark for the second and final time one year later. By then Horik was the only son of Gudfred’s still alive, making him the sole king of the Danes.  Horik refused to convert to Christianity, as it was his enemies’ religion, and resisted attempts by Archbishop Anskar of HamburgBremen to proselytize the Danes. In 845, Horik’s army attacked Hamburg and destroyed St. Mary’s Cathedral there. It was Horik’s last major war in East Francia.

However, Danish raids against Frisia continued. The Franks lacked an effective fleet, so the Danes could raid more or less with impunity. The Danes sacked the silver minting center of Dorestad in 834, 835, and 836, and plundered Walcheren in 837. In 845, a Viking warlord named Ragnar Lodbrok  attacked Paris and had to be bought off with 7,000 French livres (pounds) (2,570 kilograms (5,670 lb)) of gold and silver.

King Horik  disapproved of these raids, for successful raiders constituted possible rivals (especially if these successful raiders were also relatives with a possible claim to the throne). Occasionally, Horik even punished raiders. In 836,  Horik sent an embassy to King Louis declaring that he had nothing to do with those early raids on Frisia, and that he had executed those responsible. In 845, following Ragnar’s mysterious death or disappearance, he had Ragnar’s remaining followers massacred. Horik may have insinuated to Frisia that Ragnar was dead but in reality, perhaps Ragnar had just managed to escape and disappear from Horik’s reach.  Perhaps, Horik exiled or banished him from the Kingdom, because if we look at some of various versions of  history, Ragnar was alive in 860 and up until 865 when he was noted as having been killed by King Aelle in Northumbria.  In 854, King Horik I was killed by a nephew whom he had driven into exile. While in exile, the nephew had become a successful raider. Again, no mention is ever made of just who the exiled nephew is, only that he became a successful raider… Perhaps this was a case of Horik making an error in judgement and allowing Ragnar to live for some reason- for example if Ragnar was indeed possibly a distant relative? It would have been a case similar to that of  the Ragnar in Michael Hirst’s version of the saga making a mistake in allowing Horik’s son Erlandeur to live only to have him return later seeking vengeance and retribution. I should note here too that in history, Horik’s young son, still a child, did inherit the crown for a while. This scenario that I’ve suggested might be a case of Ragnar being involved in the murder somehow but not necessarily directly responsible for the actual deed. This event with Horik also gives us some insight as to how Michael Hirst might have used it in putting together his version of what happened to Horik. Someone close to him did kill him and it very well could have been Ragnar Lodbrok! This is just added validation that Mr. Hirst does follow lines of history closer than most might assume when watching his version of history play out.

horik and son return from wessex

If we look at Horik’s right and claim to rule, he did have right to the rule of Denmark as one of his Father’s sons. But, there had to have been some reason that Gudfred did not want his sons ruling the dynasty? Did he have some good reason for not trusting them with the future rule of Denmark? Did he look at them and see them all as unworthy of ruling? Did he for what ever reason, foresee what chaos and turmoil they might put the country in with their fighting for control. What ever his reasons were, he was intent on his sons not ruling and Hemming ruling instead.

horik watches everything

I did present some of the history of Horik and Hemming in a previous post on the importance of  Hedeby, so you can read more of that here:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/13/vikings-lagertha-kalf-and-why-is-hedeby-so-important/

ragnar

How does Ragnar Lodbrok or Lothbrok fit into all of this dynasty? For that we need to look at what little we know of him historically and assume that, yes he did actually exist during some part of this time period. As most historians would agree on, there is too much mention of him in numerous  historical accounts from differing sources and documentations of the era for him not to have existed. His historical information however gets so mixed up and weighed down in exaggerations of his life that he takes on a more legendary and god like quality than any real man. We need to sort through those legends and mythical accounts of him to find a truer picture of who he might have been and what part he may have played in actual history.  He was not a God, he was not married to any Goddess- as much as he might have claimed, or his children and future descendants may have added to the stories! His claim to be descended from Odin… well, that gave him some God like link or advantage which he used to his full advantage as many other rulers have.

vikings_s3_ragnar-E

As I presented earlier, a first account of him shows him as possibly being one of the first Kings of Denmark and Sweden in 756. But, later accountings put him as being a King of Sweden/Denmark during a later period of  860-865

c.860 – 865

Ragnarr Lothbrok

King in Sweden (860-865)? Apparently also powerful in Denmark.

 

Ivarr the Boneless

Son. Viking king of Dublin (853-873).

 

Halfdan

Brother. King of the Scandinavian kingdom of York (875-877).

865 – 878

Ivarr the Boneless, king of Dublin, and his brothers, the sons of Ragnarr Lothbrok, lead the first Viking army to invade mainland Britain in search of conquest rather than pillage. Landing in East Anglia, they ravage the kingdom for a year before heading into Northumbria in 866. That kingdom falls in 867 and a puppet king is installed. The Great Army moves south, campaigning during the spring and summer. East Anglia falls in 869, and the capital of Alt Clut is sacked in 870. Ynys Manau also falls to them in around 870, and between 870-871, Ivarr’s brother, Bagsecg, is involved in the attacks, leading the Great Summer Army into England and adding his forces to those of Ivarr and Halfdan.

Bagsecg is killed at the Battle of Ashdown in Wessex in 871, and the following year the Great Army is back in Northumbria. It winters in late 872 and early 873 at Torksey on the River Trent in Lindsey, before moving west into Mercia, which is defeated in 874 and a vassal king is installed on its throne. Later that year the army divides, with one half going to Cambridge and the rest heading towards the Tyne and eventually settling in York.

He is mentioned in Horik’s history during the year of 845 when he led an invading army to raid Paris.  Now, realistically all of these accounts of his life can not be accurate! So let us look at what we do know. For that, we need to go by what information we know of his sons who were part of the Great Heathen army that invaded England in the 860s. From some documented evidence, we can also piece together that one Ragnar Lodbrok was killed in Northumbria by King Aelle  prior to 865-866. His sons, who would obviously have been adults by then, took revenge on Aelle and killed him.

The Great Heathen Army marched on Northumbria in the late summer of 866, seizing York on 21 November 866.  Symeon of Durham, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Asser, and Æthelweard all recount substantially the same version of events in varying detail. Symeon’s Historia Regum Anglorum gives this account of the battle on 21 March 867 where Osberht and Ælla met their deaths at the hands of the Vikings:

In those days, the nation of the Northumbrians had violently expelled from the kingdom the rightful king of their nation, Osbryht by name, and had placed at the head of the kingdom a certain tyrant, named Alla. When the pagans came upon the kingdom, the dissension was allayed by divine counsel and the aid of the nobles. King Osbryht and Alla, having united their forces and formed an army, came to the city of York; on their approach the multitude of the shipmen immediately took flight. The Christians, perceiving their flight and terror, found that they themselves were the stronger party. They fought upon each side with much ferocity, and both kings fell. The rest who escaped made peace with the Danes.

The sagas of Ragnar’s sons embellished the event greatly and listed  all of the various sons of Ragnar who may have participated in the revenge.  Ragnarssona þáttr (The Tale of Ragnar’s sons) added  great  colour to accounts of the Viking conquest of York. This associates the semi-legendary king of Denmark and Sweden Ragnar Lodbrok and his sons, Hvitserk, Björn Ironside, Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, Ivar the Boneless, and Ubba. According to the stories, Ragnar was killed by Ælla, and the army which seized York in 866 was led by Ragnar’s sons who avenged his death by subjecting Ælla to the blood eagle.  Earlier English sources record that both Ælla and Osberht died in battle, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle stating that “both the kings were slain on the spot.  The main figure in the revenge tales is Ivar.  The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle does not name the leaders in Northumbria, but it does state that “Hingwar and Hubba” slew King Edmund of East Anglia (Saint Edmund) some years later.  Hubba is named as a leader of the army in Northumbria by Abbo of Fleury, and by the Historia de Sancto Cuthberto. Symeon of Durham lists the leaders of the Viking army as “Halfdene, Inguar, Hubba, Beicsecg, Guthrun, Oscytell, Amund, Sidroc and another duke of the same name, Osbern, Frana, and Harold.  An interesting  point in Symeon’s listing is that he does not list Bjorn Ironside in his accountings.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%86lla_of_Northumbria

What we need to do is sort out the embellishments and colorings of his legend and determine some real historical accounting for him if that is possible. Needless to say, the same Ragnar could not have been king on Denmark/Sweden from  before 756-794, then proceeded to continue on to raid Paris in 845 and become King yet again in 860!  What could very well be is that there was a Ragnar in 756 and Ragnar Lodbrok is one his descendants. This would make some sense, and  would  account for how stories of the two might have gotten woven together.  If this was the case, it gives Ragnar Lodbrok a tie or blood connection to the ruling dynasty of Denmark as well! This is important because as we have already seen, the ruling dynasty of Denmark was well set, established and it would have been highly unlikely that one who was completely unconnected in any way would have just walked in and taken over the rule as the Ragnar of our saga did.

My personal thought after researching the history and the legends is that somehow, somewhere along the line in the oral history of Denmark, the two Ragnars got tied together in their stories and became one person. So, what we can do is try to separate the two histories as much as possible. The first Ragnar is most likely the one of the earliest legends of Ragnar as king… the second Ragnar is most probably a descendent of the first and might have embellished  stories of the past to give himself greater fame, using the legends to his advantage. 

All of the various Norse sagas were written down some centuries after the facts so by then, the stories would have been so woven together that it would have been difficult to prove what was accurate and what was not. Also, there were a number of different sagas, each one telling the history from a slightly different perspective depending on which country or nationality was recounting the history.

  

The stories are all so intertwined that it is almost impossible to separate and differentiate them. What may have happened with some of the stories as they were told is that as I said, there was a second Ragnar who was a descendent of the first, and who would have been a raider or warrior under the rule of Horik. He probably was a relative of Horik’s. A clue to this is found in the Norse sagas where it is mentioned that Ragnar Lodbrok was related to King Gudfred and also a son of Sigurd Hring. The legend of Sigurd Hring involves the time period of the earliest mention of Ragnar/Randver  around 750. The time span of Gudfred and his son Horik is later, and would conceivably cover the time of the Ragnar Lodbrok who is involved in events with Horik including the attack on Paris in 845. If you look for some grain of truth and connection in the legends it could be that the first King Ragnar/Randver was related to Sigurd Hring and that some descendant of his as in Ragnar Lodbrok would have been related to Gudfred at the later point.  In looking at the history of Gudfred, he was said to be a grandson of the first King, Ragnar/Randver/Ongendus. This would connect all of them as relatives or descendants of the original Ragnar of 756. The various sagas about Sigurd Hring give differing representations but do provide some interesting points of insight. One legend speaks of Sigurd placing a shieldmaiden on the throne, which could tie or connect to the legend of Lagertha the shieldmaiden that Ragnar Lodbrok eventually married. Most historians debate the existence of Lagertha and put her in the category of myths and legends related to Ragnar but perhaps underneath all of the myth in her story is some grain of truth as well.

Lagertha shieldmaiden

Lagertha shieldmaiden

Another point of interest is that the sagas mention Sigurd Hring having ties to England or Angleland. Another saga source also mentions that Ragnar Lodbrok went to the place in Angleland of which his forefathers owned.  This would tie in with the fact that the Angles who had originated in lands around Denmark had already migrated to parts of Britain as early as the 5th century. If you look at that piece of legend, it would be a case of Ragnar already knowing something of the land of Britain and not just a case of him sailing off on great adventure. Some of the sagas mention that he visited this Angleland and was initially welcomed into their court of royalty. Then he was lured into visiting King Aelle in Northumbria and was murdered by him. This event set off a great war when the sons of Ragnar Lodbrok found out about it and came to seek revenge upon Aelle. Looking at the story in this context suggests that Ragnar was accepted in the land and was acquainted with Aelle on some level where he accepted the invitation and set off to visit Aelle thinking of nothing traitorous or malicious on Aelle’s part otherwise why would he have gone there in the first place. It suggests that there was some other underlying feud or grievance against Ragnar on Aelle’s part. Those early portions of the sagas  made no mention of raiding or invasions even though the earliest known raids on  England did take place as far back as 794 when an attack was recorded on Lindesfarne.  In looking for those grains of truth in the legends and going with the idea that Ragnar may have been banished or exiled by Horik, it stands to some reason that he could have went to some distant relatives residing in this Angleland, thinking he would be safe from Horik’s reach in this place. But, perhaps Horik’s reach stretched further than one might imagine… perhaps it stretched as far as Aelle in Northumbria? I am only proposing ideas here and there is nothing so far to give credence or evidence to this thought so do not attempt to cite me, quote me or argue with me on this line of thinking! I am just putting forth ideas on these earliest events! If one were to go with this random thought on all of it, perhaps Aelle was connected to his possible ancestral homeland. We know next to nothing about Aelle or his true history! Perhaps there was a group there in Northumbria and other places who did have some remaining ties to Denmark and have reasons to either support Horik or support Ragnar… So, Ragnar may have been involved in the murder of Horik and then Aelle responded by murdering Ragnar, not for any raiding accusations but for some other personal motives.

King Aella of Northumbria

 Lastly and possibly, most important to our line of reasoning is that some sagas mention Sigurd Hring as a son of Ragnar/Randver while others mention him as Father of Ragnar? Perhaps this is where the missing link or connection between the two versions of Ragnar are. The sagas concerning Sigurd Hring are sketchy and limited. According to Bósa saga ok Herrauds, there was once a saga on Sigurd Hring, but this saga is now lost. In the old sources,  he is notable for winning the  Battle  of  the  Brávellir  against Harald Wartooth and for being the father of Ragnar Lodbrok.  If you put the pieces of these varying stories together, what you get is that Sigurd Hring was a son of Ragnar/Randver and the Father of Ragnar Lodbrok! This would make a great deal of sense in looking at the time line of the Ragnars ranging from 756 to 865. Sigurd Hring would be both son and Father of  a Ragnar but because his sagas were lost over the years, any important information differentiating the two Ragnars would have been lost as well.

Sigurt_verbrennt_Haralds_Leiche

  The event in Paris where Ragnar Lodbrok is said to have invaded and conquered is probably close to truth, as is probably his reception when he retuned to Horik afterwards where was some disagreement over what happened. This second Ragnar most likely did go on to raid in England after his disagreements with Horik. And, what is so interesting about all of this is the last accounting of Horik being killed by an “exiled” nephew who went on to become a great raider? He was killed in 854. What was Ragnar Lodbrok doing during this time? Where was he? Legends say nothing about time periods or make mention of anything of what happened to Ragnar after his raid on Paris, his return to Horik and Horik’s disapproval and disavowels to the Frankish Empire that he had nothing to do with the raid. It would be highly possible that he exiled this Ragnar and possible as well that Ragnar could have had some sort of involvement in the death of Horik.  Historically, Horik’s son did inherit the throne of Denmark, but he was a child and his time on the throne lasted from 854 to about 865. During that time, Ragnar is listed as ruling a part of Sweden and being powerful in Denmark as well  from 860-865.  It was at the end of this period that he showed up in England and presumably met his death at the hands of King Aelle.  If you put this all into some sort of historical context or plausibility the way I have suggested, it is possible or feasible that there are two separate Ragnars of the same lineage and the second one might have ruled in some same way as Hirst has presented his version of Ragnar.  What Michael Hirst has done is take the pieces of history/legend and tied them together in the portrayal of  Ragnar Lodbrok that most of us are more aware of.  Hirst has given us a version that does not include the earlier legends of Ragnar and a first family save for Bjorn Ironside.    Also, if you put it in terms of recounting a great warrior or ancestor’s fame, one Ragnar Lodbrok probably would not have wanted to admit to any involvement in such an event as killing his relative, King Horik when telling of his great exploits to others. That action might not endear you to those people of that place you were wanting to claim rulership of.  This is one theory of his representation on the timelines. Later, we will look at another theory that Ragnar Lodbrok died in 845 at the hand of King Aelle.

the city of Paris behind it's walls and gates  where are those poor stragglers!

the city of Paris behind it’s walls and gates where are those poor stragglers!

After 865 the throne of Denmark was passed on eventually to Ragnar’s son Sigurd and we will discuss his taking of the rule later.

 It was during that time that Ragnar’s sons were busy making names for themselves in England and in Ireland. Ivar the Boneless was listed as a King of Dublin from 853-873, while another brother Halfdan was listed as King of York or Jorvick from 875-877.  Other brothers are not noted or listed as ruling anywhere during this time but later history will document descendants of Sigurd Snake Eye as being in England, participating in the revenge killing of Aelle, then going on to marry Aelle’s daughter. The one son that there is little mention of being involved in the invasion and conquest of England other that his name being mentioned in the long list of Ragnar’s many sons who may or may not have actually been there was Bjorn Ironside. As I mentioned earlier, in some accounts of the Heathen invasion, Bjorn is not listed at all.

Can you do that Bjorn  can you lead with your head and set your heart aside bjorn explains our king is very ill and can not travel

There seems to be some confusion about Bjorn Ironside or which family he may have belonged to. In the earliest accounts of the first Ragnar, King of Denmark/Sweden, Bjorn is listed and accounted for as a son of that Ragnar who goes on to rule Sweden. Prior to this time, Denmark and Sweden were closely tied with Ragnar/Randver being King of both areas. After this Ragnar’s death, Bjorn takes over full rule of Sweden- it becomes more of a separate identity and it’s rule is more solidly rooted in history. What  is important in determining a better connection for Bjorn is to look at what we can find in any documented evidence of him in order to figure out where he might actually or feasibly fit into the timeline? Our earliest account of 794 states that after Ragnar/Randver passes away, Bjorn becomes King of the Swedes. What we do not know for certain is when Ragnar/Randver actually dies.

This following timeline is one listed for the Kingdom of Sweden and it lists Bjorn as being King of Swedes from 794-804 or around 860- the same time frame as Ragnar Lodbrok is listed as ruling Denmark. We also do not know of any birth date or death for Bjorn so it is difficult to place him in the families.  This timeline would place him as a son of Ragnar/Randver and of Ragnar Lodbrok much like Ragnar/Randver and Ragnar Lodbrok are accounted as being both Father and son of Sigurd Hring.

794

Jarl Eystein of Sweden defeats an attack by Eric and Agnar, two of Randver’s sons, but falls during a subsequent attack by Randver’s wife and two remaining sons, one of which is Björn Järnsida, Once Randver himself passes away, Björn becomes king of the Swedes.

c.780s – 794

Jarl Eystein defeats an attack by Eric and Agnar, two of the sons of King Randver of Denmark, but falls during a subsequent attack by Randver’s wife and two remaining sons, one of which is Björn Järnsida. It seems possible that, given the Dano-Swedish control of Raumarike in Norway, the subsequent ruler of Raumarike could be a son of Eystein – one Sigtryg Eysteinsson.

Once Randver himself passes away, Björn Järnsida becomes king of the Swedes. With this act Sweden’s kings become more solidly rooted in history. Björn’s supposed barrow cemetery on the island of Munsö gives the dynasty its name, but it is also known as the Ynglings (probably an attempt establish continuity with the ancient Swedish kings), and the house of Uppsala. The Norse Hervarar saga is one of the best sources for establishing the genealogy of the kings in this period.

794 – 804

Björn Järnsida (‘Ironside’)

Or c.856. Son of Randver.

804 – 808

Erik Björnsson

Or d.c.870. Son. Not included in the numbering for Erics.

One can easily follow the succession of Bjorn’s descendants in the ruling dynasty of Sweden. The only break or discrepancy in this line comes in about 860-865 when once again Ragnar Lodbrok  shows up in the line? After his short rule, it reverts right back to Bjorn’s descendants with no real explanation or reason for the interruption. 

  What you also need to remember is that often in the past, relatives even distant ones might have been referred to as cousin or nephew. It was also easy to confuse family lines and lineages or descent because quite often, a descendent might refer to themselves as “son or daughter” of some great ancestor in terms of speaking of the importance of such relationship to themselves or to those they were speaking to. This could have been the case for a Ragnar Lodbrok in 845 or 860 when speaking of his ancestor, or of those who claimed to be his sons in 865. They might have been descendant of that first one and made such comment as to reflect the importance, “I am a son of Ragnar Lodbrok” The evidence for some of them being a Ragnar Lodbrok’s direct son is probably true. Those who were a vital part of the Heathen Army, and who were directly mentioned as being at Northumbria and revenging his death- that was probably accurate. Others who were attributed as to being sons may have been relatives, even distant ones at that.

One way of sorting any of this out is to look at the various threads of history, legendary sagas and Anglo-Saxon Chronicles  to see where there might be common ground, or where there might be enough difference as to suggest the possibility of separate families?  Please keep in mind that these are only my own personal thoughts and guesses at sorting out the tangled web of Ragnar Lodbrok and his overly long, prolific life! I am looking at it from the premise that in every legend or myth, there is some grain of truth. I am also going about it from a perspective of genealogy- one which I know has a habit of misinterpreting and misrepresenting information regarding ancestors who have common names! I have spent a great deal of time mired in searches of families who all named their offspring the same names in honor of family ancestry and patriarchs. It has become extremely difficult  and at times almost impossible to differentiate the separate branches of  my Father’s family tree for this reason! The only positive aspect of it is that you immediately recognize when one family line does not fit because the names vary too much from that list of original ones.

Going with the reasoning and assumption that Ragnar did not live for over 100 years and raid England well into his most elderly years, let us try to separate the events and possibly the families without dealing with the legends or the myths.

The first Ragnar/Randver shows up as King of Denmark/Sweden in 756. He has sons Eric, Agnar, Bjorn and an un-named son. There is a battle with the ruler of Sweden, Jarl Eystein and the two older sons are killed. Randver’s wife and other two sons retaliate and Eystein is killed. Later, after Ragnar/Randver’s death, son Bjorn becomes King of Sweden. Some of this is recounted in various versions of Norse sagas.  It is within those various sagas though that the histories may have begun to merge together as they were initially told in the oral tradition. Eric and Agnar along with a son,  Fridleif are consistently named as sons of Ragnar and wife, Thora. Though in one Saxon interpretation, Fridleif is listed as the son of Lagertha. .  My personal theory is that Thora and her sons were most probably the family of the Ragnar who was King in 756. 

In some of the sagas, Bjorn is listed as one of the sons of Ragnar and Aslaug but in the legend of Aslaug, Bjorn is not listed as one of her sons.

painting of Aslaug the legend

According to the thirteenth-century Tale of Ragnar Lodbrok, Aslaug was the daughter of Sigurd and the shieldmaiden Brynhildr,  but was raised by Brynhildr’s foster father Heimer. At the deaths of Sigurd and Brynhildr, Heimer was concerned about Aslaug’s security, so he made a harp large enough to hide the girl. He then traveled as a poor harp player carrying the harp containing the girl.  They arrived at Spangereid at Lindesnes in Norway, where they stayed for the night in the house of the peasants Áke and Grima. Áke believed the harp contained valuable items and told his wife Grima. Grima then convinced him to murder Heimer as he was sleeping. However, when they broke the harp open, they discovered a little girl, whom they raised as their own, calling her Kráka (“Crow”). In order to hide her beauty – the accepted sign of her noble origins– they rubbed her in tar and dressed her in a long hood.

However, once as she was bathing she was discovered by some of the men of the legendary king Ragnar Lodbrok. Entranced by Kráka’s beauty, they allowed the bread they were baking to burn; when Ragnar inquired about this mishap, they told him about the girl. Ragnar then sent for her, but in order to test her wits, he commanded her to arrive neither dressed nor undressed, neither hungry nor full and neither alone nor in company. Kráka arrived dressed in a net, biting an onion and with only a dog as a companion. Impressed by her ingenuity and finding her a wise companion, Ragnar proposed marriage to her, which she refused until he had accomplished his mission in Norway. She gave him four sons: Ivar the Boneless, Hvitserk, Ragnvald the Mountain-High and Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye.

When Ragnar visited viceroy Eysteinn Beli of Sweden, Eysteinn persuaded him to reject Kráka and marry his daughter, Ingeborg. On his return home, three birds had already informed Kráka of Ragnar’s plans, and so she reproached him and told him of her true noble origins. In order to prove she was the daughter of Sigurd who had slain Fafnir, she said 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 Eysteinn learned of Ragnar’s change of mind, he rebelled against him but was slain by Ragnar’s sons at Kráka’s behest.

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

***An interesting side note and thread running through the legends of Ragnar are the snakes… according to legends, snakes were involved in his meeting and marriage to his first wife, Thora. When Sigurd Hring dies, Ragnar succeeds him as the king of Sweden and Denmark. Many foreign kings come to take parts of his kingdom as they think Ragnar is too young to defend it.  Herrauðr, the earl of Götaland and one of Ragnar’s vassals had a daughter, Þóra Borgarhjǫrtr, who was very beautiful. He gave her a lindworm, but after some time, it encircles her bower and threatens anyone who approaches it, except for her servants who fed it with an ox every day. At his symbel, Herrauðr promises his daughter to the man who kills the serpent.  When Ragnar hears of this, he goes to Västergötland and dresses himself in shaggy clothes that he had treated with tar and sand. He took a spear and approached the serpent which blew poison at him. Ragnar protected himself with his shield. He speared the serpent through its heart. He then cut off the serpent’s head, and when the people found out what had happened, he married Thora.Then, he proceeded to liberate his kingdom.  A different version of the legend says that Thora  was fond of snakes and raised them as pets until they threatened to over run the kingdom and the people were in fear of both the snakes and Thora because of her uncommon fascination with them. Her Father offers her hand in marriage to anyone who can get rid of the snakes.  Ragnar succeeds in killing them and wins Thora.****

Þóra Borgarhjǫrtr

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%9E%C3%B3ra_Borgarhj%C7%ABrtr

If we go by the theory that a Ragnar/Randver was the Father of Sigurd Hring, and Sigurd Hring was then the father of Ragnar Lodbrok, the following genealogy chart that I have found would make some sense and provide for some  dates to  go by in placing Ragnar Lodbrok and his families. These dates are still highly improbable but do give a slightly better time frame. This chart suggests that Ragnar died shortly after his excursion to England and his meeting with Aelle probably between 845-850. Going by this chart, the accountings of Ragnar being a King of Sweden around 860-865 would have been an error. What is possible is that his sons, such as Ivar were referring to his Royal lineage and his being King at some point in his past. The rulership of Denmark was in such upheaval throughout the early Viking era that there may have been gaps in the kingship and Ragnar was placed erroneously in that later time period by later historians. In placing Ragnar erroneously, they may have also placed Bjorn the same way.

This is a family chart for the family ancestry that can be found here:

http://www.mathematical.com/sigurdssonragnar765.html

*Ragnar “Lodbrok” “Lothrocus” “Hairy Britches” Sigurdson King of Dacia (Denmark)
born about 0754 Uppsala, Sweden

died 0845 Northumbria, England

father:
*Sigurd “Ring” Randversson King in Sweden
born about 0730 Denmark

died 0812

mother:
*Alfhild Gandolfsdotter
born about 0735 Denmark

married about 0759 Uppsala, Sweden

siblings:
Miss Sigurdsdotter born about 0760 Uppsala, Sweden

spouse:
*Aslaug Sigurdsdotter
born about 0765 Denmark

married about 0783 Denmark

children (from this marriage):
*Bjorn “Ironside” Ragnarsson born Denmark
*Ivar “The Boneless” Ragnarsson King of Dublin & York born about 0787 Denmark died 0873
*Sigurd “Snake-Eye” Ragnarsson born about 0786 Denmark
Hvitserk Ragnarsson born about 0790 Denmark
Rognvald Ragnarsson born about 0791 Denmark
*Halfdan “White Shirt” Ragnarsson King of Dublin died 0877 Ireland
Ragnhildir Ragnardottir
Alof Ragnardottir
Ubbe Ragnarsson

other spouse (or consort):
*Thora Herraudsdatter
born about 0756

children by this union:
*Eirik Ragnarsson
born 0788 Denmark

If you piece together some of these threads with the legends, you come out with a time line of a  Ragnar Lodbrok being born around 756-760 and plausibly being King in 790s with a marriage to Thora and then to Aslaug, with his younger sons being those of Aslaug. The key in connecting Bjorn to which Mother is to look at Bjorn’s family chart and compare it to the dates given as approximations of birth dates for those younger sons. If we assume that the early information of Bjorn Jarsida becoming King of Sweden in late 790s or early 800s is close to accurate, then this following family chart does make sense and it would place him as much older than the younger sons belonging to Aslaug. There is no birth date or death given for Bjorn, but his oldest son is listed as being born around 796 in Sweden, with another son Erik being born around 798. This gives us a clue as to an approximate birth era for Bjorn. We could reasonably place him between 15-20 at the birth of the first child which would put his birth around 775. Please remember these are all approximations- that is all we can go by here! In 775, if Aslaug’s birth date was close to correct, she would have been a bit young to have birthed Bjorn! Thora, however, was listed as being born around 756 so it is more conceivable that Thora was his Mother, not Aslaug.

Ragnar and young Bjorn

*Bjorn “Ironside” Ragnarsson
born Denmark

father:
*Ragnar “Lodbrok” Lothrocus king of Dacia (Denmark) Sigurdson
born about 0765 Uppsala, Sweden

died 0845 England

mother:
*Aslaug Sigurdsdotter
born about 0765 Denmark

married about 0783 Denmark

siblings:
*Ivar “The Boneless” Ragnarsson King of Dublin & York
born about 0787 Denmark died 0873 England

*Sigurd “Snake-Eye” Ragnarsson born about 0786 Denmark
Hvitserk Ragnarsson born about 0790 Denmark
Rognvald Ragnarsson born about 0791 Denmark
*Halfdan “White Shirt” Ragnarsson died 0877 Ireland
Ragnhildir Ragnardottir
Alof Ragnardottir
Ubbe Ragnarsson

spouse:
unknown

children:
*Refill Bjornsson born about 0796 Sweden
Asleik Bjornsson born about 0812 Sweden died 0850
Erik Bjornsson born about 0798 Sweden

We know little history or accurate dates for events in Bjorn’s life but we can get a somewhat clearer picture of them when we look at a brother of his that is mentioned in some of his history.  A brief and very basic sketch of Bjorn’s life is that he was a legendary king of Sweden who lived sometime in the 9th century.   Björn Ironside is said to have been the first ruler of the Munsö dynasty. In the early 18th century, a barrow, on the island of Munsö was claimed by antiquarians to be Björn Järnsidas hög or Björn Ironside’s grave. Hög, from the Old Norse word haugr, means barrow or mound. 

Bjorn Ironside's grave site at Munso

Bjorn Ironside’s grave site at Munso

Björn and his brother Hastein conducted many (mostly successful) raids in France in a continuation of the tradition initiated by their father Ragnar Lodbrok. In 860, Björn led a large Viking raid into the Mediterranean. After raiding down the Spanish coast and fighting their way through Gibraltar, Björn and Hastein pillaged the south of France, where his fleet over-wintered, before landing in Italy where they captured the coastal city of Pisa. They proceeded inland to the town of Luna, which they believed to be Rome at the time, but Björn found himself unable to breach the town walls. To gain entry, he sent messengers to the bishop to say that he had died, had a deathbed conversion, and wished to be buried on consecrated ground within their church. He was brought into the chapel with a small honor guard, then amazed the dismayed Italian clerics by leaping from his coffin and hacking his way to the town gates, which he promptly opened, letting his army in. Flush with this victory and others around the Mediterranean (including in Sicily and North Africa) he returned to the Straits of Gibraltar only to find the Saracen navy from Al-Andalus waiting for him. In the desperate battle that followed, Björn lost 40 ships, largely to a form of Greek fire launched from Saracen catapults. The remainder of his fleet managed to return to Scandinavia, however, where he lived out his life as a rich man.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bj%C3%B6rn_Ironside

Little is known of Hastein’s early life, described as a Dane in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, he is often given as a son of Ragnar Lodbrok. He is first recorded taking part in the Viking attack on the Frankish Empire, occupying Noirmoutier in 843 and on the Loire again in 859 for his great raid into the Mediterranean. One of the most famous Viking raids was Hastein’s voyage to the Mediterranean (859-862AD), having set out with Björn Ironside, another son of Ragnar Lodbrok with 62 ships from the Loire.  At first the raiding did not go well, with Hastein being defeated by the Asturians and later the Muslims of the Umayyad Caliphate of Córdoba at Niebla in 859. Success followed with the sacking of Algeciras, where the mosque was burned, and then the ravaging of Mazimma in the Idrisid Caliphate on the north coast of Africa, followed by further raids into the Umayyad Caliphate at Orihuela, the Balearic Islands and Roussillon.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hastein

The main reason these events and time frames are important is that it places Bjorn as in the middle of these important and documented raids during the time that one part of the timeline sets him as becoming King of Sweden. It seems to me that he would a little busy with raiding in the Mediterranean sea and North Africa to have made a quick trip home to grab the crown and dash away again just as quickly. I suppose it is possible but perhaps it was more likely that he might have ruled earlier on as a younger man and left the crown to a son who was old enough to trusted with ruling in his place.  It also gives some credence to the thought or theory that he was not actively involved in the events taking place in England during that time if he was otherwise occupied in the Mediterranean and then sailing home to live out his remaining years as a rich man.

We have one other piece of evidence that ties Bjorn to Thora rather than Aslaug and places him on the timeline. This accounting is given in a history of Ivar the Boneless, son  of Ragnar and Aslaug. While the history and existence of Ragnar may be disputable,  the existence of Ivarr, Ragnarr’s eldest son, as an historical figure is in no doubt. His exploits are recorded in contemporary historical documents, and it is possible to trace his movements with relative certainty.

Ivar is what he is  you know that

Much of Ivar’s history is taken from the Norse Sagas and filled with as much color and exaggeration as the stories of his Father.  Some of it though can be documented and one might assume that Ivar had input in the recording of some of his family history even if he like so many others of the time paid a Bard or story teller great wealth to embellish the facts. This particular accounting puts his approximate birth as after 790 and his death was documented as 873. He died a very wealthy old man with no wives or heirs to cause an early death for him!

In the accounting of Ivar’s family history and Ragnar’s wives, Lagertha is listed as the first wife, Aslaug as second, Thora as third and Svanloga as a fourth wife. One reason for Thora possibly being listed as third might be as previously suggested in other charts, that she was not a true wife but a concubine. It might also have been Ivar’s way of implying greater importance to his Mother, Aslaug than to Thora.

http://www.historyfiles.co.uk/FeaturesBritain/EnglandIvarr.htm

Ivarr the Boneless

   

Born

Place unknown

Estimated to AD 794.

Acceded

856 – Dublin

 

Died

873 – Dublin

 

Notes

Active in East Anglia, Dublin and York.

Father

Ragnar Lothbrok

(Hairy breeches) Chieftain of Denmark and Sweden.

Mother

Aslaug

Second wife of Ragnar.

Married

 

Brother 1

Halfdan

(of the Wide Embrace) son of Thora, third wife of Ragnar.

Brother 2

Sigurd / Siyard

(Snake-in-the-Eye) son of Aslaug.

Brother 3

Ubbi

Son of Esbern’s unnamed daughter.

Brother 4

Bjorn Ironside

Son of Thora.

Brother 5

Rathbarth

Son of Thora.

Brother 6

Dunyat

Son of Thora.

Brother 7

Agnar

Son of Thora.

Brother 8

Regnald

Son of Svanloga, fourth wife of Ragnar.

Brother 9

Vithserk

Son of Svanloga.

Brother 10

Erik Wind Hat

Son of Svanloga.

Brother 11

Fridlef

Son of Lathgertha, first wife of Ragnar.

I know this trip through history and genealogy has been long and confusing much of the time. Now  you understand what Genealogists go through on a daily basis when researching your family tree for you. If you wonder and complain at the prices they charge for such a task, now perhaps you can appreciate just how difficult their job is! It is made even more challenging in the respect that in order for their findings to be accepted as legitimate, they must have verified and documented evidence for every link or branch that they add to the tree for you. If they do not provide this documented evidence, your tree is basically worthless in any legitimate claims to your history. There are of course some instances when it would be impossible to find such documented actual evidence and they must go by some general consensus or assumption. In those cases, they must make this clear and note that in their research. This research involves a great deal more than going to such places as Ancestry.com and searching through often misleading and unverified information! I have a number of issues with such sites but will reserve those thoughts for some other time and post!  For our research on Ragnar’s history, we are almost finished! I know many of you who have stuck with this are now sighing a huge breath of relief and muttering, “Thank Gods for that!”

We have one set of information left to look at and decipher. The timelines state that one Ragnar Lodbrok was King of Denmark from 860-865. We have already looked at much of the history that would suggest otherwise, such as him dying shortly after 845 in England. We have also looked at his sons Bjorn and Ivar and their connections to the family. There is one son left to look at here as far deciphering some of the historical information. That son is Sigurd-snake in the eye.

sigurd snake in the eye

Sigurd is found in Ivar’s family listing as a brother, with his Mother being Aslaug.  He is also listed in some accounts of the Great Heathen army invasions,  he is listed in a number of sagas and genealogies as well. This Sigurd is an important link and connection from the better documented lineage of Danish Royalty that begins with Gorm the Old.

In the accounts of Sigurd’s history we find out a bit more about Ragnar as well. Sigurd’s accounting states that Ragnar died in 865 rather than 845, but this still could be a case where it is listed as 865 because that is when Sigurd actually found out about it.

Sigurd Snake-in-the-eye (Old Norse: Sigurðr ormr í auga) was one of the four sons of Ragnar Lodbrok. The “Snake-in-the-eye” part of Sigurd’s name denoted the fact that that he was born with a mark in his left eye, described as the image of the Ouroboros (a snake biting its own tail) encircling the pupil of his eye. The snake mark had been prophesied by his mother Aslaug, the daughter of the Valkyrie Brynhildr. In modern times, it has been suggested that the mark in Sigurd’s eye was a result of a congenital mutation of the PAX6 gene. As a boy, Sigurd was close to his father and accompanied Ragnar on a hazardous expedition through Russia to the Hellespont. Later on in life he is said to have sojourned for a time in Scotland and the Scottish Islands.   In 865 King Ella of Northumbria killed Ragnar Lodbrok in a pit of serpents. When Ragnar was suffering in the pit he is reputed to have exclaimed: “How the young pigs would squeal if they knew what the old boar suffers!”

Sigurd and his siblings learned of their father’s death when the king Ælla sent an envoy to alert them of it. When the brothers heard of their father’s death Sigurd is said to have cut himself to the bone with a knife he held in his hand and his brother Björn Ironside gripped his spear so tightly that the imprint of his fingers was left in the wood.

Sigurd and his brothers swore they would avenge his killing in time-honoured Viking tradition. The legend says that their first attempt failed, but through the treachery of the youngest brother, the notoriously cruel and cunning Ivar the Boneless, Ella was duped into a battle he could not win. In 866 they crossed the North Sea with a large army. This Great Heathen Army sacked York, met King Ella in battle and captured him. They sentenced him to die according to the custom of the Blood Eagle), an exceedingly painful death. It consisted of cutting away the ribs from the spine and pulling the lungs backward through the cavities formed to form the shape of an eagle.

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sigurd_Snake-in-the-Eye

This information is found only in the various sagas and there is no mention in the Saxon Chronicles. The date is listed as 865, and as I have already suggested, it could have been set as that because that is when they were made aware of it. It mentions that Aelle sent an envoy to boast of his accomplishment, but it could have taken some years for such an envoy to make the voyage, find the right people and finally deliver the message. It then might have taken some considerable time for the brothers to unite and plan their vengeance. It does state that an early attempt was made but failed. This would mean that the brothers would have had to return home, re-group and plan a better attack- that too could have taken some length of time. Given this theory, it would still be feasible that Ragnar died in the earlier time frame rather than 865. 

What is far more important about Sigurd’s connections is the rest of his history. Eventually, Sigurd  showed  up in the timelines as ruler of Denmark after 865. As I  have mentioned previously, there is some discrepancy and unrest with the ruling dynasties from about 860 until 866 when Sigurd shows up as ruling Denmark. Ragnar was listed as a King of Sweden during that time, as was son Bjorn. The histories of that time period  are uncertain.  I have already discussed the idea that there was a great deal of chaos during that time and it is more probable that Ragnar and Bjorn ruled at some earlier points. What is possible, is that in 866 or shortly after there was unrest and dispute over the rule after the death or de-throning of Horik’s son. Sigurd may have come forward with his claim to the throne through Ragnar as an earlier King and was able to win the title in that way. Ivar already had rule of Ireland, Bjorn was settled in Sweden so Sigurd may have had no brothers disputing or wanting this rule. What ever the case, Sigurd showed up in 866 as ruler and from then on the line continued from him, his descendent Gorm the Old on to present day!

Ragnarssona þáttr informs that when his father died, he inherited Zealand, Scania, Halland, the Danish islands, and Viken. He married Blaeja, the daughter of king Ælla of Northumbria and they had the children Harthacanute and Aslaug, who was named after her grandmother Aslaug. 

Harthacanute succeeded Sigurd as the king of Zealand, Scania and Halland, but he lost Viken. He was the father of Gorm the Old, the king of Denmark. Gorm succeeded his father as king and married Thyra, the daughter of the Jutish chieftain Harald Klak. When Harald died, Gorm took his kingdom too, and united Denmark.

Harald succeeded his father as king and married Gyrid of Sweden. They had a son named Sweyn Forkbeard. Sweyn succeeded his father as king and married Gunhild. They had a son named Cnut the Great. Sweyn also ruled England in his lifetime and established the Danish Empire. When Sweyn died, his elder son Harald Svendsen became the King of Denmark, as England’s former king, Ethelred reclaimed it. However, as Harald did not marry, his brother Cnut the Great became king, re-established the Danish Empire, and married Emma of Normandy. They had a son named Harthacnut. When Cnut died, Harthacnut became king of the Danish Empire, however, he lost England to Edward the Confessor in 1042.

Ok, we have now looked at most of the history and legend surrounding Horik and Ragnar…  it has left all of us bleary eyed and just as confused as ever. Yes, that does include me! So, where does all of this assorted information leave us or lead us? While it’s all of varying interest to those curious about this sort of thing, do we have any better understanding, ideas or clarity on what it all means or of what importance any of it actually is to the beginning premise or thought of either Horik, Ragnar Lodbrok or any of his descendants having some right to rule according to history?

I think that from what we have learned in piecing together the history and the legends, we can see that yes, there are definitely grains of truth in the legends. Because of this, we can not discount the legends in relation to actual history. I believe that I have managed to sort through those legends for the connecting bits of truth in them and present a view of history that brings the legends and history together. Hopefully, you have stuck with it and all of it makes some better sense to you.

Here is a brief summary of what we have learned.  All evidence leads us to some proof that a Ragnar/Randver and or a Ragnar Lodbrok did actually exist beginning with a time frame from possibly early 700s, stretching to and end in either 845 or 865. This is a span of  well over 100 years. Knowing this would be impossible if we look at him in the context of being a real person, we have come up with the theory that there was most likely more than one Ragnar. Ragnar/Randver is most likely the original patriarch of this entire dynasty of the Danes. King Horik has been proven through some history as having been a real ruler of the Danes and his ancestry puts him as a descendant of this earliest Ragnar. Ragnar Lodbrok was most probably a descendant of that early Ragnar as well, and would have been a relative of King Horik’s. Horik managed to claim the rule despite his Father’s insistence on a different relative ruling instead. Some time during the 840s Ragnar Lodbrok was involved in an attack of Paris and then suffered retribution for it from King Horik. Horik swore to the Frisians and Franks that he had no involvement in the attacks and that he had dealt with those responsible. After this point, Ragnar’s history and existence became murky, he disappeared from Denmark and later showed up in England as an unfortunate guest of King Aelle. Meanwhile, Horik was killed during that same time frame by an un-named exiled relative who went on to become a great raider. His son, Horik II became ruler as a child and ruled until about 866. During the 860s, sons of Ragnar Lodbrok were involved in the great Heathen invasions of England. It was during this time that they made claims of their Father, Ragnar Lodbrok being a King in Denmark. Some time after the initial invasions, when Horik’s son Horik II either died or was de-throned in Denmark, Ragnar Lodbrok’s son Sigurd took over rule and the line then continued through him on to his descendant, Gorm the Old to the present day. 

Gorm the Old

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gorm_the_Old

What all of the historical and legendary information leads us to is that both Horik and Ragnar Lodbrok could feasibly claim some blood inherited right to rule. For some reason, Horik’s Father, Gudfred had serious doubts about his own sons’ abilities to rule effectively and chose to leave the rule to a nephew, Hemming. Naturally, Gudfred’s sons disputed this decision, one of them killed Gudfred, Hemming was eventually defeated and the last son standing, Horik, claimed the throne. Ragnar Lodbrok was a part of this dynasty and may have actually ruled himself at one point during the early era. So, both men had some  legitimate right to the rule which would have allowed for Ragnar’s son Sigurd to claim the rule at a later point.  Horik’s line ended with his son and probably opened the door to Sigurd to step in and place his legitimate claim!

 

 

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Some early Saxon history: From Aethelwulf and descendants to Ivar the Boneless!

 

 

 

First of all, remember to fight/vote! Shirtless men are in an even race with Highland Warriors…

Now on to our history lesson for the night! You may recall that recently I sent a message to Athelstan urging him to tread cautiously and carefully in affairs of the heart where the Lady Judith, wife of Aethulwulf is concerned?

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/01/26/vikings-message-to-athelstan/

aethelwulf vikings2 judith vikings

more wooo but with who?

more wooo but with who?

Well, tonight’s history lesson has to do with descendants of Aethulwulf. If you remember, I did mention how important his descendants are in the future rule of England.  I just recently came across an interesting article and discovery about one of his descendants! It is a bit of old news but seeing as I just discovered it, some of you may also find it interesting as well?

Remains discovered in Germany confirmed as oldest confirmed British Royal, who died more than 1,000 years ago

Bones found in a German cathedral belong to the granddaughter of Saxon king Alfred the Great, experts confirmed today.  Body parts excavated in Magdeburg Cathedral in 2008 are those of Saxon princess Eadgyth, who died more than 1,000 years ago.  They are the oldest surviving remains of an English royal burial, according to experts at the University of Bristol who analysed the skeletal fragments to piece together a snapshot of the princess’s life.

640px-HerscherpaarMagdeburgCathedral Eadgyth and otto

Eadgyth was married off to Otto I, the Great, in AD 929 by her half brother Athelstan, who was the first king to rule all of England.   As wife of the king of Saxony, she lived most of her married life in Magdeburg, capital of Saxony-Anhalt, and had at least two children.  Eadgyth died in AD 946 aged about 36 and was buried in the monastery of St Maurice in Switzerland.  Her bones were moved at least three times before being finally interred in an elaborate tomb in Magdeburg Cathedral in 1510.

Edward

Two years ago, German archaeologists opened the tomb, expecting it to be empty.  To their surprise, they found it contained a lead box bearing the inscription ‘The remains of Queen Eadgyth are in this sarcophagus’.   When they opened the coffin they discovered bone fragments wrapped in silk.  It is thought some of the missing body parts, including hands and feet and much of the skull, were probably taken by medieval relic hunters.  An analysis of the remains by Professor Kurt Alt at the University of Mainz established they were those of a female who died aged between 30 and 40.  Professor Alt also found evidence that the woman was a frequent horse rider and ate a high protein diet with large amounts of fish, which suggested she had enjoyed an aristocratic lifestyle.

I find the article interesting from a scientific point of view even though I do question the need for opening up a coffin to examine the remains in order to prove exactly who the person was. If there was a sound reason for a more thorough and in depth examination, it might sit better with me? An example of a more sound reason to prove who ancient remains are would be in a case such as the controversy over skeletal remains which might or might not be connected to mystery of the Princes of the Tower. But, that is another story for another time!

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1287283/Remains-Saxon-princess-Eadgyth-oldest-British-Royal-discovered-Germany.html#ixzz3Qg4fjq4q
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I know you are thinking, Ohhh well an odd and interesting bit of information- but what does she have to do with Aethulwulf?

Well, if you follow along with my very brief genealogy lesson, you will see how she is related to our Aethelwulf… You know, the one who is turning more and more to a life of pious devotion to God? Oh, by the way, he passes this devotion down to future generations as well!

what goes on here 2

what goes on here 2

what on earth is going on here?

what on earth is going on here?

 

Eadgyth, or Edith was born to the reigning English king Edward the Elder by his second wife, Ælfflæd, and hence was granddaughter of Alfred the Great. Nothing is known of her until in order to seal an alliance between two Saxon kingdoms, her half-brother, King Athelstan of England, sent two of his sisters (Eadgyth and Eadgifu of Wessex) to Germany, instructing the Duke of Saxony (later Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor) to choose whichever one pleased him best. Otto chose Edith and married her in 930. The remaining sister Algiva or Adiva was married to a “king near the Jupiter mountains” (the Alps). The precise identity of the husband of this sister is debated.

In 936 King Henry I of Germany died and his eldest son, Eadgyth’s husband, was crowned at Aachen as King Otto I. There is a surviving report of the ceremony by Widukind of Corvey which makes no mention of his wife having been crowned at this point, but according to Thietmar of Merseburg‘s chronicle Eadgyth was nevertheless anointed as queen, albeit in a separate ceremony. As queen, Eadgyth undertook the usual state duties of “First lady”: when she turns up in the records it is generally in connection with gifts to the state’s favoured monasteries or memorials to holy women and saints. In this respect she seems to have been more diligent than her now widowed and subsequently sainted mother-in-law Queen Matilda whose own charitable activities only achieve a single recorded mention from the period of Eadgyth’s time as queen. There was probably rivalry between the Benedictine Monastery of St Maurice founded at Magdeburg by Otto and Eadgyth in 937, a year after coming to the throne and Matilda’s foundation at Quedlinburg Abbey, intended by her as a memorial to her husband, the late King Henry I.

Eadgyth accompanied her husband on his travels, though not during battles. She spent the hostilities of 939 at Lorsch Abbey

Like her brother, Athelstan, Edith was devoted to the cult of Saint Oswald and was instrumental in introducing this cult into Germany after her marriage to the emperor. Her lasting influence may have caused certain monasteries and churches in Saxony to be dedicated to this saint.

Eadgyth’s death at a relatively young age, in her early thirties, was unexpected.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eadgyth

Eadgyth was the granddaughter of one Alfred the Great, who was the son of Aethelwulf! 

Alfred was born in the village of Wanating, now Wantage, Oxfordshire. He was the youngest son of King Æthelwulf of Wessex, by his first wife,Osburh.

In 853, at the age of four , Alfred is said to have been sent to Rome where, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, he was confirmed by Pope Leo IV who “anointed him as king”. Victorian writers later interpreted this as an anticipatory coronation in preparation for his ultimate succession to the throne of Wessex. However, his succession could not have been foreseen at the time, as Alfred had three living elder brothers. A letter of Leo IV shows that Alfred was made a “consul“; a misinterpretation of this investiture, deliberate or accidental, could explain later confusion.  It may also be based on Alfred’s later having accompanied his father on a pilgrimage to Rome where he spent some time at the court of Charles the Bald, King of the Franks, around 854–855.

On their return from Rome in 856, Æthelwulf was deposed by his son Æthelbald. With civil war looming, the magnates of the realm met in council to hammer out a compromise. Æthelbald would retain the western shires (i.e., traditional Wessex), and Æthelwulf would rule in the east.

When King Æthelwulf died in 858, Wessex was ruled by three of Alfred’s brothers in succession, Æthelbald, Æthelberht and Æthelred.

Bishop Asser tells the story of how as a child Alfred won a prize of a volume of poetry in Saxon, offered by his mother to the first of her children able to memorize it.  Legend also has it that the young Alfred spent time in Ireland seeking healing. Alfred was troubled by health problems throughout his life. It is thought that he may have suffered from Crohn’s disease.  Statues of Alfred in Winchester and nev Wantage portray him as a great warrior. Evidence suggests he was not physically strong, and though not lacking in courage, he was noted more for his intellect than a warlike character.

During the short reigns of the older two of his three elder brothers, Æthelbald of Wessex and Æthelberht of Wessex, Alfred is not mentioned. An army of Danes which the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle described as the Great Heathen Army had landed in East Anglia with the intent of conquering the four kingdoms that constituted Anglo-Saxon England in 865.  It was with the backdrop of a rampaging Viking army that Alfred’s public life began, with the accession of his third brother, Æthelred of Wessex, in 866.

640px-England_Great_Army_map_svg

It is during this period that Bishop Asser applied to Alfred the unique title of “secundarius”, which may indicate a position akin to that of the Celtic tanist, a recognised successor closely associated with the reigning monarch. It is possible that this arrangement was sanctioned by Alfred’s father, or by the Witan, to guard against the danger of a disputed succession should Æthelred fall in battle. The arrangement of crowning a successor as royal prince and military commander is well known among other Germanic tribes, such as the Swedes and Franks, to whom the Anglo-Saxons were closely related.

Fighting the Viking invasion

In 868, Alfred is recorded as fighting beside Æthelred in an unsuccessful attempt to keep the Great Heathen Army led by Ivar the Boneless out of the adjoining Kingdom of Mercia.  At the end of 870, the Danes arrived in his homeland. The year which followed has been called “Alfred’s year of battles”. Nine engagements were fought with varying outcomes, though the place and date of two of these battles have not been recorded. Yes, if that Viking Heathen name sound familiar, you would be correct in having heard of it in our Viking Saga! Ivar the Boneless is one of the sons of Ragnar and Aslaug… You know, that poor infant that Aslaug warned Ragnar would be cursed, and the one that she as his Mother could not and would not leave to die.

In Berkshire, a successful skirmish at the Battle of Englefield on 31 December 870 was followed by a severe defeat at the siege and Battle of Reading by Ivar’s brother Halfdan Ragnarsson on 5 January 871. Four days later, the Anglo-Saxons won a brilliant victory at the Battle of Ashdown on the Berkshire Downs, possibly near Compton or Aldworth. Alfred is particularly credited with the success of this latter battle.

Later that month, on 22 January, the English were defeated at the Battle of Basing. They were defeated again on 22 March at the Battle of Merton (perhaps Marden in Wiltshire or Martin in Dorset). Æthelred died shortly afterwards on 23 April.

Alfred eventually went on to defeat the Dane Vikings and unite much of England under one rule.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_the_Great

Statue_of_King_Alfred_in_Wantage_Market_Square Alfred the Great 1024px-Southwark_Bridge_City_Plaque 1024px-A_Chronicle_of_England_-_Page_057_-_Alfred_Plans_the_Capture_of_the_Danish_Fleet

Seeing as Ivar the boneless was mentioned in connection with Alfred’s history, I feel it important to include a bit of history on him as he is one of Ragnar’s sons!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivar_the_Boneless

aslaug pregnant as usual Aslaug and Ragnar with Ivar

Ivar the boneless

Ivar was one of the leaders of the Great Heathen Army which invaded the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of East Anglia in 865.  According to the Norse sagas this invasion was organised by the sons of Ragnar Lodbrok, of whom Ivar was one, to wreak revenge against Ælla of Northumbria. Ælla had supposedly executed Ragnar in 865 by throwing him in a snake pit, but the historicity of this explanation is unknown. The invaders are usually identified as Danes, although the tenth-century churchman Asser stated in Latin that the invaders came “de Danubia”, which translates into English as “from the Danube“, the fact that the Danube is located in what was known in Latin as Dacia suggests that Asser may have actually intended Dania, a Latin term for Denmark.

the snake pit

King Aelle’s snake pit!

 

The Great Heathen Army landed in East Anglia in the autumn of 865, where they remained over the winter and secured horses for their later efforts.  The following year the army headed north and invaded Northumbria, which was in the midst of a civil war between Ælla and Osberht, warring claimants for the Northumbrian throne.  Late in 866 the army conquered the rich Northumbrian settlement of York.   The following year Ælla and Osberht put their differences aside, and teamed up to retake the town. The attempt was a disaster and both of them lost their lives.  According to legend, Ælla was captured alive, but was executed by Ivar and his brothers using the blood eagle, a method of execution whereby the ribcage is opened from behind and the lungs are pulled out, forming a wing-like shape.  With no obvious leader, Northumbrian resistance was crushed and the Danes installed a puppet-king, Ecgberht, to rule in their name and collect taxes for their army.

Later in the year the Army moved south and invaded the kingdom of Mercia, capturing the town of Nottingham, where they spent the winter.  The Mercian king, Burghred, responded by allying with the West Saxon king Æthelred, and with a combined force they laid siege to the town. The Anglo-Saxons were unable to recapture the city, but a truce was agreed whereby the Danes would withdraw to York. The Great Heathen Army remained in York for over a year, gathering its strength for further assaults.

The Danes returned to East Anglia in 869, this time intent on conquest. They seized Thetford, with the intention of remaining there over winter, but they were confronted by an East Anglian army.[13] The East Anglian army was defeated and their king, Edmund, was slain.  Medieval tradition identifies Edmund as a martyr who refused the Danes’ demand to renounce Christ, and was killed for his steadfast Christianity.  Ivar and Ubba are identified as the commanders of the Danes, and the killers of Edmund.  How true the later accounts of Edmund’s death are is unknown, but it has been suggested that his capture and execution is not an unlikely thing to have happened.

Following the conquest of East Anglia Ivar apparently left the Great Heathen Army – his name disappears from English records after 870.

 

 

Scandinavian sources for Ivar Boneless

According to the saga of Ragnar Lodbrok, Ivar Boneless was the eldest son of Ragnar and Aslaug. It is said he was fair, big, strong, and one of the wisest men who had ever lived. He was consequently the advisor of his brothers Björn Ironside, Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, and Hvitserk.

The story has it that when king Ælla of Northumbria had murdered their father, by throwing Ragnar into a snake-pit, Ivar’s brothers tried to avenge their father but were beaten. Ivar then went to king Ælla and sought reconciliation. He only asked for as much land as he could cover with an ox’s hide and swore never to wage war against Ælla. Then Ivar cut the ox’s hide into so fine strands that he could envelope a large fortress (in an older saga it was York and according to a younger saga it was London) which he could take as his own. (Compare the similar legendary ploy of Dido.)

Right after the messenger of king Ælla delivered the message that Ragnar had died to Ivar the Boneless, Bjorn Ironside, Sigurd Snake-eye, and Hvitserk, Ivar said: “I will not take part in or gather men for that, because Ragnar met with the fate I anticipated. His cause was bad; he had no reason to fight against King Ella, and it has often happened that when a man wanted to be overbearing and wrong others it has been the worst for him; I will take wergild from King Ella if he will give it”.[24]

As Ivar was the most generous of men, he attracted a great many warriors, whom he subsequently kept from Ælla when Ælla was attacked again by Ivar’s brothers. Ælla was captured, and when the brothers were to decide how to give Ælla his just punishment, Ivar suggested that they carve the “blood eagle” on his back. According to popular belief, this meant that Ælla’s back was cut open, the ribs pulled from his spine, and his lungs pulled out to form “wings.”

In Ragnar Lodbrok’s saga, there is an interesting prequel to the Battle of Hastings: it is told that before Ivar died in England, he ordered that his body was to be buried in a mound on the English Shore, saying that so long as his bones guarded that section of the coast, no enemy could invade there successfully. This prophecy held true, says the saga, until “when Vilhjalm bastard (William the Conqueror) came ashore[,] he went [to the burial site] and broke Ivar’s mound and saw that [Ivar’s] body had not decayed. Then [Vilhjalm] had a large pyre made [upon which Ivar’s body was] burned… Thereupon, Vilhjalm proceeded with the landing invasion and achieved] the victory.  What is interesting about this particular legend is if you look at the ancestry of William the Conqueror, you find that he was descended from the Viking, Rollo…  Ivar sets forth a prophecy or curse that no “enemy” would invade that coast successfully, but if William’s ancestry is taken into account, he would not necessarily be an enemy, would he? But, more of a distant descendant!

Explanation for Ivar’s nickname:

There is some disagreement as to the meaning of Ivar’s epithet “the Boneless” (inn Beinlausi) in the sagas. Some have suggested it was a euphemism for impotence or even a snake metaphor (he had a brother named Snake-in-the-Eye). It may have referred to an incredible physical flexibility; Ivar was a renowned warrior, and perhaps this limberness gave rise to the popular notion that he was “boneless”. The poem “Háttalykill inn forni” describes Ivar as being “without any bones at all”.

Alternatively, the English word “bone” is cognate with the German word “Bein”, meaning “leg”. Scandinavian sources mention Ivar the Boneless as being borne on a shield by his warriors. Some have speculated that this was because he could not walk and perhaps his epithet simply meant “legless”—perhaps literally or perhaps simply because he was lame. Other sources from this period, however, mention chieftains being carried on the shields of enemies after victory, not because of any infirmity.

John Haywood put forth another hypothesis from the origin of Ivar’s nickname:  the nickname, in use by the 1140s, may be derived from a 9th-century story about a sacrilegious Viking whose bones shriveled and caused his death after he plundered the monastery of Saint- Germain near Paris.

Genetic disease

Still another interpretation of the nickname involves Scandinavian sources as describing a condition that is sometimes understood as similar to a form of osteogenesis imperfecta. The disease is more commonly known as “brittle bone disease.” In 1949, the Dane Knud Seedorf wrote:

Of historical personages the author knows of only one of whom we have a vague suspicion that he suffered from osteogenesis imperfecta, namely Ivar Benløs, eldest son of the Danish legendary king Regnar Lodbrog. He is reported to have had legs as soft as cartilage (‘he lacked bones’), so that he was unable to walk and had to be carried about on a shield.

There are less extreme forms of this disease where the person afflicted lacks the use of his or her legs but is otherwise unaffected, as may have been the case for Ivar the Boneless. In 2003 Nabil Shaban, a disability rights advocate with osteogenesis imperfecta, made the documentary The Strangest Viking for Channel 4‘s Secret History, in which he explored the possibility that Ivar the Boneless may have had the same condition as himself. It also demonstrated that someone with the condition was quite capable of using a longbow, such that Ivar could have taken part in battle, as Viking society would have expected a leader to do.

 

That concludes our history lesson for the night, from Aethelwulf and his descendants to Ivar the Boneless and how they’re all a part of early Saxon history!