Fact 1 – Ragnar Lodbrok may or may not have existed
Wow, that’s a strange fact. Ragnar Lodbrok is a legend who may have been real – but he also may be several people. We know that someone called ‘Ragnall’ came to England around 840AD, and that he was a much-feared warrior. There are accounts of a similar name invading France a year later.
However, many of the tales about Ragnar come from chronicles that were written many centuries later, and some are not quite believable:
- He strangled a bear
- He fought a giant snake
- … which was also a dragon
So, we can guess that Ragnar did exist, but many of the stories are exaggerated!
Fact 2: Ragnar’s Sons Are Definitely Real
The legends of Ragnar Lodbrok talk about his sons – and there is lots of historical evidence that they did exist.
Firstly, there is Ivar The Boneless who must have had bones, otherwise he would have been very floppy. He was the leader of ‘The Great Heathen Army’ that invaded England in 865AD. This army was huge – over 4,000 men!
Then, there is Bjorn Ironside who was a skilled boatsman. There are stories from France about Bjorn, and they refer to him being the ‘son of Lodbrok’. It is also said that Ivar was a feared warrior who killed Edmund of Anglia!
There are lots of other men who claimed to be the son of Ragnar, including Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye who wins the competition for the best name, and men called Hvitserk, Friedlief and Halfdan.
However, they may have been lying! They may have told people they were the son of Ragnar just to impress them.
After all, Ragnar said that he was the son of the Norse God Odin!
Fact 3 – ‘Lodbrok’ means ‘Shaggy Breeches’ or ‘Shaggy Trousers!’
According to the Icelandic Chronicles of Ragnar, Ragnar killed a giant snake. That snake was guarding the entrance to a Germanic king’s house. When Ragnar killed it, he was offered the king’s daughter in marriage, Thora Borgarjhort.
But perhaps more famously, he earned his name Lodbrok (or Lothbrok) because of the trousers he was wearing when he killed the snake. They were said to be shaggy in appearances, or ‘lod’.
Fact 4 – Ragnar is said to have besieged Paris
We know that the Vikings went to France, and there are stories of someone called Reginheri who raided the north coast of France. He went inland to fight the French king, Charles the Bald.
According to Danish stories about Ragnar, he defeated one French army, and the French paid him money to go away.
According to French stories, Ragnar was defeated and went away with his tail between his legs!
Fact 5 – Ragnar is said to have died by being throw into a pit of snakes
If you don’t like snakes, imagine being thrown into a pit of them! It is said that Ragnar Lodbrok died after losing a battle to King Aella, who threw him into the pit.
Importantly, though, the stories say that Ragnar said the famous words:
“How the little piglets would grunt if they knew how the old boar suffers.”
The old boar is Ragnar, and the little piglets are his sons – many interpret this as Ragnar telling his sons to go and conquer the world.
However, it is unlikely any of this is true! Ragnar – if he did exist – probably died on one of his many voyages along the coasts of England, Scotland and Ireland.
Fact 6 – Ragnar Lodbrok is mostly a myth
We do know that someone called Ragnar – or something similar – existed. And we know that he was a warrior who travelled a lot.
We know this because people at the time wrote about him.
But in the years the followed Ragnar’s death, it seems people started exaggerating his stories. Sometimes they just made them up! That’s why it’s really hard to know the truth about Ragnar Lodbrok.
And that’s also why lots of people said they were his son. It made them seem important!
So most of what you hear about Ragnar Lodbrok is untrue or exaggerated, but we can guess that he definitely did exist, and he was a fearsome warrior.